Beginner's Information: April 2008 Archives

From an e-mail

I've been talking to agents lately and I ask them about the things I've learned about from your site. I thought I would say things like "I want to apply for a backup loan" and they would say "Good idea!" instead of "Why would you do that?" I try to answer the why and next thing you know none of my why's make sense anymore. Here is a summary of that conversation:

Me: Okay, so I need to get a "pre-approval" or "pre-whatever" from a lender so I can put an offer on this house . . . that sounds fair . . . but I want to shop my loan around and in fact, I want to get a backup loan.

Agent: Backup loan? What for?

Me: Because from what I understand what you are told at first isn't what gets delivered and you are at the mercy of the loan officer if you don't have a backup plan

Agent: They have to fill out the form and give you what they promise so you are protected.

Me: So it's the law that they deliver what they fill out on this form?

Agent: No, it's not the law but they wouldn't dare change the terms or I wouldn't recommend them.

Me: Well, most people don't know they're getting screwed until later and most of the ones that notice don't do anything about it.

Agent: Well, if you hire me to be your agent then you should trust my advice . . . otherwise why would you hire me?

A similar conversation ensued when I talked about a "exclusive" vs "non-exclusive" buyer's agent agreement. "There is no such thing as "non-exclusive"". What is the benefit to you? If I have multiple agents then they all work to find me the perfect house and the one that finds me the one I like is the one that get's rewarded. Nope! If you tell an agent you have other agents he won't work with you. Okay, well, I wouldn't tell the other agents. But any good agent is going to make you sign an exclusive agreement.

Anyway, the sales techniques here are right up there with car salesman.

Let me ask you about your experience with monopolies? Your electric provider, mass transit provider, cable provider - do they furnish top notch customer service? Do you think someone might be able to do better, cheaper? Quite likely, because monopoly situations encourage rent seeking behavior. Monopolies are the classic example of rent seeking - do business with them, or not at all, meaning you're stuck with whatever service they choose to give you at whatever price. Why in the world would you do that to yourself?

Only two possible reasons: You don't have a choice or you don't know any better. You do have a choice, no matter how much various people may choose to pretend you don't. I certainly haven't noticed any shortage of real estate agents or loan officers. There's something like 7500 licensees in San Diego County alone. That leaves you don't know any better. It doesn't matter whether it's through ignorance or not following through on the knowledge.

In fact, if you think about it, someone who insists upon exclusive rights to your business is telling you they're worried about comparisons to other professionals. They're telling you they're afraid they can't compete and they're not willing to try. Does this sound like someone who's likely to give you the best service? Someone who's not willing to compete?

Just because an exclusive agreement isn't in the consumer's interest doesn't mean that it isn't very desirable for agents. In fact, most agents take a lot of classes in learning how to lock your business up and cut out the competition before anyone else gets to the starting line - several times more training than the average agent ever takes in learning how to actually give good service and good value to their clients. Look at the average agent symposium sometime. There will be easily ten times more offerings in how to cut out the competition than there will be in how to get your clients the best value. If the average agent doesn't offer a non-exclusve buyer's agency contract, they can pretend such a thing doesn't exist. It does exist; it's available in every state. In California, it's form BBNE in WinForms, the standard computerized package. But if they can persuade you to sign an exclusive contract, they're guaranteed to get whatever buyer's agency commission is due - before they've done any real work, before they've demonstrated that they are really going to guard your interests at all. I've written about the drawbacks of an exclusive agreement before, and even given examples in shopping for an agent, and the games that get played with consumers by agents. If you've signed an exclusive agreement, you're stuck. If you don't, you're not - indeed you keep far more control in your own hands.

Some agents will try to sidetrack you with an exclusive agreement "but you can fire me any time you want!" The first question is where is that written into the agreement? Show me please. In fact, the standard exclusive contract is written to be very difficult to break for any reason. The second question is that even if it is written in, how is that not functionally equivalent to a non-exclusive contract? The answer to that is they've still got your business locked up until and unless they make an obvious blunder. As long as they don't make that obvious blunder, they're still in the driver's seat. But this doesn't mean that they're a good agent - you have no standards for comparison. Indeed, you are agreeing not to acquire any standards for comparison. Matter of fact, they can be the worst excuse for an agent ever and still not make any mistakes that most people are going to fire them for. Plead for one more chance, and most people will give it - dozens of times. The bottom line is that they still avoid any chance at having to compete.

Now just because your agreement is non-exclusive doesn't mean you have to go find other agents. At least half of my clients never talk to another agent. But they have the option of doing so, and that knowledge is one of the things that motivates me to do the best job I can for my clients, and why I keep the list of clients I'm working with at any time short enough so that I'm certain I can handle them all with no deterioration of service. If I don't, they can fire me and find another agent as easy as crossing the street. That motivation just isn't there if you give someone an exclusive agreement. Do you want the agent whose motivation is to concentrate on giving a few clients the best job they can possibly give, or do you want the agent who's a half-notch above getting fired, whose motivations are to lock up as many clients as possible, secure in the knowledge that none of those clients are likely to actually fire them? And if they're confident they can give you such a terrific job, why are they requiring an exclusive agreement? If they're really that good, they should be eager to compete. That;s the best confirmation of their abilities possible - the fact that someone else tried and couldn't do it! As I've said, most of my clients see the job I do and never talk to another agent, and most of those who do end up telling me how much I shine by comparison. But it takes confidence in my own ability to offer that non-exclusive agreement. The ones who won't are telling you that they don't have that confidence. Do you think there might possibly be a reason for that lack of confidence?

Probably the largest number of agents and loan officers compete by being what I call "Social predators" Involved in Boy Scouts, Soccer, Little League, the church, PTA, whatever. They try to make those they come into contact feel obligated to do business with them, because they are after all, a good guy (or girl), they help the cause, etcetera. Surely such a person is worthy of trust? Surely they will treat you right? They lock up the business with an exclusive agreement or a large deposit, raising the barrier to competition as high as they can. This effectively sets you up for the kill. My personal experience leads me to believe that such agents and loan officers are responsible for a truly outsized proportion of the people who are losing their property to foreclosure in the current crisis. It seems like everyone I come across who's in the process of foreclosure has a "social predator" story to tell. Most of them have no clue what happened until I dissect the entire process and show them that their "little boy's wonderful scoutmaster" bent them over and took advantage. The thought process is natural, but the conclusion does not follow from the premise - a thing most people don't understand until how it bit them (past tense) is plainer than the nose on their face.

Ronald Reagan loved a very applicable phrase: Trust but Verify. It's not accident that this principle, which he applied as President, served him and the country very well. On a more personal level, you are willing to trust agents with your business (otherwise you wouldn't be talking to them), but you want to verify that they're earning it. You're not willing to take trust to the level of the spouse who's clueless about their spouse telling them they worked late when they come home at 3AM six nights in a row smelling like someone else's perfume or cologne. This is the best function of a non-exclusive buyer's agency agreement. This means you still have the right to go out and get the only valid standard of comparison: Another agent who has the same opportunity to do the same job as them.

In your situation, I'd be very blunt: "What you're telling me about requiring an exclusive contract makes me believe that you know very well you don't measure up to a good standard. In fact, the harder you argue for an exclusive agreement, the less willing I am to believe you are worthy of one. I'll willingly give you a chance to earn my business with a non-exclusive agreement, but I'm not going to sign any exclusive agreements with anyone. Since you're not willing to sign a non-exclusive agreement, I am wasting my time. Good-bye." They have as long as it takes you to get to the door to change their mind. Walk out and never look back - find someone else who will offer non-exclusive agreement. In fact, taking this stand in your self defense is the first and most critical point of Shopping for a good buyer's agent. The standard non-exclusive contract is truly a bet you cannot lose as a consumer. There literally is no risk. Doesn't matter if they're a freshly minted licensee who's never done a transaction in their life (How often do you hear that from someone who actually has significant experience?). Go ahead and sign a non-exclusive agreement, and the worst that can happen is they don't get the job done. You're still free to use anyone else who does. You have lost exactly nothing - as a matter of fact, both you and that agent are mathematically, provably ahead for having signed that non-exclusive contract! Hiring them thus can only increase the probability function in your favor! This improvement may be marginal or even zero, but so long as you do your due diligence it cannot be negative.

The same thing applies to the loan officer an agent recommends. The reason they're choosing that loan officer has nothing to do with the best choice for you and everything to do with the best choice for them. That's a loan officer they trust not to screw up the transaction by telling you, "You know, I'm not certain you can really afford this property." That's the loan officer they trust, by hook or by crook, to have a loan ready at the close of escrow, no matter what it takes, so that that agent can get paid. Has nothing to do with how good their loans are, how competitive they are, or any other advantage to you - only that they trust that loan officer to insure their paycheck. That's what the agent is really telling you. The loan officer may be really good, and very competitive on price. Then again, they may not, and the one thing I'd bet significant money on, sight unseen, is that they will never tell you that maybe you're stretching beyond your means - that agent will never send them another client if they do! The only agents I'm certain could tell the difference between good loans and loan officers and bad ones if it bit them are the ones who are also loan officers themselves.

If an agent is recommending a loan officer on the basis of "This person wouldn't dare cheat my clients!", ask sk them for a copy of the initial MLDS (California) or Good Faith Estimate (the other 49 states) and a copy of the final HUD 1 for that loan officer's last five transactions with their client. (sarcasm on) What, they don't have them? What a surprise (end sarcasm). But if they don't, how can they possibly know whether that loan officer does or does not quote accurately? You've just asked for the only possible evidence, and they don't have it! Nor does this cover how well they compete on price, and as long as the terms are the same and the rate/cost tradeoff is better, a loan is a loan is a loan. There is no reason not to apply for multiple loans and see which loan officer actually has the best loan ready to go at signing time. In fact, to do anything else is trusting someone without verifying - you have no effective control upon their behavior at the end of the transaction. Maybe they'll treat you right, even without such. But loan officers can make more money very easily by adding a few hundred dollars here, a half a point there, and if you're the only loan you signed up for, your choice is sign their paperwork and take what they offer you or don't. As I said in Getting a Loan Provider to Agree to be a Backup Loan, if you apply for two or more loans, you can explain to both providers how they shouldn't be worried about the other one if they're telling the truth, so the only reason for them not to cooperate is if they're not telling the truth. "Trust but verify". It really is a simple, powerful formula, but to use it effectively you've got to understand that it's not words that are important, but actions.

You're right that these sales techniques have a lot in common with used-car sales. Everybody in any sales business wants to avoid competing if they can - it means they don't have to work as hard, and get higher profit margins. Consumers, for their part, need to learn to understand what actions mean, and that actions are important, not words. That's part of the reason why I'm writing this article.

Sales persons, properly handled, are your best friends in the whole world. Nobody solves your problems as well as an expert with the motivation of getting paid for their trouble, and there always seem to be problems that lay people don't realize exist until they're bitten, which is almost always far too late to avoid all the damage that's coming down the pike. Kind of like having a Terminator after you. If you don't have your own very special protector, they're going to get you. I don't like having my clients bitten - not tomorrow, not next year, not ever. One bad transaction can ruin you as an agent or a loan officer, and I intend to be doing this for the rest of my life. So I'll do everything I can to keep it from happening before it happens, and you want someone just as dedicated working for you. The only way to be certain is to watch them in action over time. But if they're asking you to sign that Exclusive Agreement beforehand, how in the heck can you possibly have the knowledge of their business practices to give it to them?

Caveat Emptor

In all of my conversations on mortgages with prospects, there is one subject that comes up over and over and over again, and that is the subject of payment. "But that loan over there only has a payment of $1450! The payment you are quoting is $2700! The other guy has a better loan!" Then I tiredly have to tell them about negative amortization loans and what is really going on, and why my 6% thirty year fixed rate loan is a better loan.

Usually, they don't believe me. Over 80% of people are in denial when I'm done explaining how a negative amortization loan works. They so desperately want the Negative Amortization loan to be a real payment, and they trust the guy trying to sell it to them. After all, he told them all about his little girl's soccer game, or whatever irrelevancy he used (like all the good sales books tell him to) to make him seem like a trustworthy human being. So I'll tell them about what is usually my favorite loan, the 5/1 ARM, but with an interest only rider. "Now I shopped eighty lenders for real loans and real payments that you would actually qualify for. Of all those lenders, this 6% was the best thirty year fixed rate loan for no more than one total point. But I have got this other loan over here that another lender is willing to give you. It's at 5.375%, and the payment is interest only to start with, so you'll only be writing a check for about $2015. How does that sound?" They'll say it sounds better but not as good as that other loan that the other guy is offering. Then I'll tell them the downsides, "That's okay, because this loan's rate will adjust starting in five years, and at the same time, it'll start to amortize, meaning your payments will go up. If the index stays where it is now, it will jump to 7.25% that first month after five years, and your payment will be over $3250 in that sixty-first month. Furthermore, you'd have had to pay over three points discount to get that rate. So adding $10,000 extra to your balance, and suddenly having payments $1200 per month higher, is the price you pay for cutting your payment about $650 per month. What do you think the price is for cutting your payment by $1250?"

Well, as I've covered elsewhere, the price for a negative amortization loan in these circumstances, by whatever friendly sounding name they have for it, is a real rate two percent higher than you could have gotten, a balance that increases by about $70,000 over a five year period, and a prepayment penalty for the first three years, while your real rate isn't fixed even for one month, let alone 5 years.

Selling by payment is the number one trick of unscrupulous people. You go out car shopping, and someone says you can get a $20,000 car for $608 per month, while the lot down the street says you can get a $25,000 car for $303 dollars per month, that second car sounds fantastic, right? Never mind that the loan is based upon a ten year repayment, and the interest rate is two percent higher than the three year loan the first car was based upon. Never mind that the used car dealer is actually going to give you a payment of $339 after they soak you for $3000 in bogus fees simply because you are so happy you got this wonderful car for half the price, and you're so happy with that payment that you don't watch what they're doing as closely as you normally would, because, after all, you're getting this car for about half price! Except that you aren't.

Real estate, and real estate loans, are no different. You've got to be able to make that payment - the real payment, not that minimum payment. But if someone's quoting you a payment that much lower for the same thing, there is a reason. But it is amazing the number of people who would never fall for the low payment line of patter out on the used car lot when they're talking about a car will fall for it the nice plush office in real estate that some of that money they soaked their suckers for bought. Those few I can get to own up admit to thinking of the mortgage loan as something akin to rent, which is kind of like thinking of your car payment like you would think of bus fare. Hey, here comes a bus that's seventy-five cents cheaper than the express bus right here - but this other bus is jam-packed, you can't get off until the driver's shift is over, and it's going in the wrong direction!

Payment is not price. Most people know this, but they forget to apply it. The amounts at stake in real estate are usually many times the amount at stake in any other product aimed at consumers, and the chance of banks giving away that kind of money are correspondingly lower. The great rule that applies everywhere else applies equally strongly for real estate: Sales folk who try to sell by payment are trying to get you to pay too much, and not just for the item you are purchasing, but for the loan as well. I have helped folks who first bought their houses in the seventies for forty thousand dollars, and who now have four hundred thousand dollar mortgages on the same property. They have refinanced ten or twelve times (except for the two that added a grand total of $45,000 cash out, and the loans mostly had smaller payments, and each one added $20,000 to their balance in fees, and now they need to sell the house and they are walking away with $20,000 instead of $450,000 they would have had if they had simply been more careful and paid attention to hard dollars being spent instead of payment.

One thing to remember is that you can never go backwards in time with what you know today. What is important is not just the type of loan, but the interest rate and the cost it takes to get it. Mortgage loans are not free - all of the people whose help is required do not work for free and you - the borrower - are going to pay for every penny they make in one way or another.

Now, your greatest friend once you have own a home is inflation, particularly if you've got a fixed rate loan. You only borrowed $X. Just because they are now worth less does not increase the number of dollars you borrowed. If you have a fixed rate loan, or at least long enough to get through the period of inflation, you don't care that the interest rates on new loans are 14%. You've got this nice 6% loan locked in for as long as you care to keep it. Matter of fact, in situations like this, lenders will often offer you a much cheaper payoff if you will, in fact, pay it off. But four years of ten percent inflation and that $400,000 loan is worth about $273,000 by the standards of the day you took it out, and all the folks who were laughing at you because your monthly cost of housing went from $1650 rent to $3000 mortgage are now paying $2350 and getting none of the deductions you are, while your costs are fixed and theirs are still riding the escalator up, and if they want to step off now, that property with a $400,000 loan is now $5100 per month!

Nonetheless, choosing a loan based upon payment is financial suicide. If you cannot afford a real loan with a steady payment on the house you want, instead of a loan that messes you up for life, consider buying a less expensive house. Yes, everyone like house bling, and the more expensive of a house you buy, the more leverage works in your favor. But, as millions of folks are finding out the hard way right now, if you can't make the real payment on a real loan, you are at the mercy of the market, and the market has no mercy.

Caveat Emptor

I recently closed a mortgage loan. The loan officer told me there would be no prepayment penalty. When the documents came there was none and the loan funded and closed.

Two weeks later I got an e-mail stating some documents had been missed and we need to sign and return them. They contained a new TIL, prepayment rider and addendum.

The original TIL states there is no prepayment penalty. I have not signed these and the lender is telling me I have to because of the compliance agreement.

Is this true?


Talk about scummy behavior!

I wouldn't sign the new documents. As a matter of fact, talk to your state's department of real estate about this behavior immediately. I hope that whoever is responsible for this loses their license to do loans in your state. You also will likely want to consult an attorney, as a precaution. A lender attempting to modify the contract after funding requires your consent. This strikes me as a a good candidate for fraud, depending upon the particulars of the contracts. Explain to them that you would not have signed the documents had this been presented as a condition of your loan funding, and so to attempt to alter the contract ex post facto (after the fact) is, in some cases, grounds for a prosecution based upon fraud.

That contract is a two-sided document, freely agreed to as it originally was by both parties. The fact that the loan funded is evidence of this. I have never heard of needing to sign a pre-payment agreement as a compliance procedure after the fact - except to comply with getting that lender paid more.

If lenders could require this sort of thing, they could unilaterally change the agreement any way they want to after funding. So what if you signed a thirty year fixed rate loan at 5.5 percent and paid three points to get it? You new rate is eight percent, "for compliance"! According to everything I know about contract law - which is limited, because I'm not an attorney and you should talk to one - they have no legal grounds to demand this of you.

At the very least, it would be the case that signing these documents is what starts the clock on the the three day right of rescission. That the lender funded the loan before then is evidence of a severe error on their part, and they would have to restore you to the situation as it existed prior to you signing the original documents. If you get a sharp enough attorney and help from your state's regulators, it's possible that you might get yourself some concessions or even a settlement from the lender.

Every state's laws are different, so you need to talk to your state's department of real estate, and I do suggest consulting an attorney before you draw any lines in the sand, but this is my best understanding of the situation.

Caveat Emptor.

I usually write long articles, Part of that is because I've done all of the easy subjects, part because sound bites facilitate sloganeering, not serious thought that's likely to result in a better answer - or the realization that you've been wrong in the past.

But long articles take a lot of time (not that short ones are easy, as Mark Twain knew well). So I've been trying to come up with ideas for short articles, and one of the things I came up with was: Pack a list of the most important things consumers need to know about mortgage loans, as packed into the words I can say in thirty seconds without sounding like an over-clocked squirrel.

Here goes:

***

There is always a tradeoff between rate and cost. Never choose a loan based upon payment or APR. Shop by the cost of money and what you get - not by how much somebody is making. People refinance about every three years, so the higher rate may be better.

Ask the right questions of every lender. Lenders can legally lowball you on the initial paperwork, so ask for a Loan Quote Guarantee when you sign up. But since enforcing guarantees is difficult when you need the loan now, sign up with more than one loan provider, and check the final documents carefully before you sign.

***

How'd I do?

I recommend this guy for loans. I can guarantee he'll treat you right! ;-)

Caveat Emptor

I am continually horrified how many people shop their loans by APR, just as I am by people shopping their loan based upon payment. Why? Because in either case, you're setting yourself up to spend a lot of money in closing costs that most people will never recover. But you shouldn't choose a loan based upon APR, just like you should never choose a loan based upon payment.

There is always a tradeoff between rate and cost in real estate loans. If you want a lower rate, you're going to spend more in up-front costs to get it. This is a law of finance on the same order as the law of gravity, or Newton's laws of movement. Some lenders and originators have different tradeoffs, for better or worse, but they are always present. The question of rate should never be asked or answered on its own, but always in conjunction with the costs it takes to get that rate. If you keep a loan long enough, yes, you will eventually get back your upfront investment, but most people don't keep their loans nearly long enough.

Let's illustrate by example. Picking a random rate sheet from one lender as I type this, I've got one thirty year fixed rate loan with a rate of 5.00 percent, and assuming an existing loan payoff of $350,000, and rolling costs only into the balance, an APR of 5.484, and payment of $1993. Looks better at first glance than a loan at 5.625%, with a payment of $2056 and an APR of 5.764. As other alternatives, 6.00 percent is available with a payment of $2119 and an APR of 6.048, or 6.375% with a payment of $2184 and APR of 6.375.

But here's what may not be apparent. As a matter of fact, it isn't apparent to most consumers. That 5.00 percent loan cost 4.8 points to get, and involved paying over $21,300 in total costs to buy the rate down that far. You're almost up against California rules limiting the total costs of a loan to 6% of total loan amount. The loan at 5.625% is done with a single point, and costs a grand total of $7070 to get done. The loan at 6.00% requires no points, and costs a grand total of $3500. Finally, the loan at 6.375% is a true zero cost loan.

What this means is that that getting that 5.00 percent rate is a $21,300 bet that you will keep that property and that loan long enough that the money you save in interest every month will be more than that upfront cost. It takes 141 months for that loan to do that as opposed to the 5.625% loan - almost twelve years - when you consider time value of money. It takes 108 months - nine years - before it pulls even with the no points loan at 6.00, and 92 months - over seven and a half years - before it pulls even with the zero cost loan at 6.375%. The 5.625% loan (a $7000 bet) doesn't start in first place either, but it does get there a lot more quickly. It takes 55 months - four and a half years to pull in front of the 6.00% loan, and 53 months to pull in front of the zero cost 6.375% loan. That poor 6.00 percent loan for no points is the only one that's never the absolute best choice - it takes the exact same 55 months to pull in front of the zero cost loan as the 5.625 takes to catch it, but since you're only betting $3500, at least you've lost less if you refinance or sell before break even, which most people do. Last time I checked (a few months ago), the median age of mortgages in the United States was 28 months - just about half the time that any of the other loans takes to pull even with the 6.375% loan that doesn't cost a penny, either out of pocket or rolled into the balance.

Let's consider how much money you'll be out if you refinance after 28 months with that 5.00 percent loan (or sell the property), like approximately half the population will. Your balance is $18,860 higher than the zero cost 6.375% loan, while on the plus side you have saved $1288 in payments. On the minus side, however, if you get another loan, you still have to pay interest on that $18,860. Whether it's because you sold that property and bought another, or a refinance loan comes along that you like better, it means a loan balance $18,860 higher even if you don't pay points on the new loan. You're still paying for your old loan, while all of your benefits stopped on the day you let your old lender off the hook by selling or refinancing. Admittedly, the chance of this happening is lower as you get to lower and lower rates, but it's still a bad bet, in my estimation. People not only sell, they want cash out, they want debt consolidation, the list goes on and on. If you get another 5% loan, you're paying $943 extra per year because of that higher balance. Alternatively, if you kept the extra in your pocket and invested it elsewhere, a 9% rate of return would mean it would cost you $1697 that first additional year. So far, I haven't worried about tax deductibility, but it works against the higher cost loan, making the picture even less favorable.

I need to note that these were honest calculations. The ones you encounter won't always be. Sometimes, they're based upon the payoff balance - in other words, calculate the payment for that 5% loan as if you were going to pay all of the costs in cash, even though the loan officer probably knows that's not going to happen. This would allow them to quote a payment of $1879. It also assumes they're giving you an honest quote on your MLDS (California) or GFE (the other 49 states) is accurate, as the APR is calculated given that information. If the underlying document is inaccurate, and I've covered how badly lenders can legally lowball, then the resulting payment and APR calculations will therefore be too low.

Now the difference between the two numbers, APR and APY, can give you a certain amount of information if you know how to use it, assuming that the loan officer tells you the truth, unlikely though that may be in some cases. I'm going to assume you've got a financial calculator or can do the calculations yourself, because none of the ones I've seen on the web are up to this task. Furthermore, this is only an approximation of the actual computation method, so there will be a small amount of slop in the calculations, but much smaller than the eighth of a percent fixed rate loans quotes are permitted to be erroneous. Using the term of the loan, the payment, and the contractual note rate (APY), tell your calculator to compute principal value of the loan - in other words, the new balance. This may not be accurate in and of itself, and that will tell you there's something funny going on with the numbers. Then repeat the calculation with APR substituted, which should give you the balance less the cost of loan, albeit with third party fees (appraisal, escrow, title) still in the amount as those are excludable from APR calculations under Federal Reserve Regulation Z. The difference in the two numbers tells you the fees the lender is charging - or the ones they're willing to tell you about, anyway. Without a Loan Quote Guarantee, these numbers have no more meaning than the lender wants them to have.

Note that the "spread" or difference between APY and APR gets larger as costs get higher or the term of the loan being contemplated gets shorter. The reason is that these costs have to be paid off over a shorter period of time. It also increases for smaller loans and decreases for larger ones. If you have to pay them off over fifteen years instead of thirty, the difference gets much larger. That 5.00 percent loan that had an APR of 5.484 with a thirty year loan term goes to 5.834 with a fifteen year loan term - not quite twice the difference, but nasty enough!

Despite the fact that the person refinances about every three years, APR is always calculated upon the consumer keeping the loan for the full term, which isn't likely. Ninety-five percent of everyone has sold or refinanced within about seven years, and this number climbs towards an effective 100% for loans that begin adjusting before that. Sure, you could theoretically keep a hybrid ARM (although not a Balloon) after the adjustment, but nobody does.

With that in mind, let's calculate APRs of each of these loans assuming you'll refinance after 36 months - significantly longer than the fifty percent mark where half of the country has refinanced or sold the property. The 6.375% zero cost loan still has an APR of 6.375 - because it has no costs to recover. The The APR on the 6.00 percent "no points" loan, which only has $1800 of non-excludable costs (see Regulation Z), doesn't go up much - to 6.391. The 5.625% loan you can have for one point jumps up to 6.643 APR, and the APR on that loan that the people shopping by APR or payment will choose - the one with a 5.00 percent contractual interest rate - skyrockets to 8.663%! If you only end up keeping it three years - beating out median age of loans in the country by better than 25% - this loan is the worst of the choices I have presented, not just by calculation of money spent, but even by calculating APR honestly.

If I had to pick a few things I could pack into a sixty second public service announcement to tell all 300 million people in this country about real estate loans, the fact that they're severely unlikely to keep the loan for anything like the full term would be one of those things. People just assume that they're going to keep a loan for the full term, but then they don't actually do it. Meanwhile, all of the calculations that are made presume that they will, even though that presumption is nonsense, and making those calculations on that basis will actually cause many consumers to make erroneous decisions, because they paint the facts as something other than what they are. If gravity was a tenth of what it is, we could all fly in the manner of Icarus as described by myth. But those pesky facts keep getting in the way, and over half the people who take out thirty year financing don't keep it for even one tenth of the full term. If you're wasting nearly nineteen thousand dollars of your money every three years, as the people here did once, those facts will have an ugly tendency to bite you just as hard as they will any modern day imitator of Icarus.

Caveat Emptor

Copyright 2005-2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved

 



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