Why Is My Rate Higher Than My Lender Promised?

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First off, neither the California Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement nor the Federal Good Faith Estimate are promises, commitments, or anything more than your loan provider wants them to be. Quite often, they're nothing more than a fictional story told to get you to sign up for their loan. It's amazing and disgusting how much it's legal for lenders to lowball their quotes.

That said, there are three explanations as to why your rate is higher. They're not mutually exclusive by any means, but it has to be at least one of the three.

The one that reflects on you is that you somehow misrepresented your situation when you were getting that loan quote. In that case, you are no one's victim except your own. It is pointless to lie to a loan officer, and if you don't know the answer, you should say "I don't know" instead of making one up. This does happen, but it's probably the rarest of the three answers, and you should know if you did it. If you didn't do this, what's left is one or both of two common loan officer sins.

The less abusive of these is that the loan officer failed to lock the loan. This is either rank stupidity or frustrated avarice. Shorter rate locks are cheaper, and there's always the hope that rates will go down, so they can make more money on the same loan they quoted you. Of course, rates can go up, also, and they do so about fifty percent of the time. When that happens, they can either make less money, often to the point where delivering the original loan would cost them thousands of dollars, or they can deliver a loan with a higher rate. Since we're living in the real world here, which of these alternatives do you think is going to happen?

The more abusive alternative is that you were deliberately lowballed. There is always a tradeoff between rate and cost for real estate loans, and the person who gave you that quote told you about a loan that didn't exist. Either it always carried a rate much higher than you were told, or the loan officer ignored potentially many thousands of dollars it was going to cost all along. I see this happening literally every time I check a loan quote forum. I do business with eighty lenders, among which are the lenders who are most keen to compete based upon price. I know what's deliverable and what is not, every other loan officer I respect knows what is and is not deliverable, and I can't imagine anyone in their right mind wanting to do business with anyone who doesn't know whether what they quote is deliverable. It's not exactly confidence inspiring to be told essentially, "I can get you this loan, but I don't know if it really exists." I'm sure you'd line up for that loan like it was free beer, right?

Not really. But loan officers do this because none of the paperwork you get at the beginning of the loan process is in any way binding. Not for price, not for a loan at all. In fact, the only form that's required to give an accurate accounting of the costs is the HUD 1, which you don't get even in preliminary form until you are signing final loan documents. Loan officers do this because once you have signed up for their loan, you are likely to sign the final loan documents no matter how bad they are. Why is that? Because thirty days or so have gone by, you've got a deposit at risk that you're going to lose if you don't sign, and you're not going to get that house that you wanted badly enough to put yourself in debt for thirty years. I assure you that loan officers know that they will have you over a barrel when you go to sign final documents. Many of them are counting upon that from the day you sign up, and they'll tell you anything at loan sign up in order to get you to choose their loan, because it's not like any of this is binding on them.

Let me get one other thing out of the way to clear the air: You didn't get a higher rate because you somehow didn't qualify for the lower rate. The way people qualify for loans is based upon debt to income ratio and loan to value ratio, and of those two ratios, debt to income ratio is much more important. The lower the debt to income ratio, the more qualified you are. Debt to income ratio is a measure of the ratio of how your housing and expenses compare to your overall income. Lower interest rate means lower payments. Lower payments mean lower debt to income ratio, and hence, you become better qualified the lower the interest rate that is available. Counter-intuitive though it may be, it's easier to qualify you for a lower interest rate than a higher one. Any loan officer who offers you an excuse that you didn't qualify for the lower rate has just flat out told you that they are a liar.

What really happens is that while this loan officer was spinning you a tale of how great the rate you were supposedly going to get was (a loan officer's version of, "Yes I'll respect you in the morning"), in amongst all that creative storytelling, they neglected to account for the money you really are going to be paying, or even the money they admitted you were going to be paying.

However, we're dealing in the real world here. That money still needs to be paid.

There are three ways to pay it: Borrower cash, rolling it into your mortgage balance, or by giving you a higher rate. They have to tell you if they want more cash, and you may not have it. There's only so much equity in the property, particularly on a purchase where there is no playing of valuation games via a compliant appraiser. But since there is always a tradeoff between rate and costs, they can always create some more cash by sticking you with a higher rate, resulting in more cash available to pay for the things you were going to be paying from the very first. Often it means they'll make more money as well, for providing this "service", because "you were such a hard loan." Sticking you with a higher rate is often the only way they can pay for all the things that need to get paid. Yes, this means that you end up paying more for the low-ball deceiver's loan than for a loan where you were quoted something honest.

All of this is nothing more than practical effects of the common phenomenon of lenders low-balling their quotes to get you to sign up with them, knowing that when the time comes to actually deliver that loan, they will have all of the power and you will have none, which is a 180 degree reversal from the situation at sign up. They have this loan that you need right now, where anyone else will take time you probably don't have. If rates have gone up (once again, this happens about fifty percent of the time), even the lowest cost, most ethical provider in the world might not be able to deliver what this scumbag is offering you by signing his loan right now. If he's got the originals of your documents, you can't take your loan elsewhere. Finally, most people are tired of the whole loan thing by the time it comes to sign documents. Many folks won't examine the final documents carefully - figures I've seen say that over fifty percent of all borrowers literally never figure out that they were hosed by their lender, and on the ones who do figure it out, about eighty five percent will sign anyway because signing means they're done.

The games that lenders play are legion. They can lure you in with talk of low rate that exists, but costs you more than you'll ever recover. Whether they deliver that rate and soak you on the cost end, or switch it off for a higher one to pay the costs and make more money, is up to them. I see lenders quoting full documentation conforming loans for people who are known to be stated income, temporary conforming ("Jumbo conforming") or even non-conforming loans. Even for people who are full documentation and would have qualified if that loan existed at the costs they told you about, this need to raise the rate can move you to over to being a stated income loan because you no longer qualify full documentation at the higher rate. With stated income loans under the constraints they've encountered in the last few months, this not only means higher rates, but quite often means that no loan can be done, something completely alien to the thinking of many agents and loan officers who became accustomed to the Era of Make Believe Loans, and they haven't yet gotten their heads out of that mindset.

How can you avoid this? Ask all these questions of every loan provider, know what the red flags are if you encounter them, and take steps to protect yourself from being lowballed. A written loan quote guarantee is good, but can be hard to enforce immediately. Better yet is to apply for a back-up loan, so you have two loans ready to go. This is leverage to force one or the other of them to actually deliver something better than they are trying to.

You don't need to get victimized by any of the things that go on in the world of mortgage loans. But you have to understand that they do happen, and you have to take specific steps to prevent it from happening to you. Otherwise, you're just trusting to luck, and judging by what people have brought me from other providers, you'd need less luck to win the lottery so you can pay cash for the property.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 3, 2008 7:00 AM.

Protecting My Buyer Clients Good Faith Deposit was the previous entry in this blog.

Real Loans For Real People June 3, 2008 is the next entry in this blog.

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