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Fannie Mae Looks To Help Renters Gain Mortgage Eligibility

David Krechevsky
Aug 11, 2021
In this morning’s housing data news, mortgage applications are on the decline again, yet the historically low mortgage rates are remaining relatively steady

Beginning In September, Will Allow Lenders To Incorporate Rent Payments In Evaluation Process

  • Fewer than 5% of renters have their have their rent payments reported on their credit bureau reports.
  • About 20% of U.S. population has little established credit history, and Black & Hispanic consumers are disproportionately represented in that group.

Fannie Mae today said it will launch a new feature in its automated underwriting system to incorporate consumers' rent payments in the mortgage credit evaluation process, in hopes of helping renters qualify for home loans.

Beginning Sept. 18, 2021, Fannie Mae's Desktop Underwriter (DU) will enable single-family lenders — with permission from mortgage applicants — to automatically identify recurring rent payments in the applicant's bank statement data to deliver a more inclusive credit assessment. For qualified renters who may have limited credit history but a strong rent payment history, Fannie Mae's DU enhancement creates new opportunities for homeownership while promoting safe and sound lending.

The update to DU is a positive change for eligibility — only consistent rent payments will be considered to improve eligibility. Any records of missed or inconsistent rent payments identified in the bank statement data will not negatively affect the applicant's ability to qualify for a loan sold to Fannie Mae. Rent payments that appear in the payment history of the borrower's bank account data can be identified, whether made via check or electronically, such as via a company's payment portal or other digital payment solution.

"Many renters believe they will never be able to buy their own home because of insufficient credit. We can responsibly expand mortgage eligibility by including positive rent payment history in underwriting risk assessments," said Fannie Mae CEO Hugh R. Frater. "We believe this will be the first time any large-scale automated mortgage underwriting system will leverage electronic bank statement data to consider positive rent payment history.”

Frater called the change an “important step in correcting the housing inequities of the past, creating a more inclusive mortgage credit evaluation process going forward, and encouraging the housing system to develop new ways of safely assessing and determining mortgage eligibility in order to fairly serve all potential homeowners. We look forward to working with our industry partners to do what we can together to address this and other barriers to homeownership."

Tom Wind, executive vice president for Consumer Lending at US Bank, said is organization supports the change. "U.S. Bank is committed to housing equity, and allowing us to expand sustainable homeownership opportunities for underserved markets and consumers by factoring in rent payment history is an important and welcome change," he said. "We support Fannie Mae's efforts and are excited to roll-out this impactful feature."

Credit history is a key element in evaluating a borrower's ability to make a mortgage payment, but fewer than 5% of renters today have their rent payments reported on their credit bureau report, putting many prospective first-time homebuyers at a disadvantage. Approximately 20% of the U.S. population overall has little established credit history — a group in which Black and Hispanic consumers are disproportionately represented.

Additionally, Fannie Mae's National Housing Survey found that Black consumers identify insufficient credit score or credit history as their single biggest obstacle to getting a mortgage, and do so at a much higher rate compared to white consumers (29% to 18%).

According to Fannie Mae research, lenders factoring in first-time homebuyers' history of consistent rent payments is one significant difference between applicants qualifying and not qualifying for a mortgage. In a recent sample of mortgage applicants who had not owned a home in the past three years and did not receive a favorable recommendation through Desktop Underwriter, 17% could have received an Approve/Eligible recommendation if their rental payment history had been considered.

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