Why Does a Lender Want to Know My Race?

As you apply for a mortgage and complete the application no doubt after a while you’ll notice you’ve answered quite a few questions. A lot of questions, actually from who you are to where you live to how much money you make… in all, there are a few hundred sections in the application that need to be reviewed and completed where needed.

The obvious questions address identifying you and the subject property. The lender will want your full name, where you’ve lived for the past two years and your social security number to help legally identify you. The subject property will have not just the property address but the legal description of the property as well. The title report will also identify the address and legal description of the property along with the buyers, sellers and any current and previous lien holders.

Toward the end of the application is an area simply title “Declarations” and is a section to be completed by the borrower and the co borrower. These questions ask you to declare whether or not you’ve defaulted on any government debt, declared bankruptcy or been involved in a foreclosure, among others.

And neatly tucked away at the very end of the loan application are questions that ask you if you’re male or female and your ethnicity and race. There’s a box to be checked asking if you’re Hispanic or Latino or Not Hispanic or Latino. Just beneath those boxes address your race wanting to know if you’re an American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander or White. Finally, the last box asks if you’re female or male.

These questions have nothing to do with your ability to get approve for the loan. Nor do minorities get preferntial treatment and females don’t get lower rates than males. At least they’re not supposed to. This section about ethnicity and race is reported to the federal government and used to track discriminatory lending practices. That’s all.

If you feel uncomfortable about providing such information, there’s an “opt out” box that you can check. However, your loan officer is still required to complete the section if the loan application was taken face to face or you provided a photo ID with your application. If lenders don’t report such information the government can’t track down the bad guys who discriminate.