Financial Assessment Is Working (Part V)

Financial Assessment Is Working (Part V)

Financial Assessment is still working. Now in its fifth year, FHA’s new policy of requiring the financial assessment (“FA”) of the borrower’s ability to pay has cut tax and insurance default by over three quarters and serious defaults by over two-thirds. These results continue to validate the encouraging data we shared in past analyses.

FHA’s objective for the new Financial Assessment regulations was to reduce the persistent defaults, especially Tax and Insurance defaults, plaguing the HECM program. As FHA put it, “… an increasing number of tax and hazard insurance defaults by mortgagors led FHA to establish … a requirement for a Financial Assessment of a potential mortgagor’s financial capacity and willingness to comply with mortgage provisions.” Financial Assessment requirements became effective for HECMs with case numbers issued on or after April 27, 2015. Since then, HECM lenders must make a financial assessment of the borrower’s ability to meet their obligations, including property taxes and home insurance. Tax and Insurance (T&I) and other defaults can lead to foreclosure and result in significant losses to FHA, HMBS issuers and other HECM investors. Defaults rose steadily during the financial crisis and have remained a thorn in the side of the program.

It’s been over four years since Financial Assessment began, so we should be able to measure the effect of this policy by comparing the default rates of loans originated before and after the FA rule was implemented.

With this in mind, New View Advisors looked at a data set of just over 200,000 HECM loans, comparing loans originated in the immediate 45 month post-FA period from July 2015 through March 2019 to loans originated in the 45 month pre-FA period from July 2011 through March 2015. After July 2015, there were few (if any) loans originated under the pre-FA guidelines. As the guidelines took effect in April 2015, the second quarter of 2015 included a mix of FA and pre-FA loans.

The data show a very strong reduction in Tax and Insurance Defaults in the post-FA period. After 45 months, the pre-FA data set shows a T&I default rate of 3.6%, and an overall serious default rate of 5.2%. By contrast, the post-FA data set shows a T&I default rate of approximately 0.7%, and an overall serious default rate of 1.5%. For the purpose of this analysis, we define serious defaults as T&I defaults plus foreclosures plus other “Called Due” status loans.

Over the past few years, FHA has taken a number of steps to reduce defaults in its HECM program. These include Mortgagee Letter 2013-27, which limits in certain cases the amount that can be lent in the first 12 months. Also, a series of Principal Limit Factor (“PLF”) reductions has reduced the amount lent even when the loan is fully drawn. These changes have also helped, although the majority of serious early defaults are Tax and Insurance defaults.

Given these results, we once again give the Financial Assessment concept high marks for reducing defaults. Previously, we referred to these results as a “mid-term grade that needs to be tested further as the post-FA portfolio ages.” At this point, four years constitutes at least one full semester in a HECM loan’s life-cycle, and we grade Financial Assessment’s performance as a solid “A.”

(Editor’s note: The following article was republished with permission from New View Advisors, which compiled data from publicly available Ginnie Mae data as well as private sources.)