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Return of 20% Home Down Payments Looms

The National Association of Realtors is among 44 organizations -- including the American Bankers Association, Center for Responsible Lending, National Association of Federal Credit Unions and NAACP -- making up the Coalition for Sensible Housing Policy. That group has escalated a public outreach campaign in recent days that includes broadcast and newspaper advertisements.

In statements, coalition members have stressed that they are not denying that low down payment loans are riskier than higher down payment loans. They argue, however, that high down payment requirements would put homeownership out of reach for millions.

"We are talking about people here who have managed their financial obligations carefully and they have established a good track record -- you can see that in their credit report -- but like so many people today they find it difficult to accumulate very significant savings," says Glen Corso, managing director of the Community Mortgage Banking Project, an organization that represents independent mortgage-banking companies. "They have accumulated a 3% or 5% down payment, or some modest amount like that, and they figure that, plus the careful management of their financial affairs, should get them the lowest cost credit in the marketplace. If this rule goes through, that won't be the case."

Corso says he can appreciate the intent, if not the specifics of how the Dodd-Frank Act sought to ensure a safe and stable mortgage market.

"Everybody knows what happened during the frenzy time," he says. "People threw common-sense out the window. The idea was to create a positive incentive for common sense mortgages ... because, at some point the credit cycle will turn, credit will become easier and people will start to push the boundaries. The idea was to say 'Don't do that.' This is a lot safer for consumers -- and much better for lenders -- so just stick with this and forget the crazy stuff."

But, he adds, "To say, 'Yes, we have a positive incentive -- but guess what? -- 80% of the people won't be able to get [loans]' is just crazy."

Perspective on where first-time homebuyers may have to look for that extra down payment comes from a survey conducted last year by the National Association of Realtors: only 74% said they used their own savings, while 8% tapped into a 401(k) fund and 6% sold stocks or bonds. Making up the difference, 27% got a gift from a friend or relative and 9% relied on a loan from a relative or friend.

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont.


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