Definition: What is a Qualified Mortgage?

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A Qualified Mortgage (QM) is a type of mortgage designed for greater stability and affordability, introduced after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. QM came as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, aimed at protecting consumers from risky and predatory lending practices that led to the housing crisis.

Key features of a Qualified Mortgage include:

  1. Standard Loan Terms: A QM cannot have risky loan features like negative amortization, interest-only, or balloon payments.
  2. Point and Fee Limits: A QM limits points and fees to no more than 3% of the loan amount for loans of $100,000 or more.
  3. Debt-to-Income Ratio: For a loan to be considered a QM, a borrower’s total monthly debts, including the mortgage, should not exceed 43% of their monthly pre-tax income.
  4. Ability-to-Repay: Lenders must make a good faith effort to ensure you have the ability to repay your mortgage. Lenders do this by verifying your income, assets, employment, credit history, and monthly expenses.

Non-QM loans, on the other hand, are less standardized and may offer more flexibility, but they also might come with higher interest rates or different terms that could be riskier for borrowers. It’s important for consumers to understand the differences and assess what is most suitable for their financial situation.

History of Qualified Mortgages

The history behind Qualified Mortgages (QMs) is closely tied to the events of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the subsequent regulatory responses aimed at preventing a similar crisis in the future. Here’s a brief overview of this history:

Pre-Crisis Lending Practices

Before the financial crisis, lending standards were often lax. Many lenders approved loans without fully considering a borrower’s ability to repay. This led to the widespread issuance of high-risk mortgage products, such as interest-only mortgages, negative amortization loans, and loans with balloon payments.

The Financial Crisis of 2007-2008

The financial crisis exposed the dangers of these risky lending practices. As housing prices plummeted, many borrowers found themselves with mortgages they couldn’t afford, leading to a wave of defaults and foreclosures. This had a cascading effect on the global economy.

Legislative Response: Dodd-Frank Act

The 2008 financial crisis pushed Congress into passing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. This sweeping legislation aimed to increase oversight and regulation of the financial industry to prevent a similar crisis in the future.

Introduction of Qualified Mortgages

One key aspect of Dodd-Frank was the introduction of Qualified Mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created under Dodd-Frank, was tasked with establishing guidelines for what constitutes a QM.

Key Features of Qualified Mortgages

Qualified Mortgages were designed to be safer and more sustainable than many of the loan products available before the crisis. They do not have risky features like negative amortization or interest-only payments, and they require lenders to make a reasonable, good faith determination of a borrower’s ability to repay the loan.

Ability-to-Repay Rule

Alongside the concept of QMs, the CFPB also established the Ability-to-Repay rule. This rule requires lenders to consider and verify several aspects of a borrower’s financial situation, including income, assets, employment, credit history, and other debt obligations.

Impact and Ongoing Evolution

Since their introduction, Qualified Mortgages have helped to stabilize the mortgage lending market by ensuring that loans are made more responsibly. However, the regulations have also been subject to ongoing debate and adjustments to balance consumer protection with access to credit.

The history of Qualified Mortgages is a testament to the effort to create a more stable and responsible mortgage market in the wake of one of the worst financial crises in history. This history underscores the importance of regulatory oversight in the financial sector and the ongoing need to adapt these regulations to changing market conditions.

Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter has covered real estate, mortgage and personal-finance news for more than 15 years, writing for the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Consumers Digest and many others. A graduate of the University Illinois with a degree in journalism, he is editor of Midwest Real Estate News magazine and blogs on commercial real estate for that publication at, in addition to being a contributor for

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