Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wells Fargo relaxes loan rules along Front Range

Wells Fargo relaxes loan rules along Front Range

By Jeff Smith, Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, one of the state's largest lenders, has relaxed its loan requirements along the Front Range in recognition of a healthier housing market.

It's unclear how many other lenders will follow suit. And with credit overall tight and consumers concerned about the national economy, home- buying activity may continue to be tepid until next spring, experts say.

Liz Brown, retail division sales manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said the company upgraded the ratings for all counties surrounding Denver and most of northern Colorado from "distressed" to "stable."

"We've basically expanded our lending guidelines, in most cases giving 5 percent more in terms of the loan amount or requiring 5 percent less down for the home," she said of guidelines that took effect Monday.

But Bryant stressed the company assesses the risk of each loan so individual cases could vary.
"I think this is great news for Denver, great news for Colorado," Bryant said. "We had challenges earlier than many of the other real-estate markets in the country, and it appears our recovery is happening before others."

Only Weld County is still considered "distressed," she said. A number of other Colorado counties, including those south of Denver, already were considered stable.
Denver's market has strengthened in part because of a 20 percent drop in home inventory over the past year, according to August data from Metrolist.

"It's about time" Wells Fargo upgraded the area, said Thomas Thibodeau, academic director for the CU Real Estate Center in Boulder. "The fact of the matter is that the housing market here is vastly different than the rest of the U.S. I think the Denver housing market has turned the corner and is on the way to recovery."

Thibodeau, professor at CU's Leeds School of Business, cited Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home price index, which shows the Denver market to be healthier than the nation as a whole.

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