The Housing Market Thaws: Will Credit Follow Suit?

The Motley Fool is in Seattle, visiting online home and real estate marketplace Zillow. Today we meet with Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Director Erin Lantz to learn more about how ZMM works and whom it serves.

Has the housing market learned its lesson? In the following video, Lantz describes the lending behavior seen on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, and how interest rates influence lenders' willingness to offer quotes to less desirable borrowers.

To view the full interview, click here.

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Austin Smith: Are you seeing any sort of loosening of credit standards as the market thaws a little bit, or are things still pretty tight?

Erin Lantz: We're starting to see a little bit of that, mostly around the lower -- we're seeing a little bit more lender activity around lower-down-payment borrowers or slightly lower FICO bands than we were a few years ago, but we're nowhere near where we were at the boom-year levels.

Looking at some of the ZMM data, since the last three years ago, we've seen borrowers with lower down payments are getting about three times more lenders willing to quote on their request.

Smith: Interesting.

Lantz: So, a little bit of movement there, but again mostly we're not nearly as close to where we were back in the boom years, by any means.

The other factor there is that lenders are really busy in this low-interest-rate environment, so we're not seeing them have much incentive to try to widen their guidelines, because they've got more business than they can handle in the current guideline box.

Smith: What sort of makeup of mortgage leads are you seeing people take? ARMs were sort of the dynamite of the financial crisis. Are you seeing ARMs popular again? Is it 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed? What's the makeup of how mortgages are getting delivered today?

Lantz: The vast majority are 30-year fixed. We are starting to see a little bit more shorter-term fixed-rate mortgages, so a 15-year fixed, especially because rates are so low that we're seeing some borrowers are able to move from a 30 to a 15 and have an insignificant increase on their monthly payment even though they're reducing their term considerably. We're seeing a bit more of the shorter-term, but most everything is fixed, and almost all of it's 30-year fixed.


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