Qualifying for a loan in today's tight credit market is hard. But add race to the mix, and a borrower's odds can go from bad to worse, a new report suggests.
In a study of loans created on Prosper.com, a peer-to-peer lending website where applicants are encouraged to include a personal photo, researchers found that black borrowers are 25 to 35 percent less likely to receive funding than a white borrower with similar credit.
"By far the biggest factor was race," said Devin Pope, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Of the 110,000 loans studied, about 5,000 were home finance or repair related.
Part of the reason for the stark discrepancy, Pope told AOL Real Estate, is that the online lending market is less regulated than its brick and mortar counterpart, where discriminatory practices are more easily identified.
But that doesn't preclude racial discrimination from real-world borrowing entirely. In fact, a closer probe of mortgage lending practices during the housing run-up revealed that African-American and Latino borrowers were more frequently offered high-interest, sub-prime mortgages than their white counterparts, even when they qualified for better terms.
The investigation led to a historic settlement in which Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million to settle widespread claims of discriminatory lending at its Countrywide unit. The Department of Justice cited over 200,000 cases in which black and Latino borrowers were charged higher fees and interest rates without regard for their credit profile.
In 2006, at the height of risky home-loan servicing, 52 percent of loans to African American families were subprime; for Latino families, more than 40 percent were subprime, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer watchdog group. By the time the housing market rights itself, some 40 to 50 percent of subprime loans will have failed, said Kathleen Day, a spokesperson for the CRL.
While race was the largest factor in determining loan funding, the study also detected other biases on the peer-to-peer lending site. Older and overweight applicants were 5 to 10 percent less likely to get funding, while people who looked unhappy in their photos were 10 to 15 percent less likely to close on a deal. (Pope admits that the sample size for "unhappy" applicants was considerably smaller.)
Alternatively, female applicants were actually 10 to 15 percent more likely to receive funding for their projects.
UPDATE: While the data for the study was captured between June 2006 and May 2007, Prosper.com has overhauled its lending model since the survey was conducted, according to spokesperson Laurie Azzano. The platform now uses blind bidding, which no longer allows users to post personal photos, she said.
Median List Price: $81,700
Total Listings: 22,370
Median Age of Inventory: 70 days
Home Price: $290,000
Sq. Ft.: 2,800
Speaking volumes to the affordability of Detroit housing, not one of Realtor.com's Detroit listings is priced above $1 million.
This $290,000 home is high-end as far as the city's market goes. The apartment, which features waterfront views, dates back to Detroit's heyday when the American automobile industry was firing on all cylinders.
Median List Price: $320,444
Total Listings: 26,858
Median Age of Inventory: 83 days
Home Price: $10.95 million
Sq. Ft.: 13,699
Los Angeles' median home price may tower over the national median (which is below $200,000); but in coming in at No. 3 on our list, that apparently hasn't stopped prospective buyers from scouring the city's listings.
This spanking-new, palatial mansion features floor-to-ceiling windows that display the home's jaw-dropping panoramas for all they're worth.
Median List Price: $221,995
Total Listings: 21,693
Median Age of Inventory: 124 days
Home Price: $4,898,100
Sq. Ft.: N/A
Philadelphia's median home price hovers above the national median by a considerable margin. The city has one of the highest average inventory ages on our list. That may induce more sellers to cut their prices.
Median List Price: $169,500
Total Listings: 17,699
Median Age of Inventory: 69 days
Home Price: $2.75 million
Sq. Ft.: 6,917
Phoenix-Mesa, bringing cheaper than average homes to the home-buying table, is fifth on our list. Perhaps luring flocks of bargain hunters, the area's homes are selling significantly faster than in most cities.
This contemporary has a well-landscaped courtyard and guesthouse. The listing description plays up the home's privacy, which makes the home "feel miles away."
Median List Price: $142,000
Total Listings: 18,827
Median Age of Inventory: 110 days
Home Price: $3,999,999
Sq. Ft.: 6,763
Florida is one of the states hit hardest by the the housing bust with rampant foreclosures driving down home prices all around the state. So it's no surprise that buyers have the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in their crosshairs.
This magnificent waterfront manse sits on some prime Tampa real estate. Price per square foot? $591. While that may strike you as exorbitant, keep in mind, pre-meltdown, this place's value surely dwarfed its current price tag.
Median List Price: $189,900
Total Listings: 16,291
Median Age of Inventory: 94 days
Home Price: $6.495 million
Sq. Ft.: 5,025
Dallas' median home price hovers around the national median, rendering it a fairly affordable city to your average American.
This home, however, is not affordable to your average American -- but, hey, it's fun to look at. The contemporary sits on a one-acre lot that stares out at the Dallas skyline. Recently, the home's price was slashed to $6.49 million.
Median List Price: $121,000
Total Listings: 21,665
Median Age of Inventory: 105 days
Home Price: $8 million
Sq. Ft.: 13,489
Las Vegas took one of the biggest shellackings from the bursting of the real estate bubble, with its median home price plunging by more than 60 percent. It would seem that buyers are keen on taking advantage of the rock-bottom prices.
This massive luxury home almost certainly used to be worth well over $10 million. Now the 13,489-square-foot behemoth is running for $8 million.