“After a promising recovery in housing activity for most of 2013, the past several months have seen a retreat characterized by weaker housing starts, declining residential investment, and subdued home sales. New mortgage origination has been particularly sluggish as credit availability remains constrained for lower-rated borrowers and mortgage rates have moved up by around 70 basis points from a year ago,” says the latest IMF’s economic report on the United States.
More specifically, on mortgage availability, the report says that “A tighter regulatory regime for mortgage lending has helped better match the costs of such financing with the underlying risks. However, as a consequence, the recovery in the U.S. housing market has been held back by a continued conservative approach to mortgage lending, particularly to lower-rated borrowers. This has been driven by a range of factors that include persistent anxiety about potential “put-back” risks (…); litigation and reputational risks to lenders; a tighter regulatory environment and supervisory scrutiny; and uncertainty about the future structure of the mortgage industry.”