Mortgage Loan Origination

On July 15, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against Townstone Financial, Inc., a Chicago-based mortgage lender and mortgage broker, alleging that Townstone “redlined” African-American neighborhoods in the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area and discouraged prospective applicants from applying to Townstone for mortgage loans on the basis of race. This marks the first

In recent weeks, the US federal housing agencies and government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that insure, guarantee, or purchase “federally backed mortgage loans” covered by Section 4022 of the CARES Act (Act) have continued their intense pace of issuing temporary measures, and updates to such measures, intended to implement the Act’s provisions applicable to such loans. These

As rumored, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is proposing to revise its general qualified mortgage definition by adopting a loan pricing test. Specifically, under the proposal, a residential mortgage loan would not constitute a qualified mortgage (“QM”) if its annual percentage rate (“APR”) exceeds the average prime offer rate (“APOR”) by 200 or more basis points. The CFPB also proposes to eliminate its QM debt-to-income (“DTI”) threshold of 43%, recognizing that the ceiling may have unduly restrained the ability of creditworthy borrowers to obtain affordable home financing. That would also mean the demise of Appendix Q, the agency’s much-maligned instructions for considering and documenting an applicant’s income and liabilities when calculating the DTI ratio.

The CFPB intends to extend the effectiveness of the temporary QM status for loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (the “GSE Patch”) until the effective date of its revisions to the general QM loan definition (unless of course those entities exit conservatorship before that date). That schedule will, the CFPB hopes, allow for the “smooth and orderly transition” away from the mortgage market’s persistent reliance on government support.

Background

Last July, the CFPB started its rulemaking process to eliminate the GSE Patch (scheduled to expire in January 2021) and address other QM revisions. For the past five years, that Patch has solidified the post-financial crisis presence by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the market for mortgage loans with DTIs over 43%. The GSE Patch was necessary, the CFPB determined, to cover that portion of the mortgage market until private capital could return. The agency estimates that if the Patch were to expire without revisions to the general QM definition, many loans either would not be made or would be made at a higher price. The CFPB expects that the amendments in its current proposal to the general QM criteria will capture some portion of loans currently covered by the GSE Patch, and will help ensure that responsible, affordable mortgage credit remains available to those consumers.

Adopting a QM Pricing Threshold

Although several factors may influence a loan’s APR, the CFPB has determined that the APR remains a “strong indicator of a consumer’s ability to repay,” including across a “range of datasets, time periods, loan types, measures of rate spread, and measures of delinquency.” The concept of a pricing threshold has been on the CFPB’s white board for some time, although it was unclear where the agency would set it. Many had guessed the threshold would be 150 basis points, while some suggested it should be as high as 250 basis points. While the CFPB is proposing to set the threshold at 200 basis points for most first-lien transactions, the agency proposes higher thresholds for loans with smaller loan amounts and for subordinate-lien transactions.

In addition, the CFPB proposes a special APR calculation for short-reset adjustable-rate mortgage loans (“ARMs”). Since those ARMs have enhanced potential to become unaffordable following consummation, for a loan for which the interest rate may change within the first five years after the date on which the first regular periodic payment will be due, the creditor would have to determine the loan’s APR, for QM rate spread purposes, by considering the maximum interest rate that may apply during that five-year period (as opposed to using the fully indexed rate).

Eliminating the 43% DTI Ceiling

Presently, for conventional loans, a QM may be based on the GSE Patch or, for non-conforming loans, it must not exceed a 43% DTI calculated in accordance with Appendix Q. Many commenters on the CFPB’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking urged the agency to eliminate a DTI threshold, providing evidence that the metric is not predictive of default. In addition, the difficulty of determining what constitutes income available for mortgage payments is fraught with questions (particularly for borrowers who are self-employed or otherwise have nonstandard income streams). While the CFPB intended that Appendix Q would provide standards for considering and calculating income in a manner that provided compliance certainty both to originators and investors, the agency learned from “extensive stakeholder feedback and its own experience” that Appendix Q often is unworkable.
Continue Reading CFPB Hatches a QM Proposal for GSE Patch

In a new era of double-digit unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be tough for a mortgage lender to predict the amount and stability of someone’s income in order to determine qualification for a home loan. Neither past nor even present levels of income may be reliable indicators of income levels going forward, at least in the short run or until the economic dislocations are substantially behind us. That is why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “government-sponsored enterprises,” or “GSEs”) recently issued enhanced documentation requirements and considerations for verifying and predicting the income of a self-employed applicant for a mortgage loan. While the GSEs’ documentation requirements apply via contract to approved lenders/sellers, whether those requirements will morph into legal requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act’s “ability to repay” requirements is something to watch in the coming months.

Revised GSE Underwriting Requirements for Eligible Loan Purchases

A determination of whether an applicant has the ability to repay a loan from his or her income or assets is a basic component of loan underwriting – as required both by federal (and sometimes state) law, and by a lender’s investors or insurers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit a lender of closed-end residential mortgage loans from relying on any income that is not verified by reliable documentation. Predicting whether that income will continue into the future takes skill when lending to self-employed borrowers under any circumstances, and is particularly tricky during this unique coronavirus economy. The now-waning government stay-at-home orders and other quarantining efforts may or may not have affected a particular borrower’s business operations, and the scale and duration of those effects going forward are difficult to predict.

In response to that uncertainty, on May 28, 2020 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued guidance requiring that self-employed borrowers must submit a year-to-date (“YTD”) profit and loss statement (“P&L”) that reports business revenue, expenses and net income.
Continue Reading Self-Employed Borrowers’ Income – Is the Past Necessarily Prologue?

The use of representations and warranties insurance policies in M&A transactions has grown exponentially in the past decade. While the use of this type of insurance in acquisitions of residential mortgage originators and servicers is less common, there is tremendous opportunity for growth in the mortgage sector. This Legal Update discusses the benefits of these

In a development that industry observers may have overlooked amid more pressing concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Idaho legislature enacted a measure that will require mortgage servicers to be licensed by July 1, 2020, unless the date is extended. With last month’s enactment, Idaho joins the majority of states that license mortgage servicing and provides a useful reminder that, when things eventually return to some degree of normalcy, non-pandemic-related compliance obligations will remain. This blog post discusses Idaho’s new mortgage servicer licensing obligation and other pertinent provisions of the legislation.

The New Mortgage Servicer Licensing Obligation

Idaho House Bill 401 (“H401” or the “Bill”) amends the Idaho Residential Mortgage Practices Act (Idaho Code §§ 26-31-101 et seq.) (the “RMPA” or the “Act”) to include mortgage servicing among the activities that trigger licensing under the Act.
Continue Reading Regulatory Life Goes On—Idaho Legislature Remained in Session During COVID-19 Pandemic to License Mortgage Servicers

Since Mayer Brown issued a Legal Update describing guidance issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (together with Fannie Mae, the “GSEs”), the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration (“VA”) relaxing requirements with respect to appraisals and income/employment verification during the COVID-19 emergency, the agencies have continued to revise their guidance as the market adjusts to the challenges encountered by mortgage lenders. The GSEs and the VA have all issued revised letters, and the US Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) issued new guidance to provide relief in connection with guaranteed single-family loans. Below we describe the USDA’s guidance regarding appraisals and employment verifications performed in connection with RHS loans and provide updates on the changes made by the GSEs and the VA to their appraisal guidance.
Continue Reading The GSEs and Other US Federal Agencies Issue New and Revised Guidance for Appraisals and Verifications of Employment

How do documents get signed and notarized when the parties signing the documents are faced with stay-at-home orders?  While both the federal Electronic Signatures In Global And National Commerce Act and state-enacted versions of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act authorize notaries to perform electronic notarizations, electronic notarization is different than remote online notarization (RON).  Without

COVID-19 has strained all aspects of life in the United States, including the housing and mortgage industries.  Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and business closures have disrupted the abilities of many workers to complete their duties on a “business as usual” basis.  In the mortgage market, there is a direct impact on a mortgage lender’s ability

Last week, in a blog entitled “Coronavirus Hits Home,” we informed you that we had contacted the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (“CSBS”) and regulators in a number of states to see what CSBS or the state regulators were telling mortgage lender or broker licensees as to whether their licensed MLO employees who had been quarantined in their homes because of the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) could continue to originate mortgage loans from their homes without the home being licensed as a branch office. Since that blog, CSBS has posted certain state-by-state COVID-19 guidance on the NMLS Resource Center, which among other things covers relevant business continuity plans for licensed mortgage loan officers. We urge you to check the NMLS Resource Center and the State Agency websites for the guidance provided.

Since we sent our request to state regulators as to relief from branch licensing for licensed MLOs who are quarantined in their homes, but want to continue to originate mortgage loans, a number of state regulators have responded directly and positively to our email request. As some of the guidance posted on the NMLS website may not cover the branch licensing issue we posed to CSBS and certain other state regulators, we thought it would be helpful to post some of the specific guidance we have received from state regulators that addressed the branch licensing concern raised by our clients.
Continue Reading Coronavirus Hits Hard – Branch Licensing May Be Waived