Just Because Compensation for a Loan Isn't Disclosed Doesn't Mean It's Free

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I am continually confirming that a large percentage of people can't handle negotiations like an adult. They focus in on garbage and ignore what's really important.

I recently was going to deliver a loan that cost less, as well as being 3/8ths of a percent lower interest rate on exactly the same terms as the competition quoted. Furthermore, my quote was guaranteed where the competition's was not. However, because my company's compensation was disclosed while the competition's was not, they chose the other loan.

Real Estate loans are not something that the minimum wage fast food worker can toss off in a few seconds like filling a soda cup. If we get all of the paperwork just right with no hitches and everything works on the first pass and it doesn't take too long to price it, such a loan can be done in five to ten working hours. But doing so requires not just the right situation, but a lot of skill and a not inconsiderable amount of knowledge of the loan market.

Nobody does loans for free. Typical loan production, even at a busy brokerage, is three to six loans per loan officer per month. That's got to pay rent and utilities and the salaries of everyone from the receptionist to the CEO. Yes, I've done more, but if you investigate you're going to discover that for most loan officers, most of their time is spend prospecting and selling. That's part of the reason why most places have processors and transaction coordinators - to relieve sales folk of tasks that they don't have to do so they can go out and sell more with the time they save. I can point to lenders and brokerages where basically the only work that loan officers actually do is talk to prospects and clients. They don't price, they don't do the application, they don't process, they don't deal with underwriters or escrow or title, they don't attend signing - all they do is talk to the public. The reason for this is so they can talk to more prospects. The time of good sales folk is important, but some of these loan officers have no clue as to whether the loan is ultimately going to be approved. This is one of the reasons why people end up with different loans than they were originally told about. There was a reason why they weren't going to qualify for the loan on which the loan officer gave them a low quote, but the loan officer didn't know, and it's sure as gravity no one else is going to tell you between sign up and delivery, and at delivery, your choices are to sign these documents or don't. If you need that loan at that time, guess what? You are going to sign those loan documents and become part of the statistics.

Last month, I had some people call me through Upfront Mortgage Brokers (UMB). They had heard the UMB way was better, and it is better than most, but it requires you be able to deal with money like an adult. These people wanted a million and a half dollar loan with a low down payment. They had great credit and likely sufficient income, but they wanted an A paper loan with no pre-payment penalty. Now I can get zero down payment A paper loans with no pre-payment penalty no problem up to the conforming limit (currently $417,000), but above that, lenders start making it harder and harder, and there are three break points in most lender's rules between conforming loans and a million and a half. When I'm working under UMB rules, I have to negotiate every penny that my company is going to make up front, and I told these people that my company needed $5400 to make that loan worth our while. This was between three and four tenths of a point grand total, and that included credit and what the processor was going to make. But that sounded like "too much" to these people, who told me that they were going to the bank who "promised never to charge more than two points." When you do the numbers, they were telling me that $5400 was "too much" but $30,000 wasn't - not to mention the fact that I know this lender, and they'd have made another four percent on the secondary market with the loan they gave these people - $60,000. It's to be admitted that the lender I was going to put them with likely would have made about 2.5 percent, or a little under $40,000, selling their loan on the secondary market, but these lowered margins roughly $45,000 total that I and my lender would have made versus $90,000 that the other lender would charge translate directly to less cost, a lower interest rate, or some combination of the two (there is ALWAYS a trade off between rate and cost in mortgages). Indeed, the loan I quoted was better all around to the prospective client - but my compensation was disclosed and theirs wasn't. So this person, a highly paid professional who should have known better, went with the other provider.

So despite the fact that working to UMB guidelines actually lets me quote and deliver loans with slightly better pricing, I have discovered that it's mostly a waste of my time. The client is assuming pricing risk, all I get is a flat, pre-negotiated fee - but they know what that fee is, and it's not what most folks think of as "cheap." Never mind that it's a lot cheaper than the provider they ended up with, people seem to think that the $5400 they know about is somehow worse than the $30,000 they don't.

The smart thing to do, of course, is judge that loan based upon the net terms to you. Type of loan, rate, total cost, and whether there's a prepayment penalty. I can get my commission paid out of yield spread or rolling it into your balance, same as anyone else. You don't have to write me a check just because I'm working for known compensation. In fact, since that known compensation is less, I can get you a lower rate, or pay some or all of the closing costs that you'd end up paying through another provider - sometimes even both. But just because I can't hide my compensation in your new loan amount and rate, or pretend that I wasn't paid somehow, doesn't mean the other loan is better than mine.

Loans aren't free. If you don't understand how someone is getting paid, chances are they are making a lot more money than the loan officer who is willing to go over it. If this seems like too much work to you, judge competing loans by the terms to you: What type of loan is it? What is the rate? How much will it cost, grand total? Is there a prepayment penalty? Will they guarantee their quote, or are they just talking? Ask specific questions, and don't settle for anything other than specific answers. The usual modus operandi is to hide loan costs in your new loan amount after pretending that there aren't any until you go to sign documents. Just because nobody wants to talk about it doesn't mean the answer is "zero." Just because you don't have specific numbers doesn't mean it's going to be better for you - in fact, the opposite is the way to bet.

Caveat Emptor


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on July 5, 2007 10:00 AM.

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