Real estate agents want subprime alternative for too-strict underwriting
Almost two-thirds of real estate agents feel the housing market has not improved in the past year, governed mostly by stringent lending standards that could be "detrimental" to both a housing and economic recovery. And with a lack of any alternative mortgage products, they say they can't sell. Century 21 Real Estate franchise surveyed more than 1,500 real estate agents in the company's network nationwide who said underwriting standards are substantially hindering the housing market. "We believe the pendulum has swung too far and that otherwise qualified potential homebuyers are facing significant challenges in obtaining mortgage financing in today's market," commented Rick Davidson, president and chief executive officer of Century 21. "Responses to our survey demonstrate that the current mortgage lending environment is too constraining for potential homebuyers, and it is detrimental to both a housing and general economic recovery." Approximately 89% of survey respondents had at least one customer in the past six months experience some level of difficulty in qualifying for a mortgage, while 87% of respondents said credit score and related financial qualification requirements were the biggest obstacles. More than half called these factors "a major problem." More than three-fourths of agents reported low appraisal values as a challenge in qualifying for a loan, while 67% reported down payment requirements are too stringent and 63% claimed there was a lack of available financing caused trouble in the origination process. These underwriting standards caused one or more real estate transactions to fail for 75% of real estate agents surveyed. Overly tight underwriting is taking a toll on business, the agents reported. According to the Century 21 survey, 93% of real estate agents believed they could be doing more sales is their customers had a "quality subprime mortgage alternative." On average, agents said they feel they could have 32% more transaction volume. Underwriting standards are expected to remain tightened, as the proposed risk retention rule moves through regulators. While Standard & Poor's admits risk retention standards and the qualified residential mortgage exemption will create higher quality mortgages, the company said it will also depress originations further. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.