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Is it harder to get a mortgage for a Boston condo?

Some downtown Boston condo buyers might struggle to gain approval for a home loan as lenders are starting to tighten their credit standards.

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Mortgage Application Denied Stamp Showing Home Finance Refused

The Mortgage Bankers Association said that mortgage credit availability, which is a measure of lender’s willingness to approve a home loan, is now at its lowest level since 2014.

“Because mortgage credit is more difficult to obtain, it is a more competitive environment overall,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, told The Wall Street Journal.

Boston Condo Buyers with Stellar Credit

Lenders have been issuing new mortgages at record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Journal said that most of those loans are going to people with stellar credit histories or those who have enough cash to make a sizable down payment. Almost 70% of mortgages granted in 2020 went to people with a credit score of at least 760, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows. The median credit score for borrowers with approved mortgages in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 786.

Real Estate Lenders are More Cautious

Experts say lenders are now being more cautious about issuing home loans at a time when the real estate market is surging due to strong demand from buyers and rising prices. Mortgage loan availability dropped by about 35% in 2020, as lenders look to protect themselves amid concern that some people might lose their jobs due to the pandemic.

Lenders are also worried about forbearance, the Journal said. In order to secure a mortgage, some borrowers have reportedly been asked to sign a statement that says they have no intention of requesting forbearance once they have been approved for their loan. It’s not clear if borrowers could be legally held to that statement, as the current forbearance period has been mandated at a federal level, but it may offer lenders some protection.

Lenders typically weigh multiple variables when considering whether or not to approve a home loan, including the applicant’s credit score, employment history, income and debt level.

Boston Real Estate and the Bottom Line

Still, the Journal said that those who do have a mortgage application rejected might want to wait a few months before trying again. It said that credit requirements are expected to be eased this year as mortgage rates are expected to rise. Rising rates usually leads to a decline in refinance applications, and so lenders will probably try to make up for that lost business by issuing more loans to home buyers.

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