Dodd-Frank Effect on Boston Area Real Estate

In many ways, the Boston area real estate market is still paying for the sins of lax lending practices in the last housing boom. It’s been five years since the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill was enacted, putting into motion new credit extension and lending rules for mortgage lenders.

What it Means for Boston Area Real Estate

Time will tell how Boston area real estate will be affected by Dodd-Frank

The Dodd-Frank legislation encompass reams of documentation and have required Boston area real estate mortgage lenders to incur millions in expenses to comply with the regulations. The requirements, however, are fairly forthright and logical. Gone are the days of the extreme risk loan offerings such as negative amortization mortgages or no documentation loans. Today, lenders are required to obtain full documentation from their borrowers for both income and debt, and lenders must further verify the borrowers credit history and ability to repay the mortgage loan. And while that may sound like the proverbial “no brainer,” it’s one of the basic reasons that led to the Boston area real estate meltdown. Lenders granted mortgage loans that borrowers simply couldn’t pay back.

The end result has created a current environment in which consumers find it more difficult to obtain financing. Lenders report the average FICO score required on approved mortgage loans are higher than ever before and many point to tighter credit as the reason the homeownership rate is at its lowest in more than twenty five years. Lenders also contend that while loan approvals are still being issued, the additional documentation and verification makes the mortgage approval process lengthy and cumbersome. Borrowers, on the other hand, say it’s not only the process, but the higher credit levels that is thwarting their home buying efforts in the Boston area real estate market.

The Dodd-Frank legislation seems to have almost had the reverse affect from what was intended. Mortgage lenders are skittish when it comes to taking risks and, while that’s not a totally bad result, the legislation was designed to improve lending practices and stimulate the Boston area real estate market’s recovery.

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Time will ultimately tell how Boston area real estate will be affected, but one thing’s for sure: since fewer homebuyers are paying cash for homes, affordable and readily-obtainable mortgage loans will always be necessary. Lenders and regulators need to find a common ground on which they can stand, and at the same time offer consumers products that are innovative, attractive and that affordably fit their needs.

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