Intermediate Information: December 2007 Archives

I am currently living with my parents and they wish to deed of gift their house to me but they still have a remaining mortgage on it. Is it possible to do this or do they have to pay off the mortgage first? Thanks

They can gift the house to you without paying off the mortgage. However, the mortgage still has a valid lien on the property, and must be paid or they can and will foreclose.

The mortgage will still be in the names of the people who signed the paperwork (your parents) and therefore any credit benefit or dings will also belong to them. You could find yourself in the unenviable position of being unable to refinance, despite having made the payment for however long, because you're not getting credit for making those payments. Read the contract: it is possible that the loan is assumable. Even if it isn't, it's possible the lender will agree to add you to the list of those responsible (This can only help them; they're not letting your parents off unless/until you do a full refinance. Of course, adding you to the loan doesn't earn anyone a commission, so they might tell you that you need to refinance as it gets them paid, or helps them make a quota)

Quitclaiming is both legal and extremely simple, but has potentially severe tax consequences. Please check with an accountant in your area first. I'd also tell you to check with a lawyer, because each state has its own laws about the effects of how property is held. Nor will quitclaiming the property help if the purpose is to shelter assets from legal action, and if this is to enable your parents to qualify for Medicaid, all fifty states have "lookback" periods of at least thirty months, where the state will recover the value of any assets disposed of in that time frame.

If you are the party quitclaiming a property on which there is a mortgage, be advised that you are still responsible for payment of that mortgage. The lender has your signature on a contract that says, "I agree to pay..." They may or may not have other signatures, but all it means if they do is that other people will join in your misery. This happens all the time. Husband and wife divorce, one keeps the property, the other quitclaims but is still on the mortgage. Time goes by, and the ex-spouse who retained the property and the mortgage fails to make all of the payments on time. Bad consequences ensue for the "innocent" ex-spouse. I have seen this feature used maliciously by vengeful ex-spouses. I would advise requiring a spouse who retains the property to refinance solely in their own name, and if they are unable to qualify, requiring the property be sold. The other spouse is also entitled to a share of equity in many states.

If the property ends up being sold through a Short Payoff, the lender is almost certainly going to drag the "innocent" ex-spouse (whose signature is still on the dotted line) back into the situation. Basically like being an Alabama fieldhand prior to the Civil War or a male whose girlfriend decides not to have an abortion (Admittedly she puts up with nine months of pregnancy, but thereafter puts the child up for adoption and walks away - he gets hit with a lien for child support from the county for 18 years). Despite not having lived in or owned the property for years, they're still tied to that property by that piece of paper they signed. The ex-spouse wasn't the owner, so they had no ability to control or influence the sale, but they're still on the mortgage, so the lender can get their money out of them.

Finally, for as long as you remain on the mortgage, it will hit your debt to income ratio. You are obligated to make those payments, so it's a part of your credit-worthiness. Especially considered in conjunction with likely alimony and child support in the case of a divorce, you may have difficulty qualifying for another property, even ones that would have been well within your means before.

Caveat Emptor

Loans Not Funded

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I got a question about "what does it mean if my loan is not funded after right of rescission?"

It likely means your loan provider lied to you, probably from day one. Once you have signed documents, there shouldn't be anything but procedural matters left. Things that cannot be taken care of earlier. Things like final payoff coordination, the escrow officer using funds to pay homeowners insurance. Every once in a while, a good loan officer will get a subordination moved to prior to funding because it's on the way, but it is necessary to start the three day right of rescission now in order to fund on time under the lock.

Every once in a while, it'll be because of something happening to you in the meantime. Lenders who are risking hundreds of thousands of dollars don't just sit there and presume nothing has changed since the first time they checked it out. They are going to check again, right before they put the money to the loan, to make certain that nothing the loan was based upon has changed. So sometimes while they are doing a final Verification of Employment (making certain you still work there), the answer comes back that the borrower doesn't. The final credit check comes back with a score that no longer qualifies under that program. These are not the loan officer's fault, except inasmuch as they didn't warn you not to do whatever it was. Whether you quit your job or were fired, the result is no loan. So I always tell folks not to change anything about their life or credit without checking with me first. Neither I nor they can really do anything about layoffs, of course, but the point is not to voluntarily do anything that messes up your loan.

The vast majority of the time, however, what's going on is that the loan officer never had the loan. There's some condition holding it back that you, the borrower, can't meet. They have a choice between hoping to get around it or going out and actually finding a loan that you can qualify for and telling you about that instead. I shouldn't have to draw you a picture as to which choice they will likely make. Many times, they were teasing you with a loan that you had no hope of qualifying for as an incentive to get you to sign up. This is a standard "trick". They get you wanting that loan, which sure sounds good, and you apply. Unfortunately, that loan was never real, or never something you had a chance of qualifying for, but now they've got you signed up. Now you've done their paperwork, and you're mentally committed to their loan.

Now if it's an honest mistake, they are not going to have you sign documents. They're going to come back and tell you as soon as there is a condition they can't meet on loan qualification. But the question was about when you have signed documents and the loan doesn't fund. They can keep stringing you along, hoping it will happen, or they can come clean and tell you they can't do the loan. In the first instance, they might still get paid. In the second, they likely won't, because if you're smart you'll go elsewhere. Needless to say, this can waste a lot of time getting "one more document" from you or jumping through one more hoop. If the loan doesn't fund at the end of the rescission period and you are not certain as to why, you've probably been had. This is why I always tell people to ask for a copy of all outstanding conditions on the loan commitment before you sign final loan documents. Ask them to explain them, too. You see, once you sign loan documents and the rescission period expires, you're stuck with that loan provider. You can't go elsewhere unless and until they give up. Even if you have a back-up loan waiting to go, they can't do anything until the other loan funds or gives up, which could be weeks. Not a bad situation for an unethical loan provider to be in. In the meantime, the seller cancels your purchase and you're out the deposit. Or the rates go up and you're not getting a refinance on anything like the terms you might have really qualified for at the start of the process.

Caveat Emptor

"challenging underwriters mistakes in housing loan paperwork" was a search that I got.

You can't challenge them. Butting heads with an underwriter is stupid and counterproductive. There's only one person who gets a vote, and it's not you, whether you are an applicant, processor, or loan officer. The underwriter may not be the original application of the saying "a majority of one," but it certainly fits the situation.

Now keep in mind that as an applicant, you will never communicate directly with your underwriter. It is an anti-fraud measure constant throughout the industry. If someone tells you that you are talking to your loan's underwriter, either they are lying or the loan has just been rejected on procedural grounds.

If a loan officer believes that the underwriter has made a mistake in the underwriting of the loan, it is far more constructive to find out what it was - on what grounds the client was rejected. Actually, loans usually are not flatly rejected, they simply come back with conditions the client cannot meet. A loan that actually gets rejected usually has further adverse consequences for the borrower's credit, and is usually pretty good evidence that the loan officer was promising something they couldn't deliver.

Now it happens that underwriters, like loan officers, mis-compute things, miss things, and misconstrue things. This is one of the hardest lessons for a loan officer to learn: NEVER tell the underwriter anything that they do not absolutely have to know in order to approve the loan. The client has a rich uncle that gives them $10,000 every year? The client makes millions in the stock market as well as their salary? The client simply has millions in assets and they could buy the property for cash if they wanted? I wouldn't breathe a word of any of this to the underwriter. Not a peep, if I had my druthers. The underwriter will start asking all kinds of questions, asking for all kinds of documentation, both on the existing assets or income and on the likelihood of it continuing. If you're familiar with how the stock market works, you might have an appreciation for how hard it can be to prove that you're going to have income from it in the future. That underwriter isn't interested in trends or suppositions or even the fact that it's happened the last twenty years in a row. They want proof it's going to happen in the coming years. When accountants won't write a testimonial (trust me, they won't), you're probably out of luck.

Now sometimes the underwriter comes back with conditions that are beyond the bounds of reason. Dealing with this is part of my job, but it's more akin to a negotiation than a confrontation. I've got to get them to tell me what has them concerned, and see if there isn't some other way to reassure them. Remember, if the loan goes sour, both the underwriter and I are going to hear about it. It may cost them their job, and I may have to come up with thousands of dollars to pay the lender. Not to mention that the client isn't exactly happy. The underwriting process, properly used, is as much for the protection of the client as the lender.

So what I've got to do is find out what concern caused the underwriter to place this condition on the loan, and then a more reasonable alternative may suggest itself. If you ask in the right way, conditions can be changed if the request is reasonable. But you've got to know what you're doing. If the alternative you suggest does not adequately address the underwriter's concerns, they are within not only their rights, but also in full compliance with regulations where you are probably not, to refuse to make the change. Sometimes the underwriter and the loan officer disagree as to the computation of income, for example. By definition, the underwriter is right - unless I can persuade them that my way is better. Just human nature, you can't do that by challenging them, you have to persuade.

Now it is possible to run into an intransigent underwriter. That's one reason why brokers have the advantage over direct lenders, who are stuck with the same group of underwriters all the time. I can pull the loan and resubmit it elsewhere. Given that particular lender isn't going to approve the loan anyway, they won't fight too hard, although on several occasions I have had the lender come back and issue an exception on their own when I do that, but the ability and willingness to actually take it elsewhere is essential to this. And it is sometimes possible to go over a given underwriter's head and get an exception from the supervisor, but it tends to poison the well when you attempt this, whether it is successful or not. When you're asking for special consideration for your clients, they tend to look much harder at all of your clients. I've seen a couple loan officers talk themselves into one approval through an exception with the supervisor, only to have their other loans that were going through smoothly kicked back out for further underwriting. So you have one happy client, and three or four that otherwise would have been happy and who now are not. Sounds great if you're that one client, but how would you like to be one of those three or four others? Not a good situation for anyone to be in. Taking the approach of collaboration works better.

Caveat Emptor

Not interested? Most people aren't when it's talking about how they got taken advantage of in the past. First off, it's in the past so it is over and done with, and there's no use dwelling on it, right? Second, there's the ego thing. Nobody who's been bragging about what a great deal they got likes to find out they've been had. Taken for a ride. Conned. Big time.

Anyone reading this who isn't interested in improving what happens next time can tune out now, because that's what the rest of this article is about: educating you in how to shop for a loan and what the tricks are, and if you've never had a real estate loan but want one someday, chances are you'll benefit from reading it to. If you're the sort of person who isn't interested in improving your future loan, chances are you're not a regular reader because helping folks understand their financial options for next time is the most consistent thing I do here.

On a very regular basis people tell me how they got taken advantage of by a loan provider. Actually, a lot of them think they're bragging about what a great deal they think they got, when in their situation, I wouldn't take that loan if the bank paid me. High points charges that stick around in the balance essentially forever. Points on hybrid ARM loans (3/1, 5/1 and 2/28 are the most common). Prepayment penalties, especially needless prepayment penalties, or prepayment penalties that last longer than the period of fixed interest rate. Fixed rate loans where hybrid ARMS are more appropriate. Long terms where a shorter term would be more in your best interest. Most loan officers are looking for an easy sale, and no loan officer ever complains that a sale was too easy to make. Failing an easy sale, they'll look for any sale. If they don't get you signed up for any loan, they don't make any money. They are not responsible for your best interest, they are responsible for making money and not stepping over legal limits which are very different (in the sense of being less restrictive to loan officers) than most members of the public believe. If ever a loan officer tells you that in your circumstances, they wouldn't refinance, make sure you get their contact information and put it someplace you will be able to find it when you go looking for your next loan.

First off, if your credit score is above about 660 and you have a prepayment penalty, chances are excellent that you were taken for a ride. People with credit scores above 660 should usually be A paper, not subprime. A paper does not need a prepayment penalty except when the loan officer wants to get paid more. A 2 year prepayment penalty is worth a good chunk of change on the secondary bond market - usually about 4% of the loan amount. This means that if you have the $270,000 loan I use as the default here, they made almost $10,000 over and above the normal price spread when they sold your loan. And even when they retain servicing rights, lenders sell loans over 95 percent of the time. At the very least, you should get some kind of benefit for accepting a prepayment penalty A paper. A current "maximum conforming" loan of $417,000 would be worth almost $17,000 more to the lender with a prepayment penalty than without. This, all by itself, is often a reason they stick folks in subprime situations. If you think you're A paper, make them show you the turn-down from the automated loan underwriting program before you even consider a subprime loan.

If your credit score is below 620, you're almost certainly stuck with a loan where you have a prepayment penalty by default. Buying it off is usually a good idea, but buying them off isn't free. Between 620 and 659, there's some wiggle room as to whether you will get an A paper loan.

But most people never undertake the three most important steps they can to get a better loan. They don't shop multiple lenders. They don't ask for a guaranteed quote. And they certainly don't sign up for a back up loan.

I've been looking for a new place to hang my license, and the one thing (other than looking for loan officers who don't understand the way the business works) that most of the firms have in common is that they don't want to compete on price. They know they may have to the first time, but they want the client that just automatically comes back to them that they can soak for two or three points on every loan, in addition to whatever they earn for the prepayment penalty. I understand this yearning very well; it's a normal human desire to want to make more for the same amount of work, and also to lock up the customer for the future. If all you think about is how easy the loan is to get, you are these firms' favorite type of client. Guess what? You may not see their extra $10,000 or $15,000 as a separate charge on any of your paperwork, but it is there and you are paying it, and someone who knows what they are looking for can find it. Most folks would never dream of paying $50 for the same toaster that everyone else is buying for $13.99 at Target, but the way loans are priced is confusing at first sight, and people don't want to sort it out. It's pretty easy, actually. Figure out what kind of loan you want and qualify for, then price the rate/cost trade-offs of that loan type amongst the various loan providers. Figure break-evens on the extra cost of the lower rate. One rule I have never encountered an exception to is that if a loan provider pushes a low payment to sell a loan, they are a crook. If they sell by interest rate, they may be worth talking to, providing the loan type is what you're looking for. If they sell by the Tradeoff between rate and cost, they're definitely worth talking to. And if someone suggests a different type, hear them out but make certain they tell you all of the details. There is always a reason why one loan is significantly cheaper than another loan

Another very common tactic used to induce your business is advertising. Remember the loan ads that went "Lost another one to (mega corporation which shall remain nameless)"? That particular mega corporation is not competitive rate-wise or underwriting wise with others. Joe ShadyBroker who earns six points on every loan can often deliver better rates than they can. What they were trying to via their advertising is create the illusion of low prices by telling you they have low prices. Then, when you call and they quote the superficially low payment due to a rate where you have to pay three points to get it, they've got the average potential client suckered. Because their payment on a 2/28 loan with a 3 year prepayment penalty where you have to pay three points to get the rate is lower than mine on a thirty year fixed with zero points, people will sign up. Why? Because it looks more attractive to them at first glance. Get the calculator and the checklist of questions and ask the questions and do the math. Nobody can take advantage of you without your consent, but those who allow themselves to be intimidated by numbers are giving their consent. Actually, with most places, it's like begging, "Oh, please, I want to pay thousands of dollars more to get a higher interest rate!"

If someone doesn't ask questions like "how long are you planning to keep it?" or "how long do you usually keep real estate loans?", especially if they just launch right in to a spiel based upon a low payment, they are a cash-sucking Vampire. They may be an intelligent vampire doing what they are doing in full cognizance of what it does to you, or they may be an innocent vampire who doesn't really understand the business and who is being controlled by a green-blooded master cash-sucking vampire, but in either case you don't want to do business with them. Yes, these are sales questions. Yes, they get you talking to a salesperson, who then has a possible opening to talk you into something that may not be in your best interest. If they don't ask the questions, I guarantee that they're trying to push you into something that isn't in your best interest. Which is better: Not talking to a salesperson and being certain of being messed with, or talking to a salesperson and possibly being messed with? Note that there is no option that says "Don't talk to a salesperson and not get messed with." If their people don't know enough to help you from their own knowledge, those salesfolk were probably intentionally hired because they didn't know any better. It is not a crime to make money. They are looking to make money, I am looking to make money, everybody in every line of business is looking to make money, including your employer - that's how they pay you. If I were independently wealthy and never needed or wanted to make money again, I certainly wouldn't be doing real estate loans, and neither would anyone else. You can take the attitude that you're going to pay a reasonable amount, and while you can take steps to hold that amount down and make certain it doesn't get outrageous, you know you're going to pay what it costs, or you can take the attitude that a cheaper quote means you'll actually get that rate at that cost when the overwhelming probability is that they're lying to get you to sign up. You need to look gift horses in the mouth. If someone's quoted fees are lower or higher than everyone else's, there is a reason. If they're too low, it's probably because they're pretending that a large percentage of what you are going to pay doesn't exist, because that gets people to sign up. Ask them if they will guarantee their total fees and the rate in writing. If the answer is no, they are lying. Actually, most of the liars won't tell you "no" in response to that question. They'll tell you some line about how they're a major corporation or how they honor their commitments or any of several other lines that mean absolutely nothing. The MLDS and Good Faith Estimate are not commitments. Major corporations pull the same games as everyone else. In fact, they usually get away with playing even worse ones than Joe ShadyBroker because of their "name recognition".

So shop around. Ask every single prospective loan provider every single question in this article. Pull out the calculator to see if it's believable, to see if the numbers work. Ask them if they'll guarantee the quote, subject to underwriting. And then go out and apply for a back-up loan as well, because even if you've got a guarantee, it's difficult to enforce, and impossible within the time frames most folks need the loan to be done.

The typical savings of being a savvy consumer is literally thousands of dollars every time you get a real estate loan. You may not see the savings directly on the HUD-1 at closing, but they will be present nonetheless. If you don't accept a prepayment penalty, that's thousands of dollars you've saved yourself down the line when you've been transferred and need to sell. If you get a rate that's a quarter of a percent lower on a $270,000 loan, that's $675 interest you are saving per year. That's a couple of car payments; perhaps enough to let you buy for cash next time you need a car. If you invest the difference over the potential lifetime of your mortgage, a difference of over $127,000! If you save yourself the two extra points of origination that they were going to charge you, that's over $5500 that either is in your pocket, and that you can invest or spend on other things, or $5500 that isn't in your mortgage balance, where you're going to pay hundreds of dollars in interest on it per year ($357.50 per year at 6.5% interest), in addition to owing the base sum.

My point is this, folks. If I were a financial advisor trying to score an extra quarter percent commission off of you, most of you would be upset. Many people are so upset by 0.25% 12b1 fees in mutual funds that they won't pay the advisor who would save them a lot more money than the 0.25% per year simply by simply reminding them of sound investment principles. If I were a car salesperson trying to pad the cost of the car you were interested in by $5500, a large percentage of the population would most likely slug me. But because real estate transactions are complex and people don't want to take the time to understand them, they unwittingly walk into situations like this, and many people do so repeatedly throughout their lives, making the same mistakes every two years. The dollar amounts are large enough that even small differences are thousands of dollars. If you're not going to guard your pocketbook, most loan providers will pick it.

Now the workman is worthy of his or her hire. The person who gets you the loan is entitled to be paid. Judge the loans on the bottom line to you; how much it costs and what you will get. The proof that they got you a better deal was that they delivered a better loan, not that they made less money. And if the person who does your loan can make an extra half-point while actually delivering you a loan that is the same rate on the same loan at less cost than the other provider, haven't they earned that money? You came out ahead because of their work - had you gone with any other loan, you would have paid more or had a higher rate. They made more. Definition of win-win. There is a loser here, by the way, but you'll never know who it was. It is the lender that the broker you didn't sign up with would have put you with. But by finding you a program you fit better, the loan officer you did sign up with got you a better deal and made more money. It happens every day, if you make the effort to look for it, and go about it in the right fashion.

Caveat Emptor

One of the things I'm seeing more of in MLS listings and developer advertising, among other places, is the phrase "$X in closing cost credit (or "$X in free builder upgrades" given for using preferred lender"

Sounds like a bargain, right? Just use their lender and you get this multi-thousand dollar credit. After all, "All Mortgage Money Comes From The Same Place!" Free money, right?

Well possibly, but not very likely. What most companies are looking to do with this advertising is give people a reason not to shop around. They hope that because most people think that "All Mortgage Money Comes From The Same Place", the average customer will just stay there to apply for a loan. Many builders and conversion companies will throw roadblocks in your way if you try to use another lender. They cannot legally require you to use their loan company (at least not in California), but they can make it exceedingly difficult to go elsewhere. I've been told by builder's representatives on two occasions that I was wasting my time with a loan, because "If they don't use our lender, they won't get the property!" despite already having a signed purchase agreement. Roadblocks take all sorts of turns. They won't let the appraiser in. They won't cooperate with requests for information, without which the other loan is going nowhere. And so on and so forth.

The builders wouldn't give those incentives to use their lender, or throw roadblocks in your way when they're trying to sell you a property, if they weren't making more money with the loan. Quite often, they're making more money on the loan than they are from the sale. Put you into a loan half a percent above market, stick a three year prepayment penalty on it, and voila, anywhere from a 6 percent premium to perhaps 10 percent. To give you a comparison, around here an agent makes 2.5 to 3 percent from a transaction, and I do my loans on anywhere from half a point to a point and a half, depending upon difficulty and size. But the average consumer is distracted by these "free" upgrades or closing costs that they don't realize how badly they've been raked over the coals. If I can get you that $400,000 loan half a percent cheaper and with no prepayment penalty, I'm saving you $2000 per year for certain, and very likely about $12,000 on the prepayment penalty.

Furthermore, on some of the builder's loans I've analyzed, they're getting you a rate that would carry a point and a half retail rebate, even without the prepayment penalty. This means on a $400,000 loan at that rate, the lender would be paying you a $6000 incentive to do that loan, more than covering normal closing costs. Have no fear, that builder is doing quite well for having loaned you that money.

What can an average person do about this sort of thing? As I've said before, builders often throw roadblocks in the way of outside lenders, and there's not a lot that you or anyone else can do about this fact.

Many people want brand new homes if they can get them. Given the realities about Mello-Roos and how prevalent homeowner's associations are in more recent developments, I'm not certain I understand this. It's one thing to deal with Mrs. Grundy when you're all cheek by jowl in a condominium high rise. It quite another thing to deal with her complaints because you left your garage door open ten minutes longer than the rules say, you want to paint your detached home a couple shades darker or lighter than everyone else, or whatever's got her dander up today.

I do have a trick or two up my sleeve for when I'm a buyer's agent in new developments. It's my job to outmanouever the selling agents the builder has on staff (who tend to be heavy hitting pressure salesfolk). But they are dependent on some things that change from transaction to transaction, so I can't really describe them in any kind of universal terms. Writing an offer contingent upon an outside loan has its limits. Builders who throw roadblocks have that one wired; they wait for the contingency to expire at which point they've either got your deposit or your loan business as you are so desperate not to lose your deposit you'll do almost anything, particularly since most folks don't understand how much that loan is really likely to cost them.

Caveat Emptor


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