NORMALLY, WE SWING BY DAVE STEVENS' DESK at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to hear what's going on in his world. But on Sept. 5, we had to touch base by phone. We pictured him at another perfectly neat desk, at home--no paper, nothing out of place. We had to ask if his home desk was as spotless as his office one. Yes, he says, it's neat.
But we wondered: Does he have a place where he puts all the stuff that clutters up a normal person's desk? Does he even have that kind of stuff? Well, we were relieved to find out he has a "junk drawer" at home for random coins and old silverware. "But that's about it," says the ultra-neat power executive. And we have to admit, we felt a little better hearing the news.
Stevens has been in the news a lot lately. He has been taking every opportunity to explain why homeownership has been steadily declining and the housing recovery has been sputtering. It's an issue that has lenders pretty worked up, and understandably so.
Today they are being blamed for not lending enough, even as they are still opening their wallets to pay billion-dollar settlements to the federal government for lending too generously in years past.
"Lenders paid an extreme price for the mistakes of the past decade. But they aren't solely the ones to blame," Stevens says. And yet, "The singular focus has been on lawsuits and enforcement actions against lenders, not to mention the reputational damage they have suffered. Now they are spending an extreme amount of time, energy and money to protect against any risk. And this comes at a tremendous cost."
Stevens says the damage being done in terms of current credit starvation is clearly visible in the numbers. He says just look at the share of 30-year-olds with mortgage debt and you will see that number is down 10 percent from historic norms.
And another way to assess the damage is to look at the average credit score on denied applications. The average score on denied loans in July was 689, according to Ellie Mae's Origination Insight Report. Since that report was released, the average score on denied loans actually climbed to 695 in the August report.
Stevens says, "It clearly shows we have a problem with credit access." He adds, "Think of it this way. The average American's score is 700." That last statistic comes from a paper titled "Opening the Credit Box," written by Jim Parrott and Mark Zandi, published jointly by the Urban Institute and Moody's Analytics on Sept. 30, 2013.