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April 29, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT
Homebuyers Confront Credit Crunch as Coronavirus Puts Lenders on Edge
Both low-income and affluent house hunters are getting squeezed by tightening lending restrictions

SEATTLE, April 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- (NASDAQ: RDFN) — Nearly half of all Americans financed their home purchases with down payments of less than 20% last year, according to a new analysis by Redfin (www.redfin.com), the technology-powered real estate brokerage. As the coronavirus pandemic sends shockwaves through the U.S. economy and banks fight financial uncertainty with tightened mortgage lending standards, roadblocks have been created for house hunters hoping to lock down home loans.

The Mortgage Credit Availability Index—a gauge of how easy it is to obtain a home loan—tumbled 16% in March to the lowest level in five years, as banks grew wary of more borrowers requesting delayed payments (forbearance) made possible by the government's stimulus program. An estimated 25% of the loans written by Redfin Mortgage last quarter may not have been possible to originate under the new standards, as the investors who buy the loans have become more selective about what they purchase.

"Thousands of Americans who were priced out of the housing market due to the affordability crisis of the past decade might finally see homeownership as within reach, especially given historically-low mortgage rates. But unfortunately, they are now faced with another roadblock and may not be able to get a loan," Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari said. "Home equity is the primary way for Americans to build wealth. It's important that policymakers address this tightening of credit, as it has raised the barrier to homeownership."

At the high end of the market, banks have begun to retreat from jumbo loans, which are regularly used for purchases of more expensive homes. But, average borrowers are also being squeezed. Earlier this month, for example, JPMorgan Chase raised its credit score minimum to 700 and began requiring applicants to have enough savings for a 20% down payment. Similarly, Wells Fargo is reportedly shying away from riskier loans for borrowers who are unable to provide down payments of 20% and increasing its FICO-score requirement to 680. As unemployment continues to skyrocket and more homeowners default on their mortgages, other banks may follow suit.

For this report, Redfin analyzed the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas to determine the share of homeowners in each who bought a home with less than 20% down in 2019. Because lenders are beginning to restrict specific types of credit, the table below also shows the percentage of home sales in each metro that were financed using Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, Veterans Affairs (VA) loans and jumbo loans.

The regions where housing is more affordable saw a higher share of home sales financed with less than 20% down, indicating that in general, higher down-payment thresholds enforced by lenders could disproportionately impact Americans in lower-income communities. Nine of the 10 metros where homeowners were most likely to opt for sub-20% down payments last year had median sale prices below the national level of $348,809. Six of those 10 were on the East Coast.

Metro

Share of Home
Sales Financed with
Less than 20% Down

Share of Home
Sales Financed with
FHA Loans

Share of Home
Sales Financed with
VA Loans

Share of Home
Sales Financed with
Jumbo Loans

Median
Sale Price

National - U.S.A.

44.9%

16.6%

7.5%

5.5%

$348,809

Virginia Beach, VA

70.2%

15.4%

39.4%

3.0%

$237,000

Camden, NJ

58.5%

30.7%

7.5%

1.4%

$195,000

Washington, DC

58.0%

14.5%

14.6%

5.0%

$413,000

Richmond, VA

56.2%

20.9%

10.0%

1.7%

$259,900

Baltimore, MD

55.8%

20.9%

10.1%

5.0%

$285,000

Columbus, OH

53.7%

15.8%

6.6%

1.8%

$218,000

Pittsburgh, PA

53.3%

20.4%

5.0%

1.9%

$175,000

Cincinnati, OH

53.2%

21.4%

6.8%

1.5%

$185,000

St. Louis, MO

52.8%

21.1%

11.5%

1.1%

$186,500

Cleveland, OH

52.0%

21.6%

5.5%

1.1%

$155,000

Oklahoma City, OK

51.9%

23.2%

13.8%

0.8%

$183,900

Frederick, MD

51.7%

13.3%

6.3%

6.0%

$415,000

Louisville, KY

51.5%

19.5%

6.1%

1.6%

$199,000

Hartford, CT

50.9%

19.7%

2.1%

1.6%

$224,000

Minneapolis, MN

50.3%

11.7%

5.1%

3.0%

$280,033

Detroit, MI

49.7%

23.7%

4.0%

0.7%

$137,000

Warren, MI

49.5%

14.3%

4.3%

1.6%

$217,000

Milwaukee, WI

48.3%

9.4%

4.6%

2.2%

$225,000

New Orleans, LA

48.0%

18.3%

8.9%

2.6%

$225,733

Raleigh, NC

47.1%

7.6%

6.7%

3.1%

$291,000

Riverside, CA

47.0%

25.8%

9.6%

5.7%

$377,000

Chicago, IL

46.7%

17.5%

2.9%

5.9%

$250,000

Nashville, TN

46.6%

17.9%

6.7%

3.3%

$300,000

Providence, RI

46.3%

18.9%

2.8%

3.6%

$286,000

Montgomery County, PA

45.8%

13.2%

4.2%

6.1%

$321,000

Denver, CO

45.7%

14.0%

6.7%

6.1%

$415,000

Charlotte, NC

45.7%

14.4%

6.8%

3.8%

$259,900

Jacksonville, FL

45.5%

17.0%

17.8%

2.7%

$235,000

Memphis, TN

45.2%

19.8%

8.2%

1.6%

$185,000

Portland, OR

44.7%

11.4%

6.7%

7.1%

$402,000

Las Vegas, NV

44.6%

19.7%

13.0%

2.2%

$285,000

Atlanta, GA

44.6%

21.9%

7.4%

3.3%

$249,000

Orlando, FL

44.1%

22.6%

7.2%

2.1%

$256,000

Sacramento, CA

43.7%

15.7%

6.8%

5.8%

$410,000

Philadelphia, PA

42.9%

21.6%

3.2%

3.6%

$215,000

Tampa, FL

42.6%

20.2%

10.8%

2.4%

$234,000

Newark, NJ

42.2%

20.8%

2.9%

3.3%

$360,000

San Diego, CA

42.1%

8.0%

16.4%

12.2%

$580,000

Phoenix, AZ

41.7%

16.5%

9.0%

3.1%

$280,000

Seattle, WA

40.1%

7.8%

4.7%

9.5%

$562,000

New Brunswick, NJ

36.7%

14.8%

3.1%

2.1%

$325,000

Fort Lauderdale, FL

35.8%

22.0%

4.7%

3.7%

$270,000

Los Angeles, CA

35.7%

13.0%

3.5%

15.3%

$633,000

Miami, FL

35.5%

22.4%

2.3%

5.2%

$308,500

Oakland, CA

30.7%

7.8%

2.5%

23.4%

$735,000

West Palm Beach, FL

28.8%

19.3%

4.0%

3.9%

$285,000

Boston, MA

28.7%

2.7%

0.3%

6.0%

$500,000

Anaheim, CA

27.0%

6.7%

3.5%

14.7%

$715,000

San Jose, CA

14.7%

2.5%

1.0%

46.4%

$1,100,000

San Francisco, CA

7.7%

0.2%

0.3%

54.6%

$1,400,000

In Virginia Beach, 70% of home sales were financed with a down payment of less than 20%—the highest share of the top 50 metros. This is because the region has a large presence of military employees, many of whom take out VA loans that don't require down payments, said local Redfin agent Jordan Hammond. Camden, NJ came in second place, at 58.5%, followed by Washington, D.C., at 58%.

VA loans are holding up relatively well in Virginia Beach, but not all types of credit are, Hammond said, noting that some clients are having trouble securing FHA loans as lenders raise standards.

FHA loans typically cater to first-time homebuyers with more modest budgets and lower credit scores, and also have among the highest forbearance rates, which is why they're considered relatively risky from a lender's perspective, Bokhari explained. The Mortgage Bankers Association said this week that 10% of FHA loans are in forbearance. The share of FHA borrowers with a credit score below 640 recently dropped to 16% from 30%, according to a report by the American Enterprise Institute, indicating that FHA lenders are increasingly shunning buyers with lower FICO scores.

Of the metros Redfin analyzed, Camden, NJ had the largest share of home sales financed with FHA loans last year (30.7%). Riverside, CA and Detroit rounded out the top three, both at about 25%.

Michael Kowalski, a Redfin agent in New Jersey, said one of his clients was recently denied an FHA loan after going under contract on a $370,000 home in Lyndhurst, NJ. When the buyer applied for the loan, his credit score was above the required level, but because the lender still hadn't submitted the application to the government by the time threshold had increased, the client's loan request was denied.

Hammond, the Virginia Beach agent, said one of her clients had been approved for an FHA loan but was then furloughed four hours before he was scheduled to sign the papers for his new home. Because he was unable to show the lender proof that he'd be able to return to his job, he was forced to back out of the deal.

"It's not just Americans in relatively affordable areas like Virginia Beach who are bearing the brunt of tighter lending standards," Bokhari said. "Buyers at both the low and high ends of the market seem to be having the most trouble getting loans right now, leaving the middle of the market relatively unscathed."

Jumbo loans have been among the hardest hit, with some lenders halting them entirely. This type of credit, often extended to buyers who need to borrow more than $510,400 (or more than $765,600 in many high-cost areas), can be considered risky because it's not guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The Mortgage Credit Availability Index tracking jumbo loans tumbled 37% last month, compared with a decline of just 2.7% in a benchmark that follows conventional loans.

Of the 10 metros with the highest share of jumbo loans last year, eight were expensive regions on the West Coast. San Francisco, the most expensive metro in Redfin's analysis, had the highest share of home purchases funded with jumbo loans, at more than 50%. That compares with just 5.5% of home sales nationwide. San Francisco also had the lowest share of home sales financed with less than 20% down, which makes sense, as jumbo loans require down payments of at least 20%.

To read the full report, including additional insight from Redfin agents and mortgage advisers, please visit: https://www.redfin.com/blog/stricter-mortgage-lending-requirements-impact-homebuyers.

About Redfin
Redfin (www.redfin.com) is a technology-powered real estate brokerage, combining its own full-service agents with modern technology to redefine real estate in the consumer's favor. Founded by software engineers, Redfin has the country's #1 brokerage website and offers a host of online tools to consumers, including the Redfin Estimate, the automated home-value estimate with the industry's lowest published error rate for listed homes. Homebuyers and sellers enjoy a full-service, technology-powered experience from Redfin real estate agents, while saving thousands in commissions. Redfin serves more than 90 major metro areas across the U.S. and Canada. The company has helped customers buy or sell homes worth more than $115 billion.

For more information or to contact a local Redfin real estate agent, visit www.redfin.com. To learn about housing market trends and download data, visit the Redfin Data Center. To be added to Redfin's press release distribution list, email press@redfin.com. To view Redfin's press center, click here.

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SOURCE Redfin

Redfin Journalist Services: Erin Osgood, 206-588-6863, press@redfin.com