Just because we can do an FHA loan at 580 FICO, does that mean we should? By: Jason Hillard


this post was originally published on home loan ninjas on July 2nd 2010

Perhaps the biggest advantage to being an affiliate branch of a mortgage bank is our inherently “hybrid” nature. We are the bank; we have more responsibility and control than ever before. However, there are some hard and fast guidelines that all loans we originate and underwrite “in-house” must adhere to. These are policies that ensure our good standing with the investors we sell the loans to. Without access to these investors, we wouldn’t be in business because we do not service loans.

One of these steadfast rules is a minimum FICO score of 640, regardless of the loan program. This is where the “hybrid” nature of our operation kicks in and really sets us apart from a traditional bank. If we have clients that don’t meet certain underwriting criteria as prescribed by our investors, we can broker the loan to another bank. Hybrid: part bank, part broker. It really is a beautiful thing because it allows us to assist more customers than before. And we can be faster on our feet because we aren’t always relying on third parties, and provides more options to the consumer.

A quick perusal of the matrix of banks we are brokered with yielded a surprising tidbit of information: we can still do an FHA loan down to a 580 credit score.

This, of course, brings up an important question…

Just because we can, does that mean we should?

My partner and I, as I have previously mentioned, rarely fill out a client’s home loan application the first time we talk to them. Many people out there don’t qualify for their “ideal” mortgage right away. Others don’t know how much income they truly make. The point is, we get to know the down and dirty details before we begin the process in earnest. Outside of a few exceptions, this is the only responsible way to do business.

Now many times one of those details is a “less than perfect” credit score. Frequently, this can be remedied in 6 to 12 months with a little hard work, diligence, and a willingness to pay the items that are negatively impacting the client’s credit score.

We help people climb back up. Its what we are supposed to do. We are advisors, not just salesmen.

Can you make a case in the post-bubble (fingers-crossed) era for doing loans for people with a 580 credit score?

Right now, we have quite a few clients that are in this range. Actually, we always do because we talk to a lot of people and we don’t believe in simply turning people down with no plan to become “approvable”.

So how do we determine whether or not to proceed?

The answer, to me, lies in whether or not the consumer is climbing the stairs up, or riding the slide down.

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Let’s say we had a client come in to review their credit history with us 6 months ago, and at that time, their score was 493. We highlighted a plan of action, and they set their minds to achieving those goals. Let’s now assume that client followed all the steps and now they have a 597 credit score. They mention that they saw a house for sale over the weekend that they absolutely fell in love with. They want to know if they can get approved to purchase the home. I am morally OK with my Originator beginning the process with them. They have worked hard to improve their situation, and want to take an advantage of the opportunity to buy a house they really want, rather than settling for something now and trying to upgrade later.

Now let’s look at another situation that isn’t uncommon. A borrower comes to my mortgage company to get pre-approved to buy a “to be determined” property. They have a 641 credit score at the time of application. They start house-hunting, but can’t find anything they want for 60 days. Then they find something, put an offer in, and the offer is rejected. They put an offer in on another house; this one’s a short sale. They go back and forth with the seller over the next few weeks about closing cost concessions and inspection addendums. Suddenly the credit report is over 90 days old, which means we have to pull a new one. Low and behold, the borrower has maxed out a credit card, or taken a new loan out and missed a payment. Their credit score has dropped to a 599. Should we go ahead with the home loan?

The answer is not so clear cut, but I am damn certain about this: we are not acting in the consumer’s best interest if we don’t at least review the situation with them and determine the delinquency’s validity. It’s not professional to negotiate a mortgage for someone who is on the slippery slope of credit decline.

We aren’t trying to be “negative”, just honest and professional. The collective irresponsibility of borrowers, brokers, lenders, and banks got us into the current mess, and professional responsibility is the only way to prevent a repeat.

question mark image credit  Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

slide image credit Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Credit score gaps narrow for FHA loans: Quality Mortgage Services, by Jason Philyaw, Housingwire.com


The credit score gap for 2010 loans through the Federal Housing Administration fell 43 points from 2006 levels, according to Quality Mortgage Services.

The mortgage quality-control services firm said its data show the average credit score of FHA loans ranked as excellent in 2006 was 665 whereas the average score of a loan ranked fair was 603 for a gap of 62 points. For FHA loans originated so far this year, the firm’s data show excellent loans have average credit scores of 707 while fair loans average scores are 688 for a difference of 19 points.

“This is good news for investors because of the increase number of loans going for securitization where the borrower has a lower probability of a historical or future 90-day late credit scenario,” Quality Mortgage Services executive vice president Tommy Duncan said.

The Franklin, Tenn.-based company performs post-closing quality-control audits and tracks trends of mortgages.

“The decrease in the credit score gap shows that the FHA loan product is limiting itself to home buyers and reducing the number of applicants that would have normally qualified for a FHA loan in 2006,” Duncan said. “Also, this trend may make it more difficult to associate high-risk loans with certain credit score ranges and may place more focus on ratios. This data shows that underwriting templates have adjusted to a higher credit score standard to obtain a FHA loan and may be preventing the tradition first-time homebuyer, or low to moderate income earners, from obtaining a FHA loan.”

Write to Jason Philyaw.