Two weeks ago, the Federal Housing Administration took steps to mitigate risks to its single-family portfolio, announcing updates to its TOTAL Mortgage Scorecard that will flag some loans for manual underwriting.
The move upset a number of lenders who feared that some of their borrowers would be shut out of FHA financing and that borrowers who began the process but no longer qualified under new guidelines would be angry.
Turns out, their fears have some merit.
An FHA official told The Wall Street Journal that approximately 40,000 to 50,000 loans a year will likely be affected, which amounts to about 4-5% to all the mortgages the FHA insures on an annual basis.
“We have continued to endorse loans with more and more credit risk,” said FHA’s Chief Risk Officer Keith Becker. “We felt that it was appropriate to take some steps to mitigate the risks we’re seeing.”
The WSJ points out that the move is a complete reversal of the agency’s 2016 decision to loosen underwriting standards, nixing an old rule that required manual underwriting for loans with credit scores below 620 and a debt-to-income ratio above 43%.
But the agency’s annual report to Congress released in November revealed risk trends that threatened to drain the program, among them a significant increase in cash-out refinances, a drop in average borrower credit score, and a jump in borrowers with high DTIs.
Requiring manual underwriting for riskier loans is intended to curb these risks, and there’s a good chance a number of borrowers will no longer qualify.
According to Becker, it’s likely that many of the loans flagged for manual underwriting won’t end up passing muster.