The key home loan financier operating on the secondary mortgage market has seen much better days with its immense portfolio. Just like most other lending institutions it, too, has been slowly bleeding as foreclosures keep shaking its once solid foundation. So much so that Washington had to bail it out a while back. Yet, it's still doing what it was mandated to do, invest in mortgage paper.
Fannie Mae, to stem growing losses, is gradually hiking mortgage underwriting criteria, though. In the latest round of updates that'll go in effect November 1, the borrower's FICO has to be 620 or better for every home loan that complies with its Selling Guide. This date applies to manually underwritten and FHA and VA loans. Furthermore, for mortgages routed through Fannie Mae's Desktop Underwriter the start date is December 12, pushed there to get the software configured. Excluded from this FICO upgrade are Fannie Mae's Refi Plus products and manually underwritten loans with non-traditional credit. The minimum score now is 580 for most programs and government loans have none.
Southern Nevada - Las Vegas, Southern Highlands, Summerlin, Henderson, Mountains Edge, Anthem and Green Valley among the communities here - is trying to emerge from a deep real estate slump and these changes naturally will hamper that. The same goes for many other areas in the country, from Arizona and California across to Florida and elsewhere. Not in a major way, but still. The home loan guidelines are already tough enough, so another degree higher will put more squeeze to getting approvals.
On the other hand, as the national housing market continues to plod along unsteadily, Fannie Mae applying more prudent risk management in mortgage lending is understandable. It's already supported by the government. If it makes more risky loans and they increasingly default, it needs more money from Washington to stay in business. In reality, that means the taxpayer who was approved for a mortgage and subsequently goes bust ends up paying for it himself. Stopping the potentially self-defeating cycle at the first step seems to be the right thing to do.