Subprime Mortgage Lending 2007 Statement}

Submitted by: Jane A. Smith

The United States Treasury Department, along with several other federal financial regulatory agencies, released a Statement on Subprime Mortgage Lending in June 2007. This sizeable document (it is 31 pages long) is aimed at people involved in borrowing and lending for mortgages at subprime rates. Of particular concern to the authors are adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). The Statement provides guidelines that will ensure more appropriate practices regarding ARMs. The agencies are concerned that lenders persuade borrowers to take out ARM loans by giving them an extremely low rate of interest (called a teaser rate) for the first few months. Unfortunately, this rate adjusts upward very soon to a formula based on and exceeding the prime rate. Now the loan is no longer within the means of the person who is classified as a subprime borrower, and it will cause extreme financial hardship. Other issues covered by the Statement are below.

Adequate documentation of income for subprime borrowers is not always required by lenders. This practice is of concern to the agencies because it leads to so-called liar loans. A borrower can put whatever inflated number he chooses on the application form, knowing there will be no effort to verify that this is truly the amount of his income. These loans greatly increase the chance that the borrower will default, which is a problem for the lender as well.

The agencies also address the problem of the introductory rate period. Most ARM loans include significant penalties for early prepayment, and the penalties extend well past the initial period. In addition, borrowers are not always given full information about additional monthly payments that will be required, such as taxes and homeowners insurance. This failure to disclose such information leaves the borrower at an enormous disadvantage, and will no longer be permitted.


It is interesting and unusual that, three months before releasing the Statement on Subprime Mortgage Lending, the agencies involved in creating it requested comment from the public, from members of Congress, and from financial institutions that engaged in mortgage lending. From the industry came the comment, over and over, that they are opposed to disclosing to borrowers all the details of ARM fees and rates. They think that would result in overloading the consumer with information! This is of great concern to the agencies, and to the author of this article as well. We dont think the average consumer requires the protection of subprime lending agencies from information overload. Consumers can handle information just fine! Failure to disclose costs and fees for which the borrower will be responsible is nothing short of deception.

Virtually all comments reflected uneasiness that there was no adequate definition of the term subprime within the Statement. When the final revision appeared in June, readers were requested to refer back to the definition of a subprime borrower contained in the earlier guidelines document Expanded Guidance for Subprime Lending (2001). All the pertinent characteristic are listed there, and can be used in determining whether a particular borrower should be classified as subprime.

The Statement also requires that every borrower be given a full repayment schedule, including information on amortization, and an estimate of the amount of insurance and taxes that will be applicable. This must be done whether or not the extra costs are escrowed and are included in the loan. The extra charges must be part of a mandatory and accurate calculation of the borrowers debt ratio.

The Statement on Subprime Mortgage Lending is a valuable effort to remedy some of the ailments of the current housing market, and insure that subprime borrowers as well as subprime lenders are not left with a financial disaster on their hands because of imperfect communication between them.

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