Selling Guide

Published June 3, 2020

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B3-2-03, Risk Factors Evaluated by DU (12/04/2018)


This topic contains information on the risk factors evaluated by DU, including:


Risk Factors Evaluated by DU

DU considers the following characteristics in the credit report to assess the creditworthiness of borrowers who have traditional credit histories: credit history, delinquent accounts, installment accounts, revolving credit utilization, public records, foreclosures, collection accounts, and inquiries.

The non-credit risk factors evaluated by DU include: the borrower’s equity and LTV ratio, liquid reserves, loan purpose, loan term, loan amortization type, occupancy type, debt-to-income ratio, housing expense ratio, property type, co-borrowers, and self-employment.

DU performs a comprehensive evaluation of these factors, weighing each factor based on the amount of risk it represents and its importance to the recommendation. DU analyzes the results of this evaluation along with the evaluation of the borrower’s credit profile to arrive at the underwriting recommendation for the loan casefile.

More information on these risk factors is provided below. Also see below for information about the risk factors DU considers when evaluating loans where no borrower has a credit score.


Credit History

A borrower’s credit history is an account of how well the borrower has handled credit, both now and in the past. An older, established history—even though the accounts may have zero balances—will have a more positive impact on the borrower’s credit profile than newly established accounts.

A borrower who has a relatively new credit history (a few recently opened accounts) is not automatically considered a high credit risk. Successfully managing newly established accounts, including making payments as agreed, signifies lower risk.


Delinquent Accounts

Payment history is a significant factor in the evaluation of the borrower’s credit. DU considers the severity of the delinquencies (30, 60, 90, or more days late), the length of time since the delinquencies, and the number and type of accounts that were not paid as agreed.

A payment history that includes bills that are 30 days or more past-due, or a history of paying bills late as evidenced by a number of accounts with late payments, will have a negative impact on the borrower’s credit profile. The amount of time that has elapsed since an account was delinquent is an important factor included in the evaluation of the payment history. For example, a 30-day late payment that is less than three months old indicates a higher risk than a 30-day late payment that occurred several years ago.


Installment Loans

DU evaluates how well a borrower manages debt for all types of installment loans such as mortgage, auto, unsecured, and student loans. Research has shown that borrowers with no active installment accounts represent a higher risk than borrowers who have active installment accounts.


Revolving Credit Utilization

The establishment, use, and amount of revolving credit a borrower has available are important. Trended credit data is used to evaluate the borrower’s ability to manage revolving accounts. A borrower who uses revolving accounts conservatively, meaning low revolving credit utilization or regular payoff of revolving balance, is considered lower risk. A borrower whose revolving credit utilization is high or who has low available revolving credit is considered higher risk.


Public Records, Foreclosures, and Collection Accounts

A credit history that includes any significant derogatory credit event is considered high risk. Significant derogatory credit events include bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure, preforeclosure sales, mortgage charge-offs, or accounts that have been turned over to a collection agency.

The more recent such events occurred, the more adverse the impact is on the credit profile. Although most public record information is retained in the credit history for seven years (ten years for bankruptcies), as time passes, it does become less significant to DU’s credit evaluation.


Note: Collection accounts reported as medical collections are not used in the DU risk assessment.




DU evaluates inquiries made within the most recent 12 months of the credit report date. Research has shown that a high number of inquiries can indicate a higher degree of risk. However, multiple inquiries made by different mortgage lenders or different auto loan creditors within the same time frame is not viewed by DU as multiple inquiries (these types of inquiries generally reflect borrowers shopping for favorable rates or terms). A borrower who has frequently applied for, or obtained, new or additional credit represents a higher risk.


Borrower’s Equity and LTV

The amount of equity in the property is a very important component of the risk analysis. Research has shown that a borrower who makes a large down payment or who has considerable equity in his or her property is less likely to become delinquent on a mortgage loan than a borrower who makes a small down payment or has a small amount of equity in a property. In other words, the more equity a borrower has in the property, the lower the risk associated with the borrower’s mortgage loan.

DU may use a low LTV ratio to offset other risks that it may identify in the loan application.


Liquid Reserves

Liquid reserves are those financial assets that are available to a borrower after a loan closes. Reserves are calculated as the total amount of liquid assets remaining after the loan transaction closes divided by the qualifying payment amount.

DU considers higher amounts of liquid reserves as more favorable than lower amounts or no reserves. Research has shown that mortgages to borrowers with higher amounts of liquid reserves tend to have lower delinquency rates. As with a low LTV ratio, DU may consider high amounts of reserves as an offset for other risks that it may identify in the loan application.


Loan Purpose

There is a certain level of risk associated with every transaction, whether it is a purchase or a refinance. Purchase transactions represent less risk than refinance transactions. When evaluating refinance transactions, a limited cash-out refinance transaction represents less risk than a cash-out refinance transaction. For construction-to-permanent transactions, DU determines the purpose of refinance based on the amount of cash the borrower is receiving at closing.


Loan Term

Research has shown that mortgages to borrowers who choose to finance their mortgages over shorter terms and build up equity in their properties faster generally tend to perform better than mortgages with longer amortization periods.


Loan Amortization Type

Research has shown that there is a difference in loan performance based on the manner in which the mortgage amortizes. Fixed-rate mortgages will be viewed as representing less risk than adjustable-rate mortgages.


Occupancy Type

Performance statistics on investor loans are notably worse than those of owner-occupied or second home loans. Owner-occupied transactions represent the least risk, followed by second home transactions, and investment property transactions having the highest risk level.


Debt-to-Income Ratio

In DU’s evaluation, generally, the lower the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio (DTI ratio), the lower the associated risk. As the ratio increases, the level of risk also tends to increase; and a high ratio will have the greatest adverse impact on the recommendation when there are also other high-risk factors present.


Housing Expense Ratio

Borrowers with lower housing expense ratios are considered lower risk, while those with higher housing expense ratios are considered higher risk. Research has shown that borrowers whose total monthly expenses are composed primarily of their housing expense may find it more difficult to pay this expense when experiencing an event that would cause financial distress, such as the loss of a job.


Property Type

Another important factor that DU considers in the risk analysis is the collateral or property type. DU differentiates the risk based on the number of units, and in some cases the property type (e.g., manufactured home).

The level of risk associated with each property type is as follows, starting with those property types representing the least amount of risk:

  • one-unit properties;

  • two-, three-, and four-unit properties;

  • manufactured homes.



DU considers the number of borrowers (who have traditional credit) on a mortgage application in its evaluation because, generally, the presence of more than one borrower helps to reduce risk. Research has shown that mortgages that have more than one borrower tend to have a lower delinquency rate than mortgages with one borrower. However, additional borrowers tend to reduce risk only when they have good credit histories.



Self-employment income can vary from year-to-year and because of the increased chance of uneven cash flows, self-employment adds a layer of risk that is not present with salaried borrowers. Research has shown that self-employed borrowers tend to become delinquent on their mortgages more often than salaried borrowers, when all other risk factors are held constant.

DU considers self-employment in the risk assessment when the only borrower on the loan is self-employed as his or her primary source of income, or when two of the borrowers on the loan are self-employed as their primary source of income.


Risk Factors for Loans Where No Borrower Has a Credit Score

DU will consider the following factors when evaluating the overall credit risk of the loan when no borrower on the loan casefile has traditional credit and a credit score:

  • borrower’s equity and LTV ratio,

  • liquid reserves, and

  • DTI ratio.

See B3-5.4-01, Eligibility Requirements for Loans with Nontraditional Credit, and B3-5.4-02, Number and Types of Nontraditional Credit Sources, for additional requirements that apply to loan casefiles without credit scores.


Note: If a loan casefile does not receive an Approve recommendation or if the borrower is unable to meet the DU requirements related to the sources of nontraditional credit required, the lender may manually underwrite and document the loan according to the nontraditional credit guidelines described in this Guide.


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