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The only Pre-Approval I trust is one that I wrote myself.

I got this search engine hit:

pre-approved loan underwriter changes terms illegal

I have gone over these issues in discussing the pre-qualification.

Loan officers are salespersons. There is intense pressure on them from supervisors, brokers, stockholders and their own pocketbook to tell you what you want to hear. A large proportion of the people who ask me for a either pre-qualification or pre-approval already have a property in mind, and they get angry if I tell them it appears to be beyond their means. They should be kissing my shoes because I'm trying to keep them from making a half-million dollar mistake, or at least make certain they go into it with their eyes open, rather than just keeping my mouth shut and pocketing my commission. Most of these folks just go get their "Think Happy Thoughts" letter elsewhere.

Furthermore, if the loan officer is counting upon referrals from real estate agents for a living, if they tell people what they can really afford, they're getting the agent angry to no good purpose. This agent thinks they have a commission check all lined up, and the loan officer is trying to talk the buyer out of it, threatening that commission check. Most Real Estate Agents do not respond well to this, I'm sad to report. In that situation, I would be thinking, "Boy, I'm glad I found out now, before the default, when investigators and lawyers and courts get involved," but most agents (and their brokers) see only the immediate check that just evaporated. One such experience is all it takes before they not only stop referring to that loan officer, but try getting any clients they may have in common away from that loan officer. This may be short-sighted, but it is also human nature.

Not to mention the fact that nothing about a pre-approval or pre-qualification is binding. In fact, until the underwriter writes a loan commitment, there is nothing that says you have a loan at all. Furthermore, it's rare for loans to be rejected outright. What happens far more often is the underwriter puts one or more unmeetable conditions on it.

Furthermore, there is nothing about any loan that says the terms cannot change unless there's a rate lock in effect. If the loan isn't locked, it's not real. Quite often, loan officers will tell people their loan is locked when it's not. Locking paperwork can be easily faked.

Finally, while the new 2010 Good Faith Estimate makes lowballing on the costs more difficult in that it adds more hoops for the unscrupulous to jump through, it does not prevent the practice or stop it. Keep in mind that last word "estimate". Furthermore, they are not promising that you will get the loan. That requires a loan commitment written by an underwriter, and if further investigation by the underwriter reveals more questions they want answered in order to fund your loan, the underwriter can always add more conditions. None of the paperwork you get at loan sign up promises you will end up with a loan at all. You want to know why, consider that when the lender starts to verify the applicants information, they come across information indicating it's all fraudulent. This happens. It has happened to me, and it happens to loan officers somewhere in the United States every day.

Even with the best will in the world, I can't guarantee you've got a loan until I get the loan commitment from the underwriter. I can go through all the guidelines for a given program, and make certain the borrower meets every single one of them. It doesn't mean anything until the underwriter writes that loan commitment. I don't have the power to approve that loan - no loan officer does. Loan commitments are the exclusive province of the underwriter. A good loan officer can and does go through guidelines to ascertain whether there's an known reason that you will be turned down. If the underwriter rejects the loan, none of it means anything.

This is one of the reasons that I have written several articles explaining how to calculate what you qualify for, in terms of payment and in terms of purchase price, so that you will not be at the mercy of somebody who tells you, "Sure you can afford it," while qualifying you for a "stated income" negative amortization loan. The most mathematically correct and detailed of those articles is Should I buy a Home Part I, while the most accessible is How to Tell If You Can Afford This Property.

If you don't have a lock, the loan is not real, and it will fluctuate with the market - every day for A paper. Until mid-2009, I used to lock every single loan upon application, but the lenders have now made that practice financially prohibitive - a loan officer who does it can expect to pay "fall out fees" that drive their cost of business up until what they can offer consumers is no longer competitive with anyone. What I can still do is guarantee all fees except the tradeoff between rate and cost, and consult with a client upon the optimum time to lock those in, which now has to wait until after the loan commitment. Even that is not absolute, however. The loan officer cannot really promise you that loan until the underwriter writes a loan commitment with conditions you can meet. Even that can change if the underwriter discovers new information, but always remember that the loan officer is not the underwriter, and there are regulations preventing direct contact between consumers and underwriters. If the underwriter rejects the loan (or doesn't approve it), you still don't have that loan. You can choose another one, that you are likely to qualify for, or you can do without. I'll tell people that if the loan officer gets back to them within a week with a change, it's likely that they're honest and they really thought you qualified for the loan they told you about in the first place. If it takes them three weeks or longer, or if they spring it on you at closing, I wouldn't believe they were honest with sworn testimonials from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Diogenes that they saw the whole thing, and it's not the loan officer's fault. It's not for nothing I tell people, "When There Is A Problem, It's Good If They Tell You Right Away"

Only when you have a lock agreement, loan costs guarantee, and a loan commitment from the underwriter do you have a deal going that somebody might be able to stand behind, in the sense of being able to hold them responsible if they don't deliver on exactly those terms, and even then there are limitations. Of course, what really used to happen with most loans (and still does with a large number) is that loan officers tell you about loans they have no prayer of being able to deliver in order to get you to sign up. This is despicable, but it's the way things are. There are reasons why the situation is complex, but that's no excuse for loan providers to play any additional games to obscure or confuse something that is already complicated enough. Part of the reason that I'm writing here is that I would like to change this for the better, but the power to demand real change is in the hands of consumers, not any individual provider.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Once upon a time, I received an email about the virtues of zero interest credit cards as opposed to Home Equity Lines of Credit. I've organized both the email and my response in order to facilitate understanding:

You raise a lot of issues. Some I'm going to deal with very quickly, others I'm going to spend some effort on, but nothing as in depth as a full article would have. I'm going to keep referring to material found in Credit Reports: What They Are and How They Work

I'm going to take the email in chunks:

Turns out I made the Two-Loan choice myself, independent of your article, a couple years ago. I was motivated to get a conforming first loan (~$322K @ 5.75%), and put the other ~$45K of a prior mortgage into a HELOC (besides, the HELOC rate was lower than the 30-yr fixed at the time!).

Well, times (and HELOC rates) have changed, and I now have
~$65K on my HELOC, and relatively tight budget.

That was 2003. considering that I had 30 year fixed rate loans at 5.375 percent or lower without any points for months and 5.25 for literally zero total cost for about one month, you likely paid more than you needed to. There was a period in late August when rates spiked up, but I was calling the same clients back in December and into 2004, asking if they wanted to cut their rate for free. No prepayment penalty, no points. Those would have lowered the rate further.

HELOCs (Home Equity Lines Of Credit) have the disadvantage that they are month to month variable, based upon a rate that is controlled by the bank. On the downside, you're somewhat at their mercy. On the upside, the rate is based upon that lender's Prime Rate plus a margin fixed in your loan papers. They can't change your rate without changing everyone else's also. There is absolutely no legal reason I'm aware of why they can't set prime at twenty-four percent. There are plenty of economic reasons why they won't. Unfortunately, given the high demand low supply of money currently, the banks are competing for new business with a better margin, not a lower prime. They didn't cut rates every time Greenspan's Fed did, but they have religiously boosted prime every time the overnight rate has gone up since the Fed started raising it. Banks are making a killing in real historical terms right now with variable rate lending.

Fortunately, in most cases it's pretty easy to refinance a HELOC. Credit Unions are a great place for this; variable rate consumer credit is where they shine. There are some internet based lenders where you can obtain no cost, easy documentation HELOCs at rates right around prime, or even a bit below if you have the credit. Most HELOCs also have "interest only" options for five or ten years. Brokers really don't do a whole lot for HELOCs except keep lenders honest; there is not enough money in them to make them worth chasing and the lenders won't pay for them the same as for first trust deeds; it's too easy to refinance out of them. (Brokers can beat the stuffing out of credit unions on first trust deeds, however).

Unfortunately, your credit score is a problem now:

I have multiple credit card companies offering me low introductory rates (some 0%, some 2%) for short terms (up-to 1 year).

Why would I NOT want to take them up on their offer?

In truth, I've already done this a number of times in the past 12-18 months, always at 0%. So I've learned the "minimum payment" trade-off (and I wish congress hadn't forced CC companies to raise their minimum payment requirements!) [ last year, one fine bank only made me pay $10/month on their loan of ~$10K! Now I'm seeing minimum payments of 1-3 %]

The difference between cash flow and real cost, and the fact that each time you accept a new credit card thus, it is a MAJOR hit on your credit. Let's say you have two credit cards now that you have had for over five years, and get four new ones. Your FICO score modeling goes from over five years to about a year and a half on your length of credit history (the average of your accounts, except that five years is the maximum you get credit for an account). Open four more six months down the line, and now you have ten, with an average time open of just over a year. Furthermore, since most people move as much as they can into the new credit accounts, this gives major credit hits for being essentially maxed out on a card. Thirty to forty points on your FICO score per card, perhaps more. You say you've been doing this a while. Not to mince any words, I wouldn't want to have your FICO right now.

There are always two concerns when you're looking for the best deal. Minimize your costs, of which interest is far and away the largest, and be able to make your payments. I don't know if you have other payments here, but if so I would do everything I could to live cheaply enough, long enough to use the money I save to make a difference on both of those scores. In your position, I'd sell any cars I still have a payment on, just to get out of the payment. This is a concern I've been telling people about since 2003, when the rates on everything were so cheap. There is more than one way to do things, but you have to be prepared for the consequences of the way you chose. I had some clients up in Los Angeles about July of 2003. They wanted to cut their payments. I gave them the option of a conforming loan (like yours) with a HELOC, and they took it. As soon as the loans funded, the wife called me and said I deceived them about the loan, and they wanted me to pay for another loan. Unfortunately for their contention, I had a piece of paper in the file with their signatures saying exactly what I tell everyone else about this situation, that the rate on the HELOC is month to month variable and subject to change, and that they understood this was a risk and they elected to take it. It looks like you went in with your eyes open, but the risk didn't work out as you hoped. I'm trying to think of other strategies to help you out, but other than "live frugally for a while", it's all little stuff around the edges.

Tonight I'm "running the numbers" on whether a 2% rate (nondeductible) is better than an 8% (tax deductible). And according to my simple calculations (I'm an engineer, not a financial advisor!), it's a no-brainer (go for it!). For the $40K currently on the HELOC (other $25K is already temporarily in 0% accounts), the one-time transfer fee ($50-90/transfer) and lower interest amount (~$70/mo) is ~$200/month less than the deductible interest-only (minimum, ~$435, @ 8%) HELOC payment, AFTER adjusting for the tax deductibility (@ 30% [fed + state], ~$130 on $435).

My plan is that in months when my "income"/cash flow cannot cover all the minimum payments, I'll just use a HELOC check to cover the difference. That is, slowly transfer SOME of the debt back to the HELOC. But in the meantime, my theory goes, I'm paying down my principle faster than if I was just making "extra payments" on the HELOC.

Yes, in most cases you will make more progress, faster, this way, but at such a long-term cost as to make it prohibitive, particularly if you have to leave the credit lines open after you transfer the money out six months down the line. Lots of very silly folks do all kinds of weird and non-remunerative things because it's a deduction, but deductions are never dollar for dollar. If that were the only concern, 2% nondeductible beats 8% deductible by a huge factor. Given what's going on in the background, however, kind of a different story. All these newly opened lines of credit are going to drag you down for years. Make certain to pay it off before the adjustment hits; one month at 24% will kill almost all of your savings. Two months at 18% will more than kill it. Given what your score has likely dropped to, I'd bet that it's closer to the former than the latter.

I also finally had a 0% application turned down, due to "too much credit already, for your income level". So I imagine having all these cards may be hurting my credit score? But I'm not going to re-fi my house (or buy a new car?) anytime soon, so I think I don't care.

I imagine you're going to care. FICO scores require care and tending and time to rise back up. Close off any cards you opened for the zero interest period that you have paid off, and that will mitigate the damage. Keep only a few long standing accounts. But a large amount of damage is already done. When Credit Card companies are saying that, your FICO has dropped big time. Without running your credit, from the foregoing information, I'd guess you are below the territory where I can get a 100% loan, these days, even sub-prime (lower 500s). You might be below 500, where only hard money can lend to you.

(At this update, there are no 100% loans except VA. Given current underwriting standards, someone with a sub-580 credit score basically can't get a loan without 30% equity/down payment)

Another concern is that HELOCs have "draw periods", usually 5 years, and (at the time he was) about three years into yours. I'd be very certain to move it all back into the HELOC prior to the expiration of the draw period. Your credit card options are already getting worse, meaning that you're not getting the cards or not getting approved for enough to be useful. The HELOC's rate, by comparison, is set by a margin in an unalterable contract, and you're not going to be able to qualify for a new HELOC that's anywhere near as good while those card accounts are open. Move the money back in at least a couple months before the draw period expires and close the credit cards, and you might be able to get a new HELOC on decent terms.

Your credit is always vitally important. Guarding a very high credit score is something worth stressing about. You never know when you might need to apply for credit. Most credit cards, nowadays, can alter your rate if your score drops or if you make one late payment anywhere, not just on that card. A good credit score saves you money everywhere, from borrowing to insurance. In your situation, I'd be stocking up on pasta and Hamburger Helper while seeing what I could do to increase my income, so I could live cheap enough to pay my bills down enough that I'm not squeezed. It's your life, but that's the way I see it.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

(For full disclosure, the original email is below in a body).

Hi Dan,

While using Google to seek the wisdom of others regarding my current financial situation, I came upon an article of yours, and have now read at least a handful of others. In particular, "One Loan Versus Two Loans" caught my attention.

Turns out I made the Two-Loan choice myself, independent of your article, a couple years ago. I was motivated to get a conforming first loan (~$322K @ 5.75%), and put the other ~$45K of a prior mortgage into a HELOC (besides, the HELOC rate was lower than the 30-yr fixed at the time!).

Well, times (and HELOC rates) have changed, and I now have
~$65K on my HELOC, and relatively tight budget.

I have multiple credit card companies offering me low introductory rates (some 0%, some 2%) for short terms (up-to 1 year).

Why would I NOT want to take them up on their offer?

In truth, I've already done this a number of times in the past 12-18 months, always at 0%. So I've learned the "minimum payment" tradeoff (and I wish congress hadn't forced CC companies to raise their minimum payment requirements!) [ last year, one fine bank only made me pay $10/month on their loan of ~$10K! Now I'm seeing minimum payments of 1-3 %]

Tonight I'm "running the numbers" on whether a 2% rate (non-deductible) is better than an 8% (tax deductible). And according to my simple calculations (I'm an engineer, not a financial advisor!), it's a no-brainer (go for it!). For the $40K currently on the HELOC (other $25K is already temporarily in 0% accounts), the one-time transfer fee ($50-90/transfer) and lower interest amount (~$70/mo) is ~$200/month less than the deductible interest-only (minimum, ~$435, @ 8%) HELOC payment, AFTER adjusting for the tax deductibility (@ 30% [fed + state], ~$130 on $435).

My plan is that in months when my "income"/cash flow cannot cover all the minimum payments, I'll just use a HELOC check to cover the difference. That is, slowly transfer SOME of the debt back to the HELOC. But in the meantime, my theory goes, I'm paying down my principle faster than if I was just making "extra payments" on the HELOC.

Seems so obvious when I look at the numbers, that I cannot figure out why more people aren't doing it, or at least talking about it!

Why does a thorough website like yours not say anything about this (that I could find anyway)? Is it just to keep those low-rate credit offers coming? Am I missing something? I am really the only person to ever think of doing this? I also finally had a 0% application turned down, due to "too much credit already, for your income level". So I imagine having all these cards may be hurting my credit score? But I'm not going to re-fi my house (or buy a new car?) anytime soon, so I think I don't care.

Thanks for reading this far. If you post an article on this topic rather than replying, will I get a least a pointer to it in reply?

Again, thanks for considering a comment on my situation!

Identity withheld by request

(UPDATE NOTE: After several years of it being unavailable, I've recently started getting lender solicitations for stated income loans again. I haven't done any of these new loans yet, but as much as I don't like stated income there is a legitimate market segment that it served: The self employed and those with large amounts of business deductions, who actually could afford these loans because they got to pay for things with "before tax" dollars while it is only "after tax" dollars that are considered by traditional underwriting standards. Given the growth in the self employment segment of the economy, somebody is going to decide they want the income from serving it and figure out appropriate controls to prevent its abuse. That does not alter the basic thrust of the article, however, which is that you will save money by providing full documentation if you can)

No matter which provider, no matter what type of loan you get, nobody is going to loan you money without the appropriate documentation. The more documentation you have that you are a good risk, the better the rate you are going to get, and the lower your costs are going to be.

Everybody hates filling out forms and providing documentation. When I originally wrote this, there was a billboard two blocks from my house advertising, "Stress free loans." Actually, these signs are all over. And I'll bet they bring in a lot of business. Low documentation loans are easy money - I could do them all day and all night, and make more money, and make the lender more money, while doing less work, than I can by hunkering down and actually serving my clients best interests. Those billboards say "stress free loans" which three words look like an English sentence meaning this will be easy, but the real translation to English reads, "Hello, I am a lowlife scum who wants to take advantage of lazy people who are too ignorant to know better by making a lot of money providing loans at higher interest rates and less favorable terms than they could obtain elsewhere, and putting a large proportion of my clients into loans that they cannot afford, from which point they will inevitably default and lose the property and whatever investment they may have made"

The fact is, that for something dealing with this much money, if there is documentation you can produce to prove that you are a better risk and gets you a better rate, you should be eager to present it. If I can spend half an hour instead of fifteen minutes filling out forms and as a reward I save $40 or more every month until the next time I decide to refinance, I want to fill out the extra papers. If I refinance every two years, I have essentially been paid $960 for a quarter hour of work. That works out to $3840 per hour. I don't know about you, the reader, but even when I'm completely inundated with clients, I don't make that kind of money per hour. I don't know any job that pays that much, unless you want to include wealthy investor. And let me tell you, the wealthy investors I've dealt with are eager to spend the extra time filling out said forms. It really is a "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" situation. They know it will Save Them Money, and don't have to be sweet talked into filling out one more form or providing a little more documentation. They've got it already copied for me, and if I want their business, I'd better buckle down and get to work on finding the loan with the best terms possible. If you, the reader, wish to be wealthy, you could do worse than emulate their example.

There are, when you get right down do it, three different levels of documentation. The lowest level of documentation is NINA, which is short for "No Income, No Assets." There are other names for it ("No Ratio" being the most common, while "ninja" was the creation of a reporter with samurai fever). This is a loan where the rate you get is purely driven by your credit score (as well as other factors, such as the equity in your home or down payment you're making, but those are constants endemic to the situation, not variables about which I am talking). You're not even documenting that you have a source of income. You're basically saying, "Here I am! Gotta love me!" to the bank, and they really do love you because you're filling their coffers by paying the highest rates for your loan. Guess what? You're still filling out all the forms (or somebody is doing so on your behalf, which they can do to the same extent on other loan types!), and you're still providing all the documentation on the property - how much it's worth, proving you own it, proving the taxes are current, etcetera. Owing to identity theft and homeland security laws, you can expect to have to provide two things that basically show that you are you. You can expect to deal with problems if the county doesn't show the taxes as current, your landlord or current mortgage holder shows you as being behind or that you have a history of being behind or the county doesn't show you officially in title of record, or any of a host of other potential problems, but hey, at least you didn't have to show that you've got a source of income!

The next level of documentation is a "Stated Income" loan. This is where you document that you've got a source of income, but not that said income is sufficient to justify the loan, so you tell the bank you make that much, and they agree not to verify the actual numbers. This is going to require two additional items: verification of employment, or a testimonial letter if you are self-employed, and reserves. Reserves are quickest to explain. Industry standard is money sufficient to pay the loan, your taxes, and your homeowner's insurance for six months, in a form that is sufficiently liquid such that the money can be accessed, for a long enough period that the bank will believe it isn't borrowed - and the bank will require documentation of its availability if it's in an account type such as 401k where access may be restricted. Verification of your employment is somebody in the HR department filling out a form on your behalf and verifying it over the phone. The testimonial letter for self-employed borrowers comes from your lawyer, accountant, or tax preparer on their letterhead saying that you really do have a legitimate business. It basically reads: "To whom it may concern. John Smith is self-employed as the owner of business X. He has been doing this for Y years. Based upon information provided to me, he will earn the same amount of money this year as last year." The person providing the testimonial must sign the letter. It really is only about three sentences, but that person is putting their business on the line for you if it's not true. So they tend to require evidence if you're coming to them for the first time to get this letter written and signed.

The bank is basically looking for two years in the same line of work or at the same company to approve this one. Subprime lenders - when we had those - would sometimes accept a year or even six months, although their terms will not be as favorable. What the bank is looking for is evidence that you can really afford the loan. The thinking goes like this: "He's got a source of income, He's got a good credit score, he's making all his payments, he's got money in the bank, okay, we think he's living with his means and can afford to pay us back. We'll lend him the money." There are variants on stated income of which "stated income, stated assets" is the most common, but these carry higher rates, higher charges, or both, in many cases actually end up looking more like a heavily propagandized NINA loan than anything else.

It is a misapprehension to believe that Stated Income Loans have no debt to income ratio or income requirement. They are precisely that: You are allowed to state your income, which the lender agrees not to verify, in exchange for paying a higher interest rate. It's still got to be believable within the context of your profession and locale, and if believable amounts of income do not justify the loan, then you can expect to have it rejected. This income must also be sufficient to convince the lender that you can make the payments upon all of your known debts according to lender guidelines, mostly having to do with the aforesaid debt to income ratio. For these reasons, while you can always move a "stated income" loan to "full documentation," going the other way is forbidden.

I've heard Stated Income (and NINA) commonly referred to as "liars loans", and they are often used for such, but that is not their intended use. As a matter of fact, people get in a lot of trouble with these loans, and many times it comes back on an unscrupulous loan officer or real estate agent trying to push something through for which their clients really aren't qualified. If you can't afford the payment, am I really doing you a favor by qualifying you for the loan? I submit that I most emphatically am not. Before they push such a loan through, an ethical loan officer using it for this purpose should sit down, tell the people what the real payment is going to be, and make certain they can afford it - and not just by words, either! The loan officer has responsibility to both the lender and the borrower, and putting somebody into a loan they cannot afford harms both of those parties. On the other had, I have run into situations where they borrowers were renting and their effective cost of housing was going to go down! And in that case, I submit that I probably are helping the clients. On the other hand, if you're doing Stated Income or NINA (especially on a purchase) and the loan officer doesn't sit you down and cover what the payment is going to be within a couple dollars per month, and make certain you're okay paying it, this is a red flag in no uncertain terms!

What Stated Income is meant for is self employed people and people working on commission who really do make the money, but have write-offs such that their taxes aren't going to show enough income. Or people who had a bad year, or large losses or high write offs one year, but are still basically solid. I am going to observe that regulating stated income out of existence is doing no favors for the people it is meant for, nor the market at large. I certainly understand why Stated Income and NINA have evaporated currently and agree with those reasons due to the abuses that have been practiced. However, it doesn't do anyone except politicians any good to pretend that there haven't been people who could have otherwise afforded their loans hurt by this development.

The highest form of documentation is Full Documentation (almost everyone says "full doc" because the unabbreviated phrase is a mouthful). This does not necessarily mean I've got to prove to the bank that you make every penny you actually make, but only that you make enough to justify the loan. The proof the bank will accept is very straightforward. Self-employed borrowers are still going to need that testimonial letter from stated income. They will additionally be asked for their federal income tax packet. This is all of the forms, front and back, that you sent to the IRS last April 15th, and perhaps the April 15th before that, too. It's got to be a signed copy, and it must include copies of any w-2s or 1099s that you get. People in the construction profession, as well as those who may be w-2 employees but work on commission will also need to furnish their taxes, and the bank's underwriter can always require it of anyone. It is to be noted that banks did not have to accept your loan on a stated income basis even when it was available - the underwriter could always require that you furnish full documentation.

Those people who are hourly or salaried employees of a company can usually get by the full documentation of income requirement with just w-2 forms. If you are a company employee, the last 30 days worth of pay stubs will also be required.

The basic rationale for this is simple. Very few people tell the IRS that they make more money than they do, because the consequence is higher taxes. So the bank is willing to use tax forms to prove your income. In the case of a w-2 employee, the company is telling the IRS that those are the wages it paid you, and therefore wants to deduct your wages as a business expense, and you went and paid taxes on it, so the bank will usually accept that. Similarly, your pay stubs should have year to date pay on them. Here the bank will accept the word, metaphorically speaking, of a third party without a stake in the outcome of the loan.

A subset of the full documentation loan is the streamline refinance. As the name indicates, it is available on refinances only, not purchases. There are a lot of limits on these loans, but when I get to do one it is the easiest of all loans. Basically, it's a case where the same lender is now offering better rates, and no equity is being taken out of the home, and they'll allow you to do it because otherwise you'll take this client elsewhere. 90 percent of a loaf is much better to them than none.

Within the sub-prime mortgage world (when it existed, which it probably will again - once again, it's a legitimate market that someone will decide they want the money from servicing), those lenders would often take the deposits from 12 consecutive months of bank statements (sometimes 6 or 24), usually discounted by a certain amount, and accept that as proof of income. This is called Lite or EZ doc, although there's nothing easy about it and as a matter of experience there are more fights with the underwriter and jumping through hoops here than with any other type of loan documentation. The rates are somewhat higher than for full documentation, but not nearly the rates for stated income. Mind you, sub-prime rates are higher in the first place as well. Furthermore, many of these sub-prime lenders would advertise the fact that "EZ doc rates same as full doc!" I shouldn't have to explain to adults that this phrase translates to English as they don't give the lower rates to true full documentation loans, now should I?

So, on the subject of documentation, I think you should be able to tell that the higher the quality of your income documentation, the lower the rate that you are going to get from a given lender. If you can qualify, a full documentation loan is probably going to save you more than enough money to pay you to do the extra paperwork, the amount of which is marginal anyway. The only reason not to do the extra paperwork is if you can't supply requisite proof, which is pretty much the reason why the lesser loan types such as stated income and NINA have been so abused and I can't find a single investor offering them today.

I should probably repeat one final time that as of this update, true full documentation loans are the only thing available. The others will almost certainly make a comeback at some point, but with some changes. They were badly abused by the marketplace, but the fact that they went away caused a lot of people who really could afford their loans to be unable to refinance, or unable to get a purchase loan. Eventually someone will decide they want the profit for serving this market segment and figure out a way, but until then, lesser documentation loans are gone.

And as one final warning: If a loan officer requires originals not only of the forms they ask you to sign (A couple of the standard forms require original signatures - really!), but of your own documentation, it is a BIG RED FLAG. I can't think of any document that lenders will not accept copies of. The only reason to require your originals is that loan provider does not want you able to apply for a loan with someone else, so they're putting an end to your shopping, and once they've got them, good luck trying to get them back (at least until the loan is done so they get paid). A good loan officer needs good readable copies - not your originals. An ethical loan officer doesn't need or want custody of your originals any longer than is necessary to make good copies, and if you hand them a good readable copy in the first place, that isn't a problem.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

You would think these nitwits would learn. You would think they'd all be out of the business. Sadly, that is not the case.

It started innocently enough. It always starts innocently.

This was an email I got (specifics redacted).

Hi Dan, I came across your blog looking for information on what to do when your mortgage loan might not go through at the very last minute. I live in DELETED, and realize your in the San Diego area, but you really opened my eyes on the subject and I had to let you know. We are in escrow with a close date of DELETED, and our VA lending agent no longer works with the company after 2 months of paperwork, assurances and promises. The newly appointed agent says they don¹t know how DELETED was going to close the loan and everything is falling apart. DELETED went as far to say he could close the loan in 5 days to use as a negotiating tool to get a contract with the seller which won us the house. We never heard of getting a back up loan or a purchase money loan? It¹s not over yet, but any advice would be GREATLY appreciated as we are 1st time home buyers and really feel taken.

My response

(name deleted),
VA loans are dead simple providing you have the following qualities:

-VA eligibility

-sufficient income to cover the payments and other debt (see debt to income ratio)

-acceptable loan to value ratio. In the case of VA loans, this can be up to 103% of the purchase price or appraised value, whichever is lower. This is the only widely available "no down payment" loan right now.

-Property that meets VA and FHA standards (No holes in walls or cracks in windows, subfloors all covered, etcetera)

-enough time to get the government bureaucrats to do what they need to.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of loan officers and real estate agents out there who still don't understand how the market has changed. I have always built client affordability and a budget into my transactions from day one, but the reason we're having problems is that a lot of my competitors didn't.

Here's what you need to do: Find out if there is a reason this transaction is not going to fly.

Obvious reasons why it definitely would not fly:

  • Can't document enough income for a long enough time
  • something wrong with the property
  • property appraises way too low
  • no VA eligibility

There are other possible reasons, but those are the main ones. If there is such a reason, bail out NOW. If there isn't such a reason, find someone who knows what they're doing IMMEDIATELY. Alas, I don't know anyone in DELETED, but I believe my company does business there. The good news is you still have almost a month, which should be enough time.

If this property doesn't work out for you, may I suggest finding DELETED or DELETED and asking one of those fine gentlemen to be your agent? They're both ethical agents who won't be searching for properties you can't afford and who do know competent loan officers. I can get their contact information if needed, but they're both easy to find online. Tell them I sent you - they both know I neither ask for nor accept referral fees, but that the occasional free client I send their way will disappear if they mistreat anyone I send.

I went out looking at property, and when I came back this email was there:

Thanks for your quick reply Dan, I know you must be busy, and I really appreciate all your information.

The only factor the new agent is citing is that we do have a high income to debt ratio. We know this. Everyone knows this, and it has not changed since we started the process 2 months ago. The first loan agent was going to get by this by paying down one of our high credit cards with seller money. We asked for 4% back from seller for this reason which they agreed to. Done. Now the new lending agent is saying that won't fly, that we can't pay down the debt we have to pay it off, and the 4% is 2000 short of our credit card debt. So she does not know how she can do it but is getting back to us today.

We have not talked to our real-estate agent yet, but we will today as well. Would you recommend we contact your mortgage company in the mean time to try to push through and cover ourselves?

Oh my.

Lions and Tigers and Bears and people trying to commit fraud. Oh, my!

My heart goes out to this person, especially as they are a veteran, but there's very little I can do beyond make them aware of some facts before things get any worse.

This is fraud. No maybe about it. I have written about this before in Real Estate Sellers Giving A Buyer Cash Back is Defrauding the Lender. If the purchase price is $400,000 but the seller is returning cash back to the buyer under the table, then the buyer isn't really paying $400,000, are they? Nor is the seller really getting $400,000, are they?

here's the legal definition of fraud:

All multifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get an advantage over another by false suggestions or suppression of the truth. It includes all surprises, tricks, cunning or dissembling, and any unfair way which another is cheated.

Now if they don't disclose that 4% cash back, they are misleading the lender and the government into believing that the property is worth more than it is. In other words, fraud. Furthermore, the former loan officer evidently hadn't disclosed it from the fact that the new loan officer is saying the lender isn't buying off on it now.

(I should say that the Department of Veteran's Affairs apparently allows this, but they are not lenders or loan officers, and whether the lenders would accept it is another matter. They can add other requirements if they so desire, and I would not expect this to pass muster with any lender I am aware of, as it violates generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Truth be told, I've never tried to get such a thing accepted, but I would try if the client really needed it and understood what needed to happen and the dangers to them. Even if the VA and the lender both permit it, it must be disclosed to them and approved by the underwriter in order for it not to be fraud. For standard conforming "A paper" loans, and for that matter even subprime ones, cash to the buyer from the seller, or cash to pay the buyer's debts, is strictly forbidden. Finally, considering such things from a dispassionate neutral point of view such as "are they a good idea?" or "Is the consumer likely to be able to repay the loan?" or "Is this a good risk for the lender?", I have to agree with GAAP - the answer is no, and the prognosis is that given the consumer's financial habits, this is setting them up for failure. But "good idea" and "legal" are two distinctly different concepts.)

Whatever the lender's fraud policy may be, the government comes down on people who participate in mortgage fraud that involves VA or FHA guarantees like a ton of bricks. Just because the VA permits it doesn't mean it isn't fraud if the lender doesn't, or didn't approve it in this particular case. They are going to throw the book at you. Have you ever seen the list of government regulations? Ouch, both literally and figuratively.

Let's suppose the buyer and seller do not commit fraud, fully disclosing the cash back to the lender and the government. If they do this, the lender and the government will both treat the purchase price as being the appropriate amount less than whatever cash is going from seller to buyer. As I said in When The Appraisal Is Below The Purchase Price for Real Estate, this will mean the borrower basically has to make up the difference in cash. Net result, the buyer/borrower needed that 4% cash not to pay off their consumer debt, but for the down payment on the property. Net gain to the buyer from that money: Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Both the loan officer and real estate agent and their brokerages need to hear about this, at a minimum. The loan officer for actively planning a fraudulent transaction, the real estate agent for not speaking up and putting their foot down, because they should have known better, but were keeping their mouth shut to get a bigger commission check.

Now that stated income is, to use Miracle Max's wonderful phrase, "mostly dead", there seems to be no shortage of nitwits trying this fraudulent trick to get loans and transactions through. It is not a minor violation that nobody cares about. It goes straight to the heart of the notion of property value, and the lender's expectation that if you do default, they will be able to get their money back by selling the property. This trick fraudulently persuades a lender to accept more risk than they are aware of, or worse, tricks them into taking a risk that they would reject were they in full command of the truth. That's fraud.

It also goes right to the heart of whether the client can afford the property. In this case, they clearly can not. If they could, there would be no need to commit fraud in order to generate a false picture of them being able to afford it. Debt to income ratio is there for the borrower's protection as much as the lender's.

Here's the rest of my response to the clarification:

Your loan officer has hosed you badly. I really hope it's not going to end up losing your deposit. If so, in your place I would talk to their company about paying it in your stead. Their loan officer was trying to make a fraudulent transaction fly; that's failure to supervise. If they don't promptly agree to indemnify you in writing, talk to a lawyer. Actually, talk to a lawyer anyway. But if your loan contingency is still in effect you may be able to get out of it without losing your deposit.

I don't know your situation or your state's law or the contract you signed on this, and I definitely am not a lawyer. Talk to your real estate agent about getting out of the contract RIGHT NOW because this transaction is not going to happen.

Once you're out of the contract, I'd fire that agent if I were in your shoes. He helped negotiate the contract, he should have known it was fraudulent and the requirements for making it legal and the consequences thereof.

After sober reflection several hours later, I am, if anything, madder than I was. I would be ready to do violence to these two twits for what they did to someone who not only wants to put money in their pocket, but served our country, so it's a good thing they're not here in front of me. If it were me, or some situation I had an interest in (legal standing), I'd certainly make a written complaint to the regulatory authorities. I want these clowns gone, out of business, locked up in prison so they can't attempt to repeat this nonsense with some other innocent client who doesn't know any better, and I want their enablers and those who fail to supervise them gone, too. Helping someone with their home buying is a trust, and I have no more sympathy for those who knowingly and willfully violate that trust than I do for pedophile priests.

I'm not here to act like the Black Knight, shouting "None Shall Pass!" That didn't work out too well. But you need to consider 1) Can you really afford it? 2) Is it consistent with your financial habits?, and 3) Is it fully disclosed to everyone it needs to be? That lender is loaning out hundreds of thousands of dollars based upon their understanding of the situation. If that understanding is not in full accordance with what is actually going on, that's a problem. A big problem that's likely to come back and bite you and everyone else involved.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

The original article was written when rates were higher. Rates are lower now so the answer is slightly different, the thought process to make that decision is the same.

I have an adustable rate mortgage (5.875) which is set to adjust in DELETED. My prepayment penalty I'm told expires DELETED (same time). My first goal is to lock in a fixed rate asap. My second goal is to cash out any equity, but not necessary. I've recently been hearing horror stories about people losing their homes over their rate adjustment. Should I refinance now and bite the bullet on the prepayment penalty? or Attempt to refinance quickly as soon as the penalty expires?


my credit score is 712. My current mortgage is 244,000.00 and homes of the same model are selling between 255 - 265,000.00. What more can you tell me?

The answer to this depends partly upon stuff I don't know, and partly upon stuff nobody knows yet.

5.875 is good enough that you probably don't want to give it away before you have to, especially since you're going to pay $5700 to $7200 in penalties. 6.25 is about where A paper 30 year fixed rate loans with no points rates were when I originally wrote this, so over the next year, and it will cost about another $1000 in interest between now and then, as well.

The problem is that nobody knows what rates will be like when your fixed period and prepayment penalty expire. Nobody knows what your property value might be then either. Nor do I understand your local real estate market well enough to even guess (it's a long way from Southern California!).

It's going to be hard to get enough back in 18 months to pay for a pre-payment penalty. On the other hand, this could be balanced out if rates end up being much higher then, or if your equity situation is likely to deteriorate.

One thing I can tell you for certain is that there's no easy answer yet. Every answer I give is going to depend upon things nobody knows yet.

Let's assume rates are going up. Otherwise there would be no point to this conversation. If rates are the same or lower than they are now, any money you spend on refinancing or a prepayment penalty now is wasted.

But if we postulate a rate of 7% when your pre-payment penalty expires, that will cost you roughly $17,100 per year on $244,000. 6.25% of $250,000 (your loan with your penalty added) is roughly $15,600. You save approximately $1500 per year on your interest by refinancing now, if this assumption on interest rates is correct. However, refinancing now will cost you about $7000. $7000 divided by $1500 per year is roughly 4 years 8 months after that to get your money back. I wouldn't do it. That's about six years you've got to keep your loan to break even on the cost of refinancing now, and it's conditional upon things happening that nobody knows.

You don't have a whole lot of equity currently, and if your market falls further, you could be upside down, in which case you're going to have to pay your loan down in order to refinance. If there's no way you could come up with that money, that's another reason to consider refinancing now. However, you would be guaranteed to use up pretty much all of your equity by refinancing now. At this update, refinancing at 100% loan to value ratio isn't going to happen except for a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL), and the person writing the original question was not in a VA loan because as far as I'm aware, they only permit fixed rate loans.

In your position, I'd just sit tight. Of course that's very hard psychologically, because you are leaving yourself open to the vagaries of the market, which are not under anybody's personal control. Otherwise the federal Reserve Board and company would lower rates every time they wanted to refinance their own personal loans, and that's just not the way it happens, because that's not the way it works. But spending that much money now and over the next eighteen months just in case rates go up and it saves you enough money over the next six years to break even just doesn't make financial sense. Most folks don't keep their loans that long, which means you've wasted whatever portion of the sunk costs you haven't gotten back.

Just one word in closing: There is not and never has been a legitimate reason for a loan officer to stick someone with a credit score over 680 with a prepayment penalty. The only excuse I can come up with is that the borrower requested one in order to get a slightly better tradeoff between rate and cost. You can choose to accept one if you want, but my experience says that most folks end up paying them, and the penalty is a lot more than you're likely to save by accepting one.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Just got a search "how can I tell if my prepayment penalty applies to selling my home"

Read The Full Note. You need to do this before you sign it. I know that many people are just thinking "Sign this and I get the house!" or "Sign this and I get the money!" but a lot of loan providers - often the very biggest - scam their customers by talking about one loan with very favorable characteristics, and when it comes time to sign they actually deliver a completely different loan with a prepayment penalty, burdensome and unfavorable arbitration requirements (I've seen stuff that amounted to "the bank chooses the arbitrator"), and any number of other unfavorable terms, not to mention having a higher rate and three times the cost, and being fixed for two years as opposed to the thirty they told you about.

Any loan officer can make up all sorts of paperwork along the way to lull you into a sense of security. The only paperwork that means anything are the papers you actually sign at closing with a notary present. The Trust Deed, the HUD-1 form, and the Note. Concentrate on these three items. The HUD-1 contains the only accounting of the money that is required to be correct (things like do you need to come up with more money than you were told?). And the Note contains all the other information on the loan that your provider might actually deliver. Notice that wording - I said might deliver. Just because you sign the Note doesn't necessarily mean you get any loan, let alone the one that Note is talking about, but these are the terms you're agreeing to now, and most Notes do actually fund. They can't change the terms without getting you to sign a different Note. But once you sign and the Right of Rescission (if applicable) expires, you are stuck.

Get that other loan - the one your loan provider has been talking about up to now - out of your head. This is the moment of truth as to what they actually intend to deliver. The majority of the time, the loan they actually deliver is significantly different from the loan they were talking about before now, and this document is where the truth lies. Amount of the loan (does that match what you were told?). Length of the loan. Period of fixed interest. What the fixed rate is, and how the rate will be computed after the rate starts adjusting. The Payments: how closely do they match what you were told? Payments are a lot less important than the interest you are being charged, but if the payments are $5 more than you were told (or if the interest rate is different), you were basically lied to. If the real loan was available and the principal correctly calculated, the payment should be within $1. $20 off gives the loan provider literally thousands of dollars to soak you for extra fees in, even if the rate is correct. A competent loan officer knows what loans are really available and whether you are likely to qualify, and can calculate pretty closely how much money it takes to get the loan done. From this flows the payment. Payment is a lot less important than most people think, but you do need to be able to make it, every month. Furthermore, that's how most people shop for loans and how unethical loan officers sell bad loans. Shopping by payment is a good way to end up with a bad loan. Many loan officers will tell you about this nice low payment, and conveniently neglect to mention the fact that if you make this low payment, you'll owe the bank $1200 more at the end of the month than you did at the beginning.

So take the time to read the entire Note before you sign. There are all sorts of things lenders slip in. I worked for a very short period at a place that trained its people in how to distract you from the numbers on this and the HUD-1 and the Trust Deed. This is a legally binding contract you are entering into, you are agreeing to everything it says, and there aren't a whole lot of methods of getting out of it if you don't like what it says later. Once the loan funds, you are stuck with the terms, the costs, and everything else. The only way out, in general, is to refinance, which means paying for another set of loan costs and quite likely the prepayment penalty on this loan. Prepayment penalties are multiple thousands of dollars. So don't allow yourself to be distracted. Read The Full Note.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

I've written articles on when you can't make your mortgage payment and how to react if you see foreclosure coming in time to do something about it, and even on Short Payoffs, but all of those are owner (seller) oriented. This is intended as a basic buyer's guide to getting a bargain from people who bit off more than they could chew, with emphasis on the current local market but applicability anywhere.

There are essentially four phases in the foreclosure process. The first is pre-default. They've made late payments or none at all, and there's no way they can keep the payments up, but they won't do the intelligent thing, which is sell for what they can get. Many people who own properties headed for default are deep in Denial. Yes, this is often because something bad happened to them for reasons beyond their control. I'd be happier if those sorts of things didn't happen, but the amount of rescuing that's going to get done is not as much as I would like - if you don't qualify for a loan modification, you are on a course for disaster. There are very few White Knights running around, and the ones who claim to be White Knights are usually blackguards. Unless the seller knows of some factor that is going to change, this is the smart time to deal with the problem. Before the Notice of Default is recorded, nobody really knows but the owner and the bank. Once the Notice of Default hits, all the sharks come out because everyone knows the owner is in Dire Circumstances. Let's face it: most folks will make the payments on their home even if they let every other bill slide. When someone can't make their mortgage payment, and it's public information as a Notice of Default is, everybody and their pet rock knows that you don't have any choice but to sell. They'll flood you with offers, but they won't be good offers.

If you're looking to buy at this stage, the thing to do is examine the Multiple Listing Service. "Motivated seller" and similar phrases are often code for "These people can't make their payments!", particularly in the current market with prices declining somewhat and many people who stretched beyond their means. It would be great to be able to get a list of properties that are sixty days or more delinquent, as this would include the folks in denial, but it just isn't going to happen. The only folks who know are the banks and the credit reporting agencies, and they are prohibited by privacy laws from disclosure. So at this point all you have to deal with are the people who are not in denial. When the market is rapidly appreciating, this is a good place to find a bargain, because once the Notice of Default hits, the sharks swarm, so if you can find these people before that, you're in a strong bargaining position if you correctly suspect they can't make their payments. The taxes being delinquent is often a good indicator of this, but there is no way to know for sure unless the people or their agent tell you, and the agent who tells you has just violated fiduciary duty. This can mean prospective buyers overplay their hands in negotiations, which is fine if you intend to move on if you can't get a "Manhattan for $24" type deal, but if it's a property you want and can make money on, overplaying your hand can poison the atmosphere. There aren't many "Manhattan for $24" type deals out there. There are a lot more good opportunities for someone willing to pay a reasonable price and hold the property a while or make improvements. Deals so good that they instantly make oodles of money, someone will usually come along and offer the poor schmoe on the other end a better deal, and if the poor schmoe has a decent agent who's looking out for their interests, they can switch to the other offer. Buyers and escrow companies don't like it, but it can be done. It's extra work for the listing agent, so they may not want to, and they may not have done the best set-up, but it can usually be done anyway.

The reason it's smart for sellers to sell at this time is that this is when they are going to get the best deal. The mere act of entering Default is likely to cost thousands of dollars. Furthermore, this is the phase with the most opportunity to find a property at a better than usual price for buyers, because most of these don't get to actual default. Someone will come along and make an offer, and a listing agent who gets an offer on one of these is likely to advocate taking the first reasonable offer, reasonable being defined as "anything vaguely in the neighborhood of the asking price," and the asking price itself is likely to be lower than it otherwise would be.

The second stage of the foreclosure process is default. The Notice of Default has been filed, and because it is a matter of public record, the sharks instantly react to the blood in the water. The seller is going to get dozens to hundreds or even thousands of solicitations. Also, once the property is in default, the bank can require the owner bring the Note entirely current in order to get out of default. Whether or not the property is listed, they're going to have agents offering to sell it for them, individual buyers who want those Manhattan for $24 deals, and lawyers offering to "protect" them by declaring bankruptcy. By the way, I've never heard of anyone who came out better in the end by declaring bankruptcy, so you probably don't want to do it if you're in this position. I know it's your home, and you're likely extremely emotionally attached to it, but declaring bankruptcy doesn't mean you don't owe the money when it comes to a Trust Deed.

Every single one of these folks, lawyer, agent, or prospective buyer, knows that you're in default. Some owners are still in denial at this point, but all denial means at this point is that such an owner is not likely to take the best offer they'll get. It's at this phase that most "subject to" deals happen, usually with highly appreciated properties with significant equity over and above the trust deed. If the owners owe anything approaching the value of the property, that's a silly situation to do a "subject to" purchase for buyers, and most of the prospective buyers (those with decent advisors or agents or experience) won't do it if the equity is less than a certain amount or proportion of the value.

The third phase of a foreclosure is the auction. This is typically a very short period. Five days before the auction date itself, the owner loses the legal right to redeem the property, although the bank will usually let them until the last possible instant. There is also a legal requirement to vacate the property before the auction. "Subject to" deals can still go through as long as the bank will accept redemption. Buying at the auction itself requires cash or an acceptable equivalent. You don't go to the auction and then get a loan later. At the very least you have to have the loan prearranged and a check for the proceeds in hand. This can mean that the rate is significantly higher, and it can be difficult to refinance within the first year.

The fourth phase is after the auction. In California, if the property does not get a bid for at least ninety percent of appraised value, it does not sell and becomes owned by the bank. The bank doesn't want it; they're not in the real estate business and in fact, they are legally required to dispose of it within a certain time. In the current market, this can be the best place to acquire a property. The bank knows they're taking a loss, and the longer it goes, the bigger the loss. Mind you, because the bank usually takes a loss, few properties go to this stage. Not only do they take a loss, it also ties up a lot of their working capital - money they could otherwise use to make a profit, but can't, because this property is a non-performing asset. The lenders will usually do anything reasonable in order to avoid auction, but once it goes to auction, they want to get rid of it. They usually require a substantial deposit, but the purchase price can be the best of all.

One thing to be wary of in foreclosures is they are often in less the ideal condition, to say the least. These people know they are losing the house, and usually that they are going to come away with nothing in the best realistic case. They have no incentive to take care of the property, and many actively work to mess it up - I have been in more than one where they ripped the copper plumbing out of the walls for sale and took a hammer to everything else. This is cause for care in purchasing them, and inspections, because not all of the damage may be obvious. Furthermore, many of them may have been unable to afford proper maintenance for some time before they lost the property. Purchasing a foreclosure often means you will need a large reservoir of cash in order to fix up the property to habitable condition.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Got a search for that, and it occurred to me that it is a valid question. The answer is yes.

The degree varies. You can simply contact the bank to make yourself responsible for payment. They are usually happy to do this, although unlike revolving accounts you typically will not receive back credit on your credit score for the entire length of time the trade line has been open. Nonetheless, if the bank reports the mortgage as paid as part of your credit, it can help you increase your credit score, so long as the mortgage actually gets paid on time every month. One 30 day late is plenty to kill any advantage for most folks. This is typically free. Hey, the bank has one more person to pay the mortgage! This is often used as a way to start rebuilding credit after a bankruptcy or other financial disaster. A friend or family member qualifies for the loan, then adds the person looking to recover to the loan later.

If you want to go one better than that, you can actually modify the deed of trust to make yourself responsible for payment, although it really has no measurable benefit as opposed to simply agreeing to be responsible, and it costs money to negotiate, notarize and record the modification.

Unless you can get a better loan by doing so, I would advise against a full re-qualification for the mortgage just to add someone. It's a lot of hassle and expense for no particular gain. If you want to get me paid, I'm cool with that, but there are better ways to accomplish the gain to your credit at far less expense.

A Caveat: One thing some people want to try is "trading" borrowers. For instance, a woman who wanted to remove her ex-husband from the loan and add her new husband. That doesn't work. In order to let someone off the loan, the remaining borrowers must qualify on their own without the person to be excluded. In short, a full refinance is required to let someone off the hook. But adding someone can only benefit the lender.

Often, you may run across the "I want a commission" mentality. Someone who wants the commission money more than they want to do what is in the best interests of the bank they work for. The bottom line for the bank is they have money at risk from an outstanding loan, so anything which increases the probability of it being repaid (like adding someone else who's responsible for that money) is a Good Thing from the bank's viewpoint. You want to add another person to the list of those responsible for repayment? That's great as far as management is concerned. Nonetheless, many employees will tell you to do what causes them to be paid a new commission.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Quite a while ago, when loan standards were other than they have become, I wrote an article with the title Is a VA Loan a Good Deal? Back then, if you could qualify for a loan that was both A paper and full documentation, I could get you a better loan as measured by cost of interest for the same closing cost, maybe even if you didn't have a down payment. Lenders were eager to make loans at 100% loan to value ratio, and since conventional conforming rates have always been the lowest for a given cost, they could beat VA loans despite not being designed for the same situations.

That is no longer the case.

100% financing for ordinary conventional loans has completely self-destructed, at least for now. I am firmly of the opinion that it will be back for full documentation borrowers who can prove actual income via tax returns or W-2 forms, but for right now, it is gone. FHA loans only go to 96.5% Loan to Value ratio, and the down payment assistance programs that formerly enabled people to get FHA loans without a down payment have been put out of business by legislation. This leaves the VA loan as the sole loan program available that currently allows purchase of real estate without a down payment. Not only do VA loans allow over 100% financing, they have absolutely no ongoing mortgage insurance charges. There is a half a percent funding fee charged by the VA, but this is eligible to be rolled into the loan itself, and the funding fee is waived if the veteran has 10% or greater service related disability.

Not everyone is eligible for a VA loan. You must have earned it via time in the armed services. Currently active-duty service-folks are potentially eligible, providing they have met the criteria. In some cases, a spouse of a deceased serviceperson is also eligible for a VA benefit. This still isn't as many people as was true formerly. Thirty years ago, far more people served in the military than currently do. Even though San Diego is a military town, most veterans seem to leave when their tour is over, so the population of discharged veterans is lower than might be expected. They're here, but they have mostly come back because of civilian employment or following spouses who are themselves in the military, rather than choosing to retire here.

Indeed, Active duty servicemembers have an advantage over retirees. They are able to draw a housing allowance if they do not live in military housing - a housing allowance that can pay their mortgage instead of rent, and when reassigned, they can rent the property to another military family, knowing the military family receives that same allowance. A military family that exercises due diligence can retire owning five or more properties, all with positive cash flow, and most likely with huge amounts of equity, if not owned outright. Current BAH allowances for San Diego won't purchase a mansion, but they will cash flow out for quite reasonable properties in desirable parts of town. Since VA loans are all fully amortized, this will eventually pay the mortgage off, leaving them with only property taxes and maintenance for the expense of owning the property.

For a decade or more, VA loans were pretty much useless in high cost areas because of loan limits too low to purchase desirable properties. There for a while, they were only useful for one bedroom condominiums here in San Diego because the price of housing had so far outstripped VA loan limits that that was all that could be bought with them. That has now changed, both because prices have fallen and because VA loan limits have risen dramatically thanks to new legislation. Recent legislation has extended VA loan limits above "regular" conforming loan limits..

The one limit to VA loans is a good one to have: They require documentation of earning enough income to be able to afford the payments, either through tax returns or w2 form. This prevents something that has happened all too often for several years, real estate agents and loan officers selling someone a property that there is no way there are able to afford in the longer term. This was another reason VA loans were often bypassed for about a decade there, but I actually like this protective feature. Debt to Income Ratio is more important to protect the borrower than it is to protect the lender!

So even though not everyone is eligible for a VA loan, if you are one of those who has earned eligibility through service to the country, the VA loan has become the best "magic bullet" currently available to assist you in buying real estate. By not having a mortgage insurance requirement, or boosting the basic rate through adjustments as other loans have, and by requiring full documentation of income, they not only aid the veteran in affording the property, but have a significant protective element.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

Many people are uncertain as to what closing costs are.

Basically, they relate to the costs of doing the transaction. There are people who work on getting your loan through the process of approval and funding, and those people have got to be paid. Anytime you're talking about a fee for a service that needs to be performed in order to get a loan done, that's a closing cost. This includes even origination, which is normally quoted in points, as the fee that the loan provider takes for getting the loan done. Not all loans have origination fees in points, but I'd say that in excess of 95 percent of all sub-prime loans and at least two thirds of all A paper loans nationally do. Of course, all loans have origination fees of some sort - the people putting your loan together and getting it funded are not working for free. It can be paid via Yield Spread, secondary market premium, or a couple other ways that don't result in an apparent cost to you, but you are paying for origination somehow. Nobody does loans for free.

Every loan has closing costs. They are a fact of life. You can choose to accept a higher rate on your loan such that the lender will agree to pay your closing costs, but that is not the same thing as not having them. Indeed, you should be very wary of someone quoting you significantly lower closing costs that anyone else.

When you are talking about closing costs, the vast majority of all loan providers used to pretend that so-called "third party" fees such as title, escrow, attorney fees in the states that use attorneys, appraisal, and notary fees do not exist. That has mostlychanged with the requirements of the new 2010 Good Faith Estimate. Although there are still holes in the rules, most of the games lenders play have changed towards misquoting the tradeoff between rate and cost.and then act all surprised when you complain about these extra fees that weren't on your beginning paperwork. Until the new rules came into effect (and it still happens because as I said there are loopholes in the new rules) people told me before they sign up for a loan that my fees seem high, compared to what someone else is telling them. The difference, of course, is that I'm telling them about all the third party fees upfront and the other folks they are talking to are doing their best to pretend those fees don't exist. They not only exist, but you're going to pay them as a part of any loan. Who would you rather do business with, someone who pretends it's going to cost you half as much as it will, or someone who tells you the real cost right at the start?

Now the critical difference between recurring and nonrecurring closing costs in that nonrecurring happen once, to do your loan, and then they are done. Recurring closing costs are those things that happen every month, like interest, property taxes, insurance, and the impounds for doing them, if applicable. Mellow-Roos and homeowners association dues also fall within the definition of recurring, but those items I just named are pretty much the full extent of the recurring closing costs. Pretty much everything else is nonrecurring. For example, you only need one appraisal, one notary fee, one escrow, and one title insurance policy per loan.

One thing that is often counted as a closing cost that should not be are discount points, which instead of being a charge for a service are a charge by the bank to buy you a lower rate than you would otherwise get. They are completely avoidable, and therefore not a true closing cost, not to mention that they're not a good investment even if you're paying them on your own behalf. There is always a trade-off between low rate and low cost. The lender will sell you a lower rate if you pay for it, but they won't give it to you free. Also, the new rules treat Yield Spread as a cost rather than what it has legally become: an offset to fees that causes the consumer to spend less money, making direct lender loans appear better than they are in comparison to Yield Spread.

The importance of the distinction between recurring and nonrecurring closing costs is mostly in purchase situations. If there is an allowance from the seller for closing costs, the wording for this on the purchase contract can be critical. Nonrecurring closing costs are far more limited than recurring, and just the impound account can add thousands of dollars to what you, as the seller, end up paying if you agree to recurring closing costs. It's up to you how bad you want to sell the property, but a buyer who needs you to pay recurring closing costs is likely not a very qualified buyer, and their loan is pretty likely to experience snags. I counsel my sellers to insist on substantial deposits and sharply limited escrow periods in such cases, and if the buyer is allowed discount points as part of what you're willing to pay, count on the fact that they are going to use the entire allowance you give them. If the buyer has a choice of allowing you to keep some of that money or buying themselves a lower rate, which also means lower payments, what do you think they're going to do?

Caveat Emptor (and Vendor)

Original here

One reason to check your referral logs every day: Sometimes you can find great material for an article. I got one about the three day right of rescission.

This is a feature (or bug, depending upon your situation) with every refinance on a home that is a primary residence. The reason it exists is that loan documentation is massive, and confusing to the non-professional, sometimes intentionally so on the part of the lender. Some will throw massive documents at you so fast at closing that you never do figure out what's really important, delaying those documents until you show signs of just wanting to get it over with. Furthermore, until you see the final documents at signing, there is literally no way to prove that what your prospective loan provider quoted you on the Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement (California) or Good Faith Estimate (the other 49 states) is actually what they intend to deliver. There's a lot of paperwork that can be put under your nose to make it look like that's what I intend to deliver, but until you have the final loan documents sitting in front of you, none of it means anything. Just because they give you those wonderful forms like a Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement or Good Faith Estimate or Truth-In-Lending Advisory or anything else does not mean that is what they intend to deliver. The only document that is required to be an accurate accounting of the loan and all the money that goes into and comes out is the HUD-1, and that comes at the end of the process, and you get it at the same time as you sign the note.

I have said it before, but there are three documents you need to concentrate on at loan closing. Everything else is in support of those. They are the Trust Deed or Mortgage, the Note, and the aforementioned HUD-1. An unscrupulous lender certainly can slip stuff past you on other forms, but most won't bother. These three forms will tell you about 99.9 percent of the shady dealings. Some lenders and brokers will actually train their loan officers in how to distract you from the numbers on these three documents.

Once you have signed all of the requisite paperwork to finalize your loan (the stuff you sign in front of a notary at the theoretical end of the process), there is potentially a waiting period that begins. Purchases have no federal right of rescission, nor do refinances of rental or investment property, but if it's your primary residence and you are refinancing, you have three business days to call it off. Note that some states may broaden the right of rescission, and some may even lengthen it, but they can't lessen what the federal government requires.

As an aside, just because you have signed "final" documents does not necessarily mean your loan will fund. There are both "prior to docs" conditions as well as "prior to funding" conditions. The former means they must be satisfied before your final loan documents are generated, the latter means they must be satisfied as a condition of funding the loan. I want to emphasize that there will always be "prior to funding" conditions, but they should be routine things that make sense to do at that time, in that they cannot realistically be done any sooner. Many lenders, however, are moving "prior to docs" conditions to "prior to funding." This has always been prevalent for so-called "hard money" loans, but recently sub-prime lenders in particular have been emulating their example. The reasoning for doing this is simple. Once you've signed documents, you are bound to them unless you exercise right of rescission. Once right of rescission expires, you are bound to them period, until they either fund the loan or give up on the possibility of funding it. I strongly advise you to ask for a copy of outstanding conditions on your loan commitment before you sign.

Assuming that there is a right of rescission applicable, once you have signed final documents, the clock starts ticking. The day you sign documents doesn't count. Sundays and Holidays don't count. It is possible that Saturdays don't count, depending upon the law in your state. Here in California, Saturdays count unless they are holidays. It is three business days. So let's say that you sign final documents with a notary on a Monday of a normal five day week. Tuesday, Wednesday, the Thursday all go by while you have still got your right of rescission. Thursday midnight the right of rescission expires, and the loan can fund on Friday. Note that no lender can or will fund a loan during your right of rescission period, and every so often an otherwise excellent loan officer will have you sign loan documents before some other conditions are finished so that the right of rescission will expire in timely fashion to fund your loan before your rate lock expires. Remember that if the rate is not locked, the rate is not real, but all locks have expirations.

Applicable rights of rescission cannot be waived, cannot be shortened, and cannot be circumvented. Ever. There literally is no provision to do so in the law. This is both intentional and, in my opinion, correct. Kind of defeats the purpose of having it, which is to give you a couple days to consult with third party professionals before it's final, if it can be waived, because you can bet millions to milliamps that the sharks you are trying to protect folks from would have the folks sign such a document if it existed.

Now, just because the right of rescission has expired and the loan can be funded does not mean that it will be funded, much less on that day. For starters, good escrow officers will not request funding upon a Friday because the client will end up paying interest on both loans over the weekend for no good purpose. Once they request funding, the lender has up to two business days to provide it, and then the escrow officer has two business days to get everybody their money.

Also, remember those "prior to funding" conditions I spoke about a couple of paragraphs ago? If there's something substantive, it usually should have been taken care of prior to signing docs, leaving procedural stuff for prior to funding. But sometimes it can be in your interest to move them, if it means your loan is more likely to fund within the lock period, so you don't have to pay for lock extensions. On the other hand, there has been a movement towards making as many conditions prior to funding as possible, simply because once you have signed final documents you are more tightly bound to that lender.

In summary, if a right of rescission is applicable, start counting with the next business day after you sign final loan documents. After three business days, the right of rescission has expired and the loan can fund. Assuming a normal five day week, and that Saturday counts, as it does in every state I've worked in:

If you sign:
Rescission expires:
Thursday midnight
Friday midnight
Saturday midnight
Monday midnight
Tuesday midnight
Wednesday midnight
Wednesday midnight

Caveat Emptor

Original here

Mortgage - Questions you must ask every provider about every loan when you are shopping. Permission is hereby granted to print this out and use it for non-commercial purposes so long as no alterations are made and copyright is preserved.

(Disclaimer: This list is trying to be as exhaustive as possible, but is likely missing some important questions. If you have one that I missed, send it to me: dm at )

Is there a prepayment penalty?

If so, for how long and under what terms?

What is the interest rate?

What is the amortization period?

Is there a possibility that the note will be due in full before the amortization pays it off? (Vaguely equivalent to "is there a balloon?" but a broader question)

Is the payment interest only, or principal and interest?

(if interest only) how long is it interest only, and what happens afterward?

Is there any possibility of negative amortization (the balance increasing) if I make the minimum payment? (See my post on the Negative Amortization Loan)

Is the nominal rate different from the real rate of interest I would be charged?

How long is the rate fixed for?

(If fixed for less than the full period of the loan) What is the rate based upon when it adjusts, what is the margin, and how often does it adjust?

What is the industry standard name for this loan type?

Is the rate you are quoting me based upon full documentation, stated income, NINA or EZ Doc? (Note: At this update everything but full documentation is essentially gone, but the others are likely to make a comeback eventually)

(If full or EZ doc) Assuming I have other monthly payments of $X (where $X is your other monthly payments), how much monthly income do I have to document in order to qualify? (If this is more than you make, Warning!)

How many points TOTAL will I have to pay to get that rate?

How many points of origination will I be charged?

How many discount points will I have to pay?

What are the closing costs I will have to pay?

(because they are allowed to omit third party costs from all estimates and totals, you must add the answers to the next three questions to the previous question unless the provider specifically includes them)

How much will the appraisal fee be?

How much will total title charges be?

How much will the escrow fee be?

Who will my title company be?

Who will my escrow company be?
(If escrow company is not owned by title company, i.e. same name, be prepared for unknown additional title charges).

How much, total, will I be expected to pay out of my pocket?

How much, total, will be added to my mortgage balance?

With everything added to my mortgage balance, what will my payment be?

How long of a rate lock is included with this quote?

What do you need in order to lock this loan?

I used to tell people to ask for a rate and cost guarantee up front. Unfortunately, due to changes in lender policy that are now universal, it has become cost prohibitive to lock a loan upon application. If a loan is locked but not funded, the lender will add additional cost to future loans from a loan officer. Note that this doesn't hit the consumers whose loans don't fund personally, but if your loan officer is the kind to disregard the hit, they will have been hit with bumps in their cost structure, costs that they will go out of business over if not passed on to you. Better loan officers have now replaced this with a set margin for their company and an ongoing discussion as to when to lock.


After you have finished talking to this person, go check out the numbers. If you have a calculator that can handle mortgage calculations, use it. If you're able to do the calculations yourself, even better. Otherwise, do a web search for payment calculators or mortgage calculators or amortization calculators, and try out a couple of different ones (because some web calculators on lenders sites are programmed to lie!). This is math - there is only one right answer! The numbers should come out the same except for rounding errors! If the difference is more than five dollars in any case, that's a red flag! (You should also make certain the reason for the difference is not operator error. For instance, automobile payment calculators assume a different first payment than mortgage calculators, but student loan calculators should be compatible with mortgages.)

Copyright © 2005-2015 Dan Melson all rights reserved.

Original here

There are several possible options to deal with this issue, depending upon the exact situation.

For A paper, both spouses must qualify, credit score-wise. If one spouse's credit is not up to the level that lender wants (and Fannie or Freddie require) they will be unable to qualify together. The way around this is a quitclaim to the spouse who has a good credit score as sole and separate property. The catch is that then the good credit score spouse has to qualify for the loan on their own. If the other spouse is the one that makes all the money, if the good score spouse is in a profession where the needed income isn't believable for stated income (stated income is essentially gone as of this update; this was a legitimate use for stated income although the risks should be discussed), or a whole list of other possible reasons, you may have to go sub-prime, which is also essentially gone. You will not be able to qualify for the same level of property you could with two documentable incomes.

For sub-prime, the spouse who makes more money is the one that will be used as the determination, so as long as the second spouse is in the same vague general ballpark, score-wise, you can still use both incomes to qualify. If one spouse makes slightly more money but the other spouse has a much higher credit score, it was usually necessary to do the stated income with the spouse who has the better score as the sole borrower. You can't do this if one spouse is a doctor and the other works fast food, but you can if they're both in the same industry, or in industries where the incomes are roughly comparable, so long as the job titles and employment history don't render the claim unbelievable. The classic example of this working is both spouses in sales, paid on commission. In some instances, a quitclaim can still be the way to go. However, note that with the current state of the market, it is necessary to stay within what the spouse with the usable income can afford on their own. Note that there are still risks that need to be discussed, most notably to the spouse with the better credit score, but it could be done when this article was originally written because stated income was available. It will probably come back at some point, but it's anyone's guess as to when.

Note that if you do a quitclaim, the property doesn't have to stay quitclaimed. As soon as the loan funds and records, you can quitclaim it back to husband and wife as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, or whatever you want. Quite a few spouses are understandably reluctant to give up all ownership interest, but it's a temporary measure; it doesn't have to stay that way. As soon as the loan funds and records, you get the spouse who qualified for the loan to quitclaim it back to husband and wife, or the trust, or however they want the vesting to be. The better escrow officers I work with will usually have the quitclaim back made up and sent out for signatures without even being asked (I found this out one time when my clients didn't want it quitclaimed back, and called me when they got the form in the mail. I just told them to shred it, and called the escrow office to tell them thanks but not to bother).

Caveat Emptor

Original here

With a lot of people running around like Chicken Little screaming about the sky falling, a lot of folks who would like to buy property due to the much-lowered prices are wondering if there is any way they can qualify for the loan. There are lots of people out there over-exaggerating the difficulty of getting a loan. Well, we do have some events in the market that make it harder, but despite the Chicken Littles, the answer to the question is "probably yes." There are some exceptions, and some caveats for those who do, but most people actually can qualify for loans to buy property.

The big caveat is that it may not be a huge beautiful home straight out of the showplace magazine in the best area of town. With the death of stated income and no ratio loans, you have to limit yourself to what you can document the ability to make the payments for. The ultimate sin of stated income was that it allowed unscrupulous real estate agents and lenders to sell people properties which there was no way they were going to be able to afford in the long term. There will be legitimate borrowers hurt, and hurt badly, by its demise, but the aggregate damage done by recurring abuse of stated income was far greater than the damage that will be done by its demise. I would like to be able to do stated income, but I can't think of any way to prevent its abuse, and so far, neither has anyone else. Yeah, I may think I'm a good guy, but everyone thinks (or claims) they're the Good Guys, including those who most emphatically are not. Stated income has been so abused in the last few years that I cannot bring myself to excessively mourn its passing despite the damage said passing will do.

The worst fall out of stated income abuse is all of the foreclosures, but right behind that is the death of the idea in the minds of most of the public that maybe someone who makes minimum wage thirty hours a week might have to settle for a property that might not be as big, as beautiful, and as desirable as the person who makes ten times the national median. If you want to make these folks able to afford the same property, there are only two ways to do it: make all properties equally unattractive, or give the government the power to decide who gets the good stuff, which merely substitutes one privileged group (those with special influence over the government - i.e. the point of a gun) for the current privileged group, who at least earned their money via transactions freely entered into where the other person must have seen some benefit. The guy making minimum wage realistically has two choices: Figure out a way to start earning the same money as the guy making ten times national median, or learn to accept that he can't afford quite as expensive a property, and instead of making with the Green Eyed Monster, be happy with what he can afford. There are ways to improve your property, and improve what you can afford, and I love helping those who will put forth the effort, but it's considerably more involved than waving some metaphorical magic wand. For those who think the prices are going to come down further, not going to happen. You can sit in denial while they do so, or you can take advantage before it gets worse. If you're willing to work towards your goals, I've written before about the best and quickest way to actually afford something you can't afford right now

Okay, enough with the economics lesson. You're here because you want to know if you'll qualify for a loan now, and probably how much you can qualify for. There are basically three loan programs in the first tier for consideration for most borrowers: conventional A paper, FHA, and VA. I'm going to cover each major criterion: loan to value ratio, credit score, debt to income ratio, in order for each in successive paragraphs, followed by an affordability table.


Conventional A paper is the most tightened of the programs, and still more people can qualify than not, even with the tightened qualification standards. Here's the skinny in the current market: Most conventional loan programs want no more than a 90% loan to value ratio, but 95% has become more available of late as mortgage insurance companies return to that market. Turning that around, that means you need a 5-10% down payment for conventional conforming loans. Nonconforming (above your area's limit) has significantly larger down payment requirements. There are ways to get down payments in most circumstances if you want to, but the era of being able to in any wise pretend that real estate is somehow immune from real world consequences - like agents and loan officers who told people "Nothing down! Just sign on the dotted line and walk away if it doesn't work out!" are over - and this is one casualty of the meltdown that nobody with any sanity will mourn. Real estate is a wonderful investment, properly done, but those jokers weren't doing it right. In order to be doing it correctly, you have to plan ahead for what happens next, and have a plan to deal with it.

Where A paper lenders were accepting credit scores as low as 620, now they are pretty much wanting to see credit scores of 700 or at least 680, at least for loan to value ratios above 80%. It's not difficult to improve credit score into that range if you will try, but it can take a few months. Your choice: You can make the effort and get it done, or you can miss the best buying opportunity we are likely to see in at least the next ten to fifteen years. Or, you can somehow come up with a higher down payment. Your choice. Lenders have the money; they are entitled to set terms for lending it out. You don't want to meet those terms, you can wait until you have enough to pay cash - and paying all cash for real estate isn't nearly such a good investment.

Conventional loans still want to see the exact same 45% debt to income ratio they always have. There is room for some slop at high credit scores or with certain kinds of income, but if you plan for 45% in the first place, you're still within the loan guidelines they will accept. The way to figure this is easy: take 45 percent of your gross pay. Not what actually hits your account - but what your employer actually pays out. From this number, Subtract your ongoing debt service. That's the maximum you can qualify for. If you want to keep it to less, that's actually a good thing in my opinion, but the general issue is that most folks want to buy a more expensive property than they can really afford. Hence, the stated income debacle, among other problems. The number of people who can stay strong and within a budget when they're being shown much more beautiful properties "for not very much more on the payment" is relatively small. One reason I keep telling people to shop by purchase price, not payment. If it's outside of your budget, it might as well be on the moon for all of the good it will do you.

This 45% of gross income minus ongoing debt service has to cover all of the ongoing expenses of owning a property. Principal and Interest on the loan, monthly pro-rated property taxes, and homeowner's insurance. If they are present, it also has to pay homeowner's association, temporary assessments such as Mello-Roos, and any other regular recurring expense of owning that property. For instance, assuming a 10% down payment, 6% principal and interest fully amortized loan (high at this update), California default property taxes, and $100 per month for homeowner's insurance, plus 1% PMI for 90% financing (If they promise there won't be PMI for single loan at 90%, they are lying unless it's VA), here's a table of how much you need to make to afford it (assuming $200/month of other debt):

Housing costs
Income (monthly)


FHA loans are a federally insured loan program that anyone can theoretically get. FHA loans allow an initial loan to value ratio of 96.5%, so you only need 3.5% for a down payment. On the minus side, they charge a 1.75% funding fee, and PMI-equivalent of either half a percent annualized for loan to value ratios below 95%, or 0.55% annualized for loan to value ratios of 95% or greater. The upshot is that they are not free, but you can borrow up to 98.25% of the purchase price of the property (providing the appraisal supports that value). This is the lowest down payment of any generally available loan currently available.

The enabling regulations for FHA loans still do not require any minimum credit scores, which is all well and good, but the lenders have instituted a requirement for credit scores that vary from 580 to 640 in order for them to be willing to participate. They who have the gold make the rules, and they've had what are euphemistically called "adverse results" with lower scores. You may have read about that. The good news is that it's even easier to improve your credit score to this level than it is to improve to the scores conventional loans require.

Maximum allowable debt to income ratio for FHA loans starts lower, at 43%, but the FHA is willing to issue a waiver up to about 49% pretty easily if you will still have some significant money you can access after the down payment (6 months PITI reserves), or in other words, if the down payment does not represent every penny you have in the world. Nonetheless, if you start and plan for 43% and limit yourself to that, you are better off than if you try to go over. According to what people are most often trying to do with FHA, here is a table of what you can afford with 3.5% down payment, assuming 1.25% (California) property taxes, and the same $100 per month insurance as the previous example, and a base loan rate of 6.25%, as FHA rates are usually but not always slightly higher than conventional. Note that the slightly higher monthly costs are a result of the higher amount borrowed - the cost of money is actually slightly lower under the assumptions given. Once again, I'm assuming $200 per month of other debt; FHA is a lot less forgiving about front end ratio than conventional.

Down Payment
Housing costs
Income (monthly)


The VA loan is a benefit earned by those those who have served in the armed forces. I don't know what the minimum service requirement is, but I do know that they allow a maximum loan to value ratio of 103%. A veteran literally does not have to come up with a down payment. Not only that, but they can include up to 3% of the purchase price into the loan on top of the purchase price. Not one other (non-scam) program I am aware of has ever loaned over 100% of value of the property, and this one is still doing it. Unlike the FHA, the VA only charges a funding fee of half of one percent, and no financing insurance. Furthermore, the funding fee is waived for those with 10% or more service disability. I certainly wouldn't serve in the armed forces just to be eligible for a VA loan, but it is a nice thing that veterans earn for all that they have gone through.

Credit score is as the FHA: none required in the regulations, but the lenders want to see the same basic minimums (580 to 640), and for the same reasons. Once again, credit scores are not fixed and immutable and they can be improved as well as hurt by events. Just because you suffer a blow to your credit does not mean you cannot counter-act it with by making an effort to improve it.

Debt to income ratio is the same as the FHA at 43%, with the same waivers possible for higher. Given the way most folks use VA loans, I am going to use an example of loans for 103% of purchase price, at 6.25% (for the same reasons as FHA), with, once again $200 per month of other debt service assumed. Once again, the reason it is as close as it is to the others here is due to higher loan balances under these assumptions. If you compute the same situation for all three loans, the person with VA eligibility will pay less than either of the others until the loan to value ratio is below 80%, when the conventional loan will be best. Keep in mind that in this case, the VA loan balance is about 14% higher than the conventional, yet the cost of housing is very comparable, and the VA has by far the lowest down payment requirement ($0).

Housing costs
Income (monthly)

Now there are other programs that make it easier to afford real estate, or to come up with the down payment. The Mortgage Credit Certificate and your locally based first time buyer program are a way to increase affordability and possibly come up with a down payment without saving it yourself. The drawbacks to these programs is that their budgets tend to be very limited, and what there is evaporates quickly when they do get an allocation of funds. The three basic loan types are there 365 days per year, and I've never heard of them being unwilling or unable to lend to a buyer who met their qualifications. Providing you meet them, you can get a loan, and therefore, you can buy real estate if this market strikes you, as it does me, as significantly underpriced, given the scarcity and ability of people to pay. Or as Warren Buffet says, "The time to buy is when there is blood in the streets." This principle is no different for real estate than it is for stocks or whole companies. If you can afford to buy with a good sustainable loan, you will be very happy that you did in a very few years.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

I was approached by these folks a while ago via email.

I attempted to get them to write up the experience themselves but I wanted to write something about this before I completely forgot about it. This whole exchange is indicative of games loan providers play in order to make money.

I'm going to sketch this out chronological to the extent possible. What happened was Mr. and Ms. A got a postcard in the mail quoting low payments for their loan amount. They thought it looked great, and called the loan provider. The loan provider talked about these great payments on a loan that looked fairly real, and quoted an APR of 6.18. He told them that this was a great loan, and compared it to a 5/1 ARM in such a way that that was what they thought they were getting. No worries, because they were going to be transferred by his company in two to three years.

They asked my opinion about another item having to do with the loan, and something about what they said sounded funky to me.

Well, i believe what I'm getting is called a 5/1 ARM. Each month i have the 4 options of minimum payment, interest only payment, 30 yr payment, or 15 yr payment. (payments respectively would be either $A, $B, $C, or $D)

The minimum payment stays the same for every 12 months, then increases by about $90 each subsequent yr. I know minimum is not ideal, but i live in an area with high appreciation, and because of the ridiculous value of property in the area, & the school system in this county, it continues to appreciate regardless of trends elsewhere.

I'm told the loan comes standard with 3 yr prepay. I can pay the points I mentioned to make it a 1 yr, but it doesn't affect my interest rate coming down. That's at about 6.18%

Well, the part about property appreciating regardless of trends elsewhere is just plain wishful thinking. There is nowhere that is insulated from economic conditions. Nonetheless, it's not what we're talking about here. Does this loan sound like something I keep writing about?

Here's what I sent back:

That particular loan is actually a Negative amortization loan. I explain those here (same link as last paragraph - ed).

They are not wholly without redeeming qualities, but they are something to be done with a trembling hand and much looking over your shoulder. At the current rate, expect $725 to get added to your balance the first month - and rates are rising, so this is likely to accelerate, and your underlying rate is completely variable on a month to month basis. Even if they don't rise and you make the minimum payments, you will owe approximately $X after two years - an increase of $18,620 in your balance! Will it be an issue if you owe $18,600 more when you go to sell it? I think it likely that the answer is yes, but it's your call.

A 5/1 is something entirely different. It is a "A Paper" Thirty year loan with the interest rate fixed for the first five years, then adjusting once per year based upon LIBOR, not COFI or MTA. As A paper, there is not an embedded pre-payment penalty. Right now, in California, I have them at about 6.25 no cost no points no prepay, or 6.5 interest only, and truly fixed for five years.

Furthermore, there was another issue with the loan quote:

If I do the math, the first payment gives a principal balance of $X+2000, the second payment gives a principal balance of $X, The third gets $X+500 and the fourth $X+1300. If these are the numbers your loan provider gave you, which of these numbers is correct? Any of them? Unless you're paying the 1.5 points out of pocket, your loan provider should give you a quote which adds them to the amount you are borrowing. Did they do this, or did they pretend it was going away by magic?

They responded:

oooh. sounding scary. So i left them a mssg asking which it was, a negative amortization loan, or a 5/1 ARM. I also asked for more info as I was sent spreadsheet which is missing some info. I am fwding the spreadsheet if you don't mind the attachment.

Well the loan provider had named the spreadsheet "2005_Pay_Option_Work_Sheet.xls" Pay Option is one of those "friendly sounding" names for a negative amortization loan. Well, I knew before what kind of scum bucket this loan provider was before I opened it, but doing so was confirmation, good enough to convict in court except that what he did isn't illegal, only immoral and unethical. Yep, it had all of the characteristics of a negative amortization loan as prepared by the worst kind of financial predator. Three or four payment options, including minimum, interest only, and 30 year amortized? Check. Prepayment penalty if you made any other payments (The so-called "one extra dollar" prepayment penalty I talk about here, which is not necessarily characteristic of negative amortization loans but certainly seems to occur there more than anywhere else). Check. Yearly minimum payment increases of about 7.5 of base minimum payment%? Check. Complete lack of disclosure that if you make the minimum payment your balance increases by hundreds of dollars per month? Check. About a 5 percentage point absolute spread between nominal rate and APR? Check. Complete failure to disclose that the "teaser" payment is based upon a "nominal" (in name only) rate of 1%? Check. Failure to disclose that the real rate was month to month variable from day one? Check. Failure to disclose that the index it was based on had risen in recent months and that unless said index went back down, the real rate would be rising? Check. Failure to include real and known closing costs in your loan quote? Check. That last is kind of minor as compared to everything else, but I'd be upset in a major way if it was the only thing wrong he did.

I sent Ms. A an email which said, in part:

"Option ARM" is a common, friendly sounding name for what is still a negative amortization loan. Everything about this loan, from the fact that it has a "payment cap" which is unrelated to a rate cap, screams negative amortization loan.

The 5/1 is a different loan provided for comparison, as the sheet tells you, and is a better loan for almost all purposes, as the second column of the comparison tells you. A 3/1 might have a slightly lower rate, or it might not. Ditto any of the 2 or three year subprime variants.

Intro period is telling you the period the competing is fixed rate for.

MTA loans are based upon a moving average of the treasury rate over the last twelve months. Since they've been going up, your real rate is likely to increase as some older and lower rates drop out of the computation in upcoming months.

Pay attention to the two footnotes on the payment options. "deferred interest" is characteristic of negative amortization.

(Name redacted for publication). They are not the only such company, but the translation into real english of their name must be "watch out for our piranha"

These loans are very commonly pushed because most people "buy" loans based upon payment, making them very easy loans to sell because unless you understand the drawbacks, you will think this is the greatest loan since sliced bread. These are up to forty percent of all new loans in the last year in some areas (including here), and are likely to contribute to a crash in housing values soon.

There are sharks and wolves out there, as this illustrates. Why people who would never buy a toaster oven without checking at least two vendors will sign up for a mortgage without shopping around is beyond me, but people do it. This is a trap that can be very hard to avoid unless you know what's going on, but if you talk to a few loan officers, and and go back and forth, chances become much better that you'll be saved by one of Jaws' competitors telling you what's really going on. Other, competing loan providers deal with this stuff every day. After a very short time, we get to the point where we can recognize it in our sleep. But we can't alert you to these kind of issues if you don't give us the chance.

Luckily, these folks gave me the chance.

They were in another state, and so I didn't get any business out of my good deed, but that's okay. I got this article. And now, you folks can read about it, and be forewarned.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

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