Second Trust Deeds and Loan Subordination


When you have more than one loan on your property, there are some issues you should be aware of. Keep in mind the fact that some states still use the mortgage system, requiring court action to foreclose, as opposed to Deed of Trust, which does not. For practical purposes they are similar, yet I have never done significant work in a mortgage state so there may be small but significant differences.

Each loan is secured by a different Deed of Trust. Two loans, two Deeds of Trust. A Deed of Trust is a three way contract between the borrower (called the trustor), the lender (called the beneficiary), and a third party known as the Trustee, to whom title is nominally conveyed for purposes of selling the property if you default on the loan. The Trustee and the Beneficiary are often the same, and there while there is no legal impediment I'm aware of to the Trustor and Trustee being the same, I also cannot imagine a lender agreeing to it.

Trustees can be changed, and this is accomplished via a document known as "Substitution of Trustee," which is required to be recorded with the appropriate county in every state I've done business in.

Each Trust Deed operates independently of all others there may be against a given property. They take priority in order of date. When a Trust Deed is recorded against an property on which there already is an active Trust Deed, it automatically becomes a Second Trust Deed, if another happens it is a Third Trust Deed, and so on.

The reason they have the ordinal is because they are paid off in the order they happened. Suppose the property is sold, and the sale price is not sufficient to pay all of the debts. The trust deeds are not paid proportionally; The First Trust Deed is paid off in full before the holder of the Second Trust Deed gets a penny. Then the Second is paid before the third, and so on. This is why Second trust Deeds carry higher rates than First, because they are riskier loans for the lender. As I've said elsewhere, just because the property is sold doesn't mean you're clear. If there is not sufficient money from the sale to pay all debts, you can expect the lender to hit you with a form 1099, reporting that you have income from debt forgiveness, and you will be expected to pay taxes on it.

Now, if for whatever reason you pay off your First Trust Deed, the Second automatically goes into the first position, and any subsequent loan goes into second position. This is most common when people go to refinance the loan secured by their First Trust Deed. Even if you do not particularly want to pay off your Second Trust Deed, it may be the best thing to do. Because what happens if you just pay off the First Trust Deed (only) and get a new Trust Deed, is that the new Trust Deed will go into the second position. Unfortunately, in order to get the quoted rates for a primary loan, it is a requirement that the loan be in first position. If it's not in first position, they will not actually fund it. In short, no loan.

This is not necessarily an impasse. Many times, the holder of the second trust deed, because their loan was priced to be second in line anyway, may agree to Subordinate their loan to the new loan, which is a fancy way of saying stand in line behind the new trust deed holder.

They don't have to do this, and there is no way, other than paying off their loan in full, to force them to do so. Some companies never subordinate, while some others are never willing to stand second in line at all, and others are in both categories.

For those that will consider it, they are going to stipulate some conditions. First of all, the new loan is likely going to have to put the borrower into a position where it is easier, or at least no more difficult, to make payments and pay off the loan. So monthly payment usually cannot rise.

Second, they are going to want their trust deed to be in no worse of a position than it was when the loan was originally approved, as regards the value of the home being able to pay their loan off too if for some reason either loan is defaulted. They may even require than you agree to a higher rate, higher payments, or a different loan altogether - as I said, there is nothing you can do to force them to cooperate.

Assuming that they are willing to cooperate, they will require that the entire process on the prospective new loan be essentially complete - that is, ready to draw documents and fund when the Right of Rescission expires after three days, before they will even look at it. Some lenders take 48 hours to look at a subordination request, others take up to six weeks, and it can be even longer. For any given lender, it takes as long as it takes.

There is also going to be a fee involved. They have to pay their people to look at the loan situation and make certain it still falls within guidelines. They're the ones doing you the favor, they certainly are not going to do the favor for free. Whether the Subordination request is eventually approved or not, the subordination fee is likely to be non-refundable, a sunk cost that you are not going to get back even if it's not approved.

Even more important than that, however, subordination takes time. No loan quote is real unless locked, all locks are for a specified period of time, no lock is good past the original period of time unless you pay an extension fee, and if you need to lock for a longer period of time in order to subordinate, either the rate, the cost, or possibly both will be higher. Since this can add anywhere from two days under idea conditions to six weeks or more for a refinance that takes three weeks to get approved and get funded in the best of times, this means a longer lock period becomes advisable. Most often, the extra costs mean that it's more cost effective to just pay off both loans rather than subordinating the second to the new loan.

Since Home Equity Lines of Credit are always secured by a trust deed, they count as any other second mortgage would. You'd be amazed how often people do not disclose Home Equity Lines of Credit even when directly asked about them. They are only hurting themselves, but they often get angry to no good purpose when, if they had been upfront about them, the loan officer could have designed around any difficulties. Furthermore, people are often resistant to the idea of paying off and closing Home Equity Lines, despite the fact that they are easy to get. I've had people stonewall, utterly in denial that this is a Deed of Trust opon their residence until I have the title company fax me a copy of the Trust Deed, and reference it with the Preliminary Report, and ask to see the Reconveyance (which is a fancy way of saying the piece of paper proving that the trust deed has been paid off). If it's a legitimate lien, we have to deal with it. Actually, we have to deal with it if it's not a legitimate lien as well, just in a different manner. On the other hand, about eighteen months ago I had some seasonal resident clients whose ex-caretaker had managed to take out a loan against the property. It does happen, and it's a mess, but most times it's just the people themselves who weren't told - and didn't figure out - that this financing agreement they signed for the pool or air conditioner or roof was a second trust deed on their house.

To summarize then, second loan means second trust deed, if you refinance they must be paid off or subordinated, and subordination takes time such that it may be better to pay it off than go through the rigamarole of subordination.

Caveat Emptor.


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 16, 2007 10:00 AM.

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