On Jan. 1, 2014, a new provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act goes into effect. The “qualified residential mortgage,” or QRM, may have far-reaching effects that will lessen the number of people who ultimately can obtain home loans.
Most agents and brokers have no idea what QRM is or how it will impact their businesses. Briefly, QRM was designed to set the bar for residential mortgages and to minimize the risk that borrowers may default. It requires that debt ratios be limited to 43 percent and loan fees limited to 3 percent, and interest-only loans and negative amortization are not allowed in most cases.
The Dodd-Frank bill also requires the lender to retain 5 percent of any mortgages they make. In other words, if they make a $100,000 loan they must retain $5,000 to secure the loan. QRM loans are exempt from the risk retention rules. This means that the lender can sell the loan on the secondary market without having to retain the 5 percent. The effect of these provisions is already being felt in the lending industry. Citibank has restricted its lending to those areas where it has a banking presence. Compliance departments have tripled in size at many large lenders. Community banks and credit unions are being choked by the regulations and often lack the resources to meet the new compliance requirements.
“Community banks and credit unions have historically had a much lower default rate as compared with other lenders. The reason is that they know their customers,” said Mark Bigelow, national sales manager at Towne Mortgage Co. and AmeriCU Mortgage. “Community bank loans have often been based on a handshake. In terms of credit union loans, people feel they are hurting themselves and other members if they default.”
Bigelow went on to explain what makes Jan. 1, 2014, provisions so difficult for lenders: “In the past, loans have been turned down primarily due to credit issues. For the first time in history, lending decisions may be made based upon compliance issues rather than just credit issues.” Here’s why: Imagine that you made a mistake on a purchase agreement. The buyer and seller want to change the agreement to correct the mistake, except the law prohibits you from doing so.
If a lender makes a mistake with any part of the compliance, here’s what happens:
1. The lender now has to pay all of the borrower’s closing costs.
2. Even if the mortgage agent made the mistake, the mortgage agent must still be paid.
3. The lender cannot deduct any costs or losses resulting from the mistake.
4. The lender still has to close the loan.
These provisions will be particularly difficult for online mortgage sites such as LendingTree, Quicken, and Zillow. In addition to the issues cited above, jumbo loans currently fall outside the QRM provisions. This creates tremendous uncertainty as to what will be required of lenders who want to sell jumbo loans on the secondary market. The result will most likely be that be even fewer jumbo loans will be available.
What this means for agents, brokers, and their clients:
1. There will be fewer loan choices as community banks and credit unions are squeezed out of the market making it even harder for many borrowers to qualify.
2. The loan process will also probably take longer due to the increased compliance.
3. It will probably be much more difficult and costly to obtain a loan in the future.
Lenders generally want to issue loans that meet QRM criteria. It gives them an exception to a rule they find troubling. It allows them to sell a higher percentage of their mortgages into the secondary market, thereby reducing their long-term risks. As a result, the majority of lenders will impose these guidelines upon their customers. These rules will essentially set the bar for mortgage lending standards in the U.S. Borrowers who fail to meet these criteria will have a harder time finding a loan compared to borrowers who do meet the criteria. They might end up paying a higher interest rate as well. Lenders claim that risk retention increases their operating costs, so they will likely charge more for loans that are subject to risk retention. Financial analysts from J.P. Morgan Securities have estimated that borrowers might pay up to three percentage points more for loans that are subject to risk retention (i.e., loans that don’t meet the definition of a qualified residential mortgage). So here’s the bottom line: Encourage anyone who is on the fence about selling or buying to do so before the end of the year. Otherwise, they may be caught up in a maelstrom of new regulations that can sink their sale and that might also sink the real estate recovery.