The primary impact home buyers and home owners will see from the Qualified Mortgage (QM) rule is the ability to repay provision. Here in Minnesota, we have been ahead of the national curve due to changes made to state law in 2007 and 2008. Mortgage originators have been required to document a borrower’s ability to repay a mortgage by comparing their income documentation and outstanding liabilities from the credit report and total housing expenses. However, the specific definition of “ability to repay” wasn’t provided, other than to say “reasonable.” The standards will become more strict.
The new ability to repay federal law comes with a definition stating that a borrower does not have the ability to repay a loan if their total debt to income ratio (DTI) exceeds 43%. Today, we can get loans approved with a much higher DTI, which for some borrowers does make sense and they do have a “reasonable” ability to repay the mortgage.
However, the primary impact of the new rule will limit everyone to the same DTI regardless of “reasonable” or not. Critics of “reasonable” will state that no one should have a DTI over 43% as that is too high, but they fail to consider a wide array of circumstances where the DTI is not a valid test of ability to repay.
Here are a few examples: self-employed persons, commissioned employees with less than a 2-year history of commission, non-borrowing spouses, roommates that pay rent, part-time employees, and other situations where a “compensating factor” applies but the total income picture cannot be used to qualify the borrower. When reviewing these scenarios under the “reasonable” microscope, it sometimes makes sense to approve a loan with a higher DTI, knowing that they strong ability to repay regardless of the ratio.
The current Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB as created by Dodd-Frank 2010) rule allows for a “temporary” exception to the 43% DTI rule when the loan is eligible for sale or guaranteed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It doesn’t say how long this temporary exception applies, and most FNMA/FHLMC approvals are currently limited to 45% anyway (except HARP refinances and other applications with very strong qualifying criteria).
Mortgage loan officers will adhere to the Qualified Mortgage rule as it gives us “safe harbor” from future liability if the loan fails to perform (or the borrower defaults, depending on how you look at it). No loan officer will want to be sued because their client could not or did not pay their mortgage payment.
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