The Loan Shopping Koan

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It's very easy for loan providers to talk about a much better loan when you're shopping than they have any intention of delivering. Then you give them thirty to sixty days after you sign up, and you're put into a situation where the loan isn't what you were promised to get you to sign up with that loan provider, but you have a choice of signing now and getting it over with, or going all the way back to the beginning with a new loan provider. If it was intended as a purchase money loan, you may not even have the time to start all over again. This creates powerful incentives for loan officers to paint their loan as being better than it is, and there's no practical legal downside for them doing so.

It's very much like a zen koan: Consumers want the best possible loan, but the better the promised loan, the more likely it is that it won't actually be delivered. It is very difficult for consumers to tell if what's being promised will actually be delivered. This has only become more of a problem recently with HVCC on the one hand and lenders charging for failed loan locks. Both of these have bad effects which loan officers have no choice but to pass on to consumers in one way or another. I would like to go back to locking every single loan and guaranteeing total cost and rate as soon as I have an application, but doing so would inevitably mean that all of my clients would pay higher costs for the same rates in the end.

Despite Washington's high minded words, the regulatory changes in the loan industry have universally hurt both the consumer and the ethical loan officer, while helping lenders and to a lesser extent, unnecessary bureaucracies like Appraisal Management Companies. Nor do the rules for 2010 Good Faith Estimate make a real difference where they were intended to. They do a few things very right, but loan providers can still lie with malice aforethought to get you to sign up with them, and as long as they give you the notice of what they're really going to deliver seven days before the end of a thirty day (or more) process, they are still golden. If rates have gone up in the meantime, it's quite likely that the rational thing to do is stay with the liars, even though they can change their minds again as long as it's another 7 days to closing. If you think this is a recipe for jerking consumers around, you're right. Loan officers can tell you they've got 5%, then 5.125, then 5 again, then 5.375, all before finally delivering the 5.75% they intended to deliver all along, and similar games with cost apply. Remember, it's always a tradeoff between rate and cost.

What is an informed consumer to do?

Well, if you're an adult about costs, you can ask loan providers to guarantee their total compensation at loan sign up - the Upfront Mortgage Broker Guarantee. I would still prefer to do loan quote guarantees because they put the risk for misquoting squarely on the loan officer. However much I'd like to do them, though, the costs to me and all of my future customers of failing to deliver on Mortgage Loan Rate Locks is just too high to lock the loan before I have a reasonable assurance of the loan actually closing. In some cases this means once I have a full loan package, in others it means I need to wait until I have a loan commitment from the underwriter. Until then, in order to protect my ability to actually deliver low cost loans, I've got to let the rate and cost float. That's what is real, and it's easy for liars to say a loan is locked when it isn't. Loan quote guarantees would take all the uncertainty out of it for the consumer, but I can't do them at sign up any more except in a very few cases.

The "We'll do the loan for $X total compensation" removes a lot of the incentive for loan officers to actually find the best rates as opposed to the loan quote guarantee, which quotes an aggregate figure for costs and rates that includes everything, including what the loan officer makes. It focuses upon the mouse of loan officer compensation, not the elephant of what the loan is actually going to cost you, but it's better than nothing. This is an intentional choice of words - think of the standard cartoon "elephant scared of mouse" schtick and you've captured the ridiculous nature completely. You really should focus on the total bottom line to you, but since we can't lock the loan under current market conditions until we are pretty certain the loan will close, we can't guarantee those terms at sign up, no matter how much we want to. One hopes if you're looking for a mortgage loan you're enough of an adult to realize nobody does loans for free. Nor are loans what most people think of as "cheap". It can be hidden in many ways (yield spread must be disclosed, but SRP and secondary market premium do not), but nobody really does loans for free. No matter which way they hide it or don't, you're still paying for it.

Ask your loan officer the hard questions. Every single one of them. Nail them down as to exactly what they are offering, when they can lock it, what the closing costs will be, and how long it should take. The total closing costs shouldn't change even if the loan is allowed to float rather than locking. If you discover they have lied, well the best thing to do for the long term health of the loan market is to walk away, but most people won't do that.

Things have gotten a lot more difficult for loan consumers wanting to actually get the best possible deal, rather than merely signing up with the loan officer who talks the best game. I would really like to go back to the way I used to be able to do things - Quote a loan I know I can deliver, lock it immediately, get the application done and work it so as to fund within the lock period. Unfortunately, if I tried it my future clients would all be paying higher costs when my closing ratio dipped lower than the lenders require it to be, and therefore they started charging me higher costs for the same rate, costs that my future customers would end up paying because there is no other way any more than there is for any other business. That's a good way to not only hose my future clients, but be forced out of business completely. One more koan to the loan shopping experience - this one from the loan officer side.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on October 10, 2022 7:00 AM.

How To Keep Listing Agents From Filtering Out Offers was the previous entry in this blog.

Is Your Agent A Cheerleader Or An Analyst? is the next entry in this blog.

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