Loan Modification Salesmen in WA State Must Be Licensed LOs, Mortgage Brokers, or Work at Consumer Loan Companies

From the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions:

DFI Advises Homeowners To Verify The Licenses Of Anyone Offering Loan Modification Services Before Hiring Them

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Financial Institution’s Consumer Services Division advises homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgage to be cautious about using the services of someone offering to help them work with their lender to modify the terms of their home loan.

The Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) has received a number of inquiries regarding the legality of providing this service in this state. While there is nothing inherently illegal about this business, those providing this service in the State of Washington must be licensed as loan originators, mortgage brokers, or consumer loan companies and be overseen by the Department of Financial Institutions. Additionally, under applicable law, the loan modification provider associated with mortgage brokers have a fiduciary relationship with the borrower and must act in their best interest.

“DFI is concerned that homeowners in desperate situations may pay substantial fees for loan modification services and not take advantage of the HUD-approved counseling services offered for free by numerous non-profits,

Distressed Property Law

There has been a lot of confusion, anger and fear surrounding the new Distressed Property Law. I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and do a critical analysis of the law, tearing apart each section.  The WA Assoc of Realtors has put their educational seminar online for free here for all of us.  Instead of all the ranting and raving taking place on other blogs attacking this law, feel free to pause and re-live these foreclosure rescue scam case studies from  2004, 2005, 2006  and 2007 which may help us better understand the reasons why we have this new law.

At the height of the bubble run up in 2005, there were hundreds of people attending foreclosure auctions, planning on making millions in real estate, usually after attending a get-rich-quick seminar.  Even today, the get-rich-quick hucksters are still luring in the same type of person who thinks there’s a magic diet pill that will help you lose those last ten pounds, and who thinks there’s still a way to make six figures with no experience, or in the case of this company, $2,000 per hour.

Readers on this blog and elsewhere have been highly critical of our state lawmakers for being reactionary and passing laws only after they would have done any good.  In this case, our legislature has tried to be pro-active and place boundaries around “distressed property transactions.

Will Real Estate Agents Embrace a Loan Originator with Fiduciary Duties?

I’m beginning to wonder. I’ve always put the clients best interest first…it’s just something I naturally have to do in order to bevalentinescandy able to sleep at night. There has been a time or two when a real estate agent has told me that my job is solely to provide mortgages and not worry if the mortgage made sense or if someone is capable of making the payment in my opinion. This is one reason why I’m glad that I (and others designated as mortgage brokers) will have official fiduciary duties to their clients. Here’s a scenario for you to chew on that has me wondering if Real Estate Agents will be as accepting of this new responsibility…

Susie and Sammy want to buy a home. They know their credit is lousy and Susie actually giggles about it. However, their friends were able to buy homes over the last few years and so they should be able to as well. Susie and Sammy were referred to me from an agent I’ve worked with for many years. And if it weren’t for bad credit, they’d have none at all. Susie has no credit scores and more collections than you can shake a stick at. Sammy is a fluke of the credit scoring system and has managed a mid-score of 621 although the last time he used credit was three years ago…no one will issue him any new credit due to his proven track record of not paying for any account he opens. Sammy, if the scoring system were perfect and 100% accurate, would be credit scoreless as well. To top it off, they have no savings and would like a zero down loan.

As a “Mortgage Professional”, I review this information with them and I let Sammy & Susie know that they do not currently qualify for a mortgage (because they don’t). If they want to work on their credit and develop a plan, such as practicing making a mortgage payment by paying the difference between the mortgage and their rent into a savings account, perhaps we can develop a long term strategy. In no way is this couple ready for a mortgage. I’m not sure that I could (or would) have provided them a subprime mortgage had they met with me this time last year. As someone who is looking out for their clients best interest, I believe I did the right thing. In fact, even with “subprime” clients of yesteryear, I would let them know of their options: you currently qualify for a subprime mortgage with a rate of X; or you can wait a few months and work on your [what ever is causing you to be subprime] situation and then qualify for a better rate with FHA/VA or conventional. Why encourage people buy “right now” if their finances are a wreck? The choice on what borrowers do with their finances is really their own. Really, it’s not for me as a Loan Originator to determine whether or not they are worthy: we have underwriting and guideline criteria for that. With Sammy and Susie, they really have no options but to work on re-establishing credit and change their spending habits…and they seemed eager to do so. I set them up with a company to help them work on repairing their credit (because it was beyond what I could do) and they were happy (they never followed through with the credit repair).

A few weeks later, I get a voice mail from the agent. He’s upset and wants me to know that Susie and Sammy have found another lender who has referred them to another agent and they’re buying a home. I’ve been checking the county records and Susie and Sammy’s real names are not showing up–I’ll really be surprised if they qualified for anything except the hardest money loan available with a double digit interest rate or seller financing. Regardless, the agent is obviously not very happy with me since I did not “approve” them for a loan and someone else says they did (at who knows what terms). My subprime shoe-horn is gone and I would not have used it here anyhow…this couple is not ready for a mortgage.

Fiduciary duties for Washington State loan originators who don’t work for a bank-mortgage company will be here this summer (effective June 12, 2008). Are you ready? How will you feel if a loan originator with fiduciary duties believes that a home buyer should take six months to a year to improve their credit and have at least 3-6 months of reserves? When this legislation first came out and Jillayne wrote about it. I thought it was an advantage for brokers. Yes, once again it’s more legislation on brokers (excluding mortgage bankers) for the sins of ALL loan originators regardless of institution. Wouldn’t everyone want to work with a loan originator who has a legal responsibility to look out for their best interest (mortgage broker) verses one who has no legal responsibility (mortgage bank)? Perhaps some agents would rather their clients not work with someone who has fiduciary responsibilities. Consumers…you may want to ask your loan originator whether or not they owe you any fiduciary duties.

Washington State Legislative Alert: SB 6381 and SB 6452

Two Senate bills have been introduced into the state legislature this session.

The first bill, SB 6381 (link opens a 2 page PDF) will change the state’s Mortgage Broker Practices Act to require that mortgage brokers owe fiduciary duties to consumers.  In order to make fiduciary duties meaningful, they must be extended to include the loan originators that work under a mortgage broker. The legislature should make that crystal clear.  Many LOs work out of branch offices and are unsupervised on a day to day basis by their broker, who may be located in a different office or in a different state. 

[photopress:capital.jpg,thumb,alignleft]I recommend that the state legislature also include not only mortgage brokers but businesses licensed under the state’s consumer loan act.  We must not forget that the two largest predatory lending lawsuits in the United States were settled with companies that were NOT mortgage brokers but consumer loan lenders: Household Finance and Ameriquest.  If we do not make this change, unscrupulous mortgage brokers may just change the way they’re licensed. This loophole should be closed now.

The second bill, SB 6452 (link opens an 11 page document) also changes the state’s MBPA in an interesting way. At the bottom of page 3, this bill would remove a mortgage broker’s ability to quote a Yield Spread Premium range.  Recall that brokers can see the wholesale cost of mortgage money, and elect to quote a higher interest rate to the consumer and earn the difference as profit.  Sometimes, when a borrower wants a “no cost loan

Professional Status: Perceptions and Reality

In part one of this series of blog articles about the subprime meltdown, I briefly sketched the rise and fall of subprime loan products and their relation to predatory lending practices within a capitalist system.

Today’s part two will examine the structural relationship between a professional and his or her client.

Is your barista at Starbucks or the person who bags your groceries a professional? If you answer “yes,