The New, Allegedly Improved Good Faith Estimate (Page One)

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I had a great rant about the limitations of the Good Faith Estimate all planned out in my head when I when I was in the very first stages of planning this website in my head. It was the first idea I had for an essay, as it is the most commonly abused item in the whole mortgage system of ours, and abuse of the GFE (as the industry calls it) sets the stage for a significant amount of everything else that goes on.

Some people are asking if the new MDIA rules make any difference to this. The answer is emphatically no. They actually muddy the process. The only difference it makes is that crappy loan officers now have to tell you the truth three to seven days in advance of signing final loan documents. Since those same MDIA rules together with other new regulations have stretched what was a seventeen day process a couple years ago into forty or more, you tell me how much good it does the average buyer of real estate to find out 40 days into a 45 day escrow period that they're not getting the loan they thought they were getting. There's no time for a purchaser of real estate to get another loan - they're stuck with that crappy loan. Even on a refinance, how likely are people to start another 45 day process after spending 40 days with the first lender? Furthermore, if you rely upon redisclosure to determine whether or not you were lied to, the waters are even muddier. I just closed a loan last week where everything was exactly what I had quoted the day the folks signed up - but the lender still wanted the redisclosure made to cover their backside, as MDIA has substantial penalties for failing to redisclose, but no reasons not to. At least one lender intentionally refigures the APR in a way different from Regulation Z (which governs APR calculations among other things) to force redisclosure even though that redisclosed APR is not accurate according to Regulation Z!

Nor are the new Good Faith Estimate rules coming into effect on January first going to make any difference. All they mean is that if the fees change (or go outside of a margin allowance in some cases) the lender is going to have to redisclose, exactly like they are doing now, with exactly the same situation for the consumer. Too late to change lenders for buyers, have already spent appraisal money for an appraisal that can't be moved to the new lender, and even for refinances, at a stage where they are just jerking the consumer after the last practical moment to chance as the new lending environment means nobody can guarantee their quotes upon sign up any longer, and nobody is doing back up loans either. Seriously, my opinion of these new rules has evolved since they were published from my initial "they could have done better but this is a good thing" reaction to "This (expletive) was designed to muddy the waters and confuse consumers"

On the other hand, the federal Good Faith Estimate is what we will have to use, and on that note:

The first page, if it was binding, would actually accomplish a little bit of things I've been telling anyone who would listen that we need. If it was binding, it would warn people in advance of all the lenders that pretended they were getting the consumer a sustainable loan for that ridiculously low payment when it was really a negative amortization loan. However, this section is no more binding than any other part of the form and can be redisclosed (i.e. changed) up to 3 days before signing loan documents.

On item 1, the interest rate for the GFE should basically always say the quote is good for today only. If they were required to be totally honest, it would say "This rate is available right now, but may change without notice. Nor are we going to lock your loan until we have a reasonable assurance of it closing". The only way a rate is good for longer than right now is if it's got a "margin" built in to absorb some change. Since this "margin" would mean almost everybody ends up paying more than they would otherwise need to, quote good for longer than right now either are not honest quotes (see my comment upon redisclosure above) or the consumer can get better rates elsewhere. Since the second possibility means that provider becomes less competitive in the marketplace, the first is far more likely.

Item 2, the estimate for settlement charges should be better, but isn't. My company's charges are exactly the same on every loan. The only things that should change are investor charges and third party charges. If I put a loan with lender A, the charges may be as low as $225 while if I put it with lender B the charges may be as high as about $900. I have to consider this alongside of the tradeoff between rate and cost those investors (lenders) offer to determine which is the best investor for the consumer to place the loan with. On refinances, I have "one rate" contracts for third parties (title and escrow, and before HVCCrules came into effect used to be able to do that for appraisals as well, and can usually do it even now. But once again, loan officers intentionally low-ball "forget" to fully disclose these charges at sign up, knowing they are going to disclose the correct charges later.

Item 3 tells your alleged lock period, and if this were any better than the rest of the form, would be a very good thing to disclose to consumers. Item 4 tells people how long before closing they must lock. Expect this number to seven days. Why? Because seven days before closing is the longest period they might have to wait between final redisclosure, which really translates into "finally telling the truth" and loan signing.

Summary of loan is no more binding at loan sign up and no more accurate than it is now. Why? Because they are allowed to change it later, and promising a great deal at loan sign up is how lenders lure people into signing up! But let's go over it anyway

"Your initial loan amount is:" On refinances, this should be current loan amount plus closing costs plus prepaid amounts - unless the loan officer knows you intend to pay those out of pocket because you said so and mutually agreed upon it. If this number is anything else, they are telling you point blank that they are a low-balling liar. On purchases, this should reflect what you are actually borrowing, not just cost of property less down payment. Remember, it's going to cost you some out of pocket money for appraisal, inspection, escrow and title costs, etcetera. This money has to get paid somehow, and the Loan to Value Ratio is measured off the amount actually borrowed versus official purchase price or appraisal, whichever is lower. If you don't have a firm handle on where the money to pay those extra costs is coming from, something is wrong.

"Your Loan term is:" good thing to have and know. Doesn't have to be honestly disclosed at initial sign up any more than anything else, but only the real crooks lie about this.

"Your interest rate is:" Important and critical. But note that it doesn't have to be disclosed honestly here - not until the final disclosure seven days out. Usually the lender actually intends to deliver on this interest rate - just not for the costs disclosed above, and that tradeoff between rate and cost is critical. To pretend they have the rate available for lower cost than real is LYING. It is lying with malice aforethought. I can do loans a full percent lower than what I am currently quoting most people - but for outrageous costs I wouldn't trick my worst enemy into paying!

"Your initial monthly amount owed for principal, interest, and any mortgage insurance is:" What most people think of as the payment. You've got to be able to make it. If the payment needed to be honestly disclosed at initial sign up any more than anything else, might be useful. But as I keep telling people, Never Choose A Loan (or a Property) Based Upon Payment!

"Can Your Interest Rate Rise?" would be a good thing to know if they had to honestly disclose it at sign up. Amazing how many lenders told people who signed up for all of the worst loans of a few years ago that they were getting a thirty year fixed rate loan even past the period when the loan had funded - right up until the people noticed something wrong and they had to come clean. We're not talking just brokers here by the way - some of the biggest name direct lenders in the country did it. Now, they have to tell the truth (guess when?) three to seven days before the final paperwork gets signed - but still not at initial sign up.

"Even if you make payments on time, can your loan balance rise?:" See the above paragraph. Same stuff, different line.

"Even if you make payments on time, can your monthly amount owed for principal, interest and any mortgage insurance rise?:" Same caveats, iteration three

"Does your loan have a prepayment penalty?:" I will bet you money that this remains one of the most common things loan providers lie about to get people to sign up. They can and do change it later. Same caveats, iteration four

"Does you loan have a balloon payment?": This isn't a common point of lying at sign up now - hybrid ARMs tend to be better loans for everyone - even dishonest loan officers - than balloons. But it would be good to know if they had to honestly disclose it at sign up. Unfortunately for consumers, it can still be changed later.

The next section talks about escrow or Impound accounts as they are less confusingly known. If you have one, it can only increase the amount of cash you need to come up with or borrow. I generally counsel people to plan direct payment as it eliminates the need for this cash, and avoid doing loans where it is a requirement. Sometimes, however, not wanting to have an impound account can mean a hit of a quarter to a half point of cost at the same rate, and it is then that you have to weigh those costs versus your pocketbook and available cash.

Summary of Your Settlement Charges: Adjusted Origination Charges Plus Charges for All Other Settlement Services Equals Total Estimated Service Charges. I have four words to say about this calculation: Garbage In, Garbage Out. If the figures it's based upon don't have to be correct, how can the final amount be correct?

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

The article on page two is here, and the article on page three is here

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on July 13, 2014 8:00 AM.

Mortgage Accelerator Programs: A Good Basic Idea, But the Devil Is In the Details was the previous entry in this blog.

The New, Allegedly Improved Good Faith Estimate (Page Two) is the next entry in this blog.

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