Under normal circumstances, approving my mortgage application should be a no-brainer: High income, no debt, high credit score. The missus also makes a good income, has an almost-perfect credit score and has been working for the same business for 28 years.
But these are not normal circumstances.
Let me jump to the end: Yes, we got our mortgage. We put 20 percent down, bought a house that appraised for more than the purchase price and got a 3.25 percent rate on a mortgage that resets after seven years. We moved in last month.
But the process was surreal. Indeed, it was such a bizarre experience that I started hunting for explanations from people in the industry about why mortgage lending has gone astray. I spoke to numerous experts, many of whom spoke only on background. Today’s column is about what I learned.
By just about any measure, credit is tighter today than it has been in decades. Although former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s inability to refinance a mortgage is merely anecdotal, consider instead the gauge CoreLogic developed. It used 1998 as a baseline and considered six quantitative measurements to evaluate how loose or easy mortgage lending is. By those metrics, this is the tightest credit market for mortgage lending in at least 16 years.
The absurdities of my experience are worthy of its own rant, but rather than do that, I wanted to focus on what went wrong. The factors that led to the financial crisis were many, but let’s focus on three areas: