Consumers are still unsure of what is required to qualify for a mortgage, according to a recent study from Fannie Mae. “Despite increased exposure to credit scores and online resources, consumer understanding about what it takes to qualify for a mortgage has not improved since our original study in 2015,” Fannie Mae states. This means many potential homeowners may feel discouraged from buying a home.
The report, published by Fannie Mae’s Mark Palim, VP and Deputy Chief Economist and Sarah Shahdad, Market Insights Researcher, notes lenders, servicers, and other mortgage market participants must work toward increasing consumer knowledge. For example, despite the fact that consumers are now more likely than ever to check their credit scores, close to half still cannot recall what it is. Additionally, many overestimate the minimum credit score and down payment necessary to qualify for a mortgage, and remain unfamiliar with low down payment programs.
Palim and Shahdad note that this information indicates that current sources of mortgage education and information are insufficient, stating that “even those actively planning to become homeowners in the next few years (i.e., those who should be exposed to more information) are only slightly more confident or knowledgeable than others.”
Fannie Mae offers several methods for closing the knowledge gap, including improving the quality of mortgage education programs. Palim and Shahdad state that “effective mortgage education should be timely, customized, convenient, and simple.” This information should include multiple channels for consumers, from digital to in-person, as Fannie Mae’s research reveals that people prefer a mix of digital and human contact. According to Fannie Mae, mobile and online resources alone may not be sufficient to guide consumers through the complexities of preparing for and getting the right mortgage.
For the online portion of the mortgage process, mobile devices require optimization, as more and more buyers, especially younger buyers, are used to accessing financial services such as their bank from their phone.
“If potential borrowers have the information to assess and improve their own qualifications to get a mortgage, they may be encouraged not to give up on their homeownership aspirations prematurely,” Palim and Shahdad conclude.