“Nonprime” is a catchy term for the resurgence of high-risk mortgages.

Dan Perl gave it all up to go surfing in Mexico roughly ten years ago. By April 2007, he had seen enough as a seasoned subprime mortgage underwriter to realize that a big disaster was on the horizon.

"Nonprime" is a catchy term for the resurgence of high-risk mortgages.
“Nonprime” is a catchy term for the resurgence of high-risk mortgages.

Thus, he closed the doors, had a long vacation in Baja California, and then lived a low-key life for a few years while trading loans for Carl Marks & Co., a New York company.

But he’s back in the game now, spearheading another round of subprime loans from a select group of lenders. Otherwise known as “nonprime,” as the current lingo has it. This year, the industry is expected to bring in roughly $10 billion, a negligible portion of the $1.6 trillion US house loan market, but one that is expanding quickly.

Many informed Perl, 68, that he was unable to bring this material back at such short notice following the global financial crisis and the drastic tightening of mortgage regulations by US regulators nationwide. People warned him he would “be sued into oblivion” and that he was endangering his wealth.

“Kyle, how often do we hear that?” addressing his protégé, 39-year-old Kyle Gunderlock, a vice president of

“I always remember thinking, ‘You guys are going to get fucking arrested,'” adds Gunderlock.

Perl and his colleagues believe that there is nothing dark or scary about the subprime mortgage industry. Conversely, they contend that these lenders are experts in their field and are serving the biggest economy in the world by fulfilling a crucial role. They contend that there are many more professionals who would struggle for every comfortably employed professional who could stroll into a Chase or Wells Fargo and acquire a home loan without any hassle.

For example, people with unpredictable incomes or who are self-employed may not meet all the requirements of a large bank. The same goes for recent immigrants with spotty credit records or those with a few dings and dents in their records.

“Lending to subprime borrowers is a national policy and a critical component of economic development,” states Julian Hebron, head of sales at RPM Mortgage in Alamo, California. “To refer to it as a scourge is incorrect.”

The notion that we’re on a slippery slope and that the same factors that fueled the previous crisis—a government eager to loosen regulatory restrictions, Wall Street’s distorted incentives, and investors’ quick drive for yield—could fuel another, however, worries some economists.

For instance, agencies are required to examine nearly every financial regulation that was established under President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. The Treasury Department released a report in June claiming that the “anaemic” expansion in housing, which makes up about one-fifth of GDP, was partially caused by stringent underwriting rules.

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