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Is Credit the Biggest Housing Problem?

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Numerous recent surveys have noted that while credit issuing on most types of loans has broadened in the past few months, mortgage lending still remains tight. Now, experts say that’s a hindrance to both real estate and consumer credit.

Credit availability has expanded significantly in the last year, but when it comes to mortgages, fears over large amounts of delinquency are likely preventing lenders from diving back into this type of issuing at levels even approaching pre-recession numbers, according to a report from UPI. Some experts have seen a slackening in credit restrictions for mortgage lending, but those have been minor, and have come even as interest rates and home affordability have remained at or near all-time lows for a number of months.

“Of the 30 percent increase in credit availability [since the end of the recession], mortgages account for only 5 percent despite the fact that delinquencies are down across the board,” said Trey Loughran, president of personal information solutions at Equifax, speaking at an industry conference earlier this week, according to the news agency. In all, data from Equifax shows that 30-day mortgage delinquencies are down 13.5 percent from a year ago, but lenders may have some cause for concern, the report said. The total value of delinquent mortgages is still elevated well above all-time historical averages at $450 billion, but that’s down 37 percent from the more than $700 billion observed in January 2010. In addition, 70 percent of outstanding late balances today are on first mortgages acquired between 2005 and 2007.

The still-tight lending restrictions imposed by financial institutions include requirements for much higher credit scores than those seen prior to the recession. Many now also mandate that borrowers getting their loan without the help of a government agency will need to provide much larger down payments. Today, most require a down payment of 20 percent at signing, though obtaining backing from the Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Association and other organizations might allow them to make lower initial contributions.

Many of the nation’s top mortgage lenders may soon start increasing the rate at which they foreclose on seriously delinquent borrowers, as they recently settled a suit from nearly all states’ attorneys general over the repossession practices they used in the past.

Image: TaxFix.co.uk, via Flickr

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