The 20 Percent Down Issue

Carol Wolfe of Rodeo Realty’s Encino office recently wrote a column for about Congress considering a proposal that will in effect require buyers to put 20 percent down on conventional residential mortgages in order to get the prime rate.

To see the original column visit:

The piece was based on, and in support of,  the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recently sending out a Call for Action on the issue. Here is the short version:

The proposal is tied to The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. A section of the Dodd-Frank Act requires financial institutions that securitize mortgage loans to retain at least 5 percent of the credit risk.

The intent is to force lenders to have more “skin in the game” and encourage responsible lending. Remember that securitization of high-risk mortgages is one practice that contributed heavily to the recession and housing market crash.

But something called a “Qualified Residential Mortgage” (QRM), and federally-backed loans such as FHA and VA are exempt from the 5 percent rule.

If this new proposal passes, only conventional loans with 20 percent down or more will be considered QRM. Those loans will get the best mortgage rates, because banks have a market incentive to securitize them. They don’t have to have additional skin in the game.

Lenders can underwrite mortgages for folks with less down. But they’re likely going to pass-on that increased risk to consumers in the form of higher interest rates, etc… This will put home ownership out of reach for many creditworthy middle-income Americans.

Wolfe said the proposal is not a step in the right direction for turning around our struggling housing market and economy. She agrees with the NAR that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower’s ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk.

For more information and to see a sample letter to Congress visit NAR at