Down Payment Plan May Price Buyers Out of Market
How much a home buyer should have a for a down payment on a home has been up for dispute among policymakers. Some recent federal regulators and lawmakers calling for a 20 percent or 10 percent down payment in order for mortgages to be considered a “qualified residential mortgage” and not subjected to extra fees.
However, such stringent down payment requirements could price many home owners out of the housing market, argues a growing number of consumer housing advocates. (Read more about the National Association of REALTORS®’ stance).
In fact, for many creditworthy home buyers in occupations that don’t boast high median salaries, they might have to wait a decade or even longer to meet the down payment rule.
The Center for Responsible Lending, which has argued that 10 percent or 20 percent down payment requirements are too high, has a chart on its Web site boasting the length of time it would take borrowers of different occupations to save enough for a 10 percent down payment on a 2010 median-priced $172,900 home.
- U.S. Army Staff Sergeant: 16 years (median salary: $30,176)
- Public school teacher: Nearly 15 years (median salary: $33,530)
- Firefighter: 10 years (median salary: $47,730)
- Police officer: Nearly 9 years (median salary: $55,620)
“We’re not advocating for zero percent down,” Kathleen Day, spokesperson for the Center for Responsible Lending, told The New York Times. “We think down payments are good. But we think the market should set them, based on the underwriting.” (That is, based on the borrower’s credit history and income and debt levels.)
The down payment proposal comes as part of new rules for mortgage lenders in the Dodd-Frank law. Federal agencies are trying to set criteria for what should be considered a reasonably safe mortgage or QRM. Lenders issuing a QRM will be able to sell the loan to an investor and avoid retaining any of the risk. However, lenders will consider non-QRMs more risky since they’ll have to retain a 5 percent ownership. (Loans insured by the Federal Housing Agency would be exempt.) For borrowers who are unable to meet QRM, they would have to pay more for their loans because lenders would have to boost interest rates on their loans to cover the extra costs.
What You Can Do
Lawmakers have extended the public comment on the new down payment rules to Aug. 1. The REALTOR® Action Center has issued a call for real estate professionals to help ensure their clients have access to affordable mortgages. To send a letter to your state lawmakers, visit REALTOR.org.
Source: “What’s a Reasonable Home Down Payment?” The New York Times (June 29, 2011) and REALTOR® Magazine online
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