The rate of would-be borrowers getting turned down for a mortgage is almost half of what it was a decade ago, according to an analysis by real estate marketplace Zillow, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a loan approval. Nationally, 9.8 percent of applicants for conventional loans were turned down in 2016, compared with 18.1 percent in 2007, based on Zillow’s analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.
The credit box does appear to be loosening a little, but not to the point of the extreme ease before the housing crisis. The Housing Finance Policy Center’s housing credit availability index (HCAI) shows that mortgage credit availability rose for the second quarter in a row during the fourth quarter of 2017. The HCAI measures the percentage of loans that are likely to default, meaning they would go unpaid for 90 days or more past their due date. The number rose to 5.8 percent in the last quarter of 2017, which means lenders are taking a few more risks with borrowers. To put this in context, a 5.8 percent index is still extremely low. Even before the housing crisis, the standard rate was 12.5 percent from 2001 to 2003. The HCAI is an estimate of potential loan defaults, not an actual count.
The two main reasons for consumers to be turned down for a loan are credit history issues, which include a too-low credit score, and a too-high debt-to-income ratio, according to a study by LendingTree, an online loan marketplace. Each of those reasons counted for 26 percent of loan denials. Collateral — in other words, the value of the property — accounted for 17 percent of loan denials, followed by incomplete applications at 14 percent.
The metropolitan area with the highest percentage of loan denials (13 percent) was Birmingham, Ala., followed by New Orleans (12 percent) and Memphis (12 percent). The Washington area had a 6 percent denial rate, ranking it 39th on the list.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the most recent data from Zillow was from 2017, it was from 2016.