The new rules are designed to take a "back to basics" approach to mortgage lending and lower the risk of defaults and foreclosures among borrowers, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which issued the new rules.
"No debt traps. No surprises. No runarounds. These are bedrock concepts backed by our new common-sense rules, which take effect today," said CFPB director Richard Cordray in remarks prepared for a hearing Friday.
Mortgage lenders are being asked to comply with two new requirements: The Ability to Repay rule and Qualified Mortgages. Here's how they will impact borrowers:
Ability to Repay
The rules also restrict "steering," or practices that give financial incentives to loan officers or mortgage brokers for pushing people into higher-interest loans that they can't afford -- a practice that was all too common leading up to the housing bust, Cordray said.
"We think the new rules are balanced and well-drawn. They will offer consumers protection without limiting credit to qualified borrowers," said Gary Kalman, the policy director for the Center for Responsible Lending.
Lenders don't seem to be too worried about the new rules, according to Keith Gumbinger of HSH.com, a mortgage information provider. "It's no surprise; everybody has been preparing for the change for months," he said. "Because there will be additional underwriting scrutiny, it could gum up the works initially and slow loan processing, but it's really just the codification of things that are already in place."
A significant factor is what's not in the rules. There's no minimum down payment or credit score requirement.
"[The qualifed mortgage] is not taking a one-size-fits-all approach. It ensures that first time homebuyers can still come to the table," said Kalman.
If the rules required a minimum down payment of, say 10% or 20%, it would eliminate many first time buyers who would have a difficult time raising that much cash.
The lack of a credit score requirement will enable lenders to loosen currently tight underwriting standards in the future should conditions warrant, according to Gumbinger. For the moment, most loans will still have to be backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and, with a few exceptions, they won't approve applicants with scores below 620.