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Why Todays Housing Market Differs from 2008: A Look at Current Lending Standards

Why Todays Housing Market Differs from 2008: A Look at Current Lending Standards

From time to time, concerns arise about a potential housing market crash, sending ripples of worry among potential homeowners. However, it is crucial to remember that the housing market today differs substantially from the one we witnessed back in 2008, mainly due to significant changes in lending standards. Today's market is more regulated and safer for both borrowers and lenders, contrasting the lax atmosphere that contributed to the housing crisis over a decade ago. Let's delve deeper into these distinctions to assuage any fears about the current housing market.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) sheds light on the lending landscape through its monthly Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). The MCAI serves as an instrumental metric, offering a standardized quantitative index focused exclusively on mortgage credit. It represents the ease or difficulty of securing a mortgage at a particular point in time.

Reflecting on the MCAI data since its inception in 2004, we can see a clear trajectory of lending standards. When the index is higher, which indicates lenient lending standards, securing a mortgage is easier. Conversely, when the index is lower, reflecting stricter lending standards, obtaining a mortgage becomes more challenging.

From 2004 to 2006, the index leaped from 400 to over 850, illustrating a period of relaxed lending practices. However, the aftermath of the housing crash saw the index plunge as lenders tightened their standards. Currently, securing a mortgage is notably more stringent than it was during the years leading up to the crash.

It is widely acknowledged that the housing bubble was largely fuelled by the ease with which individuals could secure a home mortgage. During the early 2000s, mortgages were frequently granted to individuals who overstated their incomes and employment statuses, many of whom were, in reality, ill-equipped for homeownership.

The graph's peak leading up to the housing crisis underscores this era of easy credit and minimal loan qualification requirements. Lenders were frequently approving loans without adequately verifying the borrowers' capacity to repay the loan, inevitably leading to an increase in loans to high-risk borrowers.

In stark contrast, the lending landscape has undergone a dramatic transformation since then. Today's lenders are far more discerning, imposing rigorous standards on borrowers. Those managing to secure a mortgage in the current climate typically boast excellent credit ratings.

The post-crash dip in the MCAI graph and its continued low standing reflects this tightening of lending standards. In fact, today's index is considerably lower than the 2004 standards and continues to decline. Joel Kan, the VP and Deputy Chief Economist at MBA, states that the MCAI has seen a consistent decrease in recent months, reaching its lowest level since January 2013.

Such stringent lending standards signify that we are far removed from the reckless lending practices that precipitated the previous housing crash.

In conclusion, the days of easy mortgages and minimal loan qualifications have become a part of history. Today's lenders are committed to a more cautious and regulated approach, ensuring borrowers have the means to repay their loans. Consequently, the risk has been substantially reduced for both borrowers and lenders alike.

The lending practices and conditions that led to the housing crash of 2008 are in stark contrast to the strict and carefully regulated practices of today. Therefore, it's important to view the current housing market through this lens, appreciating its distinctiveness, and understanding that this is not a repeat of the past. The learning curve of the 2008 housing crash has brought about necessary changes to protect both lenders and borrowers, making today's market markedly different, safer, and more stable.