DBRS has posted U.S. Residential Mortgage Servicing Mid-Year Review and 2015 Outlook. There is a lot of interest in it, including a table that demonstrates how “the underwriting box for prime mortgages slowly keeps getting wider.” (7) The report notes that
While most lenders continue to originate only QM [Qualified Mortgage] loans some have expanded their criteria to include Non-QM loans. The firms that are originating Non-QM loans typically ensure that they are designated as Ability-to-Repay (ATR) compliant and adhere to the standards set forth in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Reg Z, Section 1026.43(c). Additionally, most Non-QM lenders are targeting borrowers with high FICO scores (typically 700 and above), low loan to values (generally below 80%) and a substantial amount of liquid reserves (usually two to three years). Furthermore, most require that the borrower have no late mortgage payments in the last 24 months and no prior bankruptcy, foreclosure, deed-in-lieu or short sale. DBRS believes that for the remainder of 2015 the industry will continue to see only a few Non-QM loan originators with very conservative programs.
CFPB ATR And QM Rules
The ATR and QM rules (collectively, the Rules) issued by the CFPB require lenders to demonstrate they have made a reasonable and good faith determination, based on verified and documented information, that a borrower has a reasonable ability to repay his or her loan according to its terms. The Rules also give loans that follow the criteria a safe harbor from legal action. (8)
that the issuance of the ATR and QM rules removed much of the ambiguity that caused many originators to sit on the sidelines for the last few years by setting underwriting standards that ensure lenders only make loans to borrowers who have the ability to repay them. In 2015, most of the loans that were originated were QM Safe Harbor. DBRS recognizes that the ATR and QM rules are still relatively new, having only been in effect for a little over a year, and believes that over time, QM Rebuttable Presumption and Non-QM loan originations will likely increase as court precedents are set and greater certainty around liabilities and damages is established. In the meantime, DBRS expects that most lenders who are still recovering from the massive fines they had to pay for making subprime loans will not be originating anything but QM loans in 2015 unless it is in an effort to accommodate a customer with significant liquid assets. As a result, DBRS expects the availability of credit to continue to be constrained in 2015 for borrowers with blemished credit and a limited amount of cash reserves. (8)
The DBRS analysis is reasonable, but I am not so sure that lenders are withholding credit because they “are still recovering from the massive fines they had to pay for making subprime loans . . ..” There may be a sense of caution that arises from new CFPB enforcement. But if there is money to be made, past missteps are unlikely to keep lenders from trying to make it.