Dissecting the "Lending Game"

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(This was written some time ago, when rates were higher, but the principles involved are the same)

Right now X is offering me a loan that looks something like this:

80/20 No down payment
On the /80: 6.5% FIXED interest for 30 years, interest-only payment option for 15 years
On the /20: 8.75% FIXED interest for 25 years (amortized to 30) 6-month lock for 1-point ($3800) refundable fee with float-down option


My response:

Devil is in the details.

Is there a pre-payment penalty?

They want 1 point to lock for 6 months? Cash, I presume? Quite frankly, the usual cost for locking in six months out is about three points. Nor is X usually that cheap on the lock (they have some excellent rates, but what they're quoting you is a market current quote for a 30 day lock. Long term rates are expected to rise, and long lock periods aren't free. There's something they are not telling you.)

What are the discount/origination on the underlying loan? How much are they going to charge in closing costs to get it done?

Will they guarantee their quoted costs (as in they eat the difference if there is one, not you)? You might want to ask them all of the questions here

A developer's condo sell out is not the most difficult loan, but it's a long way from the easiest, as well. There are a lot of lenders that will not do them. Furthermore, what's being presented to you looks much cheaper than is likely to be true. If you insist on going with it, call me thirty days before the place will be done, and I'll do a back up loan, because I don't think what they're offering you is real.

he did get back to me as to what lender X's response was:


Is there any pre-payment penalty on this loan? NO.....

What is the total refundable cost for the 6-month lock? YOU PAY 1% UP FRONT AND IT IS REFUNDABLE IF YOU CLOSE WITHIN 6 MONTHS (emphasis mine)

How much will the closing costs be to get this loan done? I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOUR ESCROW AND TITLE COSTS WILL BE. YOUR LENDERS COSTS WILL BE APPROXIMATELY $1,200. (emphasis mine)

Is the rate being quoted based upon full documentation, stated income, NINA or EZ Doc? 100% FINANCING IS FULL DOC....

Do I have to pay any discount points, points of origination, or any other points to get the quoted rates? NO POINTS NOR ORIGINATION FEE (ONLY THE 1% LOCK IN FEE OF WHICH WE SPOKE) (I prefer no points)

Regarding third party costs, can you tell me, or will the papers you send me make clear, the following third party costs:
- Appraisal fee: THIS SHOULD BE AROUND $400 BUT IS PART OF THE $1,200 I QUOTED.

- Total title charges: ??????????

- Escrow fee: ???????????

The builder has already assigned an escrow and title company for the property — may I use this company with the Wells Fargo loan? YES!

How much, total, will I be expected to pay X upfront, out of my pocket, to get this loan? THE $400 FOR THE APPRAISAL AND THE 1% TO LOCK IN....

How much, total, if any, will be added to my mortgage balance on top of what is quoted? ????????????????? NOTHING IS ADDED TO YOUR MORTGAGE.

If I agree to this loan after reviewing the papers, are the rate and closing costs guaranteed, and will X cover the difference (if any) between the quote and the actual final cost? WE'VE BEEN IN BUSINESS SINCE X. WE CONTINUE TO STAND BY OUR COMMITMENTS. (emphasis mine)




Now for the emphasis points, last first

-This question of is the rate guaranteed requires a simple yes/no response. This evasive reply tells you the answer is no, but that they don't want to admit it. If this answer is not yes, none of the other stuff is written in anything more permanent than beach sand somewhere below the high tide line. It's funny they mention commitments. Neither a Good Faith Estimate nor a Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement (the California equivalent) is a loan commitment, or any kind of commitment at all. Regulations leave so much room for the unethical to manouever without running afoul of the law that either one of those forms is nothing more than the loan officer or company wants it to be. A few are right on, and those companies will typically guarantee their quote. More are somewhere in the ballpark, amazingly enough usually noticeably on the low side. And quite a large fraction are nothing more than an exercise in creative writing. He didn't guarantee his quote. Tell me this: Two companies are bidding on doing building work for you. Both are large firms. The first company asks you all sorts of questions about specifications, and guarantees they'll get it done for $5000, and if there's a problem on their end, they will fix it for no additional money. The second says they think they can do it for $4500. Which would you feel more comfortable with? If you know anything about building contractors, the latter is a joke compared to the former. Lenders and estimates on the initial paperwork to get you to sign up are, if anything, worse.

-I do business with this lender. Their costs are $1295 not including the appraisal to brokers, who perform some of the services they charge their clients for performing. By the time you've added escrow and title, you're roughly at the $3400 mark.

-It's easy to talk a good game to most folks who aren't experienced with how the game is played. The point of this particular game is trying to lock you in with that 1 percent cash upfront payment, so that when clients discover that he's not going to be able to deliver what he's talking about, they'll be thinking about recovering/losing that money, rather than focusing your attention on getting the best loan. This is called creating a distraction, and is in accordance with the tell you anything to get you to sign up school of thought.

When it comes time to close, he'd be licking his chops due to the fact that the client paid $3500 (or whatever one point comes to) cash upfront, and when he delivered something different, the client believes they have no choice but to agree in order to save their money. I've offered people in that situation a loan that was more than 1 point better, and they still went with the guy who had rooked them out of the 1% upfront, because they're worried about that cash when they should be worried about the rate/cost tradeoff.

He also went to the builder's lender

If I'm interested in getting my monthly payments down lower and I consider getting a 5/1 ARM loan to do so, is that a completely horrible idea, or could I refinance into another 5/1 ARM after the first five years to continue getting a pretty good rate, if for example the 30-year fixed rates have gone up a bunch in 5 years?

That's precisely what I've been doing for the past fifteen years. On the other hand, with the difference in rate/cost tradeoff being so narrow right now between a thirty fixed and a 5/1 (roughly a quarter of a percent interest rate wise), there's a strong argument to be made for the loan you never have to wonder about. Where I thought I would never have a thirty year fixed rate mortgage, I'd consider it if I were going to buy or refi right now. Don't know if I'd do it, but I'd think about it.

80/20 No-down 5/1 ARM No pre-payment penalty Total loan amount: $379,900

80%, $303,000: 5.25% fixed & interest-only for 5 years, payment: $1329.65
20%, $78,000: 9.5% fixed for 5 years, interest-only for 15 years, payment: $601.50

Total monthly payment: $1931.15

Aside from the fact that the putative loans total $381,000, which is likely picking nits, I don't believe that loan exists, as 5/1 ARMS are running up around 6.25% at "par" right now. I couldn't find a lender that is even offering 5.25, no matter how many points you paid, and that's wholesale. He attached some GFEs which show $4180 in points charges (plus $875 in pure junk fees and about $150 in well padded costs on the first loan and shorted the likely interest, in addition to all the real stuff), adds $5000 that he's evidently already paid to the closing costs, requires another $3200 plus at closing, and still comes up with final first loan of $303,920.

On the second, the loan required another $1140 in fees but a loan amount of only $75980, thereby balancing the 80/20 requirement correctly, at least, thereby negating the nitpick in the previous paragraph.

(I'd also shoot his agent for not negotiating any givebacks, given the current market, except I'm prepared to bet he didn't have one. I've covered some of these issues, precisely as they relate to this particular situation, at the end of this article), of which which I'll reproduce the relevant section here


Unfortunately, you've already (probably) put a deposit down and you said in subsequent email that the home has appreciated while it was being built, so the developer has incentive to throw roadblocks in your path. Your transaction falls through and not only do they get to keep your deposit but they can turn around and sell the home for more. Preventing this kind of nonsense is what buyer's agents are for (it also gives you someone easy to sue if something goes wrong!). Unfortunately, most developers will not cooperate by paying a commission to buyer's agents for precisely this reason, which means that the average buyer will decline to pay an agent out of their own pocket and try to do the transaction on their own, which leads to situations like this.

Now the market is falling, but it looks like to me the guy paid full asking price (since he's local to me, I can look), and the market is incredibly squishy on prices.

Now getting back to the loans, this is how lenders Play The Game of getting you to sign up. They are looking for you to build what salesfolk call commitment to a loan before they tell you the whole truth - usually by springing it on you at closing. They make it look better than it is for a while. They can do this because the only form that has to have correct accounting is the HUD 1, which comes at the very end of the process (It's usually prepared by the escrow officer. You should get a provisional when you sign loan documents and a final within 30 days of the end of the transaction). In the case of a purchase, this is usually at the last possible instant, which means that if you haven't prepared a back-up loan there is no time to get one before the deal goes south, which means your choices are limited to sign or lose the property, the deposit, and all that time and aggravation. This is providing that you even notice. Industry statistics say that somewhere around half the folks won't, and even on refinancing, where people can almost always just keep the loan they have without bad consequences, eighty-five percent or so of those who do notice will cave in and sign.

Caveat Emptor

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 10, 2008 7:00 AM.

The Future of Real Estate Agency: Expert Consultants, Not Market Access was the previous entry in this blog.

Real Loans for Real People January 10, 2008 is the next entry in this blog.

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