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One of the things you get with every mortgage loan quote is an APR, or Annual Percentage Rate. There is even its own special form, the federal Truth-In-Lending (TILA) form, required at application for every loan.

This was mandated by congress back in the early 1970s as a way to give consumers some way to compare between competing loans of equal rate, and it is governed by Federal Reserve Regulation Z.

The problems with APR are threefold. First off, it is computed from numbers on the Good Faith Estimate (or Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement in California), which are often intentionally and legally under-stated. "Mis-underestimated," to use Former President Bush's famous phrase in an entirely different context where it is not a good thing. If the numbers on the Good Faith Estimate are incorrect, the computations that result in the APR will be similarly incorrect.

Here is a routine example, from an unfortunate soul I encountered awhile ago. They told him they were going to do his $230,000 loan for 3/8ths of a point and $1895, which works out to about $3400 total, APR was listed as 6.136 on a 6% loan when he signed up. But when the final documents were ready, the interest rate was 1/4 percent higher, the points were 2.25 points, and the closing costs were actually over $4000. Total cost: $9400 added to his mortgage, and the APR on final documents was 6.568 on a 6.25% loan. It stands out in my memory because I had been competing for his business. He came back to me during his three day right of rescission. Unfortunately, rates had moved up and by that point I couldn't do anything he liked better, so he rewarded the company who misquoted his loan (to use technical parlance, lied) by getting them paid. Unfortunately, you can't go backwards in time with what you learn at the end of the process. You need to be right the first time.

The second reason to ignore APR is that it is an attempt to compress what is fundamentally at least a two-dimensional number into a one dimensional number. Remember back in school when you learned graphing on a "number line" and then a Cartesian Plane? Which of them contains more information? The Cartesian Plane, of course. APR is an attempt to force a Cartesian Plane onto number line. In order to do it, you need to make some assumptions, and you still lose a lot of information.

The third, most important reason to ignore APR is that the assumptions that Congress and the Federal Reserve mandate were reasonably based on the reality of the 1960s, which has now changed. Back then, people bought homes they were going to live in for the rest of their lives, and re-financing was much less common. People are now living in homes about nine years on the average, and refinancing about every two to three years. But the regulation still reads that the costs of doing the loan, which are included in the APR calculation, are assumed to be spread out over the entire term of the loan, even with ARMs and hybrid ARMs, which almost nobody keeps after the initial fixed period. With the term of most loans being 30 years, and the average person refinancing about every two years, this computation makes absolutely no sense as it exists today. The costs of the loan should be spread over the period that the person getting the loan is likely to keep it, not the entire theoretical term of the loan.

Let us look at the earlier example in this light. Let's assume that the loan delivered to the unfortunate con victim above was a five year ARM, and compute APR as if he's going to keep it the full five years of the fixed period, rather than the thirty years he theoretically could keep it. The APR would have been listed as 7.067% on the final documents.

Let us go a step further and assume that instead of keeping his loan 5 full years, like less than 5 percent of the population, he keeps it for something close to the national median of two years, and compute APR based upon that. His final documents would have listed an APR of 8.293 percent.

To offer a better strategy: At the time, I could have done the loan at zero total cost to him - literally nothing. Zero added to his mortgage, he pays for the appraisal but is reimbursed when the loan funds - at 6.75%, APR 6.750 no matter how you compute. Yes, the payment is $17.75 per month higher than what he ended up with. But he wouldn't have added $9400 to his mortgage balance. Let's compare these two loans five years out, when 95 percent of the population has sold or refinanced and is no longer reaping the benefits of that payment that's lower by $17.75 per month. If he has the zero total cost loan I could have put him into his balance is $215,914.00, and he has paid $89,506 in payments. The loan he ended up with, he's going to owe $223,449, and he's paid $88,441 in payments. Okay, he's saved $17.75 per month, about $1065 total, in payments. But he owes $7535 more. If he sells the property and puts it all in a savings account, he would have been permanently ahead by $6470 if he initially chose the higher rate, higher payment, but lower cost loan. Not to mention that he would get $7535 extra all at once, as opposed to little dribbles of $17.75 per month that most people would never notice. If he buys another house, or if he keeps this home but refinances, he owes $7535 less with the zero cost loan. Let's say he gets a really great loan next time, with a thirty year fixed rate of 5%. That $17.75 per month he "saved" on his payment for five years is still going to cost him $376.75 per year, $31.40 per month for as long as he keeps the new loan. This is what comes from relying upon APR as a valid measurement of a loan.

This is not nitpicking. The so-called 2/28 and 2/38 were the most common subprime loans nationwide, when we had subprime. They are subprime hybrid ARMS with an initial two year fixed period. People get into them because they don't have the money for a down payment, or because they can't qualify for A paper. Considering that they're all straining to buy as much house as they possibly can get a loan for, this means they're in the subprime market. According to SANDICOR figures I saw a while back, something like 40% of all purchase money loans locally in the years from 2004 to 2007 being negative amortization loans which have no truly fixed period and are practically impossible to keep longer than five years with the best will in the world. Another thirty percent plus, according to SANDICOR, were interest only, so my estimate is that subprime lenders have at least eighty percent of the purchase money market locally, and probably fifty percent or more of the refinance market. With the vast majority of these loans being of the short-term variety as illustrated above, APR is worthless as a measure of a loan.

Caveat Emptor

P.S. Just as a parting shot, let us consider the above situation in the context of a fifteen year loan at 6.00 percent that, to be insanely generous to the $9400 closing cost loan, the gentleman will keep until he pays it off completely. APR for the $9400 closing cost loan: 6.779 percent. APR for the zero closing cost loan at 6.75% remains 6.750. That's not a typo, the loan with the higher rate has the lower APR, and this is common for fifteen year loans. Payment for the $9400 in closing costs loan: $2052.67. Payment for the loan with higher rate but zero closing costs: $2035.29. That's not a typo, either. The higher rate loan has a payment that's $17.38 per month lower, because you didn't add $9400 to the loan balance that you've got to pay back.

Original here

I got a search for "which states allow prepayment penalties". I'm not aware of any that don't. If you are, I'd like to know. Any such states should immediately be renamed "Denial".

I really hate prepayment penalties, for a large number of reasons. Nonetheless, to make them illegal would not be in the best interests of consumers.

I know this isn't popular. Economics isn't about popularity. It's about cold hard facts of human behavior. Pre-payment penalties are an incentive that get lenders (investors really) to do loans when otherwise, they wouldn't. Understand that making pre-payment penalties illegal means that the people trying their hardest to get a loan to buy a home to raise their family... can't.

Let's examine one common situation. Let's consider a hypothetical couple, the Smiths, who don't have much of a down payment (or can just barely scrape it together), and have difficulty qualifying for the loan. They want to become owners rather than renters, and it is in their best interests to do so.

The cold hard fact of the matter is that nobody does loans for free. Real Estate loans are complex creatures, and they don't just magically appear out of some hyperspatial vortex upon demand. I may cut my usual margin if I'm the buyer's agent as well, but that's because I've found I'm going to do a large portion of the work anyway, have to ride herd on the loan officer, and stress out because it's a major part of the transaction that can really hurt my clients that is not only not under my control, but I cannot monitor with any degree of confidence I'm being told the truth. I keep telling folks that the MLDS or GFE don't mean anything. They are not contracts, they are not loan commitments, they are not the Note or Deed of Trust, and they definitely aren't a funded loan. They are supposed to be a best guess estimate of your loan conditions, but with all the limitations and wiggle room built into them, the regulators might as well not have bothered. By themselves, they are worthless. None of the paper you get before you sign final loan documents means anything unless the loan officer wants it to. Unless the loan officer guarantees it in writing that says that someone other than you will eat any difference in rate and costs, what you have is a used piece of paper with some unimportant markings on it. If I, as a better more experienced loan officer than the vast majority of loan officers out there, cannot monitor what another loan officer is doing with any degree of confidence, do you want to bet that you can?

So we have some folks who can just barely stretch to do the loan. In order to buy them a little space on their payments, so that any bill that comes in isn't an absolute disaster they cannot afford, and also so I can get paid without it coming out of the money these people don't have, I talk to them about the situation and we all agree to put a two year pre-payment penalty on the loan. This buys them a lower rate with lower payments, without adding anything to their loan balance. They don't owe any more money, they get a lower rate, I get paid, and they didn't have to come up with money they don't have. Everybody wins, whereas without the prepayment penalty they would be paying anywhere from $50 to $200 per month more, and perhaps they couldn't qualify. No loan, no property, no start to the benefits of ownership. They certainly wouldn't have that $50 to $200 per month cushion that's likely to save their bacon from their first emergency. Leaving aside the issue that most folks want to buy more house than they can afford, that really stinks from the point of view of the people that those who would outlaw prepayment penalties altogether say they are trying to help, those who are trying to buy a home and just barely qualify.

Another common situation: Many folks have a long mortgage history, and they are comfortable in the knowledge that they will not refinance or sell within X number of years. They're willing to accept a pre-payment penalty in order to get the lower rate at a lower cost. They want that $200 per month in their pocket, not the bank's, and they are willing to accept the risk that they may need to sell or refinance in return. After all, if they don't sell or refinance within the term of the penalty, it cost them nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. For all intents and purposes, free money. I may advise against it, but it is their decision to make or not make that bet, not mine, not the bank's, not the legislature's, and definitely not some clueless bureaucrat's, let alone that of some activist who only understands that lenders make money from prepayment penalties, and not the benefits that real consumers can receive if they go into it with their eyes open.

Pre-payment penalties get abused. Badly abused. I know of places that think nothing of putting a three year pre-payment penalty on a loan with a two year fixed period. There is no way on this earth anyone can tell those folks truthfully what their payments will be like in the third year. I may be able to tell them what the lowest possible payment could be, but not the highest. I've seen five year prepayment penalties on two and three year fixed rate loans, and that situation is even worse. I've heard of ten year prepayment penalties on a three year fixed rate loan. I've seen even A paper lenders slide in long prepayment penalties on unsuspecting borrowers that mean they several extra points of profit when they sell the loan. So there are some real issues there.

With this in mind, there are some reforms I could really get behind. The first is making it illegal for a prepayment penalty to exceed the length of time that the actual interest rate is fixed. Regardless of what the contract says, once the real interest rate starts to adjust, no prepayment penalty can be charged (This would have meant no prepayment penalties on Option ARMS, among other things). The second is putting a prepayment penalty disclosure clause in large prominent type on every one of the standard forms, and making it mandatory that the loan provider indemnify the borrower if the final loan delivered does not conform to the initial pre-payment penalty disclosure. In other words, if I tell you there's no pre-payment penalty and there is one, I have to pay it for you. If I tell you there's a two year penalty, and it's a three year penalty, I have to pay it if you sell or refinance in the third year (in the first two years, it's your own lookout because you agreed to that from the beginning).

But to completely abolish the pre-payment payment penalty is not in the best interest of the consumers of any state. Show me a state that has abolished them completely, and I'll show you a state that has hurt its residents to no good purpose. Sometimes there is a good solution to a problem, as I believe I have demonstrated here. It's just not necessarily the first one that springs to mind.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Biweekly Mortgage Spam

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Sometimes spam makes writing an article all too easy.

Here is a piece of spam I got, probably because my email at work contains "", with identifying information taken out. This goes to show that the financial ignorance of most mortgage providers is astounding.

Thank you for your interest in the DELETED Broker Program. Our program is designed to help you provide more value added service for your clients, increase your fee income and help you generate more loans. By simply providing a one page custom amortization and a completed one page enrollment form in your loan packages you will achieve a high enrollment ratio. By illustrating the three key benefits of the Bi-Weekly Payment Program for your clients, they will clearly see that your goal is to help them accomplish their financial goals sooner by saving thousands of dollars in interest, paying off their mortgages 5-10 years early and achieving a low effective interest rate. Please find enclosed an example of a custom calculator and our simple one page enrollment form.

Or the client can just make 13/12 of the regular payment, or make an extra payment once per year, and achieve the same result without any cost. This option without cost lets the customer choose to pay however much extra they can afford that month, or pay nothing extra if they're on a tight budget. As I computed in Prepayment Penalties and Biweekly Payment Schemes, the fact that you're making payments more often saves you almost nothing. It's the fact that you're making an extra mortgage payment per year that's saving you all that money.

Getting started is easy. All you have to do is pay a one time setup fee of $99. You will be provided with custom online tools and resources as well as training upon request. To sign up, just go to our online broker enrollment form and complete the required fields, shortly after you will receive an email with your broker code user name and password. Please be sure to save this email. Once you have these instructions you will be able to go to and access your custom calculator and other online resources.

So I (the provider) pay a sign up fee of $99 for an internet driven startup. Cha-ching!

The DELETED program is a great value at $395.00. You earn 300.00 on each enrollment, DELETED retains only 95.00. We also charge a $3.75 per debit fee (emphasis mine). Our customers truly appreciate our one-time only enrollment fee, if the client moves, refinances or the loan gets sold, X will simply take them off the system and put them back on with the new loan information. Most customers prefer to pay the enrollment fee and choose the 3 debit option, where we will take an additional 135.00, 130.00 and 130.00 over the first three debits to comprise our one-time fee. We pay commissions on the 15th of the month for all enrollments on the system the month prior. Once you receive your approved broker email you'll be able to start signing up clients immediately.

Now we get to the real meat of what's going on. For me doing the work of signing someone up on the internet, they get $95 to start with, while dangling out a $300 stroke to mortgage providers to betray their clients by getting them to pay for something they could do themselves, with more flexibility, for free.

Then, once this is started, they make $3.75 per transaction, every two weeks, for an automated process that costs them somewhere between $0.25 and $0.50. Great work if you can get it. Three guesses who gets stuck with all the problems if they screw up.

This is one more reason why you want to shop your mortgage around and get multiple opinions. Anybody wants you to pay anything for a biweekly payment program, that is a red flag not to do business with them. It is a good thing to do in some circumstances, but it's not worth paying any extra money for. Unless you've got a "first dollar" prepayment penalty, you can accomplish the same thing on your own, with more flexibility, and without paying a cent. And if you do have such a penalty, it'll cost more than making the extra payment will save.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

My husband and I are completely debt free right now. However, we are wanting to buy a house in the future and I see that as quite probably requiring a loan.

What should I do to make sure that we don't get dinged for having no credit? (A problem my husband has had in the past — ended up needing his mother to cosign for him on an auto loan because he chose to go completely credit card less during college after discovering he could not handle them well)

Without open credit, you won't have a score at all. No score, no loan with any regulated lenders - hard money becomes your only option. It's as simple as that. I can get people with horrible credit loans on better terms than I can people with no credit.

In order to get a credit score, you need two open lines of credit. Three is better, because sometimes one will not be reported to one of the three major bureaus. Car loans count. Installment loans count. Those stupid "Pay no interest for twelve months" accounts count, although they really do hurt your credit. But the best thing to have is credit cards, because you usually only apply once and you can then keep them forever, giving you a long average duration of credit. Read my article on Credit Reports: What They Are and How They Work for what goes into a credit score.

What you do for this is go out and apply for two credit cards. Not store cards, unless you can't get regular credit cards. I've seen many times the rate of problems with store cards that I have with regular credit cards. They don't need to be big lines of credit - $500 to $1000 is more than plenty. I have found credit unions to be a good place to send my clients to for this purpose, as San Diego has several excellent large credit unions, at least one of which any resident of the county can join. They may not be absolutely the lowest rate, but they're usually pretty low. Furthermore, the rate doesn't matter if you don't carry a balance, which you shouldn't. More importantly, credit unions usually have fewer gotchas in the fine print, usually no annual fee, and they want their members who want them to have credit cards, so they're more inclined to give members the benefit of the doubt.

Once per month, use each credit card for something small that you would buy whether you had the credit card or not - you'd just pay cash otherwise. No larger than 10% of your total credit line on the card. I usually pay for a meal out at a cheap family restaurant (in the range of $30 or so for two adults and two kids). As soon as the bill gets there, write the check and pay it off. Costs you a stamp but it builds your credit. Or you can do online bill pay if you'd rather. I've heard too many horror stories and dealt with their aftermath too often for that to be attractive to me.

If your husband has trouble with cards, keep his copies of your cards in a safe place, and you be the one who goes out and uses them. He still gets the benefits if they're joint cards.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

That was a question I got. The answer is that it doesn't make a difference, but it used to be one more way you could be conned or cozened into buying a more expensive property than you could really afford. Until recent regulations that were long overdue took effect, lenders who work in markets that are less than A paper perform qualification calculations based upon the initial payment. Furthermore, I'm about 180 degrees from convinced that this was ever really helping anyone.

Here's how it works and why it works. Some lenders formerly performed their calculations as to whether or not a specific borrower qualifies based only upon the initial payment. Let's say the loan contemplated is an interest only 2/28 at a teaser rate of 6% that's going to jump to 8% in two years when it starts amortizing (even if the underlying index stays exactly where it is), and the loan amount contemplated is $250,000. This makes for an initial monthly payment of $1250. Because this fits within the guideline Debt to Income Ratio guidelines, usually 50% for sub-prime, they can qualify and get the loan approved. But in two years when the loan adjusts and starts to amortize, the payment jumps to $1866.90. This is not certain, but it's far from the worst case possible. It is what will happen if the financial indexes don't change, and so a good default guess, as nobody knows where the indexes will be in two years. If you know where the indexes will be in two years, please call me. With that knowledge and mine, we can make enough money for our grandchildren to retire on. Guaranteed. Because nobody else knows where the market will be in two years.

So the upshot is that even though the payment is predictably going to increase by essentially fifty percent (49.35) in two years, to a level this particular prospective borrower does not qualify for, this loan would likely be approved under sub-prime guidelines that were in effect when this article was originally written.

There were banking regulation changes made to change the qualification procedure, forcing all lenders, rather than only "A paper" ones, to perform their qualification computations based upon the fact that the payments on these loans are certain to increase. These regulations were long overdue in my honest opinion, but don't thank your congresscritter - they came from the Fed. Under previous guidelines, this loan would be approved. Actually, the directive that forces "A paper" to underwrite these loans based upon the higher payments formerly came from Fannie and Freddie, not the regulators, and this is also one reason why hybrid ARMS at a lower interest rate are actually harder to qualify for than fixed rate loans in the "A paper" world.

Nor is this 2/28 teaser loan what is generally meant by a "buydown", although it is one of the things the phrase has been misapplied to. A true buydown is a temporary reduction in rate on a fixed rate loan, purchased by means of discount points paid up front. As I explained in the linked article, these buydowns typically cost more than they are really worth to the client in terms of dollars. Indeed, they are most often used in conjunction with VA Loans, where because up to three percent of closing costs over and above purchase price can be rolled into the loan with no money out of the veteran's pockets, the typical borrower sees only the reduction in payments, not the costs, which are real and they did pay, albeit, due to an accounting trick, with money out of their future equity and not with money out of their savings. They're still going to owe that extra money, and be paying interest on it until they pay it back.

However, due to the fact that most people shop houses and loans based upon payment, the reduction in payments makes it look like they can afford a more expensive house than they should in fact buy. That temporary buydown is going to expire, certain as gravity, and the clients are going to end up making those higher payments. There is precisely zero uncertainty about it. If they can't afford them, the bad consequences will still happen, precisely as if the buydown had never been. All of the tricks of the past decade to defuse this were based upon falling interest rates and rapidly rising real estate values. Lest you not understand, these are never acceptable reasons for betting someone else's financial future, as so many agents and loan officers did. If you are a real estate and financial sophisticate who understands the risks, it is one thing to bet your own financial future. It is never acceptable to bet the future of someone else, particularly if they are not an expert, without a frank discussion of those risks and advising them to get the opinions of disinterested experts.

This whole idea of temporary buydowns is bad because it allows the less scrupulous real estate professionals to encourage buyers and borrowers to overextend themselves. Now that the general public has finally woken up to the downsides of negative amortization loans and stated income loans, these are one of the few remaining ways to make it appear as if people qualify for a more expensive property because of a higher dollar value loan, than they do in fact qualify for by objective consideration of the guidelines. This particular way of pushing the guidelines isn't as extreme as the previously mentioned ones, and doesn't push the bottom line on what they can make it look like people can afford by as much, but if these people could sell people based upon what they really qualify for, they wouldn't be playing these sorts of games with the numbers. It was also these people that the change in regulations was squarely aimed at.

Furthermore, if these folks could really afford the full payments on the loans being contemplated, there are better loans to be doing. Without that interest only rider on the 2/28, I could buy the interest rate down by at least a quarter of a percent on the same loan type. For that matter, I can quite likely get a thirty year fixed rate loan for that same borrower at a lower rate than the 2/28 will jump to in the default case of the underlying indexes going exactly nowhere. For the true temporary buydown, without my borrowers paying those three points of upfront cost, I could cut those borrowers real, permanent rate on that fixed rate loan by at least three quarters of a percent, probably more. Whether even that is worth doing is highly questionable, but at least it's an open question worthy of discussion with a possible case for "yes" that a reasonable person can defend with numbers, not a mathematically certain "no way!" Show me someone who uses buydowns for their clients habitually, and I'll show you a serial financial rapist.

In short, temporary buydowns don't really help anyone, except maybe the seller who can unload their house to someone who shouldn't be able to qualify. Not buyers or borrowers, who are encouraged to stretch beyond their means through their use. Not lenders, brokers, or agents, due to these problems that people were in denial about for a very long time coming home to roost, meaning that those who practice in this manner will very likely be subject to auditors and regulators in the near future, and quote probably lose their licenses. I think that's a good thing.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

This is a little harder than shopping for buyer's agents, so congress critters might not be able to do it. But it's nowhere near as tough as high school algebra, so even if you're a politician you can just get your child, grandchild, niece or nephew to help you. High school aged children of your friends would work also. And if you're a politician who doesn't have any friends with children, you've got worse problems than getting the best home loan.

This problem actually breaks into two cases, one where you are looking for a purchase money loan and one where you are looking for a refinance.

For purchase money loans, the first step probably should not be an internet quote shop. Whether it's one of the ones where lenders advertise their lowest rates or one of the ones where you ask for four quotes (and get four hundred companies calling you), neither one of these is likely to be a good use of your time. At this point, you are trying to find out what loans are available to you, and how much of a loan you can afford based upon those loans. What you want is not someone who's trying to sell you their loan, what you want is someone who will tell you what's going on in the loan market right now, and how much you can afford (assuming the rates don't change).

What you need is a good conversation with a loan officer or six. At this stage, you're not willing to sign up for any loan, but you are looking for information that tells you whether or not that loan officer is likely to be a good prospect when you are. Are they willing to take you through the process verbally, and explain the results that they get and how they got them? They should use your salary as a starting point, move through a debt to income ratio and subtract from that your current monthly obligations, to arrive at what your monthly budget is for housing. From there, they can use current interest rates, as well as approximate tax rates and insurance costs, to show how much you can afford per month for housing. I would insist that they perform this computation based upon currently available rates for a fully amortized thirty year fixed rate mortgage with no more than one point of combined origination and discount. If you then want to choose an alternative loan type, and there may be reasons why you want to strongly consider doing so, you nonetheless know that you can afford the loan for the property you are considering, and that you're not getting in over your head with a loan that's going to turn around and bite you.

Now, just because the first loan officer gives you a number you are happy with is no reason to stop shopping. You want to have this same conversation with several different loan officers. The reason is confirmation. There is a large amount of pressure to qualify you for the largest loan possible, especially in the highly priced urban markets where most of the country lives. A little bit of difference can make a lot of difference on the property you think you can afford, which makes it a lot more likely that the average person will come back to them for the loan. They said they could get you a loan for $500,000, while the guy down the street said they could only get you a loan for $470,000. If, by some mysterious coincidence about as rare as gravity or air, people decide they want to stretch their budget to the maximum or beyond, who do you think most people in that situation will come back to? Most people buy a property at the highest possible end of the range they've been told they can afford. Actually, the most common thing that happens around here is that they'll go back to the people who said they qualified for $500,000 to see if there's any way they can stretch it so that they can qualify for this $530,000 (or $800,000) property they've gotten their hearts set upon. Since loan officers learn this pretty quick but you're still going to have to live with the consequences, you want to make certain they're not overpromising what you can deliver.

There are all kinds of incentives for loan officers to inflate pre-qualifications for loans. They get a higher probability of a larger commission check. There aren't any real reasons to give you the real numbers, as opposed to those highly inflated ones, except not wanting you to go through foreclosure and lose the property. The foreclosure thing is months to years away, and not certain, while the commission check is here and now and their benefit, as opposed to your problem. By the way, if you're one of those people who manage to beat the numbers and get through buying a property more expensive than you can afford, you're going to be thinking that loan officer walks on water and is your best friend in the world, because they got the loan through that "nobody else could." This is preposterous, but it's amazing the way that human psychology works, isn't it? With the way prices were climbing in 1996 through 2004, there were an awful lot of loan officers who got used to "betting on the market," and winning, because even if their client could not, in fact, afford the loan, they could refinance on more favorable terms when the rates dropped and the owner's equity went to more than fifty percent due to the general market. And if the rates didn't move by enough to save their house, they could still sell for enough to make what seemed like a mint. The predictable result was that these clients think that these loan officers are wonderful. Unfortunately, that's not the market we have today. That is unlikely to be the market we have at any point in the near future. As a result, you have these same people doing business with these same loan officers today, and losing their shirts as well as their homes.

What you need is to keep going, and keep having these conversations with loan officers. Why? The first one may have been the Marquis of Queensbury, but then again they may have been the Marquis de Sade. What you need is evidence. Evidence of confirmation. Evidence of consistency. Evidence that both they and all of the other loan officers you meet with are performing these pre-qualification upon the basis of sound loan underwriting and rates that are actually available and not too expensive in terms of up front cost, that they are remembering to make allowances for the expenses of property taxes and home owner's insurance, and association dues and Mello Roos and everything else that may be relevant. You're going to pay these things. Prospective loan officers should make appropriate allowances up front, because they're going to be part of what's coming out of your paycheck.

What's a sufficient number of conversations? At least three in any case, but I would keep going until I had talked with loan folks that have at least two or three significantly different approaches to your loan. Negative amortization is right out, of course, and you can cross anyone who suggests one off your list of possible loan providers (at this update, thankfully, those abominations that wrecked millions are essentially gone), but while you should do the calculations of what you can afford based upon a thirty year fixed rate loan, in most markets there are other loans such as a fully amortized 5/1 that are well worth considering, and that will serve most people better in most situations. Every single loan there is has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage to the thirty year fixed is that it is almost always significantly higher rate than other alternatives, and more people than not keep exchanging one thirty year policy of insurance that their rate won't change for another thirty year policy every two years. The question I would like to ask those people is "Why buy the thirty year guarantee in the first place?" Why not buy the three or five or seven year guarantee, if that's all you're going to use? Right now the costs may be very comparable, but the shorter fixed period loans are usually much cheaper. You want to budget as if you're going to that 30 year fixed rate loan (the most expensive there is), but there are many reasons why something else may suit your needs better when it gets right down to it.

Similarly, why spend money buying the rate down if you're not likely to keep it long enough to recover the money you spend in the first place? Spending $8000 in points, especially if you roll it into your loan where you're going to have to pay interest on it, may cut your monthly interest charge from $1960 to $1833. However, it takes between six to seven years to break even when you consider interest on the remaining (higher) balance.

It's possible one loan officer will cover several approaches. Much as it pains me to tell you this because I habitually do that, you should still talk to more than one loan officer. You want more than one person's word for one what is available in the way of rates and the costs to get them, and it is always a Trade-off between low rates and high costs. Not understanding that there is always a trade off between the rates available and the costs to get them is the most critical piece of knowledge that causes most mortgage borrowers to make bad choices that cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

Furthermore, you want confirmation of what loans and rates are available to you. If three or four loan officers independently tell you the same things, you've got a pretty good idea that they're approaching it correctly and giving you real information. The ones that make it up are likely to do base their usually inflated numbers upon different markups and mis-assumptions. Find a financial calculator on the web or buy one or use a spreadsheet, and check their numbers yourself. This is one of the largest sums of money you will be dealing with in one transaction in your life. You owe it to yourself to take the time and do the research to be certain you are getting good information. Due to the fact that real estate loans are very large amounts of money, and the loan transactions are very complex, there are a certain percentage of people in the industry who will use this opportunity to skim money effectively back into their pocket. These amounts of money, quite large by most standards, can be camouflaged under the cover of the much larger amounts of a very complex real estate transaction. Even the most honest loan officer is in the business to make money. This is in almost direct conflict with your desire to get the best loan possible at the lowest costs, but the loan officer who actually delivers the best loan to you has earned every penny of what they make, whatever it is.

Once you have credible, verified data on how much of a property you can afford, then you can start looking for buyer's agents, and actually looking at properties. Keep in touch with loan officers who you might be working with during the shopping process. Why? Rates can change. Actually, rates will change, and the higher up the scale and more highly qualified you are, the more often they tend to change. Sub-prime rate sheets might stay constant for a month or longer, with a modifier that may change or may not. Top of the line "A paper" changes every business day, at a minimum. Maybe not grossly, but it does change. I saw rates on 30 year fixed rate loans with equivalent costs go from about 5.25 to 6.625 in one month during late summer 2003. If you did the math based upon 5.25 and you qualified for $500,000, you only qualify for about $430,000 at 6.625. That is data that is supremely important to your property hunting. Do not allow a real estate agent to tell you that you can afford more than your real budget. Ever. If they say they can't find all of your desired characteristics within that budget and in your area, ask them for alternative suggestions. Compromising what you want is better than foreclosure. Going without is better than foreclosure. Fire the agent immediately if they won't work within your budget. When you find something you like and have a purchase contract, your procedure becomes very comparable to a refinance. The differences are comparatively small.

For refinances, you have a property already. There is an existing loan that has to be paid off. If you're in a purchase situation, you should already be in contact with several lenders, and you don't really care about any existing loans on the property because they aren't your problem.

But now is the time when you want to do some intensive lender shopping. Furthermore, you really want to compare what everybody has at the same point in time, if it's at all practical. For instance, generally the available rates will be a little bit lower in the middle of the week. They will more often than not be higher on Monday, Friday, and Saturday than they are on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This isn't always true, especially if the financial markets are reacting to some large event, but it seems that it happens more often than not.

In a purchase situation, talk to your existing prospects and keep adding others until you get enough of them. For refinances, you want to move quickly in order to be a fair comparison. Whether you are buying or refinancing, ask every one of them this set of questions you should ask prospective loan providers. What you are looking to do at this point is choose who you are going to sign up with. Before you do that, you want to cross-check what every single loan officer tells you with the available evidence. Weigh what you know against what you are told by any given loan provider, and what that loan provider tells you as compared to other loan providers. Most often, the preponderance of the evidence will clearly support the ones you should sign up with.

Now, I know I said this earlier. Not only does it bear repeating as many times as I can find an excuse for, the folks interested only in refinancing might have been skipping ahead. Remember that you can get the a loan officer who's the equivalent of the Marquis of Queensbury, but more of them are closer to the Marquis de Sade, and most will be somewhere in between. The bigger the lie they tell you, the more likely it is you will sign up with them. The government really did try to change this with the 2010 Good Faith Estimate, but they can still low-ball the hell out of that tradeoff between rate and costs to get you to sign up. Sure, it's possible you might walk away at document signing, although not likely. If you don't sign up with them, they are guaranteed not to make any money.

When I first wrote this article, it was possible and feasible to lock every loan at sign up. That has now changed to the point where even I cannot do it any longer. If I lock a loan and don't actually fund and deliver it, the lender charges me (which really means all my future clients) a stiff penalty. This is now universal even for direct lenders, so good loan officers who are trying to deliver a lower cost loan are not locking at sign up any longer. The only lenders who can lock at sign up are those who have built inflated margins into their loans, so that they can pay for those charges out of the increased profits they're making. There is now a decision making process on when to lock a loan that I take every client through.

There is always a Trade off between rate and cost in real estate loans. It's like gravity. Exactly what the available trade offs are varies over time, and varies from lender to lender at any one time. Remember, that lender can low ball you pretty badly to get you to sign up, and once you sign up, you're not likely to discover that they did low ball you until time to sign documents. Very few people continue to look at the market once they have chosen a provider. The reason many loan providers want a deposit is so they can hold that money hostage for you signing the final documents. Unless no one else can do your loan, I would never even consider putting up a deposit with a lender. What they're telling you by requiring a deposit is that they want you to stop shopping. If they are telling you about a loan that really exists, and their loan prices really are good, there is no reason for a loan to require a deposit. You will pay for the appraisal when it happens, but that's less than a deposit.

I do advise you to ask your other prospective providers about whether the loan you choose is deliverable, however. Mind you, there's a strong incentive for them all to say "no" but then ask them "why isn't this loan deliverable?" If the answer starts discussing wholesale pricing and lender incentives and bonuses that they have and others do not, listen carefully. What that loan provider makes is tied up in how costly your loan is really going to end up being. When they explain why the loan margin really isn't there to deliver the competition's lower quote, listen to them. Then take it back to the people who provided that quote and say, "convince me you can actually do this". This includes making enough money to make it profitable for them - at least a couple thousand dollars. The provider making this money is not a problem and not a reason to try and negotiate it down - what they make does not equate to "profit" let alone what the people doing your loan actually get to spend. Remember, you've already decided this was the best loan available based upon the bottom line to you! What it is is insurance that they will actually deliver this loan they are talking about because nobody does free loans. My clients who ask this find out exactly what loan from what lender I'm basing my quote upon and much I plan to make on the loan - and if that's a problem for them, they can go get someone else's more expensive one!

Now, on a regular basis, I hear various folk advising people that they can avoid all this by "just picking a large, reputable provider." Nonsense. This is wishful thinking at its worst. Large scale reputation is established by advertising. Think about that for a moment. "Large reputable providers" spend millions per week trying to get the suckers to come in. Who pays for that? It certainly isn't the people who work there! "Large reputable providers" will sit you down in a nice comfortable chair in a beautiful office, and lull you with talk of how well they are going to take care of you. Somehow, they manage to deflect the conversation away from exact numbers and exact quotes. You can't compare loans without specific numbers. Then, this "large reputable company" is going to deliver a loan with a rate that's a quarter of a percent higher and costs you two points more than you could have had, not to mention higher fees - and they'll still be lowballing you! Trusting yourself to a "large reputable company" without the exact same due diligence isn't avoiding the issues of shopping a loan in that jungle out there - it's intentionally delivering yourself into the hands of the head-hunters. These companies do not compete on price. They compete on the basis of serving cattle who want to be comfortable. Serving them up to be slaughtered. On a $400,000 loan, you just wasted $8000 up front, and $1000 per year. Glad you could avoid that hassle, glad to avoid talking to sales people, glad you could avoid taking half a day off work to shop loans? You've paid handsomely for that avoidance. Kind of like committing suicide because somebody might murder you.

The main issue in all of this is finding the loan on the best terms available to you. The main obstacle to that is the fact that lenders can low ball their quotes shamelessly, and it's legal, so it takes some serious research to figure out what is likely to be real from what is not. The new rules for 2010 change a lot of that, but still leave gaping loopholes that any loan officer who tries can sail an ocean liner through.

When I first wrote this, I said "Unless there is something external holding the whole process back, such as "Your house isn't going to be finished for two more months," I will bet money that a loan done in thirty days or less is better than one that takes sixty days or longer." This is still a valid principle in that the loan that is done faster is likely to be better. The problem is that new government rules and regulations and Wall Street required underwriting checks inspired by their new requirements have added a minimum of about 3 weeks to the time it takes to do a loan since then. I used to be able to reliably fund a purchase money loan in 21 days or less without any extraordinary effort, a refinance in three extra days to cover the right of rescission. The way the process has been externally complicated, it is questionable if even the best loan officer trying their hardest will have the loan funded within 45 days of application. Sixty days is more likely. Plan for this. It's just a fact of life - one more "service" provided by your elected representatives. But better sixty than ninety or more.

You need to do your due diligence up front. Real estate loan rates change every day, and whatever reason it was that caused you to need or want a loan is almost certainly time critical. For purchases, you've got a purchase contract that's good for only so many days before they'll start charging extensions. For refinances, if it's to get cash out, you have a time critical need for that money, and if you don't get it on time, you're likely to have to pay it out of your checking account or put it on a credit card, if you can. For refinances without cash, just to get a lower rate, those attractive rates are not going to last forever, The one thing I can guarantee is that the available rates are not going to be the same by the time you go to sign documents at the end of the process. If the lender doesn't deliver what they talked about, it's going to cost you a large amount of money. Therefore, you really want to do enough due diligence to give them a reason to actually deliver that loan they talked about in order to get you to sign up.

Caveat Emptor

Original Article here

do your property taxes go up in California when you refinance your property?

This is one of those urban legends. People are concerned that because the house is appraised by the lender, the assessor is somehow going to find out that their property is worth more and send their tax bill soaring.

However, thanks to Proposition 13 in California, the formula for property taxes has little to do with current market value or what the home is really worth. The formula is based upon the purchase price plus two percent per year, compounded. If you can document that your home is worth less than this amount, contact your county assessor's office. But if it's worth more, they cannot increase it beyond this number.

Indeed, certain family transfers can preserve this lower tax basis. Mom and dad deed it (or will it) to the kids, and the kids keep paying taxes on it based upon a purchase price of perhaps $60,000 (Plus thirty-odd years of compounding at two percent, so maybe $115,000) when comparable homes may be selling for $600,000.

There are two major exceptions. First, a sale. If you sell it to someone else, then repurchase, you don't get the old tax basis back. Second, improvements. If you take out a building permit, the assessor will add the current value of your improvements to your tax bill. This can, in situations like the previous paragraph, result in a tax bill that literally doubles if you add a room. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons for the growth of the unlicensed contractor industry, because licensed ones have to make certain the permits are in order, and homeowners are trying to sneak one over on the county. This is why a very large proportion of properties in MLS have the notation that "this addition may not have been permitted." They know good and well that the addition wasn't permitted, and quite likely isn't to code, either. If it's built to code it's usually grandfathered in to subsequent updates. Subsequent owners can get forgiveness as innocent beneficiaries who bought the house like that, and so the purchase price included the value of that room (and occasionally, the state finds it worth its while to go after the previous owner for back taxes and possible penalties, and I believe that the incidence of this will likely increase dramatically in the next couple of years). If it's not built to code, however (an offense unlicensed contractors often commit), the subsequent owner can be looking at a large mandatory repair bill, or perhaps even demolishing the addition they paid for if the county inspector deems it unsound. You want to be very careful about properties with the "addition may not have been permitted" disclosure.

Other states, by and large, still follow the assessment model California used to follow, pre-Proposition 13. They have county records of the property characteristics, and evaluate the home based upon those characteristics, whence comes your assessment, and hence, your property tax bill. This still encourages unlicensed contractors and working without required permits, with effects much the same as the previous paragraph, which is definitely not good, but in this case subsequent owners have nothing but incentive to keep improvements off the county books, where in California, subsequent owners have motivation to want improvements updated into county records. I am not aware of any state which follows a model whereby refinancing will alter your tax bill.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

I have to admit to being conflicted. The numbers say no. The psychology says yes. Let's examine both.

Most first mortgages out there are between six and seven percent, and tax deductible at a marginal rate of about 28%. If you're one of those folks with something in the low fives or even below, enjoy it while you've got it, because the odds of getting something better when you move to a more expensive home or need to refinance are pretty slim.

I'm going to do the numbers based upon 6 percent, with 28% marginal deductibility. This has limits; to wit if your mortgage interest gets to be low enough that you don't hit the threshold where it is worthwhile to itemize, but instead take the standard deduction, that deductibility didn't do you any good. But above that threshold, which is most people, every dollar in interest you spend gives you back 28 cents. I'm also going to assume a 30 year fully amortized mortgage.

Obviously, you don't want to pay an effective 4.32 percent interest rate for no good reason at all, but this does not take place in a vacuum. If you didn't use that money to pay down your mortgage, you could use it to invest elsewhere. For instance, let's assume you could make 8% net on average if you invested this money elsewhere. This is a reasonable average when you consider ordinary income tax, capital gains tax, and possibly a certain amount of tax deferment.

Now, some people might think to add in the difference in interest paid, but that is not correct. The payment is constant. Whatever you didn't pay in interest was already applied to principal. To count it again would be double counting.

Let's say you've got $100 extra per month, and a $400,000 loan. I'm going to go yearly 10 years out, then at 5 year intervals. The median time in a property is about 9 years, which means a whole new set of decisions about which property to buy. This is only a valid experiment so long as all of the starting assumptions stay constant, and when you have a whole new set of decisions about which property to buy and for how much, all of that goes out the window, as it is no longer controlled only by the variables chosen at start. Truth be told, refinancing should probably halt the experiment as well.

For the below, I have just summarized the differences. Extra principal is how much more you've paid the loan down with the extra amount, if you did so. Tax cost is the total tax cost of the interest you didn't pay. Investment is how much the money you'd have if you didn't pay the extra towards your mortgage, but socked it away in an investment account. Gain/loss is the net result, positive if you came out ahead by adding to the payments, negative if you should have invested the money.

Extra Prin
tax cost

As you can see, the numbers come out fairly strongly for not taking the extra and making payments, but instead finding an alternative investment for the money. Don't get me wrong - the return on investment of paying your mortgage off is guaranteed, while the return on alternative investments is anything but. Still, diversification and reasonably prudent risk calculation together with due diligence build a case for the alternative investment that has probability so strongly on your side it might as well be mathematical certainty over the long haul. Any time you have cash, whether it's an extra $100 you made this week or $100,000 you made investing over the last 20 years, you always have the option of taking it out of the other investment and paying off your mortgage. But the numbers come out pretty strongly for the alternative investment.

However, the psychology says yes. There's a major sense of accomplishment in paying off the property. Furthermore, once you don't owe the money, you've got it in the form of equity, as opposed to cash, which is all too easy to spend. In fact, most folks will fall off either the investment wagon or the extra payments wagon over time. Money you don't owe cannot be called due. If there's a temporary setback in the market, extra payments make it that much less likely you'll ever be upside down or in an impacted equity situation, although you could also apply the cash from the investment account to your equity or to the rest of your finances, to keep from having to do a cash out refinance. Finally, there's the reduced stress from being mortgage free for (in this case) thirty six months earlier, if you are one of those rare people who actually manages to pay their mortgage off.

I also have a spreadsheet that compares the net financial result between never refinancing, refinancing every 5 years and keeping a target of paying all loans off in 360 months from the time you bought, and refinancing every 5 years but making the minimum payment. In the vast majority of cases, the last situation comes out better, largely due to the effects of leverage, but leverage is always a two-edged sword. If things go the way you want, it makes them even better. If things don't go the way you want, it makes them even worse. There are lots of folks getting bit hard by over-leveraging real estate right now. The usual numbers say that making larger payments is likely not the best use you have for the money. But there is a certain psychological comfort in owing less and paying off the mortgage sooner. Furthermore, in a down market like right now, making larger payments might mean you end up able to sell or refinance when you need to, without those potentially nasty consequences of being upside-down.

Caveat Emptor

Original Article here

This has been a noticeable phenomenon for quite a while in San Diego. I've been loath to talk about it because I didn't want to be giving fraudsters ideas. Most lenders have now put into place safeguards against this measure. As always, they do not distinguish between guilty and innocent, but the lender is the one risking their money. Keep in mind Real Estate loans are not about the "benefit of the doubt", they are about proving to the bank that they are likely to get their money repaid with interest.

The basic event is this: People have decided to relinquish their current property to the lender. It's not worth as much as the loan is for, so they see only a gain to be had there with current law declaring the income from forgiven debts non-taxable. Perhaps they couldn't afford their new payments after the teaser expired. Perhaps they could; they just don't understand what they are doing to their credit and the fact that the market is going to come back - sooner than they probably think. Perhaps it's a non-recourse loan and they see only the fact that they owe more than the property is currently worth.

But these people don't want to be homeless, and they do understand that after they have gone through foreclosure, not only are lenders going to be highly resistant to lending to them, but landlords are going to be reluctant to rent to them. So they hit upon what they think is a brilliant plan: Buy a new house before allowing the old one to go into foreclosure. After all, the degradation to credit hasn't happened yet! However, this is still fraud. These people have an actual plan to allow a property to be foreclosed upon, and a reasonable person would know that lenders would consider that in deciding whether to grant credit.

Unfortunately, there has been enough of this going on that lenders are no longer willing to let it go unchecked and unchallenged, so they are looking for evidence that new buyers of primary residences and second homes do not plan to "buy and bail". Since this was originally written, there have been stronger requirements put into place: First, there has to be significant equity in the current property. Fannie and Freddie both require 30% equity in the existing property in order to lend on a new one. They also want to see either the ability to make both payments without any rental income or a verifiable job change to a new commuting area, and the need to relocate (i.e. nothing in the same commuting area). There are portfolio lenders out there who will waive the 30% equity requirement, but they are very careful about the circumstances and even more careful if the move is within the same commuting area.

Meeting these basic conditions is not a "get out of underwriting free" card in the current paranoid environment. There are other checks being made upon the process, checks I am not going to discuss beyond saying that the transaction has to pass a "smell test." Being someone who doesn't like seeing bad real estate loans made, for a plethora of reasons, I welcome the return of the smell test. I've seen the aftermath of too many transactions that smelled worse that week old fish in dumpster on a hot day. You may think you're a "a special case," but every single one of those folks out there facing foreclosure or having gone through it already also thought that they were "a special case" then, and the ones trying this fraud think so again now.

These new restrictions have hurt, and will continue to hurt, legitimate investors and purchasers by making it more difficult to qualify for the loans. It is nonetheless a fact of life brought upon us by the market. Furthermore, 20% down is pretty much an absolute minimum for buying investment property currently currently. Furthermore, even the lenders that were accepting loans for both a primary residence and a second home in the same commuting area have now stopped that practice. It was silly to start with, and it has only gotten worse of late, but people who want to avoid the constraints and requirements of investment property loans were eager for it. I just don't understand why lenders were willing to accommodate them. Either the charges and higher equity and qualification standards were necessary, or they were not. If they were necessary, why were the lenders bypassing them? If not, why did they exist in the first place?

I can understand people who don't want to be homeless. However, while "Buy and Bail" may not always be obvious before the fact, but it is afterwards, and the lenders are starting to take notice of foreclosures against other companies, and they are even writing in clauses that make their loan callable, by which I mean they can demand you pay that loan off in full, giving you 7 to 30 days to make the actual payment. Once again, this sort of clause is going to disadvantage people who have had the property a while and be intending no harm who do hit hard times: Job loss, disability, etcetera. Nevertheless, "Buy and Bail" is fraud, and the lenders are entitled to take whatever measures they think reasonable to insure that they don't lose their money to a suddenly unacceptable credit risk, as well as to return a reasonable return on that money. It may seem like cruelty to you, but I'd like to see some of the folks pulling it sentenced to an enforced residency in a government institution wearing funny pajamas, because games like this destabilize the mortgage market for everyone, and every time somebody pulls a game like this, the lender's reaction hurts many others who should be able to qualify for a loan and are now unable to do so, further screwing up the home loan market for 300 million Americans.

After this was originally published, I got a question from Realtor Ricki Widlak who doesn't understand how people pull this, in that they're going to have another home loan on their credit report. The answer is that they claim they are going to be receiving $X in rent per month. They fake up a lease contract, usually between themselves and a family member or close friend. The added number of dollars per month from this entirely fictional contract makes it appear as if they qualify. However, because the lease is not real, they don't. Ergo, the qualify without rental income restriction.

He ends with this question: "How do people "walk away"? Who walks away from anything in this information age anyway? I just don't get it. These people are "leaving behind" their soc numbers, right?".

The answer to all of these questions is that lenders have no difficulty in identifying this phenomenon in retrospect - these people aren't getting away with anything, and some of the lenders are starting to follow the criminal prosecution route. But identifying the perpetrators in retrospect does not assist the lenders in not making bad loans in the first place, which is the situation the lenders want. So they raise the bar for qualification for everybody in order to weed out these bad apples. Yes, people who would otherwise qualify are getting turned down for loans. However, the lenders are not a court of law, where we'd rather a dozen guilty people go free than one innocent one be punished. In fact, the lenders have precisely the opposite view, especially in the current environment: They'd rather turn down a dozen or more good loans than accept one bad loan, and they are now writing their lending criteria accordingly.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Fannie and Freddie long had a policy that they would not fund investment property (non-owner occupied) beyond 10 loans for a given investor. Although it did impact a certain number of investors, for most folks that rule just never came into play. They have now reduced that limit to 4 loans, which is putting an awful lot more investors in the position of needing a portfolio loan.

Portfolio loans are loans where the lenders originate the loan with the intention of holding it themselves. In recent years, this has been a very limited niche, and even those A paper loans written with the full intention on the part of the lender to hold it themselves were often underwritten to Fannie and Freddie standards, so that they could sell such a loan. Not that there were very many of those.

Portfolio loans largely went away because the tradeoff between rate and costs is much higher than the standard securitizable loans. In plain english, the rates are higher. When the lender originates a loan and sells it on Wall Street, it gets an immediate return of 2.5 to 4 percent on its money. Not as much as holding a six percent loan for the year, but they can turn right around and use the money to sell another loan. Lenders don't have any trouble getting four to six loan sales on the same money per year, some manage eight or better, and twelve is possible, if unlikely. Therefore, they make anywhere from 10% to maybe 25% per year by selling the loan repeatedly, as opposed to about six percent for holding it. Which of those do you think the average lender sees as more attractive, particularly if they also retain servicing rights and make money that way without risking any of their own?

So if the lender is not going to be able to sell the loan, but rather have its money tied up until you decide to sell or refinance the property, then they're going to want something more akin to the 10% or better return they get on their money by originating and selling the loans. Portfolio loans have a higher rate for the same cost; albeit a much smaller difference than when I first wrote this article. Some people will tell me they don't want their loan sold. I ask why, and they tell me about the hassles and ending up with an unknown company. I explain that the contract is the contract, and the only differences if your loan is sold are the name on the check and the address on the envelope (or, if you pay online, the routing number you use). For those that still come back with "I don't want my loan sold," I then say, "Well, then it sounds like what you want is a portfolio loan. The interest rate will be higher, meaning your payments will be X dollars per month higher, and your cost of interest will be higher." Them's the facts. Some lenders will lie about it to get clients to sign up for their loan, but that doesn't change the facts. They can deliver a portfolio loan, or they can deliver a regular loan where the lender is still going to sell that loan. Which would you rather have, an honest discussion of alternatives or someone who chose one alternative without consulting you? Because the loan they deliver will be one or the other, and whether it's the choice you would have made is mostly a matter of luck.

To be completely honest, even portfolio loans can be sold. However, not being designed with standard loan packages in mind, it's harder. Selling portfolio loans is a harder thing than what Fannie and Freddie do, as the ways in which portfolio loans are underwritten is not written to some broad industry standard. Selling portfolio loans is more common now than it was a couple of years ago, but the same lender generally retains servicing. Not every lender offers portfolio loans, as they are a different thing entirely to the corporate finance people than the standardized loans Fannie and Freddie require.

But for those that do, they allow that lender to make the underwriting decision by whether they are comfortable making such a loan, rather than whether or not it meets standardized criteria for Wall Street. This can enable those lenders who do offer portfolio lending to be able to make a certain specific loan, where a lender with its eyes fixed solely on Wall Street does not have the option of saying "Yes."

There are a fair number of loan niches that have always been portfolio loans. Many commercial loans, and loans for investors with over ten properties, to name two. Traditional "non-conforming" loans are not one of them, however. Just because Fannie and Freddie couldn't buy them doesn't mean nobody would. In fact, because they were underwritten to Fannie and Freddie standards in all matters except loan amount meant they were sought after, especially as opposed to subprime loans. But just because portfolio loans are not underwritten for Wall Street doesn't mean that the lenders can ignore Federal Reserve regulations, for instance the one about "Must be able to repay the loan from a source other than additional borrowing against the property". For that, you have to go hard money.

Final point: Because the interest rate for portfolio loans is higher, and therefore the cost of borrowing the money, there are going to be a lot of properties that would be a good investment for someone able to qualify under Fannie and Freddie's rules, where they would not be a good investment for someone who needs a portfolio loan. This is likely to constrain prices from rising to a small degree, and force rents to rise to a somewhat higher degree. If your landlord can't make it work on the basis of the rent you're paying, they have two real choices: Raise your rent or sell the property. Nor is the second alternative any kind of relief. If that landlord couldn't make it work, why would you think the next one can? That's assuming the purchaser doesn't plan to live in it themselves from day one. I have an inflexible rule with tenants where my clients don't want to keep them: They must be out before close of escrow. I suspect most buyer's agents are the same way. One of the fall-outs from the bursting of the real estate bubble that most people don't realize yet is that the economic factors which have kept rent increases low for the past decade or more are all going away. It may take longer than I thought originally, but it's going to happen. Furthermore, if someone is looking to buy an investment property, the cash flow is going to have to work from day one. If it won't, they're not going to buy it, and it will never become a rental property in the first place. On a $300,000 loan, a portfolio loan instead of a securitizable one means a difference of over $500 per month in the cash flow requirement, which translates to rent increases, and not just from the big landlords with portfolio loans.

Portfolio lending is set for a comeback. With Wall Street becoming ever pickier about the loans it wants to fund, and mortgage insurers restricting what they will insure, a strong lender with good reserves can make a lot of money in this environment by lending to selected borrowers with good credit and plenty of income, that "originate and sell" lenders cannot touch, because Wall Street isn't interested under current standards.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

There are actually several distinct marketplaces consumers can obtain their funds from, and several types of providers. John the wealthy highly salaried person with great credit and a substantial down payment should not and usually does not obtain his mortgage from the same funds providers as his twin brother Jim, the self-employed, always-broke person with terrible credit and no down payment. They may deal with the same employee at the same business, but the funds and parameters for using those funds, are entirely different.

In order to make sense later on, I've first got to acquaint you with two concepts: yield spread and pre-payment penalty. The yield spread is what then lender pays the person or company who does the paperwork for your loan in order to give them an incentive to choose that lender, loan type, and rate, as well as any of several other reasons. The yield spread is based upon the rate of the loan, the type of the loan, and other factors as well

Yield Spread is explicitly associated with the premium (amount over face value) that the actual lender will receive when they sell the loan. I find it entirely and intentionally misleading that the government now requires brokers to treat yield spread as a cost and added to other costs of the loan while not requiring that direct lenders disclose secondary market premium at all. The new 2010 Good Faith Estimate adds Yield Spread as a cost when under the new rules it is an offset, lowering the cost of the loan to the consumer. This has the effect of making broker originated loans appear more expensive than they are, while allowing direct lender loans to continue to hide this method in which they get compensated on basically every loan.

Prepayment penalty is a penalty you agree to pay if you sell your home or refinance before a certain period of time has passed. Industry standard is six months interest, with some lenders making this 80 percent of six months interest. Usually (not always) they will let you pay a certain amount over the normal, agreed upon principal per year without triggering the penalty, but if you sell or refinance out of their loan, the penalty is always triggered for the duration of the penalty. Some lenders will actually phase it out in stages, although this is not common.

Lest it be not plain to you, a prepayment penalty is a thing to avoid if you reasonably can. Let's say you get transferred and need to sell the house in six months, and that you have a $200,000 loan at 6%. That's six thousand dollars less that you will receive from the sale of your home, not to mention that the average person refinances every two years, which is typically the shortest pre-payment penalty. If you need to refinance within two years, that's six thousand dollars of your equity gone for no good purpose. Mind you, if you need the loan, and it gets you the loan, so be it. It's still a thing to avoid.

The top of the food chain from the point of view of consumers are the so-called A paper lenders. This market is controlled by the two federally chartered giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Lenders who participate in these markets lend in full accordance with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rules, because they want to be able to sell the loan to them. In many cases, they actually do sell them seamlessly by retaining the servicing rights, and the consumer never knows they have done it. In others, they retain the loans entire, and in still others, they sell them off entire. They do this for many reasons, but mostly to raise cash so they can do more loans. In any case, the only difference it should make to you, the consumer, is where to address the check and who to make it out to. Unlike the other markets, if the secondary market pays a premium in this market it does not automatically mean that there will be a pre-payment penalty. Although they will pay a higher yield spread if the loan officer sticks the client with a pre-payment penalty (and the longer the prepayment penalty is, the more they will pay). WARNING! Many loan officers will not tell you about it unless asked ("Why bring up a reason not to choose your loan?" is a direct quote I've heard any number of times) and some will flat out lie even if you ask. This is not ethical, but they know they can almost certainly get away with it. There really is no reason why an A paper loan should have a prepayment penalty, except that a loan officer wanted to get paid more. The new rules make this more difficult, but it is still happening, mostly because consumers aren't very careful. ALWAYS be careful about pre-payment penalties; they are an excellent way for lenders to sock you with thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in extra revenue that will end up coming out of your wallet.

It is not difficult to qualify for an A paper loan. As long as you're not taking equity out of the home, they can go through with credit scores as low as 620 for a full documentation loan, although there are caveats. Despite what you read in Internet pop-ups, according to National Mortgage Reporting a 620 credit score is 100 points below the national average. So even someone with modestly below average credit can still qualify for an A paper loan. There are minimum equity requirements, however. Also, it until recently it didn't matter if you were King Midas who had never failed to pay a bill immediately in full or someone who barely staggered over the line into qualification by the computer models put out by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That has now changed with risk based pricing, such that credit score and equity picture can cause you to be assessed a differential, but the differential is a lot better than going sub-prime or Alt A. There is nothing better than A paper.

The next market below A paper is called A minus. The rates are a little bit higher, and there are prepayment penalties anytime the lender pays a yield spread. A minus is still a program associated with Fannie and Freddie for the "almost but not quite" people, although the window of qualification has become a lot narrower of late.

Then comes the so-called Alt A, which are typically loans for fairly unusual circumstances. At this update, Alt A really isn't available due to Wall Street being more nervous than a cat at a rocking chair convention, but I'm going to leave the rest of what I originally wrote untouched because it will come back: The credit scores here go down to about 580, although there is less standardization. The worst, most dangerous, absolutely awful loan in the world comes from the "Alt A" world. There are all kinds of friendly sounding names for it, like "Option ARM", "pick a pay", and such things, but they are all negative amortization loans at their heart - you end up owing more than you borrow. They sound benign: "pick your monthly payment!" But in fact most people choose the minimum monthly payment which capitalizes and then amortizes more money into your loan every month. Every single one I've ever heard about carries a prepayment penalty. Once upon a time, I saw ads for these abominations every day all over the internet. If anybody quotes you a mortgage rate below 3%, or a payment that seems too low to be true, I will bet you millions to milliamps they are trying to sell you one of these abominations. There are still loan providers out there that do nothing but these - they're easy to sell to unsuspecting victims because the minimum payment is so small, and most people shop for a home loan based upon payment. There really isn't space here to go over everything that's wrong with them (or where they may be appropriate), but except in certain special circumstances, RUN AWAY! And do not do business with that person! They have just proven themselves unworthy of your business. Fortunately, the Negative Amortization loan has now had regulatory controls placed on it, and lenders have figured out that these loans aren't as good for their bottom line as they thought, due to a high default rate that was as predictable as falling objects hitting something.

(Every so often, a representative from a new lender walks into my office. I'm always glad to talk to them so long as they answer my questions in a straightforward way, but I have one inflexible rule. As I just said, it doesn't happen much any more, but if the first thing they talked about was a Negative Amortization loan - no matter the happy sounding name they call it by, I throw them out and do not allow them to return. I think it indicative of the state of things in the Negative Amortization world that the one time I had a client who would actually benefit from this thing, and I took the time to tell him exactly where all of the traps I knew about were, give him strategies to turn it to maximum benefit, and he agreed that he wanted to do it - not one of the five companies I tried would actually approve the loan despite him meeting all of the written loan guidelines.)

The final niche that comes from regular lenders is called sub-prime. Until recently, in the world of sub prime lending you could do a lot of things that higher rungs on the ladder will not allow you to do. As in A minus or Alt A, anytime the lender pays a yield spread there will be a pre-payment penalty, and I think I've run across exactly one sub prime loan that didn't have a prepayment penalty in my whole time as a loan officer. However, the people who subsidize sub prime lenders just didn't have a whole lot of choice. That has now changed. Unless you've got a very high down payment or amount of equity, subprime is being about as strict as A paper with qualification standards. However, if you don't qualify for a better market, this is typically the only way you're actually getting a home loan, be it because of low credit, low equity, or what have you. The rates are high, but it's that or nothing. Sub prime loans are very lucrative - the average lender or broker specializing in them usually makes about 5 points - 5 percent of the loan amount - on each and every loan. I've had people thank me so profusely I was almost embarrassed when I got them a loan on something more closely resembling a typical margin from higher niches. The lines between A minus, Alt A, and sub prime are blurring more and more as time goes on. When I first wrote this, it was to the point now where if someone said they did sub prime, that usually meant Alt A and A minus as well - it's just a matter of where on the spectrum a given client sat. Nowadays, what that same provider is looking for is an A paper borrower who doesn't realize they are A paper, or whom they can make think is not an A paper prospect.

The final niche is Hard Money. These are not typical lenders, in fact, they have almost nothing in common with traditional lenders. They are agents for individual investors, sometimes even loaning you their own personal money. The rates for this start an absolute rock bottom of about 13 percent, and go up from there. Typically there will be a front-end charge of about 5 percent of the loan amount, and a prepayment penalty of about 7%. These are loans for people with sub 500 credit scores, people with homes that have been damaged in some way and must make repairs before a regular lender will touch the property, and so on and so forth. The equity requirements are large - 75 percent of the value of the home based upon a conservative appraisal is about the highest a hard money lender would ever go, and all of the ones I'm aware of now have an absolute limit of 65%. Lenders in markets higher up the chain are in the business of making loans, and are likely to cut you as much slack as practical if you have some difficulty making payments, as they are not in the business of foreclosures. A hard money lender has no such constraint. They will foreclose on your home immediately and without a second thought. One way or another, they will get their money back and then some. WARNING! It is common practice on the part of hard money lenders to have you sign the Note and Deed of Trust "conditional" upon them finding an investor. The person signing the documents thinks the loan is done, and that their situation (usually a time critical one) is resolved, and everything is all roses now, but it isn't. They may still want you to pay for multiple appraisals, jump through multitudinous hoops, and still not give you the loan in the end. This is just their way of binding you to them so that you don't or can't go elsewhere. Not that this is completely unknown in the higher niches (in fact, some lenders market their services to real estate agents and brokers based upon this practice - people who are true loan officers learn that this is not a good idea), but it's not common, as it is here.

There are three main types of places to go to get a loan. The first is a regular lender. The second is what I call a "packaging house", although in practical terms it is very similar to a regular lender. The third is a broker or correspondent. Each has their advantages and disadvantages.

A regular lender is what you think of when you think of a bank. Most of the big names are regular lenders. They typically have their own offices, often mingled with other banking functions. They have their own funds, wherever they've gotten them from, and they have executives and such that put together their own loan programs, complete with criteria for approving or not approving a given loan. These people do loans with at least the possibility of keeping them in mind, and some do keep every loan they do, while others sell almost every loan. The good news is that they'll typically be slightly more willing to make exceptions around the edges (whether or not the loan is a good one for you!). The bad news, from the consumer point of view, is that they consider you a captive from the moment you walk in the door. Even if they know of another lender with better pricing or a program that suits your needs better, they're still going to keep you "in-house". And their loan pricing is such that it's going to pay for all of the salaries and benefits for all of the people in the office, and the beautiful office itself and all of its contents.

A "packaging house" is like a regular lender except that they do their loans with the explicit intention of selling off every single one, either immediately or a few months down the line. Practical difference to consumer: there's a 100% chance you're going to end up making payments to someone else. In other words, no big deal. Packaging houses are lending their own money - they are not brokers. The difference is that a traditional lender is at least set up for long term servicing - the packaging house is not. Some sell immediately, some wait for one payment (better price in the secondary market), some wait three payments, as this gets them an even better price when they sell the loan. This is nothing to fear. The original lender recently sold my own home loan. The only difference is that now I write the check to company B instead of company A, and mail it to place X instead of place Y. California has stronger consumer mortgage protection laws than the federal government, but there are laws in place nationwide for the consumer's protection that avoid payments being unjustly marked late because your mortgage was sold.

A broker is not lending their own money, but is being paid instead to put the loan together and get it to the point where it is funded, at which point they are out of the picture. A packaging house could, in theory, decide to keep a particular loan - there is no legal impediment. They just don't do it. A broker doesn't have this option - it's not their money being loaned, but instead that of a regular lender or a packaging house. On the down side, a broker has somewhat less leverage to get underwriters to make exceptions to the rules (although the difference is academic for those outside this narrow range). There is also a lot of variation on quality. You'll find the very best loan officers in the country working as loan brokers - and the very worst, as well. On the up side, a broker always has at least the ability to get you a lower price than the other alternatives, although they may not have the willingness. Correspondents are a cross between brokers and packaging houses. They've got multiple providers like brokers - but the company also has a line of credit they use to fund your loan so they receive the secondary market premium rather than merely whatever yield spread there may be. They're still putting your loan through a particular lender's underwriting and funding program, but they fact that they initially fund your loan themselves allows them to act more like a direct lender.

The first reason for this is that a good broker shops many different lenders to find the program that's priced best for you. This is less important but still very noticeable at the A paper level (A paper had pretty standardized rules) then it is for borrowers whose situations (either through credit, or through needing to do something A paper doesn't support) need to go to markets lower down on the totem pole. A traditional lender or packaging house puts you in the program they have that they feel is the best fit - they won't go outside the company. A broker may shop fifty lenders or more to find the one program at the one lender that fits you best. Second, I (as a broker) get better pricing from the lenders, either regular or packaging house, than their own loan officers. Why? Partially because they're not paying my support expenses - office rent, furnishings, support staff salaries, etcetera. Mostly because it's my customer, and I can and will take my customer elsewhere if they don't give me the best possible deal. As a broker, I am never held captive by any single lender, and they know it, and they know I know it, where once a member of the public walks into their office, they consider you "captive" business, whereas at any point in the process, I can take my paperwork back from the lender and take you to someone else. Used to be, I usually didn't even need you to fill out anything new. That has now changed with the new Home Valuation Code of Conduct which means appraisals are no longer portable (What? You thought it was for consumers?).

Still, I do have the option of moving the loan, so they give me better pricing than they give you, and they don't play games because I've got more business every week that they want, whereas they're not going to see you again for a couple years, if ever. The upshot is: every week when I do the family shopping, I hit three or four supermarkets all competing for my business within a mile and a half from my home. Because of this competition, I can save pretty good money buying the things that each market has good sales on, and if the quality at one market isn't so hot on some sale merchandise, I will get a pretty good price at one of the others. Mortgage brokers work on the same principle. I do the running around and quality check for you, and because this is what I do for a living, I can spot the bad stuff a lot easier than you can. When I do my grocery shopping, I always make a point of checking what the banks in the supermarkets are offering on their mortgage deals, and I always smile because I'm always getting somebody a better price on the same loan from that same lender.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

My article Debunking the Money Merge Account Scam has been getting a lot of attention and a large amount of hate mail lately. The scamsters that sell these things love to send me hate mail for exposing the fact that their particular emperor has no clothes.

Here is the bottom line: The only benefit these programs actually get is about two weeks temporary reduction of principal per month, based upon your take-home pay. On a $200,000 mortgage at 6 percent, that is worth roughly $4.41 per month under ideal conditions. It will pay the mortgage off approximately three and a half months early. On a $400,000 mortgage at 7%, it's worth about $11.41 per month under optimum conditions, and will pay off your mortgage a little over five months early.

They programs do not give you the right to make extra payments, and they don't save you the money that those extra payments saves on your mortgage. Anyone who doesn't have a "first dollar" prepayment penalty can do that, any time they want, for free, and if you do have such a penalty, Mortgage Accelerators and Money Merge accounts will not prevent that penalty for being levied.

What they do is charge you anywhere from $2000 to $6000 as a sign up fee for these programs, and most of them require a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) as well, increasing the cost of interest of whatever money is in them. Quite a few of them also require a monthly fee that varies from $1 up to about $8. I have yet to find one of these where the numbers say that the gain is not more than offset by the fees.

Suppose instead, you spend the sign up fee on a one-time pay-down of your mortgage. Instead of paying $2000 to $6000 for this program that gets you a few bucks per month, you spend that money on a one time pay-down of your mortgage. I have yet to find a scenario where that doesn't pay off your mortgage earlier, and have a lower balance the entire time it is in effect, so that if you do refinance or sell as most people do, you're ahead of the game the whole way.

The people selling these scams love to pull the ad hominem. They accuse me of not liking the program because people on this program won't want to refinance, and there's usually something in their accusation about how I cannot sell the program. Both of these claims are nonsense. I have idiots begging me to sell these things on a regular basis, and I could sign up with any one of them and make money. I have not done so, because these programs will not deliver, and my entire method of doing business is predicated upon doing the right thing for the client, so they are motivated not only to come back to me themselves, but also to send me anyone they care about. Furthermore, people on these programs refinance almost as often as anyone else. The difference in the numbers these programs make is a lot less than saving an eighth of a percent off the actual interest rate, and I can prove it. If I have a refinance that saves them money starting the day it happens, they're going to sign up just the same as anyone else.

The only effective selling tool these con artists have to sell these programs is the appearance of free money. They assume that the money for extra payments comes out of some hyperspatial vortex. They do generate a few dollars per month in interest savings through temporary payment reductions, but as I covered above, you're better off using the sign-up fee to pay the balance of your mortgage down. Any extra payments that do get made don't come out of a hyperspatial vortex - they come out of your checking account, which comes from your paycheck. Such money for extra payments is then not available for other things, whether it's a vacation, a new car, an alternative investment, or just blowing the money down at Joe's Bar. The extra money is the same, and you have the exact same right to use it to pay your mortgage down faster with or without one of these programs. If you have it extra to pay down your mortgage, you can do so regardless of whether or not you have paid the sign-up fee for one of these scams. If you don't have the extra money, then obviously it's not going to get paid to your mortgage, is it?

In fact, one of the things these folks never mention is that the entire question of whether to pay off your mortgage faster is an open one, subject to a lot of variables, and the numbers in most cases argue that you should not. If you can make more with an alternate investment than you save by paying your mortgage down, the default answer is going to be that you should go with that alternate investment. Since average return over time of bonds and stocks and other possible investments is considerably higher than the six percent interest of your average mortgage, with federal and state deductions for mortgage interest paid lowering the effective cost of the mortgage further, it's silly to pay down your mortgage faster unless there are other factors. A mortgage accelerator may actually lock you into that when there are better, smarter, more profitable alternatives available. Finally, even though paying your mortgage down may be the alternative best in line with your current situation and plan for your life, paying any kind of sign up fee or monthly maintenance for such a program is a waste of money when you have the perfect right to make those payments on your own, for free, at any time you choose. Any fee you are thinking about paying for one of these things is a waste of money. You are better off putting that fee towards a one time direct pay-down of your mortgage.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

I have a landlord, that is always harassing me every 2 weeks, for the past 2 years, on the upkeep of the property, and wants to have inspections. Also want me to mail them all their mail. Most of which is Bank stuff. I am fed up, and thinking they are under a Owner Occupied Loan. Is there a way I could find out? And who do I complain to, if I decide to?

It is a misconception to think that just because someone moves out, they can no longer have an owner occupied loan.

In fact, the typical owner occupancy agreement that is required in order to get owner occupied financing is only a twelve month occupancy. When I buy or refinance today, I agree to live in it for twelve months in order to get those rates. After I have met that requirement, I can move out, rent it out, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. That loan contract is in effect, I have lived up to all of my obligations as far as owner occupancy, and I can keep that loan as long as I maintain my end of the other parts of the contract. It is fraud to claim I'm living there, or intend to live there, for those twelve months if I do not actually live there, but once I've met that twelve month occupancy requirement I can go live in Timbuktu so long as I get my loan payments in on time, properly insure and maintain the property, pay taxes in a timely fashion, etcetera.

It is possible, as I discovered once upon a time, that if you have an owner occupied loan with lender A, that same lender may refuse to give you another owner occupied loan on a different property. In this case, it was refinance the loan on the other property, or accept a second home loan on property A. But notice how, even then, the lender did not force them to refinance despite the fact that they hadn't lived in the other property for years. They just offered the owner the choice of accepting a slightly less favorable loan (Second home financing, still much better than investment property) or refinancing the existing owner occupied into another occupancy type. Or, being brokers, we could submit the package to another lender. There are circumstances where each of these three possibilities may be the best choice. The lenders do not share this data between each other; indeed, my understanding is that they cannot legally do so. It was only applying for a second owner occupied loan from the same lender that brought this on, and not every lender even does this much. If thirty year fixed rate loans are the only type you ever apply for, it is theoretically possible to legitimately have a new owner occupied loan starting each and every time you have met the minimum time for owner occupancy for the previous lender. In extreme cases, it might be possible to get upwards of twenty owner occupied loans all in force at the same time, while having honored your contractual requirements for each and every one.

The minimum owner occupancy requirement can be different. One year is by far the most common, but there is no reason that I am aware of why it cannot be longer, if that is what is specified in the contract. However, I do not know of any lenders that requires you to refinance or requires you to pay a surcharge if you move out once you have met the required period of owner occupancy specified in your Note.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

With the down payment presenting the largest difficulty for most people want to buy right now, I am covering every base I can think of as a place to get a down payment. I have covered VA Loans, FHA loans which require a relatively small down payment, and Municipal first time buyer programs, some of which can take the place of a down payment. There are also seller carrybacks and lease with option to buy. There's also the traditional "Save it over time", and in some circumstances, you can also borrow from your retirement accounts or even take a withdrawal. You can even Sell Some Stuff. But there is at least one more entry to the pantheon.

Most people don't think of it, but a personal loan is one of the ways to get a down payment quickly. It has some notable drawbacks, but it can be done. Being unsecured, the interest rate is higher than real estate loans, and the repayment period is shorter, meaning higher payments.

A personal loan is a loan not secured by real property. Because it is not secured by real property, all the lender really cares about is the payments and whether you can qualify for their loan by underwriting guidelines including the payments for such a loan. Personal loans include car loans and student loans and just about every other type of installment debt out there, as well as personal lines of credit and even credit cards. Not all of these are a possibility for the subject at hand, which is rapidly acquiring a real estate down payment. CREDIT CARD CASH ADVANCES ARE RIGHT OUT!. But the possibility exists of borrowing enough to get a down payment with a personal loan.

This possibility includes both institutional loans from a bank or credit union, and "good in-law" loans from family members. Negotiate a loan contract, sign it, and be certain to disclose it to your mortgage lender on your mortgage application so that they know you're not trying to pull a fast one. The reason why mortgage lenders are obsessed with sourcing and seasoning of funds is because they don't want an undisclosed loan, which might mean that you cannot really afford the all of payments you're going to be making. But a fully disclosed personal loan is just like any other open credit. It has a repayment schedule, maturity date, etcetera. The mortgage lender looks at the situation, including the loan that got the down payment, according to lending guidelines, and if it appears you have the income to make those payments, they will approve the loan.

The major and irrefutable drawback to getting a personal loan for the down payment is that it impacts debt to income ratio. You have to account for the fact that you owe this money, and you are obligated to make those payments, and therefore, you cannot afford as big a real estate loan as you otherwise could. Since most people try to stretch their budget further than they should anyway, this can be a deal-killer. It can force you to buy a less expensive property than the one you have your heart set upon, or even than the property you could otherwise afford, at least by debt to income ratio. Of course, if you don't have a down payment, you can't buy the property of your dreams either. But if you buy a property, especially while the market is down, leverage can mean you will be able to buy the property of your dreams much sooner and much easier, or in plain words, buying the less expensive property is smart if that's what you can afford now. Of course, if you've got more than enough income but no down payment, that's the situation where getting a personal loan for a down payment is a serious possibility. Say you're a doctor who just spent the last two years paying off your student loans ahead of schedule. You've got a great income, but you spent everything on getting rid of that debt, and as a consequence, you don't have much for the down payment, right when it will do you the most good.

It is possible, for some people who have a large down payment but are nonetheless getting a loan from somewhere (most likely a close relative), for the loan to be a subordinate real estate loan. This happens mostly when Mom and Dad are rich and doing estate planning. They loan Princess (their daughter) and her Darling Husband some money to make it easier to buy, often planning to forgive the debt in accordance with federal gift guidelines. Note that the thing controlling it here is that lenders have guidelines that set maximum comprehensive loan to value ratio (CLTV), or the ratio of all loans secured by the property to the value of the property. Even though they may be in first position, lenders may not be willing to loan when there's another loan behind theirs on the property if the CLTV is higher than underwriting guidelines allow. It is necessary to make certain that the lender you apply with will permit any other contemplated loans. And even though Mom and Dad may be intending to forgive Princess' loan in accordance with gifting schedules, Princess and Darling Husband still need to have an official repayment schedule on the loan and those putative payments must be taken into account on the debt to income ratio.

One more thing I should mention is that if you're going to do this, the personal loan needs to be in place before you apply for the real estate loan. Contract signed, funds dispersed, at least one payment made, preferably two or more, and preferably reported to the major agencies. Failure to do any of these is a potential failure point for the real estate loan. The only exception is if you're trying for a subordinate loan, and the lenders have been especially unforgiving of that lately. I've had people I did the primary loan with a private money second previously, unable to refinance even with the same lender. Yes, this means that if you can't get the real estate loan, you still have this loan which you didn't want. This whole idea of personal loans to get a real estate down payment is risky and has downsides. It is not something to try if you have a better alternative, and not without careful scrutiny of all the numbers beforehand, and even then it can fail. It is a risk.

I must emphasize this again: DO NOT TAKE A CASH ADVANCE ON YOUR CREDIT CARDS!. Unless you have credit limits in the multiple hundreds of thousands, your credit score will plummet, and you will be unable to qualify for the loan no matter how much income you have. I will bet a nickel that someone will email me saying that they "did what you said," and that now they cannot qualify for the loan because their credit score is in the toilet. If you write me with such an accusation, I will drag you down to the zoo, where I will arrange for the elephants to do a line dance on your sorry carcass, and the rhinos to use what is left as a target for both ends. Taking a personal loan for a real estate down payment is playing with fire. If you're going to do it, make certain to follow lender and loan officer instructions exactly and carefully. There are a number of other pitfalls, that may not be as bad as the credit card cash advance but will still sink your loan. Getting a personal loan for a mortgage down payment is the mortgage equivalent of a circus high-wire act - one wrong move and the whole thing is a disaster where people get crippled for life even if they aren't killed outright. Having the numbers be right for it is not a common occurrence. But if the numbers are right, and you and your loan officer are careful, it can work.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

If you don't know the answer to this, don't be embarrassed. Lots of alleged professionals forgot the answers to these questions for several years, if indeed, they ever knew. It seems like quite a few still don't know the answer

Loan qualification standards measure whether or not you can afford a loan. By adhering to them, the lenders both lower the default rates and have some assurance the loans they make will be repaid, while borrowers avoid getting into situations where foreclosure is all but certain. Lest you misunderstand, this is a good thing for both the lenders and the borrowers. It isn't like the lenders want to stand there like the Black Knight shouting "None Shall Pass!" They want to loan money - that's how they make profit. But unless you live in a cave, you may have heard of some problems with defaulted home loans of late. You may have heard they're a major problem for both the lenders and the borrowers. Guess what? They are.

From the lender's standpoint, of course, the important thing is that they prevent loaning money to people who can't afford to repay the loan, but the other isn't a trivial concern. Even if they get every penny back when they foreclose, foreclosures are still bad business, with negative impacts on cash available to lend, regulatory scrutiny, and not least important, business reputation.

Going through foreclosure is no fun from a borrower standpoint either. I don't think I have ever seen or even heard of a situation where somebody ended up better off from having gone through foreclosure than they would have been if the lender had just denied the loan in the first place. So whether you like it or not, the lenders are doing you a favor to decline your loan when you're not qualified.

There are many loan qualification standards, but the two most important ones are debt to income ratio, often abbreviated DTI, and loan to value ratio, often abbreviated LTV. The first of these is much more important than the second, but both are part of every single loan.

Debt to Income ratio is a measurement of how well your monthly income covers your monthly payments. It is measured in the form of a percentage of your gross monthly pay, averaged over about the last two years. The permissible number can change somewhat depending upon credit score in some situations, and with enough in the way of assets in others, but the basic idea is you can afford to be paying out 43 to 45 percent of your monthly income in the form of fixed expenses - housing and consumer debt service. You can cancel cable TV or broadband internet, you can cancel your movie club or book of the month - but the items debt to income are concerned with are essentially fixed by your situation. You owe $X on student loans, and you're required to repay so many dollars per month. Your mortgage payment is this, your pro-rated property taxes are that, your homeowners insurance and car payments and credit cars are these others. There's no possibility of this money suddenly disappearing - you already owe it, and you are obligated to repay on thus and such a schedule.

Loan to value ratio is not a measure of whether you can afford the loan. It is a measurement of how likely the lender is to get its money back if you do default. With appraisal fraud and similar problems, it's not any kind of a magic bullet - but it is the best they have. When values are rising quickly and holding onto a property for six months generates a 10% profit, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the lenders are willing to take more risks with loan to value ratio than they are in the reverse situation. Many properties have lost value and even if the borrowers had kept up the payments before default, they would still owe more than the property is worth.

Lenders aren't going to refinance on good terms if you're "upside down" or even close to it. But being upside down is not a big problem so long as you have a sustainable loan situation and can afford your payments. You keep making those payments, eventually you are going to have equity again. You try to get another loan after default and foreclosure, and you'll find out in a hurry that lenders are not forgiving. Kind of like the Wild Bunch in a way - mess with one, you mess with them all. Lots of folks are thinking that the smart thing to do is walk away when you're upside down. Even if they do have a non-recourse loan, they're going to find out soon enough that wasn't so smart. Making the payments on a sustainable loan lowers the balance, and values are going to come back - sooner than a lot of people think. Put the two together, and as long as you can hold out until you have equity again, you're better off making those payments.

These standards do, and always have, arisen out of "cut and try". Experience really is the best teacher - unfortunately getting that experience has a habit of being kind of rough. Experience may also be what you get when you didn't get what you wanted - in this case, a satisfactorily paid loan - but the lenders have regulators after them, and those regulators are sensitive to political pressures, and sometimes regulators won't let lenders do something they really do want to do - like loan money with a level of qualifications regulators look askance at - because if the lender makes enough bad loans, even if they survive financially, the regulators may decide they're doing something they shouldn't, and shut the lender down for predatory lending practices. It takes a long time and a lot of evidence to persuade lenders and regulators to relax standards, while a comparatively few bad experiences will have them toughening standards. Over-tightening lending standards has major bad effects upon everyone, including causing foreclosures that would not otherwise have happened, but it's hard to point to any specific victims and there's always idiots with a political axe to grind who will claim the people hurt by over-tightening standards were themselves victims of predatory practice. Right now, both lenders and regulators have been royally burned, and so they don't want to assume any risks they can avoid. This will likely change within a couple years, but for now, that's the way it is. You can learn what you need in order to qualify and get your loan approved, or you can go without. Right now, most lenders are too paranoid to care that having their standards too tight means they lose profit, because they've been burned too much, and the money they have in their accounts is not at risk from having made bad loans. When they make between six and eight percent per year on a successful loan, out of which they have to pay taxes, employee wages, facilities costs and everything else, a one in 100 chance of losing the entire investment to a bad loan is unacceptable, and although the default rates on newer loans is practically zero, they're still working through the bad stuff made during the Era of Make Believe Loans.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

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