In Mississippi, single women on average paid 3.47% on a 30-year, conventional fixed-rate mortgage in 2019. But single men on average paid 3.37%, according to the latest HMDA data available. Over the lifespan of the mortgage, the single woman in this instance will have roughly $7,000 more in mortgage payments than the single man.
Patrick Boyaggi, CEO and founder of Massachusetts-based lending startup OwnUp, says this issue hasn’t drawn enough attention in the mortgage space. His analysis of HMDA data found that women paid higher mortgage rates than men in 49 out of 50 states, the lone exception being Alaska (the analysis assumes that the loan size averaged $345,000 and the prime rate was 3.00%).
“The latest HMDA data makes it startlingly clear – women are largely being left out of the conversation,” Boyaggi said. “Recent HMDA data confirms that discrimination in the home-financing process is very real.
The main reason? Many female borrowers simply fail to shop around for the best possible rate, which translates into losing thousands of dollars over the total life of their loan.”
Boyaggi admits his analysis is not exactly revelatory – it’s been well documented that women pay higher mortgage rates, and the reasons for it are many and complex.
He said he didn’t intend to undertake a sociological study to determine all of the reasons women pay more. It’s more important to acknowledge there’s a problem and take action, he said.
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“I am not certain everybody is aware of it or believes it’s a real issue,” Boyaggi said. “We believe it is a systemic-wide problem…women are not being treated fairly…For us, it’s really about it not being 50-50. And therefore, it’s a systemic problem. Let’s bring that to light first and let’s start worrying about the solutions versus trying to nitpick as to why it is an issue. It is an issue. We know it’s an issue. How do we make it better, versus trying to justify it or come up with some kind of rationale for it.”
According to Boyaggi’s analysis of HMDA data, the five states where women overpay most on a mortgage were Mississippi (delta of $7,077 over the course of the mortgage), Alabama (delta of $6,006), Ohio (delta of $5,856), Florida (delta of $5,591) and New Jersey (delta of $5,515).
Single women typically paid between 8 and 10 basis points higher on a mortgage. In Alaska, single women paid an average of 3.21% while single men paid 3.23%, Boyaggi found. The four other best states for women applying for mortgages were Maine, Wyoming, Montana and Oregon. Single women paid between 1 and 3 basis points more on mortgage rates in those states than single men.
An Urban Institute study from 2016 found that single women were better at paying their mortgages than single men, even though they paid higher rates. The study also found that single borrowers, particularly women, are more likely to be minorities, from lower-income areas, and they are more likely to have a mortgage that eats up a higher percentage of their income.
“One possible explanation is that women, particularly minority women, experience higher rates of subprime lending than their male peers,” the UI study said. “Another explanation is that women tend to have weaker credit profiles. We find that both these explanations are true and largely account for the higher rates.”
Though subprime lending has declined since the study’s publication, mortgage underwriting standards in general are much tougher since the financial crisis, and aren’t particularly flexible.
“There is somewhat of a plain vanilla, one-size-fits-all mortgage underwriting standard, and that’s not very good at accommodating minority borrowers in general, or anybody with any sort of a non-typical, non-generic credit profile,” Guy Cecala, CEO of Inside Mortgage Finance, told Wharton Business Radio in 2016. “Minority buyers in general are getting fewer mortgages than they did before. The good news is that they’re not getting subprime loans, because the subprime market has dried up completely, but they’re not getting mortgages at all in many cases.”
Asked if there could be a potential level of bias against women borrowers, Cecala said in the same interview, “I think there can be. The mortgage market prides itself on being color blind, and essentially using a black box, but any sort of black box basically discriminates against single borrowers, lower-income borrowers and borrowers with lower credit scores. If those happen to be predominantly women, you have to assume that they are getting that kind of treatment from the mortgage market.”
Boyaggi, whose firm Own Up helps consumers shop for mortgages and negotiates prices on their behalf, said more awareness simply needs to be raised.
“There’s a lot of things that happen in this industry where if you just looked at it you’d be like, ‘Oh 10 basis points, .010%. What are we talking about?’” he said. “But if you were to say, ‘Hey, this gas station charges women 10 cents more than men,’ we would be in an uproar. There would be stories about it everywhere, right? People would vilify that gas station, and rightly so.”