What Does it Mean for the Rest of Us When Even Ben Bernanke Can’t Refinance His Home?

Ben Bernanke may have been denied his recent request to refinance his 1,842 square foot D.C. home, but mortgage experts say the former Federal Reserve chairman has no need to fret. Many banks would be more than happy to replace the three-year-old $672,000 mortgage on his Washington townhouse.

Back then, Bernanke and his wife Anna replaced their 5.374% loan with a 4.25% one, taking advantage of the low interest rates that resulted from the Fed’s policies.

Bernanke announced his refinancing woes at a conference last Thursday, making clear his belief that mortgage lending stipulations are still excessive. Critics of harsh lending regulations agree, saying that many loans that should be approved aren’t, because lenders are weary after facing billion-dollar lawsuits due to bad loans in the past.

Bernanke’s refinancing request was likely denied because, after leaving the Federal Reserve in January, he no longer holds a steady job with a steady paycheck. That’s not to say he has been struggling financially since he left his post. The former chairman still charges to give talks, accepting no less than six figures per appearance. In March he received $250,000 for speaking at a forum in Abu Dhabi for just 40 minutes, reported The Los Angeles Times.

Computerized screening programs are a popular tool in the mortgage industry, and experts guess that this is where Bernanke failed. A two-year rule, which started with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, requires individuals seeking jumbo mortgages to show proof of two years of stable income from a single source.

Bernanke is not the only one who wouldn’t pass the test, and many lending organizations are beginning to offer programs for people in his position. Liquid asset programs are ideal for self-employed individuals with strong credit scores. These programs work around the two-year rule by examining a person’s income and assets to determine their ability to pay back a loan.

Banks that offer such programs, such as Banc of California, have strict requirements. Borrowers must have 30% in down payments or equity in homes in order to receive a loan from Banc of California, for example.

With $1.1 million to $2.3 million in assets back in 2011, Bernanke is likely to qualify under one of these programs, although he could also go back to his roots to refinance his home, according to experts. Any number of community banks in South Carolina would be happy to work with the former resident.

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