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inequality_conceptWho is applying for mortgages? Who is successful? For some communities, the answer is not always the same.

For millions of Americans, owning one’s own home is a fundamental part of the American Dream. It’s a goal shared equally among all people, regardless of race or ethnic origin. But while the goal is equally shared, the path to reaching that goal, and even experiences once homeownership is achieved, can be radically different among those races.

In a recent report, Zillow and the National Urban League examined recent trends in minority access to housing, outlining the different experiences among races when seeking a mortgage and buying and owning a home. The report showed a number of areas in which outcomes for minority groups, particularly blacks and Hispanics, differ greatly from those of white Americans. To perform they analysis, the report relied on Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, Zillow Home Value Index data and unique information obtained from a survey performed by Ipsos for the purposes of this study.


At a fundamental level, it is important to understand the characteristics and resources with which each group approaches the lending and homeownership process. Different education levels among races, higher or lower incomes and varying credit scores all inevitably shape the home buying and homeownership experiences. There is not sufficient information in the HMDA data nor in the survey data to determine if any of the findings in this report reflect illegal discrimination. Rather, it is these critical differences in qualifications and resources among whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics that undoubtedly help explain a majority of the findings related to the differences in outcomes by race.

In both the HMDA data and the survey data, blacks and Hispanics had a lower average income. Blacks and Hispanics who apply for a mortgage are also much more likely to have a lower credit score compared to whites and Asians. In addition, of the surveyed Americans, Asians are much more likely to have achieved a higher level of education, which also contributes to their higher incomes.

These unequal incomes naturally lead to stark differences in the amount of down payment that different races are able to afford. Blacks are much more likely to put down 5 percent or less as a down payment, while a majority of Hispanics contribute 6 percent or more towards a down payment. Asians are more likely to have down payments of 20 percent or higher.


Regarding diversity in the home mortgage application experience, the report found that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to apply for a mortgage to make a home purchase in the first place, and much less likely to be approved for one than whites and Asians. While blacks make up 12.1 percent of the U.S. population, they filed only 6 percent of all mortgage purchase applications in 2012. Hispanics make up 17.3 percent of the population and filed 9.4 percent of the applications. In contrast, whites make up 63 percent of the U.S. population and filed 64.8 percent of purchase applications. The differences are primarily seen within the conventional mortgage market. The racial and ethnic composition of FHA loan applications is much more similar to the racial and ethnic composition of the nation as a whole. Blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to apply for an FHA mortgage than a conventional loan when purchasing a home as more than half of black applicants (57.4 percent) and 60.3 percent of Hispanic applicants applied for an FHA loan. In contrast, less than one-third (30.1 percent) of white applicants apply for an FHA loan.

According to HMDA records, blacks and Hispanics are much more likely than whites to have their mortgage application denied. When applying for a conventional loan, black applicants are 2.4 times and Hispanic applicants are 1.98 times more likely than white applicants to be denied. When applying for an FHA loan, black applicants are 1.75 times more likely and Hispanic applicants are 1.47 times more likely than white applicants to be denied.

Overall, a majority of survey respondents from each race surveyed had a positive experience when applying for a mortgage (as indicated by a rating of more than 8 on a 1-10 scale). A minority within each race surveyed felt that their race had at least some influence on their experience of trying to obtain a mortgage, though it remains unknown if respondents felt their race had a positive or negative influence on their experience. Specifically, 37 percent of Hispanics, 33 percent of blacks, 25 percent of Asians and 14 percent of whites says they thought race was a contributing factor in their experience.

Respondents who say they felt race was a factor in their experience obtaining a mortgage were significantly more likely to have shopped around for multiple mortgage quotes. In general, Asians and Hispanics are more likely to have considered multiple loans from multiple lenders, while blacks are more likely to have considered multiple loans from the same lender. Hispanics and Asians are more likely to go with a lender who was recommended to them, while blacks and Hispanics are more likely to recommend their lender to a friend or family member. In addition, Asians and especially Hispanics are more likely to have two or more mortgage applications. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have their mortgage process take longer.

View the full report here.