New Mortgage Rules Roll Out in January 2014

Mortgage - Real EstateIf you don’t know what “QM” and “ATR” stand for yet, now is a good time to learn because you are sure to hear a lot about them in the months ahead. QM stands for “Qualified Mortgage” and ATR stands for “Ability-to-Repay.”  A new set of mortgage rules set to roll out on January 10, 2014 that are a requirement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Attached is a thorough overview of the rules but below is a briefer summary of the key things you need to know: 

Effective with the new set of rules, lenders will only be able to offer “Qualified Mortgages” that meet “Ability-to-Repay” standards. The intent is to eliminate many of the risky mortgage programs that caused the mortgage collapse five years ago.  Obviously, there are many politicians clueless to the fact that the industry has already naturally reacted and even over-corrected. Nevertheless, expect even more underwriting scrutiny moving forward as there is more at stake than ever for lenders to substantiate and document a borrower’s income, debt, credit, and assets. Needless to say, there will only be “full doc” loans offered in the future.

Outlawed loan types moving forward include negative amortization, interest-only, balloons, and amortization periods over 30 years. No major losses on this list.

The most threatening new rule is a cap of 43% on the debt ratio. You are certain to hear a lot about this new cap but be aware that for the next seven years this cap does not apply to any Conforming, FHA, VA, or Rural Housing loans that get an automated approval. Fortunately, this is most of the loans made in 2013! Not sure what the significance of seven years is but unless this is overturned, the number of loans lenders can make is going to drop a lot in 2021 because a large percentage of loans made today do have debt ratios over 43%. For now, the greatest impact with this cap will be on Jumbo loans > $417,000.

A few other rules worth mentioning:

  • There will be a cap on the points and fees that lenders can charge of 3% of the loan amount for loans > $100,000. Up to two additional discount points that are used to buy down rate will be allowed. There is ongoing discussion about which fees are part of the 3%. In its current state, this rule will give the consumer fewer mortgage options which is not a good thing. For example, programs that allow the borrower to pay for the PMI in advance rather than monthly might no longer be allowed.
  • ARM loans must be underwritten at whatever the maximum possible loan rate is over the first five years of the loan.
  • Another victim of this law is the Conventional 3% down loan. The minimum down for all Conventional loans moving forward will be 5%.


One of the key components of the new rules is the fact that borrowers who have been foreclosed on will actually have the ability to sue lenders claiming that they did not have ability to repay. Lenders have a “safe harbor” from such lawsuits, however, if they properly document loans and keep the interest rate on the loan within 1.5% of the “Average Prime Offered Rate” (APOR). You can bet that lenders will be going to a lot of trouble to only offer loans that meet the safe harbor requirements.