The coronavirus continues to upset the economy, and the housing market is no exception. As of last month, around 4 million homeowners have already requested mortgage forbearance with their lenders through the CARES Act forbearance program.
Mortgage lenders are responding to the economic uncertainty by tightening credit requirements and making borrowers jump through more hoops in an attempt to avoid future missed payments and loan defaults.
While it’s still possible to get a mortgage right now, the process will be more difficult for many borrowers. Here are three ways lenders are tightening borrowing requirements in response to the coronavirus.
Stricter Credit Score Requirements
Before the coronavirus hit, a credit score of 580 was good enough for many lenders. Now, many lenders are requiring a credit score of at least 620, which falls within the “fair” range for the major credit scoring models. Some lenders are going much higher. For example, Chase recently raised minimum credit score requirements to 700.
If you plan on buying a home any time soon, you should start working on toward your credit goals now. Even if your credit score is already in good shape, reaching your credit goals can help you qualify for lower interest rates and better loan terms.
Increased Scrutiny of Borrower Income
Proving that your income is sufficient to afford your mortgage may be even more important than your credit score. Lenders may still work with borrowers with fair or average credit scores if they believe they have steady, reliable income.
Pre-coronavirus, some lenders may have only required last year’s tax return as proof of income; those days are over. Providing proof of income and employment is now more stringent. You may need to reverify your employment status with your employer several times during the loan application process. Lenders are worried that a potential borrower could be laid off at any time, and may require employment verification up to 10 times.
Larger Down Payments
Previously, many borrowers could secure a mortgage loan with a down payment as low as 3% of the sale price. But borrowers may need to bring much more to the table now. Lenders are increasing their required down payments. Chase went so far as to raise required down payments to 20% of the home’s purchase price.