Mortgage credit availability rises with more jumbo loans offered

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Mortgage lending standards loosened in March, as a swell in jumbo credit helped drive an expansion in availability for the third straight month, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The MBA's Mortgage Credit Availability Index increased to 182.1 after ending 2018 with a drop off at 175. It also marks a 4.2 point rise year-over-year.

"Credit availability increased in March, primarily due to a spike in jumbo mortgage offerings. The jumbo subindex increased 5% and reached its highest level since last November, as the recent decline in mortgage rates led to a jump in refinances from borrowers with larger loans," Joel Kan, the MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a press release.

The MCAI's conventional component rose 3.6% from February, as the jumbo segment jumped 5.2% and the conforming MCAI stepped up 1.4%. One index did take a hit, however.

"The credit supply for government loans decreased in March, as investors continue to reduce FHA and VA streamline refi offerings," Kan added.

The government MCAI was the only component that decreased in March, falling 1.2%.

The MCAI is calculated by the MBA using loan program data from Ellie Mae's AllRegs Market Clarity database with a benchmark of 100 in March 2012. A lower index value indicates lenders are tightening their credit standards.

While the credit availability index has shown steady growth in 2018, it pales in comparison historically to the boom period of 2006. Before the housing bubble popped, the index nearly climbed to 900.

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