New mortgages are being approved with lower credit scores, and FHA loans appear to be leading the shift, according to studies by credit developer FICO and other entities. “As we get further away from the Great Recession, underwriting criteria seems to have eased, and a broader section of consumers are obtaining mortgages as a result,” according to FICO’s report.
New loans for borrowers with FICO scores reaching as low as the 400s jumped from 21.9 percent in 2009 to 29.7 percent last year, according to the study. FICO scores range from 300 to 850.
From January to March of this year, borrowers who were approved for FHA loans—which offer low down payment options for first-time home buyers—had an average credit score of 672, according to FHA data. During that same period in 2011, the average credit score for an FHA borrower was 701. FHA borrowers also have had higher debt-to-income ratios in recent years. Debt-to-income ratios measure monthly household income against other debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans.
Between January and March, about a quarter of FHA borrowers had a DTI of more than 50 percent, FHA data shows. In 2013, only 12.7 percent of FHA borrowers had such a debt load.