April 24, 2017
OppLoans.com quoted me in What is the Debt to Income Ratio? It opens,
One of the great things about credit is that it lets you make purchases you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford at one time. But this arrangement only works if you are able to make your monthly payments. That’s why lenders look at something called your debt to income ratio. It’s a number that indicates what kind of debt load you’ll be able to afford. And if you’re looking to borrow, it’s a number you’ll want to know.
Unless your rich eccentric uncle suddenly dies and leave you a giant pile of money, making any large purchase, like a car or a home, is going to mean taking out a loan. Legitimate loans spread the repayment process over time (or a longer term), which makes owning these incredibly expensive items possible for regular folks.
But not all loans are affordable. If the loan’s monthly payments take up too much of your budget, then you’re likely to default. And as much as you, the borrower, do not want that to happen, it’s also something that lenders want to avoid at all costs.
It doesn’t matter how much you want that cute, three-bedroom Victorian or that sweet, two-door muscle car (or even if you’re just looking for a personal loan to consolidate your higher interest credit card debt). If you can’t afford your monthly payments, reputable lenders aren’t going to want to do business with you. (Predatory payday lenders are a different story, they actually want you to be unable to afford your loan. You can read more about that shadiness in our personal loans guide.)
So how do mortgage, car, and personal lenders determine what a person can afford before they lend them? Well, they usually do it by looking at their debt to income ratio.
What is the debt to income ratio?
Basically, it’s the amount of your monthly budget that goes towards paying debts—including rent or mortgage payments.
“Your debt to income ratio is benchmark metric used to measure an individual’s ability to repay debt and manage their monthly payments,” says Brian Woltman, branch manager at Embrace Home Loans (@EmbraceHomeLoan).
“Your ‘DTI’ as it’s commonly referred to is exactly what it sounds like. It’s calculated by dividing your total current recurring monthly debt by your gross monthly income—the amount you make before any taxes are taken out,” says Woltman. “It’s important because it helps a lender to determine the proper amount of money that someone can borrow, and reasonably expect to be paid back, based on the terms agreed upon.”
According to Gerri Detweiler (@gerridetweiler), head of market education for Nav (@navSMB), “Your debt to income ratio provides important information about whether you can afford the payment on your new loan.”
“On some consumer loans, like mortgages or auto loans, your debt to income ratio can make or break your loan application,” says Detweiler. “This ratio typically compares your monthly recurring debt payments, such as credit card minimum payments, student loan payments, mortgage or auto loans to your monthly gross (before tax) income.”
Here’s an example…
Larry has a monthly income of $5,000 and a list of the following monthly debt obligations:
Credit Card: $150
Student Loan: $400
Installment Loan: $250
To calculate Larry’s DTI we need to divide his total monthly debt payments by his monthly income:
$2,000 / $5,000 = .40
Larry’s debt to income ratio is 40 percent.
David Reiss (@REFinBlog), is a professor of real estate finance at Brooklyn Law School. He says that the debt to income ratio is an important metric for lenders because “It is one of the three “C’s” of loan underwriting:
Character: Does a person have a history of repaying debts?
Capacity: Does a person have the income to repay debts?
Capital: Does the person have assets that can be used to retire debt if income should prove insufficient?
What is a good debt to income ratio?
“If you listen to Ben Franklin, who subscribed to the saying ‘neither a borrower nor lender be,’ the ideal ratio is 0,” says Reiss. But he adds that only lending to people with no debt whatsoever would put home ownership out of reach for, well, almost everyone. Besides, a person can have some debt on-hand and still be a responsible borrower.
“More realistically, in today’s world,” says Reiss, “we might take guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which advises against having a DTI ratio of greater than 43 percent. If it creeps higher than that, you might have trouble paying for other important things like rent, food and clothing.”
“Requirements vary but usually if you can stay below a 33 percent debt-to-income ratio, you’re fine,” says Detweiler. “Some lenders will lend up to a 50 percent debt ratio, but the interest rate may be higher since that represents a higher risk.”
For Larry, the guy in our previous example, a 33 percent DTI would mean keeping his monthly debt obligations to $1650.
Let’s go back to that 43 percent number that Reiss mentioned because it isn’t just an arbitrary number. 43 percent DTI is the highest ratio that borrower can have and still receive a “Qualified Mortgage.”
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday sued mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial Corp. in Florida federal court alleging that the firm’s servicing database is riddled with inaccuracies and incomplete information that resulted in wrongful foreclosure proceedings against around 1,000 families
- Commerzbank AG urged a New York judge on Tuesday not to rethink his allowing its claims over the Bank of New York Mellon’s oversight of residential mortgage-backed securities to proceed, saying BNY Mellon cannot point to anything the judge overlooked.
- Wells Fargo announced Friday that it is expanding both the size of the fake account class action settlement and the time period the settlement covers by an additional seven years. According to an announcement from Wells Fargo, the settlement is being expanded by $32 million to $142 million, and now covers anyone who had a fake account opened in their name all the way back to 2002.
April 21, 2017
The Hill published my latest column, The CFPB Is a Champion for Americans Across The Country. It opens,
Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have been arguing that consumers should be freed from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “regulatory blockades and financial activism.” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) accuses the CFPB of engaging in “financial shakedowns” of lenders. These accusations are weighty.
But let’s take a look at the types of behaviors consumers are facing from those put-upon lenders. A recent decision in federal bankruptcy court, Sundquist v. Bank of America, shows how consumers can be treated by them. You can tell from the first two sentences of the judge’s opinion that it goes poorly for the consumers: “Franz Kafka lives. This automatic stay violation case reveals that he works at Bank of America.”
The judge continues, “The mirage of promised mortgage modification lured the plaintiff debtors into a Kafka-esque nightmare of stay-violating foreclosure and unlawful detainer, tardy foreclosure rescission kept secret for months, home looted while the debtors were dispossessed, emotional distress, lost income, apparent heart attack, suicide attempt, and post-traumatic stress disorder, for all of which Bank of America disclaims responsibility.”
Homeowners who reads this opinion will feel a pit in their stomachs, knowing that if they were in the Sundquists’ shoes they would also tremble with rage and fear from the way Bank of America treated them: 20 or so loan modification requests or supplements were “lost;” declared insufficient, incomplete or stale; or denied with no clear explanation.
Over the years, I have documented similar cases on REFinBlog.com. In U.S. Bank, N.A. v. David Sawyer et al., the Maine Supreme Judicial Court documented how loan servicers demanded various documents which were provided numerous times over the course of four court-ordered mediations and how the servicers made numerous promises about modifications that they did not keep. In Federal National Mortgage Assoc. v. Singer, the court documents the multiple delays and misrepresentations that the lender’s agents made to the homeowners.
The good news is that in those three cases, judges punished the servicers and lenders for their pattern of Kafka-esque abuse of the homeowners. Indeed, the Sundquist judge fined Bank of America a whopping $45 million to send it a message about its horrible treatment of borrowers.
But a fairy tale ending for a handful of borrowers who are lucky enough to have a good lawyer with the resources to fully litigate one of these crazy cases is not a solution for the thousands upon thousands of borrowers who had to give up because they did not have the resources, patience, or mental fortitude to take on big lenders who were happy to drag these matters on for years and years through court proceeding after court proceeding.
What homeowners need is a champion that will stand up for all of them, one that will create fair procedures that govern the origination and servicing of mortgages, one that will enforce those procedures, and one that will study and monitor the mortgage market to ensure that new forms of predatory behavior do not have the opportunity to take root. This is just what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has done. It has promulgated the qualified mortgage and ability-to-repay rules and has worked to ensure that lenders comply with them.
Kafka himself said that it was “the blend of absurd, surreal and mundane which gave rise to the adjective ‘kafkaesque.’” Most certainly that is the experience of borrowers like the Sundquists as they jump through hoop after hoop only to be told to jump once again, higher this time.
When we read a book like Kafka’s The Trial, we are left with a sense of dislocation. What if the world was the way Kafka described it to be? But if we go through an experience like the Sundquists’, it is so much worse. It turns out that an actor in the real world is insidiously working to destroy us, bit by bit.
The occasional win in court won’t save the vast majority of homeowners from abusive lending practices. A regulator like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can. And in fact it does.
April 20, 2017
CoinDesk.com quoted me in Land Registry: A Big Blockchain Use Case Explored. It opens,
With distributed ledger technology being promoted as a benefit to everything from farming to Fair Trade coffee, use case investigation has emerged as a full-time fascination for many.
In this light, one popular blockchain use case that has remained generally outside scrutiny has been land title projects started in countries including in Georgia, Sweden and the Ukraine.
One could argue land registries seemed to become newsworthy only after work on the use case had begun. However, those working on projects disagree, asserting that land registries could prove one of the first viable beachheads for blockchain.
Elliot Hedman, chief operating officer of Bitland Global, the technology partner for a real estate title registration program in Ghana, for example, said that issues with land rights make it a logical fit.
Hedman told CoinDesk: “As for the benefit of a blockchain-based land registry, look to Haiti. There are still people fighting over whose land is whose. When disaster struck, all of their records were on paper, that being if they were written down at all.”
Hedman argued that, with a blockchain-based registry employing a network of distributed databases as a way to facilitate data exchange, the “monumental headache” associated with a recovery effort would cease.
Modern real estate
To understand the potential of a blockchain land registry system, analysts argue one must first understand how property changes hands.
When a purchaser seeks to buy property today, he or she must find and secure the title and have the lawful owner sign it over.
This seems simple on the surface, but the devil is in the details. For a large number of residential mortgage holders, flawed paperwork, forged signatures and defects in foreclosure and mortgage documents have marred proper documentation of property ownership.
The problem is so acute that Bank of America attempted foreclosure on properties for which it did not have mortgages in the wake of the financial crisis.
Readers may also recall the proliferation of NINJA (No Income, No Job or Assets) subprime loans during the Great Recession and how this practice created a flood of distressed assets that banks were simply unable to handle.
The resulting situation means that the property no longer has a ‘good title’ attached to it and is no longer legally sellable, leaving the prospective buyer in many cases with no remedies.
Land registry blockchains seek to fix these problems.
By using hashes to identify every real estate transaction (thus making it publicly available and searchable), proponents argue issues such as who is the legal owner of a property can be remedied.
“Land registry records are pretty reliable methods for maintaining land records, but they are expensive and inefficient,” David Reiss, professor of law and academic program director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship, told CoinDesk.
He explained: “There is good reason to think that blockchain technology could serve as the basis for a more reliable, cheaper and more efficient land registry.”
- The total time for the process of closings in the U.S. are at the lowest level in over 700 days. In February and March of this year, the time span for closings landed at 46 and 43 days respectively. Last year the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created the “TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule” which caused the industry to create a narrowed focus to decrease the time length of U.S. closings.
- The Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) failed to affirmatively do it’s job when working with Wells Fargo. A report shows that shows the agency failed to take action when Wells Fargo began to fire bank tellers for creating “accounts without customer authorization.” Their oversight failure led to the false creation of over two million accounts.
- Residential House Prices, Commercial Real Estate and Bank Failures, Fissel, Hanweck, and Sanders.
- Governance Structures and Trust: A Study of Real Estate Networks, Armando, Azevedo, Boaventura, Carnauba, and Todeva
- The Federal Housing Administration and African-American Homeownership, Reiss
- Do the FASB’s Standards Add Shareholder Value?, Khan, Rajgopal, and Venkatachalam
- Equity Risk Premiums (ERP): Determinants, Estimation, and Implications- The 2017 Edition, Damodaran