There are general secondary market underwriting guidelines,
but many variables are considered in the loan application analysis. The following
outlines some of the basic areas and items considered in the process:
Monthly Housing Expenses and Total Debt Obligations
One of the first things an underwriter determines is the borrower's proposed monthly
housing expenses and total monthly debt obligations.
These include the monthly principal and interest payments that are stipulated
on the mortgage note. In addition, the monthly housing expenses include a monthly
amount for the property taxes and hazard insurance (1/12 of the annual taxes and
insurance). There may be other expenses, such as condominium fees, homeowners
fees, special assessments, etc., that are included.
Monthly Personal Debt Obligations
These include monthly credit obligations, such as installment payments, revolving
charge cards or other borrower obligations that will continue longer than 20 months.
Usually, 5% of the current balance of a revolving charge account is used for the
Total Monthly Debt Obligations
This combines the monthly housing expenses and monthly personal debt obligations.
One of the most important components of the loan underwriting process is determining
the borrower's monthly income. The income of all borrowers and co-borrowers is
included in the calculation. The income can be derived from several sources, but
it must be supported by historical documentation and have a high likelihood of
continuation. The following outlines the types of income that are used and the
means to support them:
Income To Debt Ratios
Income derived from any kind of salary, whether monthly, weekly or hourly is acceptable. Two year employment history is usually required.
- Commission and bonus:
Commissions and bonuses can be used for income. The underwriter will average the
last two years of income shown on federal income tax returns and the year-to-date
earnings from the written verification of employment or pay stubs.
- Self-employment income:
Generally, the underwriter will average the income derived through self-employment
for the last two years from the applicant's federal tax returns and the year-to-date
earnings from a profit and loss statement on the business. Underwriters will take
into consideration the income trends in the business, as well.
- Other income:
Other income can be used for loan qualification. Income derived from rental properties,
interest, dividends, pensions and social security can be used. Some restrictions
apply regarding the amount of time the income has been recognized and the amount
of time remaining.
After determining the monthly income of the borrower and any co-borrowers, the
monthly housing expenses and the total monthly debt obligations, the underwriter
calculates two ratios that are helpful in the loan underwriting process.
Primary Housing Expense/Income Ratio(front end ratio)
This ratio is the result of dividing the housing expenses for the proposed loan
by the monthly income of the borrower(s).
Primary housing expenses $1,000
Total monthly income $4,000
The ratio will be 25% ($1,000 divided by $4,000 = 25%)
Total Obligations/Income Ratio (back end ratio)
This ratio is the result of dividing the housing expenses for the proposed loan
plus the borrower(s) other monthly credit obligations by the monthly income of
Total obligations of the borrower $1,400
Housing expenses $1,000
Other credit obligations $400
The ratio would be 35% ($1,400 divided by $4,000 = 35%)
Qualifying ratios are only one component of the underwriting process and many
other variables are considered in the final decision.
Funds to Close
When the proposed loan is being used to finance the purchase of a home, underwriters
will determine the source of funds for the down payment and closing costs.
The following are acceptable sources of funds for closing:
Cash in any depository institution or investment company is acceptable.
- Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
Cash equivalent investments are acceptable forms of funds. They can be validated
through statements from investment companies for the last two months.
- Sale of existing property
Many times the source of funds for the down payment on a home comes from the equity
in a property that will be sold. The sales price of the property being sold is
indicated on the loan application and any existing loan is verified on the credit
report or through a verification of previous mortgage.
- Gift from family members
Gifts from family members for the down payment and/or closing costs are acceptable
so long as there is no requirement for repayment. Some loan programs limit the
amount of gift funds allowed.
Another part of the underwriting process is determining the credit worthiness
of the borrower. Loan underwriters review the borrower's credit report to find
evidence of debt repayment behavior.
Some of the important areas that are reviewed are:
Underwriting the Appraisal
- Past and existing mortgage debt:
The past repayment history on mortgage debt can be a good indication of a borrowers
attitude toward mortgage obligations. A good payment history on mortgage debt
is very important in the credit analysis.
Generally, payments received 30 days past the due date are reflected in the credit
report as late. Lenders vary in strictness and some may not allow any late mortgage
payments, while others will allow 1 or 2 in the last two years if there is a good
- Installment and revolving credit:
Other items on the credit report can also indicate a borrower's attitude toward
credit obligations. Credit reports indicate the outstanding balance, current balance
and terms of payment on the borrower's revolving and installment debt. Underwriters
review these credit obligations to determine the borrower's patterns of credit
use and repayment behavior. Revolving credit encompasses department store and
bank credit cards. Installment credit encompasses longer term credit with structured
payment plans, such as car loans.
Generally, underwriters are not concerned over isolated and minor slow payments
indicated on the credit report.
- Collections, repossession, foreclosures and bankruptcies:
Credit reports also indicate public records such as collections, repossessions,
foreclosures and bankruptcies. Though these items may indicate past credit problems,
they sometimes have valid explanations. Underwriters may require a letter of explanation
on items noted in the public records. Many times consumers have re-established
credit and have an excellent payment history on their current obligations.
Generally, underwriters are not professional appraisers and do not re-appraise
the property. They will review the appraisal to assure that it meets the requirements
of the investor and sometimes request additional information to substantiate the
value. They may request that a second appraisal or review appraisal be performed.
A review appraisal can be completed from a site inspection or review of the written
appraisal. In both cases, another professional appraiser will perform the review.
The underwriters consider many variables in their analysis. No two borrowers have
the same credit and income profiles and underwriters use all of the information
in the loan file to render a decision.
Many times, borrowers fall outside the guidelines, but have strong compensating
factors that reflect low credit risk. Some compensating factors are history of
savings, long-term job stability, history of making monthly credit payments that
equal or exceed the proposed payments, a substantial down payment or a large cash
reserve after the close of escrow.
Final Credit Decision
After the underwriter has reviewed the entire loan package, there can be four outcomes:
If the loan is "picture perfect" and the underwriter has no questions, the loan
will be approved with no conditions.
- Approval with conditions
The most common response. There are two types of conditional approvals: (a) If
the underwriter needs additional documentation before a final credit decision
can be made, a "prior-to-document" conditional approval will be rendered. In essence,
the loan documents will not be prepared until the condition has been satisfactorily
met. An example of a "prior-to-document" condition could be a pay stub to validate
the borrower's income. (b) If the loan can be approved, but a condition must be
met prior to closing, a "prior to funding" conditional approval will be rendered.
In this case, the loan documents will be prepared and sent to the closing agent,
but the lender will not fund the loan until the condition has been met. An example
of a "prior to closing" conditional approval could be proof of sale of existing
home where the equity will be used as a down payment.
Sometimes the underwriter will be unable to make a decision on a loan file because
it is either incomplete or there are many unanswered questions. In these cases,
the underwriter will ask for additional information from the borrower before an
underwriting decision is made. An example of a suspension may be large gaps in
the borrower's previous employment history and no tax returns to indicate the
place of employment.
Underwriters will be unable to approve a loan if the loan file has substantial
deficiencies and does not meet the minimum standards of the lender or the lender's
secondary market investors require a second underwriter review of the loan package
before a final denial is communicated to the borrower. Denial letters with the
reason for denial are sent to borrowers within 3 days of the final credit decision.