The California Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement (MLDS) Part II

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(Continued from Part I)



Below the "Estimated Closing Costs" line, there are three more sections. The first is "Items required by lender to be paid in advance." These are not negotiable - they are what they are, and except for mortgage insurance or PMI, correct accounting should be the same no matter who the loan provider is. Of course that doesn't stop many providers from playing games to make it look like their loan is cheaper. Sometimes the items in this segment or the one below it may not be exactly knowable in advance, but many lenders make intentionally small misrepresentations.



"901 Interest for (blank) days at $(blank) per day." This is a good example of a fee that isn't exactly knowable in advance. On a refinance, until the current lender comes back with a payoff demand (which are usually in the form of $X, plus $ABC.DE interest per day after Date 1, invalid after Date 2), all I can do is estimate. It should be a pretty accurate estimate if I have last month's statement. On either a purchase or refinance, when the lender's loan funder sends to the funds for the new loan, they will tell how much prepaid interest the escrow company needs to collect, which is also in a comparable form. The same thing applies to that figure as well. Until the actual quote is in our hands, all we can do is estimate closely.



The reason for line item 901 is simple. Unlike rent, mortgage interest and payments are made in arrears. They can't charge you interest until they earn it. You could win the lottery, get an inheritance, or receive some other large windfall, and decide to pay your loan off (or down). You could also sell your house or refinance it. This would affect the amount of interest the current lender is owed. So you borrow the money at the beginning of the month, it accrues interest all month long, and you make a payment at the end of the month. So when you buy a house on March 15th, the lender is going to require you to pay interest on the loan from March 15th through the 31st in advance. This gives them a chance for their servicing department to set everything up. On April first, the loan will start accruing interest normally, and your first regular payment will be due after the end of April - May first to be precise.



When you refinance on March 15, you must pay the old lender for interest due between March 1st and March 15th, which has accrued since the last time you paid them on March 1st. You must also pay the new lender for the interest due from March 16th through March 31st. Between the old lender and the new lender, this figure can never be anything but the whole entire month worth of interest, and there will always be one or two days of overlap between the time they get the funds from the new lender and the time they are disbursed to the old lender. Around the beginning of the month, it can be two months interest if the old lender hasn't received your payment yet or hasn't credited it yet. You borrowed the money from them for the time in question. They are entitled to be paid. They're not going to let you keep it out of the goodness of their hearts, especially not when you're leaving them.



As you can see from the above, you never actually skip a month (or two) in your payments when you buy or refinance your home. It is not going to happen. What is happening is that your new lender is paying for this interest out of their pocket and adding it to the loan balance where you will be paying interest on it for a very long time. Pretty sneaky, huh? Well, you do have the option of making a payment to cover this line, or any other line on this whole form. Many providers will not tell you this because they can't run up the loan amount (and their compensation) if you make these payments. If you decide to make the payment to cover this line, it will be the interest portion of your normal monthly payment, prorated between the two loans in the case of a refinance, or prorated on that portion of the month you have a loan in the case of a purchase. In most cases, I tell people to think of it as their normal monthly payment paid early, because that is what is going on, and a reasonable approximation of the dollar amount.



The most common game played with this line is to decrease the number of days of interest you'll actually be paying. Let's say you're planning this on June 1st, and your loan provider tells you "don't worry about it. We're going to close on July 1st". First off, the chances of this actually happening as planned on any particular day are slim. Second, it's pointless to try. If you do close on July 1st, the lender is going to ask for all the interest for the month of July up front, and your loan starts working normally August first with your first payment being due September first. Third, I've learned the easy way (from watching other people make this mistake, not wanting to lose clients of my own) never delay closing - it always gives something else a chance to pop up, and it's amazing how often something does. It's amazing how often something new pops up at the last minute without this gratuitous opportunity. If you can close it now, do so. Once those loan documents are recorded, the bank can't call the money back unless you violate the contract.



As I have said, on a refinance the number of days prepaid interest can never be anything less than the entire month. Period. Somebody writes anything less than 30 days on this line, they're trying to pull the wool over your eyes. On a purchase, look thirty days out or to the last day for close of escrow according to the contract, and estimate the number of days left in that calendar month. There's the number that should be written. If a loan officer can't do it in thirty days, chances are they can't do it at all on the quoted terms or anything similar, and chances are they were playing games with you from the first. The only general exceptions to this are when refinance is booming. For instance, during the summer of 2003 the delay between complete loan package being submitted to the bank and the underwriter actually looking at it for the first time got to be more than thirty days right there, never mind the time it took for everything else. And even then I could usually run purchases through another department in close to a normal time frame. If you're not writing a check to cover prepaid interest, and you have a $270,000 loan at six percent, that's $1350 getting added to your loan when you may not want it to be, and you'll typically be paying interest on that for a very long time.



"902 Mortgage Insurance Premium" This is another one of those lines that needs discussion. First off, the odds of it really needing to happen, or being in your best interest if it does, are vanishingly small. In the hundreds of loans I've pushed through I've never actually had a loan that included mortgage insurance. It was never the best thing to do for the client.



Let's take a step back and ask, "What is mortgage insurance?" It's an insurance policy that the lender makes you, their client, buy for their benefit so that if you default they get the full amount of their loan. The usual threshold for this is 80 percent of the appraised value of the house. Mortgage insurance is never tax deductible when it's a separate charge, and is always charged based upon the full amount of the loan, and the amount of the loan expressed as a percentage of the value of the home. The larger the loan, the more you pay, the higher your loan value as a percentage of your home's value, the more you pay. It is commonly assessed as a separate charge, but can be expressed as a rate surcharge on the loan interest you'd pay anyway (in other words, say a 6.625% rate on your loan instead of 6%).



"What good does mortgage insurance do me, the consumer?" you may ask. The short answer is it gets you the loan. It gets you the loan when you would be turned down without it. After that, it's just money out of your pocket every month. Mortgage Insurance, also called Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI, is primarily a thing that happens in the A paper world (sub prime loans are usually incrementally priced to cover the higher risk, as the lenders there are in the business of taking those risks for appropriate compensation), and more importantly, it's usually avoidable.



PMI is only charged if the first mortgage exceeds 80% of the value of the home. But if I split even a 100% loan into two pieces with the first mortgage 80 percent or below, it goes away. Yes, the second mortgage will be at a higher interest rate, and yes, the closer to 100 percent of the home value it gets the higher that rate gets. But this tends to be on significantly smaller amounts of money, and this is an interest expense - deductible in most cases. The difference in total interest expense and total monthly payment tends to be in favor of doing this even without mortgage insurance or tax treatment factored in. So when I'm shopping a given loan around, sometimes I don't always even ask about doing the loan as one loan.



"With all this against mortgage insurance, why does it still happen?" you ask. At last the critical question. Lenders usually pay yield spread to brokers or commission to their own loan officers based upon the amount of the first loan. Pay for a second is typically (not always) a flat amount or zero. Your loan provider makes more money by doing it all as one loan. The loan provider wants to make more money and sticks you with the bill. Just warms your heart, doesn't it? Didn't think so.



"903 Hazard Insurance Premium" This is mostly for purchases, the yearly hazard insurance or homeowner's insurance premium. Any sane lender is going to require you to pay your insurance premium through escrow or before closing. They do not want there to be even a fractional second when their investment in the property is not insured. Of course, you don't want this either. I can't imagine paying the current cost of housing around here and not insuring the investment. So they're not asking for anything outrageous on this line. Unless you are one of those people who won't insure their properties, the extra cost to you is zero.



"905 VA Funding Fee" I haven't done a VA loan in three years. All I remember is that it's charged by the VA on VA loans, not by the lender. If it's applicable, it's going to be the same no matter what lender is doing it.



The final section is reserves of money held by the lender to be used to pay your expenses. This is your money; they're just holding it for you in order to make sure these items get paid on time. If you sell the property or refinance you should get this money back.



These are once again, not truly costs of the loan, unless you roll them into your mortgage where you're going to pay interest on them basically forever. The lender may (and most do) require that you hold up to two months reserves in this account. Ironically, this section of comparatively small amounts is one of the most tightly regulated aspects of the entire MLDS, and the whole escrow or reserves account thing is optional - although most lenders require a small fee for no reserve account. Many prospective loan providers, however, use the "safe harbor" rule of six months taxes and two months insurance, so make certain you're not penalizing the company who actually tells you the full truth, as the safe harbor rule is less than the vast majority of these quotes should be. In my experience, Escrow or Reserve accounts are usually more trouble than they are worth. I'm just going to explain quickly, and not with any dollar figures because 1) they vary too much, and for good reason 2) they are not, properly speaking, costs of the loan. As I said, they are your money, just being held by the bank for your expenses. When you sell the home, refinance it, or pay off the loan, you get the remaining contents of these accounts back.



"1001 Hazard Insurance Premium" in most cases, count the number of payments from the time the refinance is effective to the time that the yearly premium is due (usually on the anniversary of the date you bought the property), subtract it from 14. Multiply this number by your monthly premium. Even for purchases, the lenders will generally want a month or two of reserves.



"1002 Mortgage Insurance Premium Reserves" See my comments for line 902. If an early premium on this is due, compute it the same way as your prorated hazard insurance.



"1003 School Tax" California doesn't have it as a separate line item, or at least I can't recall seeing it broken out. Matter of fact, neither of the other states I've done loans in does either.



"1004 Taxes and Assessment reserves" This is the part to make certain your property taxes are paid on time. Same method of computation as line 1001. The lenders really don't want the city, county, or state repossessing the property out from under them.



"1005 Flood Insurance Reserves" Some homes require flood insurance in order to get a loan. Same method for computing as line 1001. If you live in or near an old riverbed, especially with dams and such on the river, research "riparian rights" sometime when you want another real world horror story.



Then there is a line about Compensation to Broker, which may be disclosed here or above. Some will try not to disclose it at all. Once again, you're looking for honest disclosure here, not the lowest number. This line makes no difference to you unless you're the one paying it. This didn't used to be required, but lenders and packaging houses got it put through in order to make the deal a broker offers you look worse in your eyes, thus handicapping brokers in their ability to compete. The thing that's important to you is what happens to you - the loan you are getting. When comparing offers, scrutinize the terms of your loan carefully, not what the broker is making on the deal. It's not like the packaging houses and many lenders aren't turning around and making even more money off the secondary market, just that that particular amount isn't disclosed anywhere.



There is a sum of all the things the client is paying to the broker versus paid to others. I wonder if this might not backfire on the lending and packaging houses that got this part added. They're going to show a line of fees paid almost entirely to them, whereas the only things paid to or from an actual broker are origination fees (if any), processing fee (my processor works for me or for the brokerage, not the lender), and broker's rebate to client (if any, and which if it exists is something paid by me the broker to you the client - a good thing in most client's opinion). Psychologically a telling advantage, even if it doesn't really mean anything. No matter who gets it, you're paying it, right? Concentrate on the loan with the best terms for you



At the bottom of page one, there are subtotals for fees paid to others and fees paid to brokers, and then an overall total. Then there's a section which says "Compensation to Broker," explicitly adding "(Not Paid Out of Loan Proceeds)". In other words, this isn't coming out of your pocket, although they could certainly give you better terms by reducing their compensation in the vast majority of cases. But the fact that one broker is making more than another (or is required to state explicitly what they make, whereas a direct lender or "packaging house" originating their own loans is not) does not mean you're not getting a better loan from them. Some brokers get discounts others do not. Some brokers disclose honestly and completely, others do not. Examine the loan you are getting - all of the terms, rates and conditions, and decide based upon those which loan is better. That's what makes a difference to you. The rest is a matador's red cape - a distraction from what is important.



Page two of this two-page form starts with section I, which is a short accounting of the money. My inclination is not to trust this any more than anything on the Good Faith Estimate. In other words, whether this is accurate is likely to be a function of your particular loan officer's good will more than anything else. Once again, the only form where there are real penalties for being inaccurate is the HUD-1, which comes at the end of the loan, not the beginning. But it's a good intention, nonetheless, and perhaps one of these years it'll actually mean something even if your loan officer is Simon LeGreedy or has a nose fourteen miles long. Proposed loan amount less costs, less other stuff of yours that's getting paid off, less the purchase price of the home or payoff of existing loan. The idea is to give you an explicit "you're going to get this much cash" or "you must pay this much cash to make this balance"



Section II is something I want to draw your attention to: Proposed interest rate is a good thing to have, although there is no more guarantee that this is the rate you're going to get than a federal Good Faith Estimate. But it has a choice of two things to check off "Fixed Rate" or "Initial Variable Rate". Just because Fixed Rate is checked does not mean the loan they are discussing is fixed rate for the full duration of the loan. Let me repeat that: Just because Fixed Rate is checked does not mean the loan they are discussing is fixed rate for the full duration of the loan. It might be fixed for thirty years - or it might be fixed for three months. This is a good place for unscrupulous loan officers to offer misleading information verbally, while checking the correct box doesn't usually mean a whole lot.



Section III is proposed term of the loan. If something less than 360 months is written here (or whatever the amortization of the loan is in years), it's telling you there's a balloon at the end. Once again, there is no way to verify that if 360 months is what is written, it's real.



Section IV is proposed loan payment. Ideally it's computed based upon the amounts given in the previous three sections. Verify that it at least makes mathematical sense by running these numbers through an amortization calculator, or doing the calculation yourself. Many loan officers will play games with the payment because people shop loans based upon payment.



This section is just bookkeeping, really, except sometimes you can spot your loan provider playing games if you pay attention. Remember, if this is a purchase I really hope for your sake you know your purchase price. If it is a refinance, I hope you know what your statement says your balance is. From this you can get to an approximate payoff by prorating your monthly interest. Once you have this figure, look up above on this form for the total of closing costs and prepaid items. Sometimes in a purchase your seller will give you a certain amount of credit for closing costs, so if this is applicable you can subtract those. This is the Amount You Have to Come Up With. Now subtract off new first mortgage amount, and second mortgage amount (if any), but add any closing costs for the second mortgage. The figure that is left is the Check You Need To Have. This is cold hard cash you have to come up with in order to make this all happen as described.



One of the most common tricks I've seen is for loan officers to tell clients and prospective clients they can roll the costs into the loan so they don't have to come up with cash. Despite being told this is what the client intends to do, they then give you, the client a payment quote in the third column here based upon you paying all of these costs out of your pocket - with the Check You Need To Have. In short, they're acting like all those closing costs have mysteriously vanished somewhere, like they're lurking in the Bermuda Triangle waiting to ambush some poor unsuspecting sap who will never be seen again. This poor sap is you. You're going to pay them somehow. They generally can be rolled into the loan, but make sure the loan provider gives you a payment based upon real numbers. Most people shop for a loan based upon payment because they don't know any better. This gives loan providers incentive to play games here, and the vast majority do.



Loan officers know that most clients shop for loans based upon payment quoted. This is the not the best or smartest thing for you to be doing, but it is nonetheless what most people shop based upon. So many loan providers will play a lot of games to be able to quote you a low payment. And this is one of the games they play, quoting you a payment based upon the loan without the closing costs of the loan added in. If you have a financial calculator, use it. If you can do the math yourself, better. Otherwise, go out and do a web search for financial calculators or mortgage calculators. Automobile loan sites will probably be programmed incorrectly (different assumptions), but pick a couple of others and punch the numbers in. Make certain that the real loan amount you're going to need jibes with the payment they quote at the rate they quoted. Of course, this all assumes that they're being upfront and otherwise honest and are not going to hit you with three points out of the blue, but you do the best you can with what you have. Oh, and now that you're done applying for your loan I strongly suggest you find someone willing to act as a back-up loan provider so that you can offer the person who just gave you this form a concrete reason not to hit you with those three extra points.



Section V: does the loan have a prepayment penalty, and on what basis? I'm glad to see this section here. I'll be even gladder if and when I see evidence the answers mean anything in the sense of legal penalties for lying. Lying about prepayment penalties has been rampant for a long time. Lying about prepayment penalties is a good way to make an absolutely awful loan look pretty good. Lying about prepayment penalties gets someone to sign up with the loan provider who lies because of this. And when you find out at the end of the loan process, when they present the loan documents, that they were lying (if you even notice, which many are expert at making sure you don't!), you may not have any good alternatives to signing those documents anyway.



Section VI basically tells you the lender cannot require credit life insurance or disability insurance. Many lenders would if they could. Not that disability insurance is a bad idea - quite the opposite in fact (I'm of two minds on credit life insurance, and this is not the place for that essay).



Section VII requires you the client to tell them, the lender about all the other liens on the property and hints at penalties for dishonesty. Not that the lender or broker is going to take your word for it, of course. But the gall this amazes me: requiring a consumer to be accurate on this or face penalties, pay for the loan, etcetera when many brokers and lenders could submit the form to the Pulitzer committee for consideration in the category for best short fiction.



Section VIII is about Article 7, which covers loan amounts so small as to be irrelevant for all practical purposes in California. There's also a bit about whether or not a broker is lending their own money. This is potentially both confusing and interesting, but beyond the scope of this essay. It's good that they are requiring license numbers now. In California, you can easily look them up for past violations online at http://www2.dre.ca.gov/PublicASP/pplinfo.asp (many other states have similar registries). Not that someone without past violations is pure, and not that someone with them necessarily intends to do anything dirty to you. But it's good information to know. Another good place to check them out is with the Better Business Bureau, which compiles information on every business, members or not, at http://www.bbb.org/ You'll need a business name and address, phone number, or web site. Now, if they've got one strike against them, they could easily have been caught in circumstances beyond their control. But a pattern of abuses is a clear warning. A few days ago, I decided to risk $50 for a business card order with a company that has a truly awful rating BBB rating. The cards arrived two days later and I couldn't be happier with any aspect of the transaction. But my next order from them won't be any bigger until they have established a track record with me (and also I with them so they can see a long history of orders they want to keep coming, and which will stop if their service isn't satisfactory).



Section IX explicitly tells you, the client, that this is not a loan commitment. This is good, so far as it goes. As I said in Part I, I've spoken to many otherwise intelligent people who somehow had acquired the idea that because a loan provider filled out a Good Faith Estimate, it meant the loan was a Done Deal. It most certainly does not mean anything of the sort. No real estate loan officer EVER writes a loan commitment, and it's been that way for at least a couple of decades. Loan commitments are the exclusive province of the underwriter, who is intentionally and for anti-fraud reasons isolated from the client (i.e. the underwriter is not allowed to communicate with you directly). The most an ethical loan officer will say is "my experience does not show me anything that should cause you to have a problem"



Now, here's the rub, and an indication of what this section really should say. Does it not stand to reason that if the loan is not a Done Deal at all, it most particularly is not a done deal on the exact stated terms? This form is supposed to be an estimate. It may be a good estimate, given on a loan that has already been locked, and that the loan provider intends to guarantee in that they will pay any difference, not you. I do this, and I know of one other company. More commonly it's just a convenient story that gets you to sign up with that provider and they couldn't deliver a loan on those terms if they wanted to, which they don't. There is no way to be sure it's good until you get the HUD-1 at the end.



Caveat Emptor



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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on March 22, 2007 10:00 AM.

Low Balling - Expect a Rejection was the previous entry in this blog.

Truth In Lending and APR is the next entry in this blog.

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