Conforming Loans Can’t Keep Up DSNews (Seth Welbourn)

According to a recent report, March saw an increase in mortgage credit availability. Analyzing data from Ellie Mae’s AllRegs Market Clarity tool, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) determined that its Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) increased 3.2 percent in March.

The March MCAI was 183.4, indicating loosening credit. The Index was benchmarked at 100 in March 2012. Three of the four component indices of the MCAI saw increase, with the Jumbo MCAI jumping 11.7 percent, followed by the Conventional MCAI (up 4.5 percent), and the Government MCAI (up 2.3% percent). Despite these increases, the Conforming MCAI decreased 2.6 percent.

“Credit availability increased in March driven by increased availability of Jumbo loan programs and Government loan programs,” said Lynn Fisher, MBA’s VP of Research and Economics. “Led by a wave of adjustable rate Jumbo offerings, the Jumbo MCAI surged in March, more than offsetting its 4.4 percent decline in February, which was the first tightening of the that component index in 11 months. Increases observed in the Government MCAI were driven by increased availability of FHA’s Streamline Refinance and 203 K home rehabilitation loan programs.”


Although Jumbo loans and Government Loans drive the MCAI increase, conforming loans access decreased by 2.6 percent. A  blog post by Laurie Goodman from the Urban Institute ties this drop to high credit standards. Since 2009, 6.3 million fewer loans have been made, and as much as 1.1 million fewer loans were made in 2015 than would have been if credit standards from 2001 were still in effect. The Urban Institute states that lenders are imposing even more stringent standards than those required by the entities that guarantee or insure these loans.

Additionally, mid-priced homes, such as those with conforming loan balances, have seen price increases lately, and the MBA reported this week that interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances increased from 4.33 percent to 4.34 percent.

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