Fannie to Loosen Mortgage Requirements
June 7, 2017
Government-sponsored financing giant Fannie Mae will ease its requirements next month, raising its debt-to-income ceiling from 45 percent to 50 percent on July 29. The move could pave the way for a larger number of new buyers to qualify for a mortgage, particularly millennials who may be saddled with student loan debt.
The debt-to-income ratio compares a person’s gross monthly income with his or her monthly payment on all debt accounts, including auto loans, credit cards, and student loans. It also factors in the projected payments on the new mortgage. Lenders see applicants with lower debt-to-income ratios as less at risk of defaulting.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration have exemptions that allow them to buy or insure loans with higher ratios than the federal rules, which are set at a maximum of 43 percent. The FHA allows debt-to-income ratios of more than 50 percent in some cases.
In a recent study, Fannie Mae researchers looked at more than a decade and a half of data from borrowers with debt-to-income ratios in the 45 percent to 50 percent range. They found that a significant number of these borrowers had good credit and were not prone to default.
“We feel very comfortable” with the increased debt-to-income ratio ceiling, says Steve Holden, Fannie Mae’s vice president of single-family analytics. “What we’re seeing is that a lot of borrowers have other factors” in their credit profiles that reduce the risks associated with slightly higher debt-to-income ratios. For example, these borrowers may make higher down payments or have cash reserves of 12 months or more.
Many lenders say they’re happy to see Fannie loosen up their debt-to-income guidelines a bit. Joe Petrowsky, owner of Right Trac Financial Group in Hartford, Conn, calls the move "a big deal" for potential buyers who are currently being rejected for mortgages: “There are so many clients that end up above the 45 percent debt ratio threshold.”
But that doesn’t mean that anyone with a debt-to-income ratio of below 50 percent will be approved. Borrowers will still be closely vetted by Fannie’s underwriting system to examine their complete application, including income, down payment, credit scores, and more.
Source: “Fannie Mae Will Ease Financial Standards for Mortgage Applicants Next Month,” The Washington Post (June 6, 2017)
Updated: January 18, 2019