Home loans can be tricky

It’s tough flying solo.

A National Association of Realtors annual report found the percentage of married homebuyers increasing, while the number of single property owners lag. The group blames the disparity on over-the-top lending restrictions.

Housing officials in northeast Indiana aren’t finding that the case, though. When it comes to buying a home – lenders here are equally tough on married and single homebuyers.

“It’s just the new normal,” said Charlie Giese, vice president of the Home Builders Association of Fort Wayne and vice president of Westport Homes. “I anticipate (mortgage approval) hiccups.”

The Realtors report was based on 8,500 buyers and sellers between July 2011 and June 2012. The survey found that 65 percent of buyers are married couples, compared with 16 percent single women and 9 percent single men. Eight percent unmarried buyers and 2 percent other buyers round out the poll.

The overall market share of single buyers declined to 25 percent this year – a 7 percent drop from 2010. By comparison, married homebuyers had a 7 percent increase during the same period.

“It really is an overreaction to the housing crisis, that’s what it is,” said Walter Molony, spokesman for the national organization. “Banks are sitting on a ton of cash but not pouring it into the economy where it can do some good.”

Indiana Mortgage Bankers Association Executive Director Alan Thorup disagrees. He said lenders are exercising reasonable caution when it comes to approvals.

“The bar is set high because of the problems that our industry has gone through over last few years,” he said. “There is no distinction that is made between a single buyer and couples. You have to have a legitimate reason for turning someone down. The same rules apply.”

In fact, Thorup recounted his own experience when he refinanced his home.

“I had to explain a number of things I thought were a little much,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad experience. There were just things that came up on the radar that would not have years ago.”

Jay Brown found that to be so. The 34-year-old homeowner is single and preparing to close in February on a three-bedroom ranch home on the city’s northwest side. Brown said he has a solid credit record and work history and says the Summit City’s real estate is inexpensive compared with other metro areas in the nation.

Still, Brown felt like he had to jump through hoops. The process is more time-consuming than three years ago when he bought a house in Muncie, Brown said.

“It’s like they want your firstborn, but since I don’t have any children I guess they’d have to put a lien on one if I ever do,” said Brown, who recently landed a job as a production coordinator for an Albion automotive company. “They want to know about all of my assets like IRA accounts. They also want a two-year history of (W-2 statements) when one year used to be fine. I can see where this could discourage some buyers.”

The Upstate Alliance of Realtors tracks data from Allen, Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley counties. The association reports so far this year northeast Indiana has 6,401 pending home sales, a 12 percent increase compared with the same period in 2011.

Year-to-date closed sales show 6,068 homes sold, a nearly 11 percent increase.

Steve Pohorecki said buyers go through a grueling process – even with record-low interest rates and Fort Wayne’s affordable housing. Recent data from the Association of Realtors says the national median existing home price is $186,100; in Fort Wayne, it is $110,400.

Pohorecki, a 41-year-old father of four, recently bought a five-bedroom home with a three-car garage near Huntertown and describes approval procedures as intense.

“Absolutely polar opposite from how it used to be,” said Pohorecki, manager of a local trucking company. “This isn’t my first house, so I can just imagine what first-time buyers go through. Some of the information they require seems intrusive, sure. I mean, like verifying cash deposits for as little as $250. You just roll with it, though, because they are loaning you money.”

Builder Jim Bauman said sometimes an underwriter’s red tape can result in more costs for the buyer. In one case, he had to increase his fee because lumber prices rose during the approval process. Bauman had the prices locked in for a month.

“I didn’t want to pass the cost on to the buyer,” he said. “It is frustrating, but what can you do.”