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Greenville County tops S.C. in mortgage loan approval

Banking & Finance
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Borrowers in Greenville County are approved for mortgage loans at a higher rate than in any other county in South Carolina. Four Upstate counties are in the top 10, according to a report compiled by SmartAsset.

Lee County had the lowest rank in the state and one of the lowest rankings in the nation with just 27.79% of loans approved, according to the report.

Data analysts compared the number of mortgage applications in each county to the number approved by lenders, according to a news release.

Greenville County’s loan funding rate was 65.69%, just ahead of No. 2 York County, where the rate was 64.61%. Horry County was next at 64.29%.

Lexington County ranked 11th with a 61.09% loan funding rate, while Richland County was 16th at 58.78%.

Other Upstate counties were Anderson (62.10%) at No. 6, Oconee County (61.34%) at No. 7 and 10th ranked Pickens County, which had a loan funding rate of 61.13%. 

The SmartAsset study says Lee County is ranked No. 3,116 nationally, and according to WorldAtlas.com, there are 3,142 counties (or county equivalents, such as parishes) in the United States.

Mortgage adviser Jamie Pimentel speculated that the difference between those counties with high mortgage application rates and those with low numbers has a lot to do with the relative prosperity of those communities.

“My guess is it’s the growth in employment and job availability and the income levels associated with growth opportunities,” said Pimentel, senior vice president and mortgage adviser with Pinnacle Financial Partners. “Couple that with the still relatively low level of cost of living (in Greenville County). That combination is probably what’s contributing to the disparity in those funding rates. If I’m looking for the answer to explain that disparity, I suspect it starts there.”

Pimentel said some of the disparity may be caused by people using nontraditional avenues to apply for a loan, such as online mortgage providers who may bypass the prequalification stage or provide only perfunctory prequalification. Borrowers need to have their financial house in order before attempting to borrow money, he said, and some of the onus for making sure those things are in order is on the mortgage originators, who need to be providing solid guidance, he said.

“That percentage (below 28% for Lee County) startled me just because I can’t imagine having four loan applications and three of them get turned down,” he said. “Where I can interject my thoughts on that is in the prequalification stage. If someone’s got a low credit score, limited income, a lot of debt, debt-to-income ratio is too high, they don’t have the cash or can’t get the loan to value where it needs to be, I’m not going to issue a prequalification, which means I’m not going to start an application that will get turned down in the first place.”

Whether people are turning to traditional or nontraditional loan makers, potential borrowers need to be hearing better advice in the prequalification stage, he said.

“Are you (mortgage lenders) telling people, ‘Yes, you’re qualified,’ and they get denied because you didn’t do a good job on the prequalifying stage? That’s got to play a role in this for the funding rates to be as disparate as they are,” he said. “The reason you have a prequalification process is to determine whether you can get them to the closing table. I think the prequalification or lack thereof can play a big part in the disparity of those funding rates.”

The SmartAsset rankings compiled data on every county in the country.

“The rankings were a factor in SmartAsset’s study on the best places to get a mortgage, which considered loan funding rate as well as borrowing costs, property taxes and mortgage payments,” according to the news release.

According to the company’s website, the calculations were made by looking at the expected costs over the first five years of a $200,000 mortgage with a 20% down payment, including closing costs. The study used the average interest rates in each county.

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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