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On December 4, Freddie Mac announced new, standardized mortgage documents aimed at of making down payment assistance (DPA) programs more accessible nationwide. According to Freddie Mac, the subordinate lien programs for DPA programs have been specific to particular housing finance agencies which created confusion. By standardizing these documents, Freddie Mac hopes to benefit lenders by making DPA programs more efficient.
To create the standardized documents, Freddie Mac partnered with Fannie Mae and state housing finance agencies. These documents will initially be available for 19 states, and eventually for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These changes come in tandem with Freddie Mac’s new tool, DPA One®, to aggregate and showcase down payment assistance programs on a single platform.
On November 28, FHFA announced that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits (CLL) for mortgages purchased in 2024 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $726,200 to $776,550 (the 2023 CLLs were covered by InfoBytes here) for most of the United States. In Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the maximum loan limit for one-unit properties will be 1,149,825. According to the FHFA, due to rising home values (up 5.56 percent since 2022), CLLs will be higher for all but five U.S. counties.
On November 21, the Fed released a paper concluding that when mortgage rates rise on cash-out refinancings, households do not significantly increase overall borrowing, but instead switch to alternative borrowing options (i.e. credit cards, personal loans, HELOCs, and second liens). Analyzing rate increases and using monetary policy surprises from 2006 to 2021, the paper finds that changes in cash-out refinancing are balanced by shifts to alternative borrowing.
The paper’s findings further reveal that higher mortgage rates and the amount borrowed through cash-out refinancing have a positive correlation. The parallel showcases a pattern where borrowers are choosing the most cost-effective borrowing option based on the size of their liquidity need, the paper noted. The paper suggests that the way borrowers react to changes in monetary policy, like interest rate adjustments, can depend on whether they have existing mortgages and what interest rates they have on those mortgages. The paper also suggests that while some borrowers might change their mortgage terms when interest rates shift, others might choose different types of loans that don't change their original mortgage rate. This offsets the impact of changing monetary policies on refinancing decisions, the paper explained.
On November 21, the CFPB announced it approved an application from a community banking trade organization to pilot disclosures for construction loans. The application was submitted pursuant to the CFPB’s trial policy programs under Section 1032(e) of Dodd-Frank. According to the community banking trade organization, the application aims to increase the number of affordable loans that combine a construction phase loan with a mortgage, all within a single set of closing costs, i.e., a single-close construction-to-permanent loan. The community banking trade organization hopes to increase the number of these specific loans because first-time homebuyers in rural and small-town communities are more likely to build their first home than purchase existing ones. The community banking trade organization also stated that the current loan disclosure requirements offered by the CFPB were designed for either standard home purchase or refinance mortgage loans. The Bureau states that it wishes to receive applications for this pilot disclosure from lenders rather than single-market participants.
On November 13, the CFPB, OCC, and the Fed published final amendments to the official interpretations for regulations implementing Section 129H of TILA, which establishes special appraisal requirements for “higher-risk mortgages,” otherwise termed as “higher-priced mortgage loans” (HPMLs). The final rule increases TILA’s loan exemption threshold for the special appraisal requirements for HPMLs. Each year, the threshold must be readjusted based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The exemption threshold will increase from $31,000 to $32,400 effective January 1, 2024.
On October 31, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced, after a multi-year effort, the inclusion of policies for its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program in the Single-Family Housing Policy Handbook 4000.1. The FHA indicated this is the first time that all HECM program requirements will be available in a single place. According to the FHA, consolidating these programs eliminates more than one hundred individual policy documents and assist with strengthening the understanding and implementation of the HECM by lenders. New sections include Section II.B covering FHA policy for the origination through post-closing and endorsement of HECMs; and Section III.B, covering FHA policy for the servicing of HECMs and loss mitigation options to assist HECM borrowers who are behind on their HECM obligations. Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner Julia Gordon stated that the “completion of the HECM sections of our Single Family Handbook reinforces FHA’s commitment to the HECM program and is part of a larger effort to retool the program for long-term success.” The FHA also updated model documents, frequently asked questions, and training and expects the online version to be available soon.
On October 24, CSBS released tips for licensees to prepare for NMLS renewal. As previously covered by InfoBytes, NMLS announced it will be rolling out a new version of its mortgage call report which will include new requirements for many licensees. Kelly O'Sullivan, the chair of the NMLS Policy Committee and deputy commissioner of the Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions, advises licensees to proactively update their information in NMLS and make use of available training and resources to address their queries before the renewal period begins. This is particularly crucial for those individuals who typically only engage with NMLS during the license renewal phase.
CSBS recommended five essential tips for licensees:
- Licensees should log into NMLS and thoroughly review and update their profile record to ensure accuracy;
- Licensees should reset their NMLS password in advance to have a current password ready for accessing NMLS when needed;
- Licensees should provide and maintain a current email address to receive essential updates from NMLS during the renewal process;
- Licensees should review state-specific renewal requirements, as state agencies typically begin publishing details, including deadlines and fees, in September;
- Licensees are encouraged to take advantage of the free, on-demand renewal training resources provided by CSBS to become familiar with the renewal process.
On October 13, 2023, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) will be rolling out a new version of its Mortgage Call Report (MCR). In an effort to standardize mortgage company data at the state level, and minimize the amount of reporting outside the system, NMLS will be launching an updated version of the MCR, Version 6 (FV6) on March 16, 2024.
Licensees will see three main improvements in Version 6:
- FV6 eliminates standard and expanded forms and consolidates them into one form. All servicers will complete the servicer schedule and all lenders will complete the lender schedule. Lenders and servicers will file financials quarterly, and brokers will file financials annually.
- Commercial and consumer lending licensees will complete a separate state-specific form, removing the obligation to report mortgage information.
- The revision of line-item definitions will improve the overall quality of the data and help implement more completeness and accuracy checks.
FV6 will go into effect for all data collected on transactions dated on and after January 1, 2024. Additionally, NMLS will provide companies with the XML specifications no later than October 23. CSBS estimates that approximately 24,000 brokers, lenders, and servicers will experience reduced requirements, and approximately 3,100 lenders will have additional filing requirements.
The Mortgage Bankers Association sent a letter to CSBS in July, raising concerns with the new version, including (i) the lack of technical specifications needed for full consideration of the proposal and its implementation; and (ii) the significant expansion and burden of reporting requirements on smaller filers resulting from the replacement of standard and expanded forms in favor of the new and more detailed FV6. CSBS noted mortgage industry concerns surrounding the timing of the rollout of FV6 ahead of Q1 2024, and shared that details for leniency to the filing deadline will be provided in future communications. NMLS will provide regular updates on the Mortgage Call Report page, targeted learning opportunities and Q&A sessions.
Visit here for additional guidance on FV6 from APPROVED.
On October 16, a national payment processor entered into two settlement agreements totaling $20 million with 44 state and territory money transmission regulators and 50 state and territory attorneys general to resolve issues stemming from alleged erroneous payment transactions. The alleged erroneous payments involved the mistaken initiation of payments on behalf of almost 480,000 mortgage borrowers, with the total amount at issue totaling nearly $2.4 billion.
According to the settlement entered into between the payment processor and the money transmission regulators, who were working through the Multi-State Money Service Business Examination Taskforce, the mistaken payments resulted from a breakdown of internal data security controls that allowed customer data intended for use in the testing of processing code to trigger actual payments. The payment processor, who regularly provided payment processing services to a large residential mortgage lending and servicing company, was using actual customer mortgage payment data for test purposes. As alleged in the settlement, it was determined that in the process of conducting testing on processing code to optimize the payment processors’ payment platform, more than 1.4 million payment entries were unintentionally and erroneously processed. This erroneous payment processing was said to be primarily the result of “circumvention of internal data security controls and a lack of segregation between internal production and testing environments.”
The settlement reached with the money transmission regulators requires the payment processor to maintain a comprehensive risk and compliance program and to provide regular reporting to a state regulator monitoring committee to ensure the adequacy of its risk management programs.
Under the terms of the settlement with the money transmission regulators, the payment processor is required to pay a total of $10 million, with approximately $9.5 million of that total being shared evenly by each participating state, with the remaining roughly $500,000 being used to cover the administrative costs of the investigating states. Under the agreement with the state attorneys general, the payment processor is required to pay an additional $10 million to the various participating states and territories. These amounts are in addition to the $25 million fine previously agreed to in the CFPB Consent Order, bringing the total amount to be paid by the payment processor to $45 million.
On October 16, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it will revise how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSE) single-family mortgages are treated for borrowers who have entered Covid-19 forbearance under the GSEs’ representations and warranties framework. Under the revised policies, loans for which borrowers elected Covid-19 forbearance will be treated similarly to loans for which borrowers obtained forbearance due to a natural disaster. The GSEs’ current representations and warranties framework for natural disaster forbearance allows for consideration of the period during which a borrower is in forbearance as part of their demonstrated satisfactory payment history for the initial 36 months after the loan's origination. This framework will now be extended to loans with Covid-19 forbearance. FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said, "Servicers went to great lengths to implement forbearance quickly amid a national emergency, and the loans they service should not be subject to greater repurchase risk simply because a borrower was impacted by the pandemic."
The updates will be effective on October 31.