Home > Mortgages > Is Wells Fargo Getting Back Into Subprime Mortgages?

Comments 0 Comments

Wells Fargo is once again setting sail on subprime mortgage waters, despite how choppy they were several years ago. The bank will consider mortgage applicants with credit scores as low as 600, announced Franklin Codel, a Wells Fargo mortgage executive. Previously, the minimum was 640, and this change applies to purchase mortgages to be guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration.

Lenders routinely re-evaluate their standards as consumer credit trends shift, and Wells Fargo considered applicants with credit scores in the low 600s as recently as the fourth quarter of 2011, said Tom Goyda, a Wells Fargo spokesman. In fact, that threshold was 500 in January 2011. The 640 benchmark had been in place since about November 2012, before the change to 600 last year.

Credit Scores & Mortgages

There are dozens of credit scoring models, but most lenders use the 301 to 850 range, and anything in the 600 to 649 bracket is considered poor, or subprime. Consumers in the next highest credit tier (650 to 699, aka near prime) enjoyed increased access to home loans over the last several quarters, according to data from Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports and Experian’s IntelliView tool. (The tool uses the VantageScore model but breaks down borrowers into tiers like prime, near-prime, etc.)

In the third quarter of 2013, the most recent data available from Experian, subprime borrowers made up 5% of new home loans, and that share has hovered between 3% and 5% for several quarters. It’s a bit different if you look at the near-prime borrowers: 21% of new home loans in the third quarter went to near-prime borrowers. A year earlier, they made up 16% of originations.

Increasing Mortgage Access With Caution

New mortgage regulations went into effect in January, so it remains to be seen how those impact consumers’ access to home loans. Borrowers must meet strict ability-to-repay requirements mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. Credit scores are only part of the equation.

For example, when Wells Fargo took applications from aspiring homeowners with credit scores of 500, Goyda said a lot of those people didn’t satisfy other criteria required for FHA loans, and this may be the case with applicants in the low-600s. Still, the idea is to open up loan products to consumers who have recently been underserved by the mortgage industry.

“We’ve done what we believe is an appropriate balance of access to credit — especially for first-time and low-income homebuyers — with responsible lending,” Goyda said. With the lending market flowing more toward purchase mortgages, as opposed to refinancing, Goyda said those consumer groups could use more support.

Whether such a shift truly increases credit access, given the other changes to the mortgage application process, remains to be seen.

Knowing your credit score is always a big part of the homebuying process, however. If your credit score is lower than you’d like it to be, consider allowing yourself time to improve it before filling out mortgage applications. It’s not the only thing lenders consider, so it’s also necessary to organize the documentation needed to get a home loan, but a good credit score can be the gateway to homeownership.

Using a free tool like the Credit.com Credit Report Card, you can see two of your credit scores and analyze which behaviors are helping or hurting those scores. If you’re worried about having a good enough credit score to get a home loan, it’s smart to see where you stand now and use that information to help you raise your scores going forward.

More on Mortgages and Home Buying:

Image: shutter_m

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team