According to a report prepared by Ellie Mae, a mortgage technology company, the average FICO credit score for approved mortgage loans dropped to 727 in December 2013. It was 748 a year earlier.
The average credit score for home loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also dropped a little; December 2013 borrowers had an average credit score of 756, down from December 2012′s average of 761.
Refinance mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac were approved with an average credit score of 729 in December 2013; this was a significant drop from the average credit score of 763 in December 2012.
Only 46 percent of mortgage applicants approved had credit scores above 750 in December 2013 while approximately 57 percent of applicants had credit scores over 750 a year earlier. Mortgage Credit Scores: What’s Going On? – –
Reasons for approving mortgages with lower minimum credit scores include mortgage lenders’ growing confidence as the economy improves and mortgage defaults decrease. As rates rise and refinancing activity dries up, lenders may also exercise more flexibility with credit scores in order to encourage more business.
While this isn’t life-changing news for would-be mortgage applicants with sub-par credit scores, a mortgage lender’s willingness to work with less-than-perfect credit is a positive sign in the aftermath of the recession.
But wait — there are conflicting opinions concerning how or if mortgage lenders will change their minimum required credit scores for any but the best-qualified applicants. Mortgage applicants with credit problems can expect to encounter glitches on the path to mortgage approval. Mortgage Underwriting Policies: Out with Overlays — or Not
Another practice that can limit a mortgage applicant’s chances of approval is the use of “lender overlays.” Lender overlays are underwriting requirements, imposed by lenders, in addition to the guidelines set out by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the federal government. Overlays create extra hoops for applicants to jump through (or get stuck in).
Some analysts have said that mortgage lenders may be willing to reduce or eliminate lender overlays if economic conditions continue to improve.