Even though housing sales seem to be slowing throughout the country there is still an affordability crisis as asking prices have yet to adjust downward and while interest rates have stabilized (over the past 48 years, interest rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage have ranged from as high as 18.63% in 1981 to as low as 3.31% in 2012) they are higher than the historical lows a few years back. The following bullet points were presented at a conference concerning the increase in unconventional mortgages; as a 2+decade broker having been through multiple market cycles, my thoughts in italics:
Unconventional mortgages–once blamed for contributing to the housing meltdown 10 years ago–are making a comeback as lenders look for new borrowers to drive growth, the Wall Street Journal reports. The reality is when interest rates rise there must be products available to allow for home ownership. These unconventional mortgages generally bring down the monthly payment and thus presented as a gateway to home ownership. Yet historically such mortgages prior to The Great Recession were oriented to more experienced and sophisticated purchasers. Many of these unconventional mortgages can impact the borrower if home prices stagnate or fall i.e. loss of equity, monthly payments can increase i.e. adjustable rate, interest-only can lead to negative equity in a down market and so forth.
The borrowers are typically people who can’t get a conventional mortgage because they have a harder time proving income through the usual documentation such as pay stubs or tax forms. This is the new reality of the gig economy as the generation of long-term stable employment ending with retirement and a pension is long gone. The reality is mortgage lenders and regulators must understand the reality and present options and opportunities for such applicants. Personally I am old school i.e. the higher the risk or less documentation should require a higher down-payment to insure equity as a hedge against default, a simple risk analysis calculation.
Though still a tiny part of the overall mortgage market, these unconventional mortgages offerings are increasing while conventional home loans are decreasing. Not unexpected as by human nature we are chasing the least painful mortgage, the lowest monthly payment. However are we sacrificing prudent financial management i.e. a 30-yr fixed rate conventional loan in which the payments remain static for more exotic products which may look attractive for the immediate term yet detrimental long-term i.e. adjustable rate mortgages in a climbing interest rate environment?
Lenders originated $34B of unconventional mortgages in the first three quarters of 2018, up 24% Y/Y, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. Overall mortgage originations during that time were $1.3T, down 1.2% Y/Y. Multiple factors at play from the higher-cost of housing to the wealth-effect of the equities market to the basic desires for the lowest monthly payment possible.
Today’s “nonqualified” mortgages, though, have changed from their pre-crisis predecessors. These new loans comply with “ability-to-repay” rules and underwriting and due diligence are stronger than the pre-crisis era. This is a positive including review of bank statements and related documents. I believe the era of No-Doc Loans are long behind us however I am already witnessing low to no down-payment options, When we have the return of the 125% loan that’s when I start placing short bets on the mortgage marketplace.
Some regulators, consumer advocates and others still worry that the growth for this type of mortgage and increasing competition to make such loans could lead to higher risks for the housing market. This is a given; history does in-fact repeat itself as if anyone says This Time is Different keep that look of skepticism discreet.
On a personal note when I am working with buyers and if requested I provide a list of at minimum three (3) lenders I know professionally and socially and suggest they contact all three to discuss options and opportunities coupled with additional guidance concerning their future i.e. how long do they plan to be in the home, lifestyle changes on the horizon, employment security and so forth. The reality is a mortgage and one’s home is the largest debt as well as potential wealth accumulation we will have in our life cycles; we need to be more diligent concerning mortgage products and candid about the advantages and disadvantages associated with the options presented.