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Although there is no single, standard definition, in the United States subprime loans are usually classified as those where the borrower has a FICO score below 640. The term was popularized by the media during the subprime mortgage crisis or "credit crunch" of 2007. Those loans which do not meet Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines for prime mortgages are called "non-conforming" loans. As such, they cannot be packaged into Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac MBS.
A borrower with a history of always making repayments on time and in full will get what is called an A-paper loan. Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit scores might be rated as meriting an A-minus, B-paper, C-paper or D-paper loan, with interest payments progressively increased for less reliable payers to allow the company to share the risk of default equitably among all its borrowers. Between A-paper and subprime in risk is Alt-A. A-minus is related to Alt-A, with some lenders categorizing them the same, but A-minus is traditionally defined as mortgage borrowers with a FICO score of below 680 while Alt-A is traditionally defined as loans lacking full documentation. The value of U.S. subprime mortgages was estimated at $1.3 trillion as of March 2007, with over 7.5 million first-lien subprime mortgages
The Mortgage Servicing Collaborative (MSC) is an initiative led by the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center that brings together lenders, servicers, consumer groups, civil rights leaders, researchers, and policymakers who appreciate the impact servicing has on the health of the housing finance system and how well it serves consumers. First By calling on a broad range of perspectives and expertise, the initiative is working toward a well-grounded view of the primary policy challenges in servicing and a thoughtful approach to addressing them. The group recently published its first brief explaining the importance of mortgage servicing and outlining issues that need reform. This second brief examines the current loan modification product suite for government loans insured or guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). When a delinquent borrower with a government subprime loan obtains a modification, the mortgage rate is typically reset to the prevailing market rate, which can be higher or lower than the original note rate. When the market rate is below the original rate, providing payment reduction becomes inherently easier and less expensive for the investor. Conversely, when market rates are above the note rate, providing payment reduction becomes more expensive and challenging, making it more difficult to cure the delinquency. This can result in more redefaults and foreclosures, larger losses for government insurers, and greater distress for borrowers, communities, and neighborhoods. In addition, most government mortgage borrowers are first-time homebuyers and minorities, who tend to have limited incomes and savings, making loan modifications all the more important in 2020.
These loans are characterized by higher interest rates, poor quality collateral, and less favorable terms in order to compensate for higher credit risk. Many subprime loans were packaged into mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and ultimately defaulted, contributing to the financial crisis of 2007–2008