Fannie Tightens Standards on Lending to B&C Borrowers

Fannie Mae continues to tighten its underwriting standards and this time the changes will fall heaviest on borrowers with blemished credit who are seeking to refinance out of subprime mortgages.

A new seller guide issued last week establishes a minimum credit score of 580 on most mortgages and reduces the underwriting flexibility lenders enjoyed under Fannie's affordable housing product line known as MyCommunityMortgage and Expanded Approval.

Under the new eligibility requirements, Fannie will no longer accept borrowers who have missed two monthly payments in the previous 12 months or suffered a foreclosure in the past six years. The government-sponsored enterprise used to finance homebuyers who had a foreclosure four years ago.

"We have taken these steps to ensure that borrowers receive loans that give them the best chance of sustained homeownership," Fannie spokesman Brian Faith said. "Given the current state of the mortgage and housing markets, it is critical for our company to conservatively manage our business and risks through prudent pricing and underwriting."

Fannie's tightening comes as the Federal Housing Administration is considering changes to its FHA Secure program so more delinquent subprime borrowers can refinance into an FHA-insured mortgage. FHA officials say these changes are coming soon.

Meanwhile, industry trade groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association are becoming increasingly concerned about the tighter lending standards and higher loan fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have imposed over the past few months.

MBA members are "very concerned" about the new eligibility requirements Fannie is implementing, according to Michael Carrier, MBA senior director for capital markets and GSEs.

"We are still in the process of evaluating this most recent issuance in light of all the other adjustments they have made. And we are still trying to evaluate the impact," Mr. Carrier said last week.

Fannie is adjusting its loan fees, loan-to-value requirements and manual underwriting standards in advance of the introduction of its new Desktop Underwriter Version 7.0 on May 31.

The GSE also said it is "retiring" its Timely Payment Rewards feature that was available to Expanded Approval borrowers who generally pay a higher interest rate than other Fannie borrowers. Under this rarely used feature, the interest rate was gradually lowered if the borrower made their payments on time.

On the servicing side, Fannie has extended its limits on forbearance from four months to six months on loans in Fannie mortgage-backed securities.

Effective March 24, "all mortgage loans in MBS pools may be granted forbearance for no more than six consecutive months." However, the GSE emphasized that the temporary suspension of mortgage payments must not be extended beyond six months.

With many subprime borrowers facing potentially onerous payment adjustments, lenders are looking for ways to refinance them into fixed-rate loans. (c) 2008 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/