X-Pert Information: October 2007 Archives


Scapegoating, anyone?Brian Brady notes Barney Frank's misplaced quest for one.

1- Prohibition of "yield spread premium" as compensation to originators.

2- Mandatory licensing of mortgage originators by a Federal registry or state regulator. This Bill does direct the Office of Thrift Supervision to establish a registry for bank employees who originate loans.

3- Ability to repay the loan must be established. Limits on cash-out refinances and a determination of a net tangible benefit to the borrower will apply.

4- Mandatory "pre-funding counseling" for certain "high-cost" loans by a certified HUD counselor.

All of these are severely brain damaged. In Zero Cost Real Estate Loans, I talk about what a good idea for the average consumer that using yield spread to pay your loan costs can be. Yes, you end up with a higher rate. But if you refinance every two years, the money you spend in interest doesn't even approach the money you don't spend on loan costs. Provision 2 is just a sop to the big lenders, to make brokers lives more difficult, while allowing them to scapegoat their bottom level employees who also take loan applications. I talk more a couple paragraphs down about the first part of provision 3, but the second part is another sop to big banking. If someone owns an asset, they should be able to manage their mortgage as they see fit. I can tell a prospective client that they don't appear to be able to afford something and advise them of such, but they're supposedly competent adults and my proper role, like that of an accountant, is advisory, not compulsory. But these sorts of loans lose a lot of money for lenders who over-compete for business in order to attract customers, whom they can hope to retain while selling them to marketers.

I went over the problems with the fourth proposal in Is This Supposed to be Helpful Legislation?, along with links to what others were saying.

Just this morning, Barry Campbell over at enrevanche pointed me to a new Business Week article that says North Carolina's infamous predatory lending laws may travel.

I don't do business in North Carolina and never have. But they have a 6% aggregate limit on total fees for a loan. When, even with negotiated discounts, it takes just over $3000 to get a loan done (closing costs), you tell me how many $50,000 loans are going to get done, with a 6% aggregate limit. Oh, and I I wasn't aware of this, but "The North Carolina Home Loan Protection Act bans penalties for borrowers who pay off their mortgages early," so that can't be used to cover the costs either, as I go over in Keeping Pre-payment Penalties Legal. One more factor: I believe North Carolina is a survey state, which adds something like $400 more to loan fees. I also believe it's a mortgage tax state, levying a tax on mortgages and refinancing. I don't know what that runs but I doubt it's less than hundreds of dollars.

I have to admit, the idea of nothing but full documentation loans has a certain appeal. Keeps me from having to compete with people who'd do every loan stated income, and sell everyone a house too expensive for them to afford. Furthermore, I'll bet that the entire difference between North Carolina and the national average in foreclosures would be due to this one difference. But self-employed people (with large amounts of deductions) and real estate investors (only get credit for 3/4 of rent, among other issues), both of which have problems qualifying under full documentation lending standards, might disagree with me.

So what's the issue? As I go over in Manufactured, Modular, and Site-Built Homes: How Lending Practices Drive the Sales Market, constricting the availability of loans constricts the price of housing. Were these practices to be mandatory elsewhere in the nation, that 25-30% deflation we've had in California would be just the beginning, and all of the other high cost areas as well (as what drives the cost of living up, except in DC and NYC, seems to be an abundance of successful entrepreneurs). Furthermore, real estate becomes a much less attractive capital investment, so it would have to become more of a "cash flow" investment, putting increased upwards pressure on rents just when some rental markets (like southern California) are set to explode upwards anyway.

Here's the REAL issue that politicians keep tap-dancing around, because they don't want to offend wealthy, campaign contributing lenders and real estate brokerages: There is no substitute for due diligence on an individual level. People have got to take the time to understand what they're getting into. They are legal adults, theoretically competent to manage their own affairs. If they're not capable of being responsible, why are they permitted to vote, drive cars, and sign loan Notes for hundreds of thousands of dollars? But there is no real financial education in the United States, except for those who make a career out of it, and all too often, that license is a cover for activities that would make any self-respecting shark shudder.

I read a posting just a few days ago on how one real estate practitioner built a very successful career at least partially upon a point he seemed inordinately proud of: Not asking people what their plans were. People don't like discussing their plans with folks. But it is precisely discussing future plans that enables a real professional to know what he or she should recommend to the client. Without that, even the most conscientious of us isn't much more than a sales person. You just want me to shut up and get you a million dollar home, I'm cool with that - but I am entitled to protect myself by asking you to agree that I have furnished you with no false promises of you being able to afford it, or that it's really worth what you paid in comparison to other properties at the time.

There is no substitute for real loan disclosure at the time of application, something the legislative branch has been expanding loopholes for for the last thirty years that I'm aware of, all in the name of "helping the consumer" but really in aid of campaign contributions from big chain brokerages and large mortgage lenders. Quite frankly, of the major household names in both, there's really only one that I haven't seen evidence of pervasive unethical practices that would amount to systematic fraud in any other industry, but legal loopholes, lax supervision requirements, and unwillingness to go for the real perpetrators keep these folks in business, occasionally sacrificing a few low echelon goats while those higher up make millions to hundreds of millions per year. That's why I finally got disgusted enough to start this website.

But it seems that comparatively few politicians really understood the lessons of Economics 101, or at least, they understand the benefits of campaign contributions more, and that's why you can't seem to keep a bad idea down.

Caveat Emptor


Read your article on negative arm loans, and for the person who only owns a residence and most real estate investors it will not work. I own several properties, and the parcel to be refinanced is ocean front...so is going up in value more than the negative arm would be when refinanced after prepay penalty period. Cash out would be used to pay off other mortgages, thereby increasing my cash flow for a few years. Does your advice against negative arms apply in my situation?


I believe he's referring to this article.

This is actually an excellent question, and the answer is ... maybe. At least it is not a clear "no", unlike so much of what the Negative Amortization loan is misused for. This largely goes beyond the scope of what I'm trying to do with this site, but I'll take a swing at it.

The fact is that I can construct a scenario that goes either way, and the implicitly high appreciation rate you mention has surprisingly little to do with it.

The positive is that your other loans are paid off! To use Orwell-speak, this is maximum plusgood.

The negative is that this loan now includes every dollar you previously owed. Furthermore, there may be negative tax connotations to the fact that all of your interest expense now comes from one property, as opposed to being able to directly match it against individual properties with individual incomes. If interest against one property is greater than the income for that one property, you may not be able to take it all. I'm not clear on the implications of the tax code here (and I'd like to be educated), so consult with a CPA or Enrolled Agent.

Furthermore, your new loan won't magically create any "lake" of dollars. In order to pay off the other loans, it's going to have to be the size of all of them combined, plus any prepayment penalties, plus all costs of doing the loan, plus potential pre-payment penalties for the Negative Amortization loan.

Now consider:
If you make payment option one (the "nominal" or "as if your rate was 1 percent" payment), you are allowing compound interest to work against you. This is the force Einstein described as "the most powerful force in the universe", and it's working on the whole dollar amount of every single one of your current loans and then some.

Ouch.

No matter which payment you're making, the rate you are being charged, (aka "what the money is costing you") is not fixed, but variable month to month. As far as most commercial property loans are concerned, this is no big deal. They're pretty much variable at "prime plus" anyway. However, I expect the MTA and COFI (upon which Negative Amortization loans are based) to continue rising as government borrowing increases, whereas I'm not so certain about prime, which for most banks is comparatively high by real and historical standards.

Now with all this said, it's still very possible to construct winning scenarios, depending upon a variety of factors. You mention short-term cash flow, and that is certainly one possible justification. If short-term cash flow is all you're looking for, and the money it will cost you later on is no big deal because you're planning to buy down the prepayment penalty and sell in a short period of time. Yeah, you've added to your balance but you've got plenty of equity and you'd rather have a few hundred per month now than multiple thousands later. Think of it as a cash advance.

One of the things that negative amortization loans can do for you is make it easier for you to qualify for more loans on more properties. Because in loan qualification, the bank will only give you credit for 75 percent of prospective rents while dinging you for the full value of payments, taxes, fees, maintenance, etcetera, this can make it much harder to qualify than is realistic, given that in many markets the vacancy factor is less than five percent. You actually pay more, but you're not obligated to. Particularly because many people own investment properties for the capital gain rather than the income potential (i.e. price speculation, rather than monthly income). On the other hand, just because a property has been appreciating rapidly does not mean it will continue to do so, beachfront or not. The market nationwide is entering a very different mode than it's been in for the last few years. I can point to beachfront property here locally that's lost a lot of value since early 2005. Price speculation is great when it works (which is most of the time), but is really scary when it doesn't. It's a reward for risk-taking, so don't lose sight of the fact that it is a risk.

One other factor of doing this is that it can cause taxes on a sale to exceed net proceeds. Suppose you intend to sell the beachfront property in a couple of years, and it doesn't gain any more ground from where it is right now. Many properties were bought for less than 10% of their current value. Let's say you bought for ten percent of current value. If your loan is for eighty percent, and you pay six to seven percent in sale costs, you're getting ninety-three to ninety four percent of value, leaving a net of thirteen or fourteen. But you owe long term capital gains of eighty-three or eighty-four times twenty percent - almost seventeen percent! This can force you to take another loan out, against one of those "free and clear" properties lest you owe the IRS penalties. Yes, 1031 and even a potential personal residence exclusion can modify or nullify this, but so can all the depreciation you may have taken over the years, and if you intended to 1031 the property that would tend to contra-indicate any reasons you had for the negative amortization loan.

Now, to be honest, my experience with commercial loans is limited, and I've never done a negative amortization commercial loan. What few clients I've had in that market have had different goals in mind, and being as I'm a sustainability type loan officer, I tend to attract sustainability type clients, where Negative Amortization loans are more indicative of a speculative ("risk taker") type. I understand what's going on, but it isn't my primary approach to the issues. There are circumstances on investment properties where, unlike your primary residence, it can be very appropriate. Unfortunately, without full specifics, including time schedules, goals, reasons for holding investments, other investments, risk tolerances, etcetera, it's difficult to tell if yours is one of them. My experience in dealing with people is telling me one thing, my sense of ledger evaluation is hinting at a different answer. But I hope I've given you a clear idea of the kinds of issues you need to look at with professional help.
What do the mortgage companies mean when they say they can not insure your house loan.? What is the danger to the homeowner?

I have been in the new home for over a year now and they just now told me that they could not insure my loan. They said they made a mistake and overlooked something in my credit. I do not know what dangers I face now because of this.

You say you've been in the property a year, so I'm going to presume you're talking about an existing loan, rather than a new loan. The loan you used to buy the property, and what they're talking about is that the PMI company rejected the application to insure your loan, and they just now realized the problem.

That Note is a contract binding to both sides. They accepted that loan contract with you. Once it's funded and recorded, they can't back out. Unless the contract has a call "feature" they can't pull your loan just because they feel like it after it's recorded, so the loan you've got now should be fine for you. It's no coincidence lenders are adding call features to more and more loans, to give them a bail out clause should they decide to. But if you don't have such a clause, as long as you keep making all your payments on time, keep the insurance and property taxes up, and all that, they can't force you to do anything. The lender can offer you incentives, as lenders did back in the late seventies and early eighties, such as offering you a reduced payoff if you'll refinance or sell, but they can't force you to do anything as long as you continue to hold up your end of the bargain. The time for them to talk about qualifications is before the loan is funded and recorded. Afterwards, they can't do anything about it, any more than they can do something if values drop (which they have, another reason why they want you to find another lender), if you lose your job, if you decide to change lines of work, etcetera. The qualification process is not open-ended.

There is one more way they can get out of it. If you committed fraud or perjury or something else during the loan qualification process, and they gave you the loan based upon those false representations. Having a loan called is no fun. There's a reason I keep telling people to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth in loan paperwork. In addition to possible criminal charges, you'll have between 7 and 30 days to get the money somewhere when your loan is called for this reason. If the rate is higher, if the closing costs are huge, even if you can't get that loan, it's not the lender's problem. They are within their rights if you misrepresented yourself in a material way.

What they're likely trying to do in this case, where you haven't told me of such a reason, is stampede you into refinancing, since without PMI they can't sell your loan on the secondary market. Unfortunately for them, they're stuck at this point unless you let them off the hook, and they'll have to hold your loan themselves and hope you don't default.

There's a fair amount of this sort of thing going on right now, as the lenders that gave out 'warm body' loans suddenly realize the consequences. Don't draw any lines in the sand without talking to a lawyer first, but if I understand your situation, they can't force you to refinance or anything. It's more than a little slimy of them to do this, of course. But a certain percentage of borrowers will panic and do something they don't need to.

Caveat Emptor


We live in (A California city). In a 2 bedroom 1 bath home on approximately a 20,000 Sq. ft. lot. It is easily worth 500K to 600K with a current mortgage of $116,000. The mortgage/Title is in the name of my father and his wife 90% and myself and my wife with a 10% interest.

My father who is 75 and retired wants to take out about $80,000 cash which would create a new loan of approximately $200,000. He currently has a very small income from investments and lives in a paid off home in (out of state).

He would like to gift this (California) home to us and we would like that also.

Based on your expertise what is the best way to transfer the property to my wife and I and at the same time obtain a cash out stated income loan. How will a lender expect this to be handled? Do we all qualify together and the lender then allows my father to transfer/gift title at the close of escrow?

I realize that whatever lender wants to make the loan they will want to have my wife and I qualified to be on title. Since we have a 10% interest I would assume that we could all be asked to show assets and income. This might be complicated. I am a realtor but I haven't made much money in the last two years because I've worked on a business startup currently breaking even with no income.

My wife has a terrific long term (16 yr) job with a law firm. Gross income $85,000. All of our expenses are very low and the last time I looked our credit was a 785 FICO score. When I do the front end ratio 28 with only my wife's income it appears to be no problem at all. When I do the backend it's a little more snug but definitely doable. I've racked up some credit card debt funding the startup business. I can pay it off but I would like to retain working capital handy for my business.

I believe a stated income loan would be the best way to go.

Here are the assets and documentation I would be willing to show, and the lenders exposure to the property.

1. We would have approx. a 36% LTV at the end of the transaction. 300k+ equity
2. Assets in a 401K of $200,000 +
3. Approx. $30,000 in savings accounts
4. Approx. $40,000 in negotiable stocks
5. I will of course provide credit reports.
6. Employment documentation for my wife only.

I believe my father and his wife have approximately $200,000 in mutual funds plus social security and she has a part time job doing a water district's billing.


This one is fairly complex on the surface. Issues that I see right off:

-family transfer
-documenting current interest
-structure of transaction
-Will your father be selling you some of his interest as part of this transaction?
-likely the cash out quitclaim issue
-Who is going to be primarily or completely responsible for new loan
-verification of rent/mortgage.

You say that you are already on title of record, and that the desired end state is to have you and your wife owning the property outright.

The best way to structure this is probably as an actual sale
transaction. Your father selling you and your wife a larger interest. Because this is a family transfer, you still would likely qualify to continue having it taxed based upon original acquisition price, but that needs to be checked, either through the county or your title insurance company for the transaction. You also need to scrutinize the current owner's policy of title insurance to see if it will continue coverage. There have been changes in the industry since the property was bought. If it doesn't, you're going to want to buy a new policy.

Now there is a standard policy with every lender I've ever done business with. If someone is brought onto title via quitclaim, you can't get cash out for six months after that date. This prevents several sorts of fraud. I am going to presume that you've been on title longer than six months.

Now, there are three ways that suggest themselves to structure this transaction. Each have their potential advantages and disadvantages. First though, we need to take a look at another issue.

In all real estate transactions, and for all loans, the method of evaluating the property is the so-called LCM, or "Lesser of Cost or Market," method. Market is what similar properties around yours have sold for within the past twelve months, and that is what it is, and is computed by the appraiser.

Cost is the purchase price. In refinances, there is usually no purchase to consider, because the value has changed since purchase. In purchases, there usually is.

Whichever of these two numbers is less determines the value of the property, as far as the lender is concerned. It doesn't matter if similar properties are selling for four million dollars - if you buy yours for one hundred thousand dollars, the lender will loan as if the value was $100,000. It can't be any higher than that, because the seller willingly sold to you for that amount. If the property was worth more, they would have required you to pay more.

For family transfers (and indeed, any related party) this presumption goes out the window. Parents do all kinds of stuff for their kids that they wouldn't do for anyone else, and vice versa. Lenders still won't loan money based upon a number above nominal purchase cost, however.

Furthermore, there have been a sufficient number of scams over the years that they will take additional measures to protect themselves. The presumption of willing buyer and willing seller is violated on both ends of these transactions, and many times it has been A selling the property to B for an overinflated price for the purpose of getting a loan and departing at midnight, leaving the lender holding the bag. Remember, I told you in this article here, is that because the dollar values are so large on real estate transactions, every single one is heavily scrutinized for fraud. There's a reason for that. These additional measures differ from lender to lender, and some lenders will not undertake related party transactions at all. When I'm getting loan quotes from lenders, if it's a related party transaction, then words to that effect are the first words out of my mouth. It saves a lot of time and effort.

Now, I mentioned there being three ways I can see that make sense to approach the transaction?

The first is a full price sale with upfront gift of equity. You buy the property for $600,000. They sell it to you for $600,000, but give you $340,000 in equity in addition to the $60,000 you already own. You get a loan for $200,000 (actually a bit more to pay for costs), the old loan gets paid off, your father gets his $80,000. This has the advantage of being a true picture of what's going on. The problems are that to the lender, this screams fraud. They're not likely to be too worried that its for below market value, but $340,000 is a lot of money. They are going to want to see evidence that there's not some loan going on under the table between you and your father, because that would affect whether or not you qualified for their loan. Furthermore, estate tax isn't completely dead yet and could be resurrected even if it does die, and this would have significant estate tax implications.

The second is full sale price with subsequent gifts of equity. Sell it for full price, from you and your wife as ten percent and your father and his wife as ninety, to you and your wife as twenty-five percent and your father and his wife as seventy-five. They can then give you a gift of forty thousand of equity each year. You can even combine this with the initial sale, making your interest thirty percent, which might make the loan easier. In this case, you are all four probably going to be on the new loan to get the best rates, as $200,000 is about thirty-three percent of $600,000 - a larger amount than the equity you and your wife currently have under this scenario. There is a further major difficulty with this lies in the possibility that the complete equity may not be gifted in your father's lifetime.

The third way is to sell the full property at a reduced sale price. Approximately $300,000 would probably be sufficient. Everything here is like the full price sale, but they're only giving you about $40,000 in equity upfront - which is within the IRS single year limits. The bank has less difficulty believing that (although they're still going to want a letter stating that it is a gift!). The downside is still that family transfer thing, and the fact that if you wanted to refinance within a year there would be appreciation issues on whether or not the bank would believe you.

All three ways have their bumps and walls which you very well might run into. Each lender has their own anti-fraud measures, and sometimes these run afoul of the best ways to structure it

Now, as to the loan itself, I have good news and bad news. I'm going to start with the bad. Verification of Rent/Mortgage is going to rear its ugly head no matter what you do. The bank is going to want to see some kind of evidence that you and your wife have been making rent or mortgage payments every month, and from all that I can see in the email, there's no evidence to support this. The only person who appears to be in a position to verify that is your dad - unless you've been writing the checks for the mortgage and can prove it. The lenders may or may not accept your father's word for it, and they are going to want evidence. If you're actually on the current mortgage, this would be extremely helpful.

The good news is that with an income of $85,000 per year which your wife alone makes and you should be able to document, you have a monthly income of about $7083. This means that the back end you'd qualify for on A paper, thirty year fixed rate basis, is about $3180 (about $2690 if we're talking about an A paper ARM). Picking a random A paper lender, I get about 6.25 percent rate thirty years fixed full documentation, which translates to a monthly principal and interest payment of a little less than $1232. With the yield curve inverted right now, the five year ARM is about the same rate, meaning there's no reason to do that instead.

Take $1232. Add $600 per month, which is about the worst case scenario for property taxes that I see (as I said earlier, you can probably preserve the current tax basis). Add another $150 per month for homeowner's insurance, which is a high estimate for most urban locales. This is still less than $2000 per month, leaving you almost $1200 of other allowable payments before you would not qualify full documentation. You can probably do stated income if you want, but that'd be giving the bank money that you don't need to.

Because of the multiple concerns, of which the most important are family transfer and verification of mortgage/rent, there are many reasons why the best way to approach this might change, but when you separate it all out, it certainly looks doable.

Caveat Emptor (and Vendor)
 



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