There Is No Fairy Godmother for Loans

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Really.

I know that most people who read that title are replying "no kidding" but you would be amazed at how many people act like there is such a fairy godmother.

I got an email yesterday that said, basically, "Help me! I bought with a prepayment penalty and my payment is too high. I've got a 100% loan at 7.125% and a three year prepayment penalty, and I need to drop my payment by at least $500 per month!" As I explained, the only honest responses that really solve this problem have to do with increasing the income, decreasing the other outgo, or, as a last resort, getting rid of the property, because he's not going to get a loan like that. They don't exist. They never did, really, but negative amortization loans allowed people to fool themselves into believing they existed.

Things are better now than they usually are. There is a temporary set of loan programs in effect right now to help you if your only problem is the fact that values are down. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a set of programs that allow up to 125% financing with no PMI, providing you meed the other criteria - chief among which is your debt to income ratio falls within acceptable bounds. In other words, you can afford the loan, you just can't afford adjustable interest rates. But the guy referenced above is stuck in a negative amortization loan because it was the only way to afford the property he wanted. He treated it like a fairy godmother waving her wand, and didn't ask what happens on the 12th stroke of midnight when the loan recasts.

Anytime you are signing up for anything other than a fully amortized loan at a fixed rate of interest, you should ask "What happens next?" What happens when the initial period of lowered payments ends? Because each and every one of these loans has a boosted payment when that happens, and many, like negative amortization loans, are adding thousands of dollars onto the balance of your loan whenever you make that special low payment they're so proud of! So in three years, when the loan recasts, you owe about 10% more than you did to start with, and a shorter amortization period means your payments go up even more to reflect that. If you couldn't afford the loan originally, how are you going to afford it later?

Real Estate Mortgage Loans are something you've got to get right in the first place. Lenders often allow a higher loan to value ratio for purchase money loans than anything else. Put into plain English, if you bought with a loan for ninety percent of the value of the property, I might not be able to refinance it at all, anymore. If Fannie or Freddie own your current loan, then we can likely refinance you under restrictions noted above, but most of the rotten loans were with Alt A or subprime lenders, not Fannie or Freddie. Second, there are closing costs in every loan. Closing costs are around $3000 or so, not counting origination and any discount you may decide to pay to get a lower rate. You can pay these costs out of pocket, you can pay them through yield spread (and equivalent things) by accepting a higher rate - making it harder for a refinance to get you a lower rate - or you can roll those costs into your balance, meaning that the loan to value ratio gets worse. Even a few dollars over a given level's cut off goes to the next higher level, getting worse pricing. If you were at 86.2 percent loan to value and you go to 87.2 percent, we've still got a ninety percent loan. But if you were at 89.1 and you go to 90.1 (or even 90.001), that puts you into the 95% loan to value bracket, with higher pricing and I've only got one or two lenders who will of do it at all, even purchase money. Unless your current loan is with Fannie or Freddie, I can't think of anyone right now who'll do a 95% bracket refinance loan at all. Not to mention that the appraisal may not come in and there's nothing your loan officer can do about it. So if you start with a bad loan, the practical result may be that you cannot fix it by refinancing because lenders won't do it.

So before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand all the nuts and bolts of your loan. Keep asking the question "What happens later?" If you don't understand it, or it is too complex, get some disinterested professional advice. Chances are that something is going on that's going to be bad for you later on. Lenders don't want to compete on price, and they know most people choose loans based upon payment, and they know how to play all of the games with payment and interest rate to make their loan appear good to the casual public.

Ask the hard questions before you sign up. Unfortunately, with new lending environment the best realistically possible answers aren't as good as I'd like, but the answers that prospective loan providers give are still instructive if you pay attention.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 13, 2014 7:00 AM.

"I'm Working With Someone Else, But Could You Just Help Me With..." was the previous entry in this blog.

The Tollbooth Model of Real Estate Agency is the next entry in this blog.

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