From rising home values, low interest rates and the tax advantage of mortgage interest payments, consumers have borrowed record amounts against the equity in their homes.
Now, federal banking regulators have raised the caution flag.
In a guidance issued by the OCC, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the OTS and the NCUA, the regulators found that "in many cases, institutions' credit risk management practices for home equity lending have not kept pace with the product's rapid growth and easing of underwriting standards."
Specifically under scrutiny are loan products such as interest-only loans; "low-doc" and "no-doc" lending practices; loans with higher loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios; acceptance of customers with lower credit risk scores; the use of automated valuation models; and an increased dependence on third party loan brokers.
The guidance recommends the adoption of more comprehensive credit risk management systems.
The full report can be found at: http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/bulletin/2005-22a.pdf