‘Declining Markets’ and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Ken Harney in today’s Washington Post:

Could designations of Zip codes, metropolitan areas and entire states as “declining markets” hinder a real estate recovery and hurt minority groups and moderate-income buyers disproportionately? Growing ranks of critics say yes.

Since late 2007, most lenders, insurers and mortgage investment firms have compiled lists of markets that they regard as higher risks because housing values are dropping. In those areas, borrowers are charged higher rates and loan fees and are required to make bigger down payments — costs that can rise significantly when applicants have credit scores below designated minimum levels.

In some cases, the extra fees can add more than two percentage points to the interest rate and require much more cash up front. At their extreme, declining-market designations remove entire categories of real estate from financing eligibility. Some private mortgage insurers, for instance, won’t touch second homes or rental-home investments anywhere in large swaths of Florida and California.

Industry estimates on affected Zip codes range from 8,000 to more than 12,000 across the country. Many parts of the Washington area are included.

Full story here.

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