New mortgage rules may mean less choice

New rules launching early next year designed to make mortgages safer may result in less choice for borrowers.

By Les Christie  @CNNMoney

The problem: small banks may drop out of the business because of the cost of tougher regulations.

Beginning Jan. 10, banks have to ensure that monthly mortgage payments are affordable, a result of the Dodd Frank law passed in 2010. The failure to do so carries strict penalties.

“My concern is that we’re going to be in an environment where some lenders are too small to comply,” said David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Related: Million dollar housing markets

During the housing bubble, some banks issued loans without even checking applicants’ income or assets.

Under the new rules, lenders must carefully determine that borrowers have the ability to repay their loans. That means, for example, that the banks can’t lend to anyone whose total debt payments would exceed 43% of their income. Lenders must carefully examine and double check pay statements, bank records, tax returns and other paperwork provided by borrowers.

Banks will have to make three main changes, according to Anthony Hsieh, CEO of loanDepot, an online mortgage bank.

They will have to update their underwriting policies and procedures, change their technology and retrain staff.

Related: Property taxes: How does your county compare?

Already, lending had become more complicated.

Five years ago, Total Mortgage, a mid-sized lender in Connecticut, had a single attorney on retainer to handle compliance issues, according to its president John Walsh.

Today, Total Mortgage has three full-time workers who work exclusively on compliance in addition to the outside counsel, even though his business has not grown.

“I expended a lot of effort to stay ahead of the new regulations,” Walsh said. “You just can’t make mistakes these days.”

continue reading »

More News