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National News: Helping gig-economy workers qualify for loans

What is the gig-economy? It refers to hundreds of income-earning activities that allow workers to set their own hours, work for as long or as little as they choose, and function as independent contractors or freelancers as opposed to salaried employees. Prominent examples include people who work as drivers for Uber or Lyft, assemble Ikea furniture through TaskRabbit and offer rooms in their homes on Airbnb.

But when buying a home, the challenge for these workers is to make their gig-sourced earnings count as income for mortgage-qualification purposes. Lenders typically look for stable and continuing income streams: two years of documented income plus reasonable prospects that those earnings will continue for another several years. Lenders also routinely obtain tax-return transcripts from the Internal Revenue Service to confirm an applicant’s self-reported income.

Fannie and Freddie are trying to come up with some solutions. The tricky part for both companies: Whatever solutions they develop must still produce high-quality loans with low risks of default at the end of the process, and ideally must be automatable — that is, borrower information could be entered into Fannie’s and Freddie’s electronic underwriting systems at the application stage. Can a computer analyze the full picture and think out of the box or will it require specialized underwriters to evaluate the applicant?

We'll see what happens but at least things are moving in the right direction and it gives hope to the approximate 20-30% of our current workforce.

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