Mortgages: General Concerns and Manufactured Housing

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A mortgage is basically pledging an asset that you own as collateral for a debt. If you default on the debt, the lender takes your property. When you're talking about real estate in the state of California (and many others), this is generally accomplished by use of a Deed of Trust. There are three parties to a Deed of Trust: the trustor, trustee, and beneficiary.



The Trustor is the entity getting the loan.



The Beneficiary is the entity making the loan.



The Trustee is the entity which has the legal responsibility of standing in the middle and making sure the rules are followed. When the loan is paid off, they should make certain a Reconveyance is completed and sent to the trustor so they can prove it was paid off. If the beneficiary is not being paid, they are the ones who actually perform the work of the foreclosure.



One thing to keep in mind during all discussions of real estate and real estate loans is that the amounts of money involved are usually large - the equivalent of somebody's salary for several years on every transaction. The temptation to fudge the numbers or even outright lie to get a better deal, or to get a deal at all, is strong. Many people don't think they're really doing anything wrong by fudging things a bit, but this is FRAUD. Serious felony level FRAUD. Fraud, and attempted fraud are widespread. There are low-lifes out there who make a very high-class living at it (for a while). Every lender has to devote a large amount of resources to determining that each individual transaction is not being conducted fraudulently. To fail to do so would be to fail in their jobs to protect their stockholders and investors. I can, and probably will, tell stories about the most common sorts. But the reason everything in every real estate transaction is gone over with such a fine-toothed comb that adds thousands of dollars to the cost of the transaction is that people lie. Every hoop that anybody is asked to jump through has a reason why it exists, and often that is because somebody, usually MANY somebodies, have committed FRAUD based upon that particular point.



One of the conditions I must attach, implicitly or explicitly, to every quote for services, is that this is based upon the condition that you are telling me the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, and are being honest and forthright in your presentation of the facts without trying to hide anything and are specifically calling my attention to anything that you suspect may be a problem. And because the list of what is relevant information is long, complex, and conditional upon factors that are often opaque to non-professionals, sometimes, people quite honestly don't realize that something is a fly in the ointment so they don't mention it. I, or any other professional practitioner, have no way of knowing that said fly exists unless you, the client, tell me about it. Therefore what I tell you initially does not account for said fly. This is not unethical, it is just a due to the fact that I don't have all of the relevant information.



When you're talking about residential real estate loans there are basically two absolute requirements as to the nature of the collateral. The first is land - land as in real estate. A partial, fractional, or partial ownership of a common interest in land (as in a condominium) are each sufficient unto the task. A rented space to park your mobile home is not.



To that real estate, there must be permanently attached in a way so as to prohibit removal, or at least make it an extended project, a residence in which people can live. We're all familiar with you basic site-built house. Personally, I'm a big believer in the virtues of manufactured housing. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein in precisely this context, imagine a car for which all the parts are brought individually to your home and assembled on site with ordinary portable tools in an environment which was not specifically designed to facilitate said assembly. How much would you expect to pay, and how would you expect it to perform? The correct answers are "A LOT more than for your house", and "not very well, in terms of either reliability, speed, or economy."



Nonetheless, when a lender looks at a house that's been moved to the site, they see one that can be moved away from the site as well, and they are skeptical because so many people have done precisely this. Furthermore, the way that residential real estate is valued is somewhat arcane. The lot itself may be worth $400,000 here in California because it has $150,000 of improvements on it in the form of a three-bedroom house on it, but take away that three-bedroom home, and the lot may be only worth a fraction of the amount. So they loan you money based upon a $550,000 value of the combination as it sits. Some time later, you back your truck up to the house and cart it off, and then default on the loan, leaving the bank a lot that may only get a value at sale of $80,000. Now imagine yourself as the bank employee who made the loan. How do you explain this to your boss? Over the years, many bank employees have had to explain this to their bosses, all the way up the chain of command to CEOs explaining to investors and stockholders. Lenders know that most people are honest - but they've got a duty to make sure you are among the honest ones. And if you subsequently lose your job and can't pay your mortgage, might you not be tempted to back the truck up and haul the house off somewhere if you could so the bank can't take it? There are good substantial reasons why many lenders won't approach manufactured housing as residential real estate, and the ones who do treat it as such charge higher than standard rates, and place further limitations on lending.



I've been personally eyeing a beautiful manufactured home that more than meets my family's needs, is in the middle of the area I want to live in, and is priced more than $100,000 lower than comparable sized and lower quality site built homes on smaller lots. Yet there is a reason for that lower price. It's not like that owner just decided to list it for $150,000 less than he could get. The home carries many higher costs. If I buy that home, I am going to be paying for it in the form of higher loan costs every month, and higher loan fees every time I refinance until I sell it, and fewer people able to buy the home when and if I do sell it as a result of loan constraints, and a I can expect lower eventual sales price as a consequence - which is the situation that owner is in right now. I have reluctantly decided that those costs outweigh the benefits. My decision is regretful, but until somebody comes up with a procedure that banks agree makes manufactured housing equal in every way to site built in their eyes, it is also firm.



Caveat Emptor.



(And I must say that if somebody comes up with such a procedure, you will be a gazillionaire, and deserve every last penny and then some. I hereby publicly forswear all claims of compensation for the idea of such a procedure. If you can make it work and it makes you rich, I won't ask for a penny, although any contribution you care to make voluntarily will be happily accepted. I just want to be able to say you got the idea from me, as part of my contribution to a better world)



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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on August 18, 2007 10:00 AM.

Lump Sum Payments on a Mortgage and Alternative Investments was the previous entry in this blog.

Games Lenders Play, Part I is the next entry in this blog.

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