Recently in X-Pert Information Category

The new consumer article for today is Restricted Sale Property: Very Difficult to Find A Loan. Before you make an offer on restricted sale property, know that your financing options are going to be very limited, and being able to refinance may not happen at all. It can still be very worthwhile to own such a property, but this is something you need to know.

The new consumer article for today is Getting A Loan In A Paranoid Lending Environment. Lenders today are over-tightening lending standards in over-reaction to the losses they have taken (which were their own fault), effectively nuking the barn after one horse escapes. It's an article about how to actually get a loan funded in this environment.

Today's new consumer article is When Loan Modification Will Not Help, or Is Not Appropriate, in which I write about the major situations where trying for a mortgage loan modification will not help you.

Today's new consumer article is APR vs APY: What The Difference Between Note Rate and APR Tells You. I advise people to ignore APR as a means of shopping a loan. But there is some information in the difference between the alleged note rate and the APR.

Today's new consumer article is "Buy and Bail" or Buying One Home Before Foreclosure on Another, describing lender response to what has become a widespread phenomenon, as people think they are somehow saving themselves money try to defraud lenders in order to get another loan before their current home goes into default.

Today's new consumer article is The Return of Portfolio Lending, on the subject of what a portfolio loan is and the differences between portfolio and security based lending, and what the return of portfolio lending means, even to those who may not have a real estate loan.

I refinanced my house and an existing lien was not discovered.

Now the important question: Is it a valid lien, or has it really been paid, and just not released of record? If it has been paid, you don't owe money simply because the lien on your property was not properly removed. If you can prove it was paid off, either by yourself or a previous owner, you're out of the woods.

Since you are asking the question, however, I'm going to assume that it is a valid lien. Most are. You owe the money. It doesn't magically go away simply because the title company (or lawyer doing the title search) missed it.

Now, assuming you live in a title insurance state, it should make no difference to the state of your mortgage. You bought a lender's policy of title insurance as part of your transaction, and the title policy insures the lender from loss due to the extra lien.

You still owe the money, of course. Like any other bill, just because you neglected to pay it off or neglected to pay it on time does not mean you somehow don't owe the money. If it was in effect from before you bought the property, though, your owners policy of title insurance should kick in and pay it off. That's the way title insurance works - they tell you about known issues with your title, and then they insure (almost) everything else. They'll then go after the previous owner, of course. That's what subrogation is all about. They stepped in and paid to keep you from getting damaged, but they now assume the right to receive the money from the person who damaged you. If you live in an attorney title search state, my understanding is that you are going to have to sue the attorney involved, but suing attorneys is a tough proposition, and you can't recover the base lien, only increased damages resulting from that attorney's negligence. If the previous owner was really responsible for it, the title insurer is going to have to run them down and file a lawsuit, and quite often the previous owner has no assets that they can get at.

If the lien was your doing, as most are, you're going to have to start making an effort to pay that lien. How much of an effort depends upon whether you have a lender's policy of title insurance. If you do, it's really no huge deal, because the lender has access to the checkbook of a national megacorporation. If you don't, the lender can potentially force you to pay it in cash right now. They can also force you to refinance by calling your loan, or to take out a second mortgage to pay the lien off in many cases. It's possible they might just pay it and tack it on to your balance, usually boosting your payment in the process. Talk to a real estate lawyer in your state for details, but the lender is not generally going to leave an uncovered lien in place, when the pricing they gave you for that loan was predicated upon there not being such a lien. Since the lien predates their loan, it's almost certainly senior to it, by which I mean that if something happens and you have to sell the property to pay off the liens, it gets paid before your mortgage. The lender is not usually going to tolerate that.

Now suppose that you got a thirty year fixed rate loan at 5% back in 2003, and suppose rates have gone up to seven and a half percent by the time you rediscover the lien. The lender can do better with that money from your loan, and so they are going to want to seize upon any excuse to make you pay it off. This, all by itself, is a really good reason to be careful with your liens.

If you intentionally hid the lien, the lender may even sue for fraud in many jurisdictions. If you intentionally hid it, for instance, it's quite likely that your policy of title insurance won't cover you, and the lender is going to be very unhappy about that.

Most people, however, don't intentionally hide a lien, they just forgot it was there, and when the title search comes up empty any worries in the back of their mind went away. If they even think about it, they mentally write it off. "Oh, I must have forgotten that I paid it." You still owe the money, and now that it's discovered, you're going to have to start paying on it, but if they've got lender's title insurance the lender shouldn't freak.

Now, missing liens is actually fairly rare, but once title insurers miss them, they usually will not be caught on subsequent title searches, because the title company will use the previous title search as a starting point (around here, they actually call them "starters", but I don't know how widespread the practice is) for their new title search. Sometimes they do catch them, and ask the previous title company for an indemnity (which basically says that the previous title company is still liable for having missed it).

Caveat Emptor


Every once in a while, the subject of assumable loans comes up. An assumable loan is one where the owner of a property has the ability to pass the loan along with the property in a sale. In other words, if they sell a property with a $200,000 assumable loan on it, by assuming the loan, the buyer only has to come up with the difference between that $200,000 and the purchase price. The $200,000 loan is a constant of the situation.

About the only loan that generally has an assumption feature is the VA loan. There are other loans out there that are assumable, but it's a matter of company policy of the lender funding the loan.

Just because a loan is assumable does not mean that any person is acceptable to assume such a loan. The lender has the right to approve or disapprove a loan assumption. The way to bet is that any prospective borrower is going to have to qualify under loan guidelines at least as stringent as the original loan. Mind you, if the rate is higher than the current market, the lender is likely to be somewhat forgiving, but if the rate is lower than current market, the lender has an incentive not to approve the assumption. They may approve it anyway, if the rate still beats the active return on the secondary market. But given the latitude to make their own decision, it's not exactly amazing how often everyone will usually follow their economic best interest.

Even after an assumption gets approved, the original borrower is not off the hook. I don't think I've ever heard of an assumption where there was no recourse to the original borrower. The VA loan has full recourse to the original borrower (and their VA guarantee) for a minimum of two years. This means that those original borrowers aren't going to be able to get another VA loan for at least two years, or at least that they're limited by the amount of their overall VA limit tied up in the assumed loan.

Other than VA loans, loans where there is an assumable option are generally a little higher than the non-assumable competition in terms of the tradeoff between loan rate and costs. This is because assumability is a feature with value. They're giving you something that has value the competition does not - they want some value in return. It's generally not a huge difference, but in the absence of someone asking for an assumable loan, I generally presume lower rate/cost tradeoff is more important to my clients, and I can't remember the last time a wholesaler with assumable loans won that battle.

Now there is a concrete value to having an assumable loan. Particularly in markets like today in much of the country, they are one more way to get the property sold, and sold at a better price. After all, you have a feature that few other sellers have. The offer to allow someone to assume your loan can help certain kinds of buyers who may not be able to qualify otherwise, It's a narrow niche, but it does exist, and the ability to have any niche of potential buyers to yourself is valuable in a slow market. This doesn't say you can ask for way more than the property is worth, it says that you have a tool to lure certain types of buyer, and have a tool to move negotiations in the direction you'd like them to go once there is an offer.

Caveat Emptor

The answer is a modified no. The same answer applies to property that is only structurally damaged, but not condemned.

That condemnation is a matter of public record. I've seen any number of them while perusing title records. It shows up kind of prominently on the title commitment, which every regulated lender is going to require.

Now it is a rule of regulated lenders that they will only lend upon the state of the property right now. If a house is condemned, you can't sell it to anyone as a house. Furthermore, with a condemned house on the property, it really isn't vacant land, either. It's less valuable than bare land, as you have an expense that vacant land does not. You have to pay for demolishing the structure and hauling away the garbage.

In the case of structurally damaged but repairable property, regulated lenders won't deal with it as a house either, although some may deal with it as if it were vacant land, less the cost of demolition and haul away. It depends upon lender policy.

The only place to get loans upon structurally unsound or condemned property is a hard money lender. They don't have the Securities and Exchange Commission to answer to, and only much smaller responsibility to the Federal Reserve Board. Many of them are individuals holding the loans in their own name. They can do most anything they want. If one of them can be convinced that the property can be marketed for a given sum, they will typically loan based upon that sum. It's all a matter of what they want to do.

Hard money lenders will loan a maximum of only up to about seventy-five percent of whatever the marketable value of the property is, and the rates are unfriendly, to say the least. However, they can choose to lend where a regulated lender can not. They can be your only option other than no loan at all. Most brokers will have at least a couple hard money lenders available to them, but your average direct lender cannot. As a final note however, before doing business with a hard money lender, you want to think long and hard and consult some experts as to whether you should - whether it's a good idea or not.

Caveat Emptor

When and Why does a Mortgage Company Sell your Current Loan to another Mortgage Company?

Lenders sell their loans because the lender can make an immediate premium of anywhere from 2.5 percent to four percent by selling your loan to Wall Street. Yes, this is less than the six to eight percent per year interest that most primary homeowner loans get, let alone second loans, commercial loans, etcetera. Nonetheless, they can turn the money several times per year, earning far in excess of what they could earn from the interest on your loan itself, and that's why they do it.

Selling your loan doesn't just get them four percent once. It lets that lender turn around and do another loan and make more money without getting more money in deposits. Many lenders can turn the money three to six times per year, getting them a twelve to eighteen percent bonus in addition to anything they make those few months that they hold the loan.

Now there are several philosophies on when to sell the loan. The one that seems to have the most adherents currently is the pure packaging house philosophy, where they sell it off immediately upon closing, or within a few days. Given this, they can turn the money a dozen times per year if they work at it, selling the loan for a smaller premium, but getting twelve markups per year, amounting to somewhere between twenty-four and thirty percent on the money.

The second philosophy is one that is practiced by a smaller, but still significant number of lenders, who fall more into the traditional lender's model of doing things, and that is to wait until one payment has been received. Since this eliminates a noteworthy fraction of the fraud that's out there, they get a better markup for their loans. The downside is because they have to hold it an average of two months before the first payment is received, that means they can only turn the money six times per year at most, as opposed to the twelve for the previous model of lender. So they get six markups of three percent or so, maybe close to 20 percent over a year. To this, they add maybe three percent, to cover the interest they actually received from borrowers directly. Net: maybe 22 percent. Furthermore, this leaves them stuck with those loans where the first payment is late, because nobody wants to buy those. Better from their mortgage bond buyer's point of view, not so hot for their bottom line because there is a high percentage chance of those loans becoming what is known as "non-performing." In other words, default. The bond buyers got stuck with the results of default in the first scenario, which the lender views as a much better thing than dealing with it themselves. In other words, this scenario forces the lender to actually live with the results of their riskier underwriting scenarios. They actually can sell those loans, but anybody who's paying to assume that kind of risk is going to demand a commensurately lower price for it, which is reflected in a lower bottom line. So the lenders who hold a loan until after the first payment usually have tougher underwriting than those with pure packaging house mentality.

Finally, there are still a few lenders who wait until they have three payments, giving them the best prices of all when they sell. Unfortunately, it takes about four months for them to be able to do this, so they get four percent for the loan, but can only turn the money three times per year. This actually gives them a chance to fix bill paying problems that might have afflicted the second group, but on the other hand, more people have a late payment somewhere in the first three. Nobody wants to pay a good price for loans that are not current, and a little less if it has been delinquent but is no longer, as that's a flag for possible future problems. These lenders get maybe 12 percent per year in funding markup, plus four percent or so for interest actually received from borrowers, netting maybe sixteen to seventeen percent. Needless to say, this model has largely fallen out of favor by most lenders because it doesn't put as much money into the firm's bottom line, but they still get over twice what the lender who actually holds the loan makes per year.

Now this phenomenon has been part of what has driven rates down from their rates of years previous, as lenders face increased competition from other lenders who "want in" on that twenty-four to thirty percent per year from turning the loans, and are pressured to deliver lower rates by the fact that most of their money actually comes from selling the loan, as opposed to servicing loans they do make. Many lenders actually retain servicing rights when they sell the loan, as this gives them continuing income. Indeed, many people out there whose loans have been sold multiple times are blissfully unaware of the fact, as they are still sending the check to the original servicing company.

Another thing that this has driven is the increased use of pre-payment penalties, as the entities buying the loans, which are mostly large Wall Street entities, are very attracted by the consequences of buying loans with prepayment penalties, and thus, pay more for them. If you know that you're going to get that 7% for at least three years, or get a one time stroke of three percent if you don't, you are willing to pay more for those bonds than if the people involved could just hand you your money at any time. Many times the sub-prime market will offer the same people a better rate with a prepayment penalty than the A paper market will without a pre-payment penalty. It's all well and good to save half a percent on a half million dollar mortgage, which is $2500 per year, but if you don't last the three years you are out $15,000, twice the maximum you possibly could save! Pre-payment penalties are to make the aggregated mortgages more attractive to Wall Street.

Caveat Emptor

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