Intermediate Information: May 2008 Archives


A few days ago I wrote an article explaining why borrowers should consider a 5/1 ARM, because the tradeoff between rate and cost is lower for that loan, and most people don't keep their loans 5 years anyway, so having a likely need to refinance 5 years out is not an additional cost for most people with mortgages.

There are two sorts of cost for loans: The cost to get the loan done ("closing costs"). This pays for everything that needs to happen so that the loan gets done. These costs may vary from place to place, but they are absolutely mandatory - they are going to get paid. For instance, on a $400,000 refinance with full escrow, my clients are going to pay $2945 in closing costs, when you really include everything. Many lenders will try to pretend some or all of the closing costs don't exist in order to get people to sign up, but they do. I can save some money with virtual escrow in some cases, but $2945 is real. The proof is that I can put it in writing and guarantee in writing not to go over. Lenders don't want to do this, but if they're not willing to put it in writing that they'll pay anything over that, the reason is because they know it's going to be more when it comes down to it at the end of the loan.

The other cost is the cost for the rate. There is always a tradeoff between rate and cost. If you want the lower rate, it is going to cost you more money. If you are willing to accept a higher rate, you can save money on the cost for the rate, to the point where it can reduce or eliminate the closing costs you're going to have to pay. Zero Cost Real Estate Loans exist - I've done dozens. I love them because they save my clients money.

You can lump the loan provider's profit in with the costs for the rate, as origination points, or in with the cost of the loan, as an origination fee, pay it via Yield spread (if you're a broker) or even (in the case of a direct lender) hide it in the fact that you're going to make a huge profit selling that loan on the secondary market, but I guarantee you it's going to get paid somehow. Nobody does loans for free, for the same reason you wouldn't work if you didn't get paid.

These costs are going to get paid. End of discussion. The costs are slightly different in states with different laws, but necessary costs are going to get paid. They can get paid out of pocket or they can get paid by rolling them into your loan balance but they are going to get paid. Most people don't understand loan costs which aren't paid by cash, and think that they are somehow "free", but that is not the case. Not only did you pay it, but it increases the dollar cost of any points you may pay, you're going to pay interest on it, and (less importantly) it's going to increase your payment amount.

The genesis of this whole thing was a guy I thought I had talked into a 5/1 ARM a few days ago. I went through this whole process of explaining why the rate/cost tradeoff for a 30 year fixed rate loan was not going to help him, and then a couple days ago, he called me saying he'd found a thirty year fixed rate loan at 5.5, saving him three quarters of a percent on the interest rate and almost $400 on the payment. Remember that at the time, I had 5.5 available as well (I still do - but the rate is so expensive I wouldn't counsel anybody who wasn't certain they were going to keep it 15 years to buy it). So I'm going to keep that exact same table:

30F Rate30F Cost5/1 rate5/1 Cost
5.5%2.65.25%1.5
5.875%1.85.5%0.9
6.25%0.25.875%0

The problem with the rate of 5.5% is that for a $600,000 loan, those closing costs are going up to $3475 (lender and third party costs are higher above the conforming limit) in order to get the loan done, and at the time, based upon current loan amount, 2.6 points would cost $16,100 and change. But he had gone to a loan officer who did his math as if that $19,585 (my loan - I suspect the competitor's was higher) was going to magically disappear like one of a David Copperfield's illusions. He calculated payments and savings as if there were no costs - based upon the current balance and new interest rate and amortization period. Of course, this makes it look like the client was saving a lot of money $382 off the payment and three quarters of a percent off the rate, give him a whole new thirty years to pay off the loan, and pretend the costs of the loan aren't going to happen to get the guy to sign up. You'd think that somebody who reads this website every day would know better, but that does not appear to have been the case. In point of fact, the competing loan officer still has not told the guy how much his closing costs are or how much that 5.5% rate is going to cost him through him. I'll bet it's more than I would charge, but I don't know.

Psychologically speaking, what the competing loan officer is doing is smart. Because there's incomplete information available to the prospect, and I'm straightforwardly admitting how much it's going to cost (which is a lot, as most people who aren't billionaires or politicians think about money), an indefinite, uncertain number sounds like it might be less, even though it won't end up that way. Furthermore, by pretending costs don't exist, he has raised the possibility in the client's mind that there won't be any, because most people don't know how much lenders can legally lowball. There will be costs,and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is that they'll be higher than mine. If this other loan officer could really deliver that loan at a cost lower than I can, there would be no reason for him to prevaricate, obfuscate, or attempt to confuse the issue. I've written before about how you can't compare loans without specific numbers, and there is no doubt in my mind that this other loan officer knows what those numbers really are - he just doesn't want to share that information, and the way our public consciousness about loans works, he can most often get away with it. It's still scummy behavior, and takes advantages of loopholes in the disclosure laws to practice bait and switch, knowing that when the deception comes to light (at closing) most people won't notice, and most of those who do notice will want to be done so badly they'll sign on the dotted line anyway.

Now what's really going to happen in 99% plus of all cases is that the costs are going to get rolled into the balance of the loan. The client certainly isn't going to be prepared to pay them "out of pocket" if they're not expecting those costs. So here's what happens: The client ends up with a new loan balance of $619,585 (Probably higher, because they're likely to roll the prepaid interest in as well, and quite likely the money to seed the impound account, but I'll limit myself to actual costs). In fact, the difference in payment drops to $290 when you consider cost, and $115 of that difference is directly attributable to starting over on the loan period, stretching out the repayment period to an entirely new thirty year schedule of payments (even though he was only two years in), completely debunking any serious consideration of payment as a reason to refinance. But lets compare cost of money, in the form upfront costs ($19,585 to get the new loan, versus zero to keep the loan he's got) and ongoing interest charges ($3125 per month on the existing loan, versus $2840 per month on the new loan). In this case, you're essentially spending nearly $20,000 in order to save $285 per month on interest. Straight line division has that taking sixty-nine months to break even. Actual computation of the progress of the respective loans cuts a month off that, to sixty eight months. As compared to a national mean time between refinances of 28 months, and this particular prospect is currently looking to refinance after less than that. In good conscience, I cannot recommend a loan where it's going to take him almost six years to break even, and by not considering the costs involved in getting that rate, he's setting himself up to waste probably half or more of the nearly $20,000 it's going to cost him to get that loan.

In fact, if this prospect were to refinance again in 28 months (once again, national median time), he would have spent $19,585 in order to save himself $7847. That doesn't sound like a good deal to me, and it shouldn't sound like a good deal to you. But here's the real kicker: The balance of the loan he refinances in two years is $19,250 higher. Let's assume it takes a low rate, rather than a cash out refinance to lure him into refinancing again, so he gets a 5% loan to refinance again. The extra $19,250 he owes will continue to cost him money, even thought the benefits of the refinance he is considering end when he refinances again or sells the property. At 5% for a putative future loan, that $19,250 extra he owes will cost him $962.50 per year extra on the new loan. Even if he sells in order to buy something else, that's $19,250 the client needs to borrow, and pay interest on, that he otherwise would not. Even if the client waits a full five years to refinance again, he's only saved roughly $16,400 in interest, and the additional balance owed on the new loan has actually increased slightly, to $19,280 (Remember, he's two years into the existing loan, hence $115 of phantom payment savings which keeps reducing his balance if he keeps paying it)

Failing to consider the fact that most people are not going to keep their new loan as long as they think they will is the gift that keeps on giving - to lenders. I run across people in their forties and fifties who have done this, all unsuspecting, half a dozen times or more, running up eighty to a hundred thousand dollars in debt for nothing but the cost of refinancing, and at 6% interest, that's $4800 to $6000 per year they're spending in interest on that debt. A more careful analysis says that the calculus of refinancing should emphasize finding a rate that helps you for a lower cost, but that's not the way lenders get paid the secondary market premium, and that's not the way that loan officers get paid to do lots of loans. Therefore, if you find someone who will go over these numbers with you and tell you it's not a good idea to refinance when it isn't, that loan officer is quite a valuable treasure because they're going to keep you from wasting all that money to no good purpose. (Here's one guy who will for my California readers)

A good rule of thumb is that if a zero cost loan won't put you into a better situation, it is unlikely that paying costs and points to get the rate down is really going to help you either. You are unlikely to recover those costs and points before you sell or refinance your property. If a loan that's free doesn't buy you a better loan than you've got, then the current tradeoff between rate and cost isn't favorable to refinance. There may be reasons to do so anyway - cash out, ARM adjustment, etcetera, but chances are against you getting a rate that is enough better to justify the cost. When you consider how often most people refinance or even actually sell and move, it's hard to make a case for anything other than low cost loans and hybrid ARMs. I understand the people who want the security of a fixed rate loan, and a low fixed rate. But that rate, especially, is likely to come with a cost that they will never recover before they voluntarily let the lender off the hook. Good mortgage advice takes this into account, with the net result that the folks don't end up in debt to the tune of $80,000 to $100,000 extra, and spending thousands of dollars per year just on interest for money they shouldn't owe in the first place. No, they never wrote a check for it, but it's money they spent, and if they had needed to write a check for it, they probably wouldn't have spent the money in the first place. Kind of like having a credit card with a balance owing of $80,000 or more, just for the unrecovered costs of refinancing, but people don't realize it because it's not broken out of the total cost and balance of their mortgage, and nobody educates them as to where they would be if they hadn't made these mistakes. I try to teach my clients what they need to know to avoid that situation, so they don't find themselves victimized by it.

Caveat Emptor

The most recent hot thing in mortgage circles is a mortgage accelerator program. Now I've heard other things, most notably biweekly payment programs, called mortgage accelerators in the past, so let me take a moment to define exactly what I'm talking about.

A mortgage accelerator is essentially a combined mortgage and checking account, where every month you deposit your entire pay, and then write checks out of it as the month goes on to pay for your living expenses, and the mortgage interest of course accrues on a daily basis. The good things about it for consumers (and it is a good thing, as far as this goes) is that the entire paycheck is applied against your mortgage balance on day one, when your pay is deposited. This means that instead of just the minimum monthly payment, your entire pay goes towards the mortgage, lessening the amount of interest you pay in any given month. The bank, for its part, gets your entire paycheck and a significantly lower incidence of default.

This isn't a new concept. Several banks had somewhat different versions back in the late eighties. It went away. Why?

Several reasons, some administrative, some financial. First, the administrative. This bank has basically your entire financial activity. Let's say someone gives you a better deal. Now you either have to stick with a mortgage accelerator program, or go through the hassle of coming up with enough cash to start a new checking account if you go back to having a standard mortgage. Furthermore, when you do refinance, what happens to outstanding checks? That payoff is as of a specific day at a specific time. Your escrow officer comes in and gets the payoff demand, and then more checks clear and everything has to be re-figured. The alternative to this is freezing the account as is done with Home Equity Lines of Credit. So all of a sudden while you are going through this refinance, you have to come up with the seed cash for a new checking account, get new checks rushed through, and then pay your bills with the new checks. May the Universe Help You if you normally pay by automatic debit or any of the primary variants, because you have to set that up as well.

So what else does the bank get out of it, looking at the above? Increased opportunity costs for refinancing. In short, it makes it more difficult for you to take your business elsewhere. Cha-Ching! as the bank officer's eyes light up with dollar signs.

Now obviously, this mortgage accelerator saves you money, if you assume it's just a matter of math, and that math shows how much interest you save as opposed to the same loan at the same interest rate, providing you keep money in your checking account, of course. But how many people do? Not that many, these days.

Furthermore, it assumes you get the same loan at the same interest rate that you normally would. I haven't comparison shopped many of these yet, but my general impression is that the rates, and costs to get them, are higher than you might otherwise get. The assumption that it is the same rate and the same costs on the same type of loan is just that, an assumption, made for modeling purposes. I have used the metaphor of the matador in the past. The bull (consumer) wears himself out on the obvious large red cape, namely the cool service and the fact that all your pay is applied to your mortgage, and never sees the sword, which is the fact that your interest rate is half a percent higher than you might have gotten, you paid an extra point of origination as well, and you're being dinged $10 per month administrative tracking charges for this cool new toy you just got, the accelerator mortgage. Let's say your mortgage is $400,000. Half a percent of $400,000 is $2000 extra interest per year. An extra point of origination is $4000. And $10 per month is about what the average person might save on their mortgage interest if they weren't paying a higher rate, which they are.

($6000 per month deposited, instead of maybe $2500, leaves $3500. You save an average of one half months interest per month on this difference. $3500 at 6% divided by 24 is $8.75. If they bill you $10 per month for the service, you are out $1.25 per month net, on top of the additional interest charges and the one time fee of several thousand dollars of origination)

So lenders with mortgage accelerators charge you more money, charge you more up front costs, and you pay higher interest charges, as well as making it more difficult for the consumer to refinance into a better deal somewhere else. The banks love this one. Only the fact that your parents figured out what a rotten deal most of these are kept them from becoming a permanent fixture of the mortgage landscape nearly twenty years ago.

Now if you can find a mortgage accelerator at the same interest rate, for the same costs, and without the monthly fees that you don't have to pay for your other mortgage, then YES it makes a huge amount of sense to have one of these programs. But that's not what most of the lenders are offering. They are hoping that you are so distracted by the mathematics of how much you will save if you keep your mortgage until it's paid off, that you will never see how much extra you are really paying. Nor do most people keep any given mortgage longer than a few years. In fact, the median time living in a particular piece of real estate is only nine years - less than one third of the time until payoff. The metaphor of the matador is extremely apt. This is precisely what the matador does with the bull. Distracts them and wears them out with the cape so that they never see the sword. The banks dangle this wonderful mathematical concept of what might happen thirty years down the line for that one tenth of one percent of people who actually keep the loan that long, while hoping you are so fascinated by it that you never notice that they're charging you more up-front fees and a higher interest rate than you would have gotten with a traditional mortgage, and often, more in monthly maintenance fees that you save by depositing all of your pay. In short, the lender is making more money off of you by pretending to do you a favor.

So shop loans by interest rate and cost, and then if they'll let you put a mortgage accelerator on it for free, great! If not, they're just trying to distract you from what is really important by offering you a convenience and a cool-looking trick, while charging you hefty amounts of money and tricking you into thinking you are getting something beneficial. I have literally never seen a mortgage accelerator where the benefits outweighed the cost of setting it up, so if you take the money it costs to set the thing up, and instead use it for direct paydown of your mortgage (i.e. write check for the extra direct to the lender), you'll quite predictably come out ahead.

Caveat Emptor

Online Mortgage Quotes

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I got a question about what I think about those online quote services.

The answer is that they vary from okay to putrid.

There are two sorts of online quote sources. The first is where mortgage companies have their rates online, and people come along and browse. Those are pretty much a waste of your time. Here's why: Those companies have absolutely no hold and no real tracking on the people who come to browse. They might put a cookie on your machine, but it's hard to parlay those into contact information, which is their whole entire goal: Getting loans out of it. Unless they have some way of contacting you, which they don't, they need to use that forum to get you to contact them. They do this by low-balling their quotes, making it look like they are offering something nobody else has. Unfortunately for consumers, that's not even an estimate. Here in California, the one caveat is that the rate must exist, but the real costs of getting that rate can be many times the costs they quote. This suffers from all of the limitations that a Good Faith Estimate does, plus more. They can say that they've got a 3.625% rate, and as long as they have a 3.625% loan, they are in the clear. Never mind that it costs a full six points and adjusts every month, that sounds like a great loan to the uninformed. Furthermore, many places will quote the nominal ("in name only") as opposed to real interest rate on the negative amortization loan. When there are people apparently offering you 0.5%, that's who most consumers will call, ignoring the people who have and can really do 5.5% thirty year fixed rate loans, more so on those forums where they include a payment quote as well. I've got the same 0.5% nominal rate forty year amortization loan available to me, but it will always be a putrid loan, as the real rate is a little over 8% and the rate is subject to change every month. I should note that lenders pay a lot of yield spread to brokers who do those loans: How often do people sign on the dotted lines for mortgage rates in excess of 8% (with a three year prepayment penalty!) when 5.5% is available on a thirty year fixed rate mortgage with no prepayment penalty at all? I'll tell you how often: Whenever people aren't smart enough to realize that that $960 payment on a $417,000 loan isn't the real cost of money. Indeed, they'd have to pay $2794 per month just to pay the interest - while the fully amortized payment on a thirty year fixed rate loan is only $2368. But there are an awful lot of people who aren't smart enough right now.

Furthermore, those online forums are supposed to enforce their quotations policies. I've never heard of one that enforces real concrete penalties for violators. On two separate forums, I went straight down the line contacting every listed company, using a loan scenario that was close enough to what they were supposed to be quoting to that I should have gotten the same quote or a little bit better, if they could really do those loans. Not once did I get a rate that was within half a percent of the rate listed online, and most of them were over a full percent off, and with negative amortization loans, most are not even in the correct ballpark. When I contacted the forums themselves, neither of them was interested in enforcement.

In short, those online quote forums tend very strongly to get business for the company that tells the biggest, most boldfaced lie. Often, the consumers are lulled by the existence of the forums into thinking they're getting a deal, and they don't bother going through the necessary steps to shop their loan around. Meanwhile, the companies that will advertise honest rates quit those forums in disgust. Since there are a lot more companies playing games with their quotes than honest ones, the forum wins by not enforcing their rules. However, since the consumer wants to find companies that really will deliver the loans they advertise, consumers lose. Matter of fact, I don't think I've ever seen a real rate on a loan I would be willing to sign up for advertised in any forum: online, newspaper, or otherwise.

The second type of online quote forum work like the advertisements plastered all over the internet. "$510,000 loan for $1698 per month!" (to use the first I found just now). They show a couple dancing happily, having a party because their mortgage payments are reduced, or so they think. Another shows a guy jumping for joy. What they don't show is those same people when they figure out all of the downsides to the negative amortization loan that they signed up for. "This is Jack calling his lawyer again, only to be told there's nothing the lawyer can do again. This is John and Jane losing their home to foreclosure."

Their come on is that you're supposed to get four competitive loan quotes. The company advertises negative amortization loan payments because more people will click on them and sign up for the service if they think they might get something so great that anyone would want it. Unfortunately, just like every other negative amortization loan out there, the payment or interest rate they quote to get you to click their ad and complete their form online is not the real payment and it is not the real rate. Yes, they will accept that as a monthly payment. But the interest you are being charged is based upon a rate of 7.87%, and you have to pay $3345 per month just to break even on the interest - that other $1647 gets added to your loan, so that next month you owe $511,647. Doesn't seem like a lot of extra, but go along for three years until the pre-payment penalty expires, and even if your rate doesn't adjust upwards, your balance is now $576,600. If you go the full five years that the minimum payments last, you owe $630,000, and now your payment jumps to $4813, and you can't refinance because you are upside-down on your mortgage, and your credit score is 100 points lower!

The games don't stop here, by any means. You'll be told that there are "no costs out of your pocket," and even though they'll be rolling $23,000 in costs and points into your loan, they give you a quote based upon the amount of money you tell them you need. No, $23,000 doesn't make that much difference at half a percent forty year amortization, but it lets them quote that payment just a few dollars lower, even though they know that you want the $23,000 rolled into your loan. Nor is what they're telling you about a good loan in any way shape or form, but most people shop mortgage loans based upon payment.

Furthermore, they aren't telling the truth about four mortgage providers calling you. They may sell the lead to four different places, but those four places turn around and sell them to four others each, and each of those sells them to four more. There may be as many as six levels of this going on, and the average person who does fill out their form will be called by at least fifty providers in the first week, with others trailing out for potentially years. The lead seller doesn't care - they made their money, and they don't give refunds simply because the loan they talked about is toxic. Nor does it matter to them that the loan they talked about puts the loan providers paying them for leads in the position of either telling people - honestly - that the loan that was used to get you to sign up is a piece of garbage that causes people to lose their homes, or just selling you one of the abominations. They don't get refunds from the lead seller in the first case; they're just out the money. In the second case, they get paid roughly 3.75% of the loan amount by the bank ($19,125 on a $510,000 loan), plus whatever points of origination that they can con you out of. Finally, if they don't, they know that one of the fifty or more other companies that will be calling you will sell you one of those loans. So their motivations are not on the side of telling you the downsides of their loan. Matter of fact, their motivations are never aligned with telling you the downsides of the loan, so if you find someone willing to talk frankly about good and bad, they are a treasure and it is worth keeping their contact information, and making a habit of talking to them first about future loans.

Once upon a time, if you could cut through the morass of fifty or more companies calling, those "competitive quotes" ads were a great way to find a good loan provider. Ethical low cost loan providers could make a very good living buying those leads. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. First off, ninety-nine percent of the leads you pay for were lured in with the promise of a negative amortization loan. You don't get refunds for those. You are just out the money, time, and phone expense of calling those folks - unless you make a habit of selling negative amortization loans, which low cost ethical providers do not. Furthermore, even on the few leads that are not lured in by Negative Amortization payments, just because you don't try and sell them a negative amortization loan doesn't mean that one of the other fifty companies won't. Having been there and done that, I can tell you from experience that trying to talk people out of negative amortization loans is usually a waste of breath - the competing company will use conspiratorial tactics like, "That's because this mortgage is too good - they don't want you to have it!" People want to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Negative Amortization Loans. Bottom line for ethical loan providers: paying these services for leads no longer works. You cannot make any money at it. Since making money is what you're about, and the payoff is too low to survive on the thin margins of good providers, you are driven elsewhere for your business leads. Since that's the type of loan provider you want, it's a waste of time to go to either sort of online mortgage quote service.

Caveat Emptor

We got behind on house pymts & it was sent to an attorney for foreclosure.? The attorney has printed a notice in our paper on Oct 9 that it will go up for public action on Nov.16th. We found out we could get financial help on friday. Can we stop this action now without it going up for auction?

This never ceases to amaze me. People have a contract they can't meet, and they don't call the other party to see if anything can be done.

the lenders do NOT want to foreclose on any more properties right now. Actually, this is pretty much a constant of the real estate market.

To be truthful, you should have called the lender and explained your situation as soon as you knew you were going to be late with a payment. Lenders will always work with anyone to a reasonable extent, but now they're bending over backwards. Foreclosures are 1) bad publicity, 2) bad for their relationship with the secondary loan market, and 3) almost certain to lose them a blortload of money.

Call them this instant (or as soon as they open on Monday) and ask for Loss Mitigation. They will not be as forgiving as if you'd called them right away, but they're still likely to be willing to work something out. Just about anything is better than losing it through foreclosure, I might add, so you be willing to give as much as you can to encourage them. Foreclosures hit them in ways beyond the cash they immediately lose. They don't want to foreclose.

Now, the downsides:

First off, you've waited until you are "in extremis", long past the best time to call the lender. They're quite likely to see your belated request to talk as a last ditch method to delay the inevitable. Lots of folks do precisely this. Had you called earlier and been working with them all along, made agreements and kept them, they'd have evidence you're really doing your best to get them their money. You're not a criminal, but this is the same sort of behavior judges see with convicted criminals at sentencing, faking penitence to avoid jail - then they go right out and do the same thing again.

Payment modifications aren't some kind of magical "make it all better" The lender wants their money, and they're not going to settle for a situation that doesn't turn the loan into what they call a "performing asset." If you borrowed more money than you could really afford, and you aren't able to make at least the interest payments on it at real rates, as many people with negative amortization loans did, then the best modification they'll agree to really isn't going to help you, and you're better off selling the property ASAP, even if you don't get enough for the property to cover what you owe ("short sales").

Bottom line: Please call and ask them. It never hurts to ask. But be mentally prepared if such a modification doesn't really solve your problem.

Caveat Emptor

First let me say that I really learned a lot from your postings/articles/website; its awesome that a resource like yourself exists.

Now to the problem. I recently refinanced and the mortgage broker lied to me about many, many things. I was sold a negative amortization mortgage. The broker provided me a chart showing my payment schedule for 30 yrs; it showed my payment split between interest & principal. I was told that my rate was fixed for 5 yrs and that it would go up to as high as 9% after the 5 yr period. When the closing came and I inquired about the 9% highlights in the docs and the negative amortization disclosures he stated that they didn't apply to me or this loan. He pointed to the section of the doc that stated that my payments would be fixed for 5 years
and that my interest rate would also be fixed for that 5 year period. After closing I received the docs from the lender which outlined the fact that I had 4 choices for payments and when I called for the explanation I almost died. The broker apparently didn't really understand the loan at all; he has now offered to refinance me without any fees...but I am supposedly stuck with the prepayment penalty. When the broker and I originally discussed the penalty he explained that I would probably want to refinance at the end of the 5 yr period anyways so I shouldn't worry about it. The broker also took my lead from a mortgage company he was working with when I originally inquired about the refinance. About 2 weeks into the process he told me that he had quit his job @ the mortgage company and was now out on his own as a broker (emphasis mine DM). Only now did I just realize that he really didn't have the ownership of my lead as his original employer paid for it & provided it to him during his employment. I'm sure that his original employer would be very disappointed to learn that he had taken the business with him when he resigned.

Now that the problems been explained my questions are as follows; Can I sue the broker to recover the refinance fees and the prepayment penalty?

Can the broker that lied to me and provided all the false info be sued or charged; can he lose his mortgage brokers license?

Any advice as to what I can do/what I should do at this point? Thanks in advance for any info you can provide. Please let me know if you respond directly to emails or if I need to go to a specific website to look for a reply.

There are several issues raised here. The largest major red flag is about the Negative Amortization Loan Disclosures. If it didn't apply to your loan, why did they present them to you? There isn't a good answer to that question. If something does not apply to your loan, you are within your rights to not sign. If they don't apply to your loan, then the lender doesn't need it. I don't have my clients sign negative amortization disclosures for thirty year fixed rate loans, or anything else to which they don't apply. Now there are any number of disclosures that legally have to be filled out for every loan and sometimes multiple disclosures for basically the same purpose. I had to do four "equal opportunity" disclosures for my most recent loan. But those are utterly harmless, simply informing you of your rights. A negative amortization disclosure isn't. With that, they can prove that you were told that your loan was negative amortization, and you must have been expecting it, because you signed it, didn't you? That's the lawyer's logic.

I am rapidly becoming more aware of a trend with unscrupulous mortgage lenders: Instead of putting bad stuff in the actual Note, they are adding it on as part of the all the disclosures people have to sign, hiding it in packs of supplemental stuff along with all of the standard stuff that everyone knows have to get signed. Sometimes, they are even coming back to people after funding and asking them to sign horrible things, prepayment penalties and negative amortization disclosures, among others, "for compliance." I want to see a standard booklet or checklist of forms that actually are required by law for every loan, so that innocent consumers who are trying to do the best they can know what is and isn't required by law.

If disclosures do not apply to your loan, do not sign them. They don't need it to fund your loan. There is no reason why someone who's getting an amortized, or even interest only loan, needs to sign a negative amortization disclosure. Just refuse to sign. If it doesn't apply to your loan, then they don't need it to fund your loan. If they then fund your loan and it is negative amortization, you have a good case, so they're not likely to fund it. Refusing to sign stuff that does not apply to your loan protects you.

Now, as to the broker not understanding that the loan was negative amortization: I suppose it's possible. There are people out there in my industry who are mind-numbingly stupid. But the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the likelihood that they lied to you. There are required submission forms on every loan that most consumers will never see, but it's a requirement for the loan officer to fill them out. They are filled out and submitted with your loan package, and they quite clearly indicate all the relevant facts of your loan.

Now, as to your options going forward. There's nothing wrong with people quitting their employers and going into business for themselves, if they provide good loans at a good cost. Yes, his former employer may want to sue him for the commission he earned, and such might be one way of extracting vengeance, if such is your mindset, but it's not going to help you at all. Nor should you care about who "owned" the lead. You as a consumer are not obligated to anyone except the provider who delivered the best loan at the lowest real cost. And of course the broker who did your loan wants to get paid again with a new loan. Since they are claiming to be stupid enough to drop your state's average IQ by twenty points, you may have to give him directions as to exactly which tall building or cliff you want him to jump off of. They have proven that they are not worthy of your business or anyone else's. Please do make a formal written complaint to your state department that regulates mortgages. In most states it's the department of real estate, but if it's not, they will know who to direct you to. They should lose their license and be barred from the industry for life over this. Unfortunately, your complaint alone probably won't do it, but people who get multiple complaints do lose their licenses, and sometimes, one is enough, if it's egregious enough.

The next issue is what can he sue for? I'm not a lawyer, but every adult in the United States should know the answer to that question is "anything at all," or even "nothing." The better question is where are you likely to recover money, and how much? Once again, I'm not a lawyer and you should talk to one, but I strongly doubt that you've got a good case for anything in civil court. He's got all of those documents you signed ("the weight of the evidence"), and even if you get some jury to agree that you are owed money, it's likely to be overturned upon appeal. This is why unscrupulous folks want you to sign all those documents.

What do you want to do? You indicate your interest rate is fixed, and it must have been low enough to be attractive. If this is the case, make your monthly payments on time, and make the fully amortized payment, usually the third payment option on Negative Amortization ("Pick A Pay") loans. However, I don't believe that is likely to really be the case. I have literally never seen one of these abominations where the real interest rate was fixed, or where the real interest rate was competitive with amortized loans. The attraction of these loans is low payment, and the real interest rate is usually at least 1.5% more than I could get the same person on a fully amortized 5/1 ARM, and right now thirty year fixed rate loans are about the same as the 5/1 ARM. People who don't know any better get the low payment, the bank gets your signature on a loan that's 1.5 percent higher than you could have gotten, and people who don't know any better will line up and fight for these loans! They are easier to sell than free beer to people who don't know any better! The hard thing is selling them something else when other providers are telling them about Option ARMs. So you're probably going to want to refinance, as over a three year period, 1.5 percent rate differential will save you a lot more than the pre-payment penalty.

I answer question emails directly. It may take me some time, but I do answer them, provided they don't get lost in the spam filter. If it's an issue I haven't covered before, or only tangentially, I do like to use questions as the basis for new articles, but I answer questions asked via email by return email. If there are already good answers on my site, I'll send you the link, because it was obviously too hard to find it. If there aren't, you'll get your question answered before any article appears.

Please ask if this does not answer all of your questions!

Caveat Emptor


Right now, due to the problems we had with unsustainable loans, nobody wants to consider anything but a thirty year fixed rate loan. I understand why, especially as I've been preaching the dangers of things like short term adjustable interest only loans and negative amortization loans here for almost three years now. The trick is one of balance. The negative amortization loan not only has a higher interest rate than other loans (aka cost of money) but you're adding to the balance you owe every month. This has compound interest working against you. If this were not the case, you could afford a better loan (there are no worse ones). For such things as an interest only 2/28, once again you're setting yourself up with a loan that you cannot afford and a short time during which you need to be able to refinance. The balance of that interest only 2/28 may not be growing, but it isn't going down much either. In only two years, you're going to not only need to refinance it, but almost certainly roll a bunch of closing costs into your balance as well. Suppose rates are higher? Suppose prices are lower? These twin facts describe the situation lots of folks are in right now, and my article on Refinancing When You're Upside Down on the Mortgage is one of my most popular pieces of search engine bait, despite the fact that it is very much in the way of hoping you can make something a little less bad out of a horrible situation. Two years in real estate is fairly short term. Considering a two year window, I'm more certain today than at any time in the last ten years that property values (at least local to me) will be significantly higher two years from now (at least 10%), but confidence in that prediction is only in the 90 to 95% range. Two years just isn't enough time. Like when I was a financial advisor. The market is up in about 72% of all 1 year periods, and a higher percentage of two year periods (I remember 85%, but I'm not certain of that). But over a ten year period, it was a practically sure bet, historically, that the market would be up, and up significantly. The same thing applies to real estate. "Time in" is so much more important than "timing" that they don't even play in the same league.

When you get out to five years, I'm as certain as possible that my local market, at least, is going to be up and up significantly. Considering the state of most markets, this is a very reasonable bet. For that matter, it's pretty reasonable at any time, as five years is enough for sentiment of the moment to be outweighed by fundamental facts of the market. Furthermore, most people get at least one substantial raise (or a series of smaller ones) over a five year period, increasing what they can afford. More importantly, in five years with a fully amortized loan, you'll chop some significant money off the balance (about 7% for most mortgages out there), just by making the regular minimum payments. My point is this: you have a smaller balance on a property that is worth more. Your equity situation has improved, and by enough that unless you take significant cash out in one way or another, you're in a strictly improved situation.

What are you giving up by accepting a 5/1 instead of a thirty year fixed rate loan? The answer is twenty five years worth of insurance that your rate won't change at the end of your loan, which most borrowers never use anyway. The median time to refinance or sell a property was about 28 months last time I checked (for a while it was down to sixteen months). That's fifty percent above, fifty below. Add another 28 months, and before five years is up, at least seventy five percent of everybody has refinanced or sold. Question: How much good did that extra 25 years of insurance that the rate wouldn't change do these people? Answer: Absolutely none. They let the lender off the hook before that part of the guarantee began.

Let's look at some numbers that were available today. Full documentation, A paper loans, rate/term refinance between 75 and 80% loan to value ratio, with a credit score of 720 (national median). They'll be at least a little bit different before this is published, but useful for illustrative purposes.

Now the loan request that started this all off was a $600,000 loan. Here in San Diego, that's less than the temporary Conforming limits (aka Jumbo Conforming, a phrase that makes about as much sense as plastic glass),

30F Rate30F Cost5/1 rate5/1 Cost
5.5%2.65.25%1.5
5.875%1.85.5%0.9
6.25%0.25.875%0

(Making certain I emphasize once again the tradeoff between rate and cost for real estate loans)

So, for less than the cost of a 30 year fixed at 5.875%, these clients could have a 5/1 ARM at 5.25%. For a $600,000 loan - almost to what was called Super Jumbo territory a few months ago. the 30 year fixed costs roughly $14,500 in total costs, the payment is $3635, and interest is about $3009 the first month, assuming all costs are rolled into the loan. The 5/1 costs about $12,700 grand total, the payment is $3386 ($250 less!) and interest is $2686 ($325 less!). You pay the balance down to $556,000 over 5 years if you just make the minimum payment on the 5/1, as opposed to $570,000 if you make that higher minimum payment on the 30 year fixed rate loan. And if you happen to be the sort who makes that payment they could make on the thirty year fixed rate loan, but chose the 5/1 instead, your balance will be down to $547,000. Under such circumstances, even if you refinanced that 5/1 at the same cost, you'll be over $10,000 better off than some hypothetical twin brother who chose the 30 year fixed, even if he didn't refinance which the odds are at least 3:1 against. Given consumer habits in this country, that thirty year fixed looks like a losing bet to me at today's rates.

The same numbers apply just as strongly at conforming rates:

30F Rate30F Cost5/1 Rate5/1 Cost
5.5%1.54.875%1.5
5.875%0.25.5%0
6.25%-0.95.875%-0.3

The difference between the thirty year fixed and the 5/1 narrows appreciably at the lower cost end of the spectrum. But it's a far cry from the days of last year when sometimes that thirty year fixed rate loan was actually less expensive for the same rate.

Some people are likely to ask about varying periods of ARM. What about a 3/1, for an even lower rate? Ladies and gentlemen, those were actually more expensive than 5/1s today, and even when rates are more normal, the differential is usually less than an eighth of a percent, while you're cutting off 40% of your fixed period guarantee - the period that lets you make all that lovely profit? As for the 7/1 and 10/1, they were actually more expensive than the thirty year fixed today, and even when rates are more normal, there's typically more difference between them and the 5/1 than there is between 3/1 and 5/1 - plus you're getting well past the territory where reasonable fractions of the populace keep their loans without refinancing. You're paying for insurance you're extremely unlikely to need, and hybrid ARM rates are much more stable than rates for thirty year fixed rate loans.

Hybrid ARMs aren't for everyone. If you're going to obsess about your expiring fixed term every night for five years, the difference in daily interest works out to about $10 per night, even for our example with the $600,000 mortgage. My family being able to sleep well is worth $10 per night to me, and I presume it is to you, as well. There is an element of risk here, and there's no pretending there isn't. A very small risk that real estate and loan markets go completely weird in violation of all historical precedent for the next five years, and those choosing the 5/1 are somehow stuck with needing to refinance in a worse situation than when they started in. But I've been saving myself lots of money with the 5/1 for fifteen years now, in all sorts of markets. Why shouldn't I mention it to other people, including my clients?

Caveat Emptor

I have repeatedly advised my readers to sign up for a back-up loan if they can find somebody willing. So every once in a while, I get email like this:


Hi! Would you be willing to do my backup loan? I'm already signed up with my brother-in-law but you tell people to get a backup loan so I'm asking you.

No loan officer with any sanity is going to agree to that request. You've already made up your mind who is doing your loan. You are not honestly shopping your loan, and you're kidding yourself if you think you are. You're not likely to evaluate your brother-in-law's loan critically when it comes to final signing, you're just going to sign on the dotted line. So the back-up loan officer is going to spend hundreds of dollars and a lot of time pushing your loan through for zero prospect of getting paid. Suppose your boss asked you to work through the weekend, and maybe a couple extra nights, spend about a week's worth of your own pay, but that you wouldn't be paid, you wouldn't get a bonus, and it wouldn't be considered at your next review. That's essentially what you're asking them to agree to with the above scenario. There is no carrot whatsoever in the case of loan officers, because (unlike employers) you're not paying them at any other time, either. Quite frankly, I'd rather spend the time trying to find another client, or with my family, or doing anything else. I'm not interested in wasting my time on backup loans like that, and neither is any other loan officer.

The first thing you have to do if you're hoping for someone to agree to be a backup loan provider is give them an honest chance at being the primary loan. You have to shop them before you have signed up with anyone. You have to have the whole loan officer conversation with several loan officers: what you've got, where you want to get to, your situation, etcetera. Don't forget to ask the Questions You Should Ask Prospective Loan Providers. They go out and price the loan, and get back to you with what they can do. If you are actually signed up with someone else prior to this point, you have not honestly shopped your loan, and no loan officer in the world is going to agree to provide a backup, not to mention that you have placed yourself completely at the mercy of the loan officer you signed up with. There never was any real chance that other loan officers could actually earn your business. It's like going to an auto dealer and asking them to special order a car for you, despite the fact that you've already paid another dealer, are not going to put down a deposit, and indeed, really want to do business with the other dealer, but hey, you want them to do this for you on the chance that other dealer cannot deliver. If you have any doubts, why did you order with the other dealer, or more topic, why did you sign up with your brother in law for the loan? Especially prior to checking with anyone else?

So after honestly shopping your loan, you obviously need to make a choice. Now the reason I advise people to get a back-up loan is because everything you are told when you make that choice could very well be a lie. With the majority of loan companies, the California MLDS is subject to all kinds of misrepresentation, intentional misquoting, etcetera. If this were not the case, there would be no need to sign up for a back up loan. The purpose of signing up for a back up loan is to give yourself another option if, when you go to sign final documents, the loan they actually offer you a contract for is different from the loan they dangled to get you to sign up, that they have been talking about all this time but at the moment of truth they don't really have it. Whether it's a different rate, has closing costs thousands of dollars higher, thousands of dollars added to your loan amount that they conveniently "forgot" to tell you about, has a pre-payment penalty when they told you it didn't, is a completely different kind of loan than they told you about in the first place, or even all of the above, the loan isn't what got you to sign up. In some cases, they don't have a loan at all, and are stringing you along in hopes that they will have a loan Real Soon Now. If you only have one loan ready to go, your options are limited to "sign on the dotted line or don't." If you've made a substantial deposit on a property you are buying and all of a sudden you don't have a loan, guess what? You will probably lose that deposit. So people will sign on the dotted line, even for refinances, when it's not the same loan they were led to believe they were getting in the first place. Hence, my advice to sign up for a back-up loan. That gives you the option of signing the other loan officer's loan contract, and the mere fact that someone else also has a loan ready to go is much better leverage than anything else you can do to get them to produce the loan they said they had in the first place. You also can use the first loan officer's loan as a club for your back-up, too, if need be.

But if you're not going to evaluate your primary loan officer's loan critically, if you're not going to go through the paperwork and make sure that rate, terms, and costs is indeed, as described, that back-up loan officer has just wasted all of their work, and all of their money. Excuse them if they are less than enthusiastic about doing that when there is no prospect of getting paid. It's not like they are being paid an hourly wage. If that loan doesn't close, they get nothing for all that time and effort. People work to earn money, even if they really do like their job.

So what you've got to do, preferably before you make a final choice for your primary, is ask your number two prospect about your number one prospect's loan. Does loan officer number two think offer number one is deliverable? I assure you that good loan officers know what is and isn't really deliverable. Whether the answer is "Yes" or "No", you've got some useful information. If the answer is "Yes," you know that what the low bid is talking about is possible. Whether they will actually deliver it or not is a different question. The way to bet is that they will not, unless they are willing to offer you a written Loan Quote Guarantees. If you ask for a Loan Quote Guarantee, most lenders and loan officers will not give you one. Instead, they will try to distract you with BS about how they are thus and such reputable company, and they honor their commitments. This is nonsense. Neither the Good Faith Estimate, Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement, Truth In Lending form, or any of the other standard forms that you get at loan sign up, is in any way a commitment or a guarantee. They are only estimates, and they may be accurate estimates or they may be the biggest lie since the invention of the one night stand. Furthermore, loan officers don't write loan commitments. That is the exclusive province of underwriters, whom you will never communicate with directly. The most that loan officers can promise is that if the underwriter approves it, the loan will be on a given set of terms, and that is the sort of Loan Quote Guarantee you should look for.

Now, if the second lowest loan provider says "no," that the lowest's rate is not deliverable, that is your opening. "Well, tell you what, Mr. Loan Officer," you say, "If you're certain that loan quote is not deliverable, and that yours is, how about you agree to be my back-up loan provider. If they don't deliver on those terms, as you say they won't, and you do deliver on yours, I'll take your loan. What do you say?"

What they are most likely going to do, of course, is try and talk you into being the primary, and to forget this nonsense about back-up loans. After all, he (or she) is a sales person. If you do what they want, this puts them in the cat-bird seat thirty days down the line instead of your number one choice. And you know, if they are willing to give a Loan Quote Guarantee and the number one choice isn't, I'd probably make them my primary. Ask anyone who's dealt with construction contractors if they'd rather take a bid of $X that is just an estimate, or $X plus 5% that has good solid guarantees behind it? Same principle here. The one that's willing to guarantee their work gets the business, or at least first crack at it.

Now suppose number two won't agree to provide a back-up? Then ask number three. Suppose number one is going to try to hinder your back up loan? You need to explain that you fully intend to go with them, and that if they provide the loan on the terms they told you about, they are going to get the business, but you're providing yourself with an insurance policy, just in case they won't, and their attempts to sabotage that insurance policy are likely to force you to cancel your loan with them. Tell them that if they are really going to deliver what they said they would, their loan will be better than the competition's, so there will be no reason to choose the other loan, so their attempts to obstruct or sabotage the other loan have you thinking that maybe you should cancel their loan, because their actions are indicative of being nervous about their own loan. Be blunt, be truthful, and carry through on your threat to cancel if they keep being an obstacle to the back up. If they need to obstruct a worse loan, it's because they have no intention of delivering the better one. Carry through on your promise to cancel - and then go find yourself a new insurance policy.

Signing up for a back up loan is the cheapest, smartest thing you can do to protect yourself in one of the largest dollar value transactions of your life. But if there isn't a real possibility of getting the business, no loan officer in the world is going to agree to be your back up. You need to demonstrate to them that there is a real possibility of their loan being the one you actually sign the loan contract for at the end of the process, or they are not going to be interested. The type of email that is referenced at the top of the article isn't to protect yourself. It's to mollify your conscience, because you know you didn't really shop your loan around, and you know you're going to pay more than you need to, unless you get struck by pure dumb luck. The point of reading the consumer education here is that you don't want to rely on pure dumb luck.

Caveat Emptor

That question brought someone to the site. The answer is "Yes, they can". As a matter of fact, just because they have you sign those documents does not in any way obligate that lender to actually fund your loan.

There are two sections of conditions on every loan commitment. The loan commitment is what the underwriter writes up when the loan is approved. The first section is called "Prior to Docs", meaning before the final loan documents the customer signs at closing are generated. These should be all the stuff that's substantive in nature, that governs whether or not you qualify. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The second section is called "prior to funding," or "funding conditions." This should be limited to simple procedural stuff like a final updated payoff demand, final verification of employment (they call and make sure you still work there), etcetera. However, more and more, conditions that more properly belong in "prior to docs" section are being moved to "prior to funding."

Why do they do this? Well, once you sign those documents you are more heavily committed to them. Once you sign, and the Right of Rescission (if any) expires, you are stuck with that lender. You no longer have the right to call it off. If you go elsewhere, to another lender, because they are taking too long, they can fund your loan and force you to live by the terms of the documents you signed. Bad business all around, and you're going to be dealing with two sets of high powered lawyers that the contracts you signed basically obligate you to pay for - but they work for the two different lenders!

One fact that many people don't understand is that it's a rare loan application which is rejected completely. I don't remember when I've ever had a loan application outright rejected. Of course, being a good loan officer, I'm going to be as careful as possible that the people will qualify before I submit their loan package, but this is far from universal. Many loan officers routinely tell people about loans and programs that they have no prayer of qualifying for, but there sure are some great rates attached, for all the good they will do you. Then the loan gets rejected but they sit on the rejection while they work the loan they had in mind for you all along, and come back and say, "This is the best I could do" at closing time, and an extremely high percentage of people will sign on the dotted line because they think they have no choice.

What happens much more frequently is that the loan gets approved, and the underwriter writes a loan commitment, but with conditions that cannot be met in this particular instance. The borrowers need to prove more income than they make is probably the classic example, but these "killer conditions" occur in every area of loan underwriting. More often than not, the loan officer is not really surprised by these, and most often, they won't ever tell you about them if they can avoid it. Why? Because that gives you a "heads up" that you're not going to get the loan you thought you were, and at a time when it's still very possible for you do go loan shopping elsewhere.

Now a good loan officer - both competent and ethical - will not tell you about a loan they don't think you're going to qualify for. My ambition is always to have the list of conditions, both "prior to docs" and "prior to funding", to be as short and unsurprising as I can possibly make it. This saves work and it saves time. Remember, every time that underwriter touches the file they can add more conditions, and they can also discover something that causes them to essentially reject the loan, by adding conditions the consumers in question cannot meet. If I can submit a file and the underwriter writes a commitment with only a few routine prior to funding conditions, I am much happier because now I can request documents, have them signed, and get this loan done. You get this kind of commitment by sending all of the documentation they need in every loan all at once, in the beginning, but only that documentation. It's not necessarily a sign of incompetence if the underwriter puts some other conditions on it - probably somewhere close to half of my commitments have some condition the underwriter took it into their heads to require in this instance. Like any good loan officer, I avoid arguments with an underwriter if I can, so when they give me a condition I didn't anticipate, I figure out what I need to satisfy it and whether I can get it. But you learn when extra documentation will be required.

Many loans, particularly sub-prime, are done completely in the reverse fashion. The loan officer submits a bare application, without supporting documentation, and waits for the conditions, and boy do they get a blortload of conditions. Not too long ago I helped an experienced real estate agent in my office with his first loan. He wanted to do it "the easy way," by which he thought he meant, "The lazy way," but he really meant, "The hard, stupid way." He submitted a bare application to the lender and got seven pages of conditions, which were added to as time went by and he submitted documentation piecemeal. Took him two months and four times the work of just taking another day and submitting a complete loan package in the first place. If he had done that, the loan probably would have been finished in two and a half weeks. Some of the conditions were for stuff I had never encountered before. What was going on, of course, was that the underwriter had gotten it into his head that this was probably a dangerous loan to approve, and he wanted to be extra careful on the approval.

So what can the average person do to safeguard themselves against this happening. Well, you can't - not completely. The underwriter can always add conditions, and so can the funder. Even if the loan gets funded, they can pull the money back right up until the moment that trust deed gets recorded with the county. That's just the way it is. What you can do is ask for copies of the loan commitment, and of the outstanding conditions, those that have yet to be met. Refusal on the part of a loan officer to provide this is always a bad sign. Ditto the inability. I definitely wouldn't sign the loan papers without a copy of the outstanding conditions in my possession, and it may be smart to ask for copies of the conditions at several points in your loan. Yes, they can be faked, pretty easily, but then they are ammunition in your lawsuit if something goes wrong. Before you even apply, you can ask questions about necessary income, what the program guidelines for debt to income and loan to value ratio are, etcetera. Much of the stuff in my article Questions You Should Ask Prospective Loan Providers is aimed at defusing that kind of situation. Furthermore, you can and should apply for a back up loan if you can find someone willing. Remember, at sign up you have all the power, but at closing, the lender has all the power. They have the loan, and nobody else does. Many times, the loan they deliver at closing will have nothing in common with the loan that got you to sign up. If you don't want to find yourself completely at their mercy, the only way to reliably do so is apply for at least two loans. In the worst case scenario, it means that you get the least bad of these two loans, and in most circumstances, you can use the fact that there's another choice you can make to motivate them to deliver something that more closely resembles what they told you in order to get you to sign up. At the very least, get a written Loan Quote Guarantee.

Loan officers have people sign loan documents every day that there is no hope of actually funding a loan on. It doesn't make sense to me, but they do it, mostly because they are afraid if they break down and tell you they can't fund this loan, you will go elsewhere and they won't get paid. Signing loan documents more strongly commits borrowers to this loan, and as long as they keep trying, there's always the possibility that they will get paid. I have talked with people that were strung along for three months before they finally gave up and realized that this loan was not going to happen.

Caveat Emptor

Question from an e-mail:

Hi, I have a question about mortgages. My boyfriend and I are looking to buy a home, and since I have recently quit my job he would be the primary applicant. He makes $44k and we are looking at houses about $150k. We both have very good credit although I have some debt. I am wondering though what kind of rate we are going to get since he recently graduated and just started his job about a month ago. Is that going to affect the rate of the mortgage or how much he can qualify for, and by how much? Also, I have a small business that has been running for about a year and a half - it made a good bit of money last year, about $55k, and is still making some (albeit less now than it was last year.) Would it be worth it for me to co-apply, based on that income, since I don't have a salaried job currently? If I am not on the mortgage, I will sign a lease to him. We are going to put about $10,000 down. Thanks!

First off, let me briefly explain that unless someone has either truly putrid credit or large monthly payments that kill the debt to income ratio, there just isn't a reason to leave someone off a loan. So what if John is a househusband or Jane is a housewife with no income? They're still part of that marriage partnership, and the same applies (minus the word marriage) if the folks involved aren't married. Gays with civil unions and cohabiting straights are exactly the same as married folks except that I have to put them on separate applications instead of applying on the same sheet of paper, and if they're committed to each other, well isn't that what being a committed partner is all about - sharing benefits as well as responsibilities? In other words, ownership of the property and indebtedness for the loan.

Depending upon your situation, however, if you sign the lease it may actually help the boyfriend qualify more than your income would if you were on the loan. Leases that fulfill lender requirements generally aren't scrutinized for the ability of the lessee to pay, where if you were on the loan, the money that the lender would believe you could contribute might not pass scrutiny.

Now, let's look at the individual situations.

You are the more clear cut candidate. You have no current salaried income from employment, but you do have a side business with historic, documentable income. If you'd been doing it for two years, you'd have two years in current line of work and the ability to use that income all in one fell swoop. The way that is measured is monthly income averaged over the previous two years, as reported on your federal income tax forms. However, at this point all you have is one year. Still, it's worth submitting, because $4150 per month over one year isn't chicken feed. If you can show some income in the business for 2006, and evidence of when you started, they're likely to average it over the full two years leaving you with a minimum of about $2100 per month to add into the gross income kitty. After all, it's a going concern, you're still doing it and nobody fires owners.

Furthermore, if you can get a job and a paystub in your previous field of employment before you apply for that loan, now you're employed over two years in the same line of work, simply with a gap in employment. When they average that out, it'll be a bit of a hit, but you'll still get substantial credit for your employment income.

Your boyfriend is a bit less cut and dried. If he's in the profession for which he was was granted the degree (for instance, a doctor or nurse when he was studying medicine), then it's a lot easier to get credit for the time in line of work. He was in medicine, he just wasn't getting paid until recently. It isn't written into A paper guidelines that I'm aware of, so it's a matter of lender guidelines and often what an individual underwriter will sign off on, but probably the majority of lenders will buy off on something like this.

If the boyfriend is in an profession unrelated to the course of study, he's just going to have to wait until he has his two years in. There's no history of involvement, and people get jobs in various fields all the time that it turns out they can't - or won't - continue in. For example, sales. That's fine, but the lenders don't want to get caught by default when they leave the field and can't make mortgage payments.

So I can see possible situations arising out of what you describe that could have either one of you primary on the loan, or completely unable to do the loan without resorting to subprime financing. Each individual situation can turn upon some very fine points, kind of like theology or law.

Caveat Emptor

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This page is a archive of entries in the Intermediate Information category from May 2008.

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