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What Is Alt-A?

Alt-A will be a classification of mortgages with a risk profile falling between prime and subprime. They can be viewed as high risk due to provision factors customized by the lender. This type of loan will in general be more costly for the borrower, as they may carry higher interest rates and/or fees.

Understanding Alt-A

Alt-A loans are generally viewed as in a lender's risk management diversification. These loans historically have been known for high levels of default, and their widespread defaults were a key factor leading to the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Characteristics of Alt-A Mortgage

Several things recognize Alt-A mortgages from different types of mortgage loans. For example, conforming loans allude to mortgage loans that adjust to regularly accepted mortgage standards. Government-backed loans are insured by the full faith and credit of the federal government. Conventional loans can be conforming or nonconforming. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are all types of government-backed loans.

An Alt-A mortgage loan addresses an alternative to these types of loans. As such, they share a few unique characteristics:

As such, Alt-A loans are easier for borrowers to get. Yet, that doesn't necessarily make them an ideal mortgage option if the homebuyer is unable to afford payments over the long term.

Alt-A loans fall among prime and subprime credit quality, having seen improvements in both origination quality and quantity since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Alt-A

While Alt-A loans have become less prevalent in the mortgage market, there are as yet a class of borrowers to whom lenders decide to give these loans because they're willing to take on the risk. In addition to the lower documentation standards that were addressed from new regulations, these loans also had other alternative characteristics.

These characteristics incorporate higher LTV ratios, low(er) down payments, and higher accepted DTI ratios. DTI ratios are usually higher than the standard 36% and may even surpass 43%.

The alternative characteristics can assist a few borrowers with higher credit scores yet lower income to obtain mortgages for a home purchase. These loans also benefit lenders since they charge higher rates of interest and can assist with increasing earnings. Overall, Alt-A loans keep on being higher risk than prime mortgages and are vulnerable to spikes in defaults when an economic downturn hits.

Alt-A versus Prime versus Subprime

Alt-A mortgages are in a separate class from prime and subprime mortgages. Prime, subprime, and Alt-An allude more to the class of borrowers to whom these loans are offered than to the actual loans. Prime mortgage loans, for example, are typically saved for borrowers with the highest credit scores and lowest DTI ratios. These borrowers are the most creditworthy according to lenders and have the most grounded ability to repay a mortgage loan.

Subprime borrowers will quite often have a lot of lower credit scores, lower incomes, and higher DTI ratios. These borrowers imply the highest liability to borrowers because their past credit history typically proposes that they've battled with debt repayment and money management before. Alt-A borrowers are somewhere close to prime and subprime in terms of their qualifications.

They may not have the best credit scores, yet they don't necessarily have horrible. And they may have higher incomes however higher DTI ratios. An Alt-A borrower doesn't fit neatly into either the prime or subprime box, because they in any case may have the option to qualify for a conforming mortgage loan however have a couple of factors holding them back.

Assessing your credit scores and taking moves toward further develop your credit could assist you with qualifying for the best mortgage rates.

Alt-A Mortgage Scrutiny

One of the higher risks associated with Alt-A loans is less loan documentation. These types of loans were especially conspicuous leading up to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Lenders of Alt-A loans issued these loans without significant documentation of income or verification of employment from the borrower. Alt-A loans were a substantial factor leading to the subprime crisis, which reached its peak in 2008, with many borrowers defaulting on their mortgage loans. [Dodd-Frank](/dodd-frank-financial-regulatory-change bill) regulations, executed as a reaction to the fallout from the crisis, has helped superior documentation and verification weaknesses prevalent prior to these new rules.

Dodd-Frank regulations require greater documentation on all types of loans (specifically mortgages). The legislation has founded provisions for qualified mortgages, which are high-quality mortgages that satisfy specific guidelines and subsequently qualify for special treatment in both the primary and secondary markets.


  • Alt-A loans were popular during the 2007-2008 financial crisis and have seen improvements from that point forward, thanks to Dodd-Frank regulations and a superior economy.
  • The risk of an Alt-A borrower typically falls among prime and subprime.
  • Alt-A loans typically have higher loan-to-value (LTV) and debt-to-income (DTI) ratios and lower down payments than prime loans, carrying higher risk and in this manner higher interest rates.


Who qualifies for an Alt-A mortgage?

Borrowers with lower credit scores or higher debt-to-income (DTI) ratios may have the option to qualify for an Alt-A mortgage loan. There may be less documentation requirements for this type of loan, and higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratios also may be accepted.

Are Alt-A Loans subprime?

Alt-A loans are somewhere close to prime loans and subprime loans in terms of what's expected to qualify, the type of borrowers for whom they're planned, and the risks implied for the lender.

What is an example of an Alt-A loan?

An Alt-A loan may be one that requires practically no documentation to obtain, for example, a stated income loan. Loans that allow for 100% financing of the property also can be categorized as Alt-A. While comparing Alt-A loans, borrowers should understand the cost in terms of the interest rates and fees.