What is a Subprime Loan? Vital Information for 2023

subprime loan

Diving into the World of Subprime Mortgage Loans

Subprime loans have been a topic of discussion and scrutiny, especially after the 2008 financial crisis. Understanding what they are and how they work is crucial for borrowers considering this type of loan. In this article, we will explore subprime mortgage loans in detail and provide valuable insights to help you make informed decisions.

What are Subprime Mortgage Loans?

Subprime mortgage loans refer to a type of loan offered to borrowers with low credit scores, limited credit history, or other factors that make them a higher risk for lenders. These loans often come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms compared to prime loans. Subprime mortgage loans are designed to help borrowers who may not qualify for conventional mortgages due to their credit or financial situation.

The Basics of Subprime Mortgage Loans

A subprime mortgage loan is considered a nontraditional loan, as it caters to a specific group of borrowers. These loans are typically sold to investors through mortgage-backed securities. Banks issuing subprime mortgage loans do so with the understanding that the borrower poses a higher risk of default.

While subprime mortgage loans can be beneficial to some borrowers, they are also associated with a higher degree of risk for banks. This risk stems from the fact that the borrower may not be able to meet their monthly mortgage payments, leading to default and potential foreclosure. In the case of the subprime mortgage loan crisis, this widespread risk eventually led to a financial crisis in 2007-2008.

Subprime Mortgage Loan Statistics

  1. At the peak of the subprime mortgage boom in 2006, about 20% of all mortgage originations in the United States were subprime loans.
  2. In 2007, the delinquency rate for subprime adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) reached nearly 21%, significantly higher than the rate for prime loans.
  3. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported that the mortgage delinquency rate for subprime loans peaked at 25.3% in the first quarter of 2010, contributing to the severity of the housing crisis.
  4. During the financial crisis, approximately 9.3 million homeowners faced foreclosure, short sale, or received a deed in lieu of foreclosure as a result of subprime mortgage issues.
  5. In 2018, subprime mortgage originations made up only 4.8% of total mortgage originations in the United States, reflecting tighter lending standards following the housing crisis.
  6. According to a 2023 Experian report, the average credit score of borrowers receiving subprime mortgage loans was 580.
  7. A 2017 study by the Urban Institute found that the subprime share of total mortgage originations had decreased from 20% in 2006 to about 9% by 2015, reflecting a more cautious lending environment.
  8. In 2019, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that nonbank mortgage lenders, which often cater to subprime borrowers, accounted for 58.7% of mortgage originations, compared to 41.3% by traditional banks.
  9. A Federal Reserve study published in 2017 indicated that the subprime mortgage crisis disproportionately affected minority homeowners, with 53% of African American and 47% of Hispanic borrowers receiving high-priced loans, compared to 18% of white borrowers during the peak years of the crisis.
  10. As of 2021, the Mortgage Bankers Association forecasts a steady increase in mortgage originations for both prime and subprime borrowers, with a continued emphasis on responsible lending practices to minimize the risks associated with subprime lending.

How to Get a Subprime Mortgage Loan

If you’re considering a subprime mortgage loan, it’s essential to understand the process and what’s involved. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get a subprime mortgage loan:

  1. Assess your financial situation: Review your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and overall financial health to determine if a subprime mortgage loan is the right choice for you.
  2. Research lenders: Not all lenders offer subprime mortgage loans, so it’s essential to find a lender that specializes in this type of loan. Some subprime mortgage loan companies include specialized lenders.
  3. Gather documentation: You will need to provide proof of income, employment, and other financial documents to your lender.
  4. Apply for the loan: Complete a loan application with the lender, providing all required information and documentation.
  5. Wait for approval: The lender will review your application and determine if you qualify for a subprime mortgage loan. If approved, they will provide you with a loan estimate, detailing the terms and conditions of the loan.

Identifying True Statements About Subprime Mortgage Loans

When researching subprime mortgage loans, it’s crucial to identify accurate information. Some true statements about subprime mortgage loans include:

  • Subprime mortgage loans are designed for borrowers with lower credit scores or other risk factors.
  • They often come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms compared to prime loans.
  • Subprime mortgage loans played a significant role in the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
What Is A Subprime Loan

Peeling Back the Layers of Subprime Mortgage Loans

How do Subprime Loans Differ from Traditional Loans?

While conforming loans are the most common type of mortgage, subprime loans cater to a specific group of borrowers. These borrowers typically have bad credit or a history of defaults on their credit report. Lenders may offer subprime loans to borrowers with a credit score below 620.

A key difference between traditional and subprime loans is the interest rate. Since subprime borrowers are considered high-risk, lenders charge higher interest rates to compensate for the increased risk. As a result, subprime loans can be more expensive over the long term.

The Subprime Loan Crisis and Its Aftermath

The subprime mortgage loan crisis of 2007-2008 brought the dangers of subprime lending into the spotlight. A combination of lax lending standards and borrowers taking on loans they couldn’t afford led to a wave of defaults, foreclosures, and the eventual collapse of the housing market.

In response, the government implemented new regulations to protect borrowers and ensure that subprime lending practices were more transparent. Today, subprime lenders must adhere to the Qualified Mortgage Rule and provide borrowers with a Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure to help them understand the true cost of their mortgage.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Subprime Loans

While subprime loans can provide an opportunity for those with poor credit to secure a mortgage, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before signing on the dotted line.


  1. Access to homeownership: Subprime loans can provide a path to homeownership for borrowers with poor credit or a limited credit history.
  2. Improved credit: By making timely mortgage payments, borrowers can improve their credit score and eventually refinance into a loan with better terms.


  1. Higher interest rates: Subprime borrowers face higher interest rates, which can significantly increase the overall cost of the loan.
  2. Risk of foreclosure: Borrowers who struggle to make their mortgage payments are at a greater risk of foreclosure.

Navigating the Subprime Loan Application Process

If you’re considering a subprime loan, it’s crucial to do your research and understand the terms of your loan. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:

  1. Check your credit score: Before applying for a loan, review your credit report and make sure there are no errors or discrepancies.
  2. Compare lenders: Not all subprime lenders are created equal. Research different lenders and compare their rates, terms, and fees.
  3. Get pre-qualified: Obtaining a mortgage pre-qualification can help you understand how much you can afford and demonstrate your seriousness to sellers.
  4. Be prepared: Gather all the necessary documentation, including pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements, to support your loan application

Understanding Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs) and their Role in Subprime Lending

A significant portion of subprime loans are structured as Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs). ARMs have an initial fixed-rate period, typically ranging from 1 to 10 years, after which the interest rate adjusts periodically based on a market index. This can lead to significant fluctuations in monthly mortgage payments, creating a potential financial challenge for borrowers.

During the subprime loan crisis, many borrowers were attracted to ARMs because of their low initial interest rates, known as “teaser rates.” However, when the rates adjusted upward, borrowers found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments, leading to widespread defaults and foreclosures.

If you are considering a subprime ARM, it’s essential to understand how your interest rate and monthly payments may change over time. Be realistic about your ability to handle potential increases in your mortgage payments and consider alternatives like a fixed-rate mortgage if you’re concerned about payment stability.

Alternatives to Subprime Loans

If you have poor credit but want to avoid the pitfalls of subprime loans, consider these alternatives:

  1. FHA loans: Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are designed for low-to-moderate-income borrowers and offer more relaxed credit requirements. They require a minimum credit score of 580 and a down payment as low as 3.5%.
  2. VA loans: Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are available to eligible veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their spouses. They offer competitive interest rates, no down payment requirement, and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  3. USDA loans: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans are designed for low-to-moderate-income homebuyers in rural areas. They offer 100% financing and require no down payment.

Tips for Improving Your Credit Score Before Applying for a Mortgage

Improving your credit score can increase your chances of qualifying for a traditional mortgage and better loan terms. Here are some tips to help you boost your credit score:

  1. Make timely payments: Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. Ensure you make all of your payments on time, including credit card bills, loans, and utility bills.
  2. Lower your credit utilization: Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you’re using compared to your available credit. Aim to keep this ratio below 30% to improve your credit score.
  3. Don’t close old accounts: The length of your credit history plays a role in your credit score. Keeping old accounts open, even if you don’t use them, can positively impact your score.
  4. Diversify your credit mix: Having a mix of different types of credit, such as credit cards, auto loans, and student loans, can improve your score.
  5. Monitor your credit report: Regularly review your credit report to ensure there are no errors or fraudulent activity that could negatively affect your score. If you find any discrepancies, dispute them with the credit bureaus.

By following these steps and considering alternative loan options, you can increase your chances of securing a mortgage with favorable terms, even if you have a less-than-perfect credit history.

Consider Saving for a Larger Down Payment

One way to improve your chances of obtaining a mortgage with better terms is to save for a larger down payment. A larger down payment can reduce your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, which lenders view as an indicator of risk. A lower LTV ratio may result in lower interest rates and better loan terms, even if your credit score is not ideal. Additionally, a down payment of 20% or more can help you avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), reducing your overall mortgage costs.

Debt Consolidation and Management

If you have high levels of debt, consider debt consolidation or debt management strategies to reduce your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. A lower DTI ratio can make you more attractive to lenders and may result in better mortgage terms. Some options for managing your debt include:

  1. Debt consolidation loans: These loans allow you to combine multiple debts into a single, more manageable payment with a lower interest rate. This can help you pay off your debt more quickly and improve your credit score.
  2. Balance transfer credit cards: If you have high-interest credit card debt, consider transferring your balances to a card with a lower interest rate or a promotional 0% interest rate. This can help you save on interest and pay off your debt more quickly.
  3. Debt management plans: These plans are typically offered by credit counseling agencies and involve negotiating with your creditors to reduce your interest rates and create a more manageable payment plan. This can help you pay off your debt and improve your credit score over time.
Subprime Loans

Work with a Credit Counselor or Financial Advisor

If you’re struggling to improve your credit or manage your finances, consider working with a credit counselor or financial advisor. These professionals can help you develop a personalized plan to improve your financial situation, including budgeting, debt management, and credit repair strategies. They can also provide guidance on the mortgage application process and help you determine the best loan options for your situation.

Explore Mortgage Assistance Programs

There are numerous federal, state, and local mortgage assistance programs that can help homebuyers with lower credit scores secure a mortgage with better terms. These programs may offer down payment assistance, closing cost assistance, or reduced interest rates. Research programs available in your area and check your eligibility to see if you qualify for any assistance.

By implementing these strategies and exploring alternative mortgage options, you can work towards securing a mortgage with favorable terms, even if your credit history is not perfect. It’s essential to be proactive and take the necessary steps to improve your credit score and financial situation before applying for a mortgage, as doing so can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Be Patient and Consistent in Your Efforts

Improving your credit score and financial situation can take time, so it’s important to be patient and consistent in your efforts. Stay disciplined with your budgeting, debt management, and credit repair strategies, and keep track of your progress. Over time, you should see improvements in your credit score and overall financial health, which will make you a more attractive candidate to mortgage lenders.

Monitor Your Credit Report Regularly

Keep an eye on your credit report and check it regularly for any errors or inaccuracies. If you spot any mistakes, file a dispute with the credit reporting agency to have them corrected. By monitoring your credit report, you can also track your progress and ensure that your efforts to improve your credit score are reflected accurately.

Establish a Positive Credit History

To show lenders that you can manage credit responsibly, focus on establishing a positive credit history. This may involve opening new lines of credit, such as a secured credit card or a credit-builder loan, and making timely payments on all your debts. Ensure that you keep your credit utilization low, ideally below 30%, and avoid applying for multiple new credit accounts in a short period.

Consider a Co-Signer

If you’re still struggling to secure a mortgage with favorable terms due to your credit score, you may want to consider asking a family member or close friend with good credit to co-sign your loan. A co-signer with a strong credit history can help you qualify for better mortgage terms. Keep in mind, however, that your co-signer will be equally responsible for the loan, so make sure you can afford the mortgage payments to avoid putting their credit at risk.

Maintain a Stable Employment History

Lenders prefer borrowers with a stable employment history, as it indicates a steady income and the ability to make mortgage payments. If possible, try to maintain a consistent job with a reliable income for at least two years before applying for a mortgage. This will not only improve your chances of being approved for a loan but may also help you secure better mortgage terms.

In conclusion, securing a mortgage with favorable terms when you have a lower credit score is possible, but it requires patience, persistence, and proactive efforts to improve your financial situation. By following the strategies outlined above and being diligent in your efforts, you can work towards qualifying for a mortgage that meets your needs and helps you achieve your goal of homeownership.

Save for a Larger Down Payment

Mortgage lenders may be more willing to offer better terms if you can provide a larger down payment. A larger down payment not only reduces the risk for the lender but also decreases your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, which can result in more favorable interest rates. Aim to save at least 20% of the home’s purchase price as a down payment to improve your chances of securing a better mortgage deal.

Explore Government and Nonprofit Programs

There are various government and nonprofit programs designed to help individuals with lower credit scores or limited resources purchase a home. These programs, such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans, may offer more lenient credit requirements and lower down payment options. Research these programs and determine if you qualify for any of them to potentially improve your mortgage terms.

Consider Alternative Mortgage Options

In addition to traditional mortgage options, there are alternative lending products available that cater to borrowers with lower credit scores. These may include portfolio loans, which are held by the lender instead of being sold on the secondary market, or adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), which offer lower initial interest rates that adjust over time. While these options may come with higher interest rates or fees, they can be a viable choice if you’re struggling to secure a mortgage through conventional means.

Negotiate with Lenders

Even if you have a lower credit score, it’s worth trying to negotiate with potential mortgage lenders for better terms. Be honest about your financial situation and demonstrate your commitment to improving your credit score and managing your debts. Lenders may be more inclined to work with you if they see that you’re taking the necessary steps to better your financial standing.

Work with a Mortgage Broker

A mortgage broker can help you navigate the mortgage process and find the best loan options for your specific situation. They have access to a wide range of lenders and mortgage products, and their expertise can be invaluable in securing a mortgage with favorable terms despite your credit score. Be sure to research and select a reputable broker to work with, as they can play a crucial role in helping you achieve homeownership.

By combining these strategies and staying committed to improving your credit score and financial situation, you can increase your chances of securing a mortgage with favorable terms, even with a lower credit score. Keep in mind that the process may take time and patience, but achieving homeownership is possible with dedication and perseverance.

Build a Stronger Financial Profile

Aside from improving your credit score, focus on building a stronger overall financial profile. This includes maintaining a stable employment history, reducing your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, and ensuring you have sufficient savings and emergency funds. A stronger financial profile can make you a more attractive borrower to mortgage lenders and may help you secure better terms.

Consider a Co-signer

If you have a family member or close friend with a strong credit score and financial standing, consider asking them to co-sign your mortgage loan. A co-signer with good credit can help you qualify for a mortgage and potentially secure better terms. However, it’s important to understand that the co-signer will be legally responsible for repaying the loan if you default, which can strain the relationship. Make sure both you and your co-signer are comfortable with this arrangement before proceeding.

Shop Around for the Best Mortgage Deal

When looking for a mortgage, it’s crucial to shop around and compare offers from different lenders. Each lender may have different criteria for assessing credit risk, and some may be more lenient than others. By comparing multiple offers, you can find the best mortgage terms available for your specific financial situation. It’s also important to consider the various types of lenders, such as credit unions, banks, and online lenders, as they may have different mortgage products and approval processes.

What Are Subprime Loans

Consider a Lease-to-Own Agreement

A lease-to-own agreement, also known as a rent-to-own contract, allows you to rent a home for a specified period with the option to buy it at the end of the lease. This arrangement can give you time to improve your credit score and save for a down payment while living in the home you intend to buy. Make sure to read and understand the terms of the agreement carefully, as they can vary significantly between contracts. Keep in mind that this option may not be available for every home or in every market, but it’s worth considering if you’re struggling to qualify for a mortgage due to a lower credit score.

By exploring these additional strategies and staying committed to improving your financial situation, you can increase your chances of securing a mortgage with favorable terms despite a lower credit score. Remember that the homebuying process can be challenging, but with patience, determination, and a proactive approach, you can achieve your goal of homeownership.

Seek Assistance from Housing Counseling Agencies

There are various non-profit housing counseling agencies that can help you navigate the homebuying process, especially if you have a lower credit score. These agencies can provide valuable information on affordable mortgage programs, credit repair strategies, and budgeting techniques. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a list of approved counseling agencies, which can be a good starting point for seeking assistance.

Investigate First-Time Homebuyer Programs

First-time homebuyer programs, often provided by federal, state, or local governments, can offer financial assistance or more lenient lending requirements for those with lower credit scores. These programs may provide down payment assistance, lower interest rates, or other benefits that make homeownership more accessible. Research first-time homebuyer programs in your area to see if you qualify for any of these benefits.

Consider a Portfolio Lender

A portfolio lender is a financial institution that originates and holds mortgage loans in their own investment portfolio, rather than selling them to third parties. Because portfolio lenders keep loans on their own books, they may have more flexibility in their lending requirements and could be more willing to work with borrowers who have lower credit scores. Although portfolio lenders can be harder to find, they may offer more favorable terms and conditions for your situation.

Focus on Long-term Financial Health

While it’s essential to find strategies to help you secure a mortgage with a lower credit score, it’s also important to focus on your long-term financial health. By setting financial goals, budgeting, and consistently working to improve your credit score, you’ll be better prepared for future borrowing needs, such as refinancing your mortgage or purchasing a new home. It’s never too early or too late to start working on your financial well-being.

Be Patient and Persistent

The homebuying process can be particularly challenging for those with lower credit scores, but it’s essential to remain patient and persistent. It may take longer to find a mortgage product that meets your needs, or you may need to work on improving your financial situation before you can secure a loan. However, by staying committed to your goal and exploring various options, you can eventually achieve homeownership despite your lower credit score.

In conclusion, while having a lower credit score can make it more challenging to obtain a mortgage, there are strategies and resources available to help you reach your goal of homeownership. By staying focused, patient, and proactive, you can increase your chances of securing a mortgage and achieving the dream of owning a home.

Build a Stronger Down Payment

Saving for a larger down payment can help offset the risk associated with a lower credit score. Lenders may be more willing to approve a mortgage if you can provide a substantial down payment, as it demonstrates your financial responsibility and reduces the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. A higher down payment can also lead to lower monthly mortgage payments, making it easier for you to manage your finances and improve your credit score over time.

Consider Alternative Loan Programs

There are various alternative loan programs designed to cater to borrowers with lower credit scores. For example, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers loans with more lenient credit requirements, requiring a minimum credit score of 500 for a 10% down payment and 580 for a 3.5% down payment. FHA loans can be an excellent option for those with less-than-perfect credit. Another government-backed loan program to consider is the USDA loan program, which offers zero down payment mortgages for eligible rural and suburban homebuyers.

Government Links

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in 2021, the overall delinquency rate for subprime mortgages was around 5.5%. This demonstrates the higher risk associated with subprime lending. However, with the right approach and careful consideration, subprime loans can still be a viable option for borrowers.

For more information and guidance on mortgages, visit the following government websites:

  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  2. Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development

Expand Your Mortgage Knowledge

To gain a better understanding of mortgage terms and concepts, we recommend visiting our mortgage terms glossary page, which provides clear and concise explanations for a wide range of mortgage-related topics.

Time to Take Action

If you believe a subprime loan is the right choice for you, Mortgage Rater is here to help. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to guiding you through the process and finding the best mortgage solution for your unique situation. Don’t let a lower credit score hold you back from achieving your homeownership dreams. Take the first step towards securing a home by applying for a loan with Mortgage Rater today!

Donavon Warren

Donavon Warren

Donavon Warren is a seasoned finance professional with over 20 years of experience. Before embarking into the mortgage industry Donavon attended UCLA. He is the owner of Mortgage Rater, a leading mortgage finance company that offers a range of informational services to clients across the United States. As a finance and mortgage author, Donavon brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to the platform, writing about various topics related to personal finance, investments, home loans, FHA loans, VA loans, 30 Year Fixed rates, no-interest loans, mortgages and more. With his insights and expertise, he aims to educate and empower readers to make informed financial decisions that can help them achieve their financial and mortgage goals. NMLS#2470202
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