Unhonored Rate Locks

Did you know that a locked rate is a commitment for a loan to be delivered to a lender?   Mortgage companies and loan originators are often judged by how many loans they deliver or what their lock fall-out ratio is.   A normal expection used to be around 70-75% of locked loans to be delivered–now I’m hearing reports of 30-40% of locked loans actually being delivered to the lender.  

This is dangerous for mortgage brokers and correspondent lenders.  Why?  Wholesale lenders are cutting back and “cherry picking” which companies they’ll work with.   A significant factor is lock-fall out.  If odds are, a locked  loan is not going to be delivered, why should they work with that mortgage company?    

Sometimes the wholesale lender may be ordering the mortgage company to be “cut off” of future business and sometimes it may be the wholesale lender having their Account Executives that they need to reduce their client base to a certain amount of accounts (as a way to reduce the commission they’re paying the AE’s). 

There can be many reasons for a locked loan not to be delivered, such as:

  • the loan could not be approved because of the property (appraisal issues) or the borrower.
  • private mortgage insurance issues.
  • the borrower decides not to proceed with the transaction.

Here’s how one wholesale lender rates fallout:

  • 0-24.99% = Full approval.
  • 25-34.99% = Monitor
  • 35-49.99% = Watch
  • 50-74.99% = Probation
  • 75% or more = Inactivated.   Good by wholesale relationship with that lender.

Wholesale lenders don’t care if it’s due to the borrower not proceeding with the refi or if it was their underwriting that “killed the deal”…it often counts towards that dreaded lock fallout ratio.

A disturbing trend I heard from a local title insurance company is “double applications”.  Where a borrower is proceeding with a refinance transaction with two different lenders.   If both loan originators have the loan locked, someone is going to lose!   Not to mention, the expense to the title and escrow companies who are working on a transaction a consumer is not going to honor.   The only way this is caught, is if the title or escrow company happen to be the same one that the two loan originators the consumer is using.   Regardless of if both loans are locked or not, it’s unscrupulous behavior.    

Borrowers–please do not have two loan applications going on at the same time with two different loan originators.   When you do decide to lock in a rate with a mortgage professional, understand it IS a commitment.

PMI Mortgage Insurance Company drop kicks Mortgage Brokers

Today I had several Mortgage Professionals contact me regarding PMI Private Mortgage Insurance Company cutting off mortgage brokers via email and comments here.    I thought it must be a rumor…but it’s not, effective February 20, 2009 PMI Mortgage Insurance Company will no longer underwrite or insure loans for mortgage brokers.   However if you’re a lender, PMI is ‘Right alongside you…we’re in it for the long run”.  

From an email I received today from a Loan Originator:

It’s believed that PMI is the first of the nation’s seven MI firms to totally exclude loan brokers from their coverage menus. In recent months other MIs – including Genworth and MGIC – have tightened guidelines on broker-sourced loans, particularly condominiums and high LTV notes. A PMI spokesman confirmed the new policy change to National Mortgage News adding that, “This does not apply to correspondents.

A lesson in the dangers of distressed property purchases…

A friend of mine contacted me the other day about a property investment opportunity that her brother-in-law (BIL) was placing in front of her and her husband. The property in question is located in the city and state where the BIL lives – and it’s far from the Seattle area at roughly halfway across the country. The house reportedly, and confirmed in the report I read, has a major mold issue that has attacked even the underlayment of the floors. (if you want to see some gross mold photos, check out this site) The buyer’s agent and BIL (who agent represents) are attempting to state that the water damage was caused by the former owner having a drug problem and not cleaning up after himself or perhaps because of a water leak in the bathrooms and from a leaking dishwasher. Hmmmmm…..

The house is supposedly being offered off-market at a lowball price of $400k for this tony neighborhood where $550k-800k is the common price points for various sized homes. Even the listing agent is nervous about selling the house with the mold issue but the owner is now deceased and the family can’t afford the home or to fix the home. This tells me that there is likely no insurance money to fix the problem especially if the insurance company deemed it to be failure of the owner to maintain the property. BTW – did most of you know that this is a common disclaimer in most insurance policies? If an insurer can point to an owner’s failure to maintain (ie. ignoring a leak) they can deny coverage. Also, as I’m learning, this particular state has had a rash of insurance companies choosing to deny the option of mold coverage in their policies at all… period because of prior mold problems that required huge insurance payouts.

Now, the price point initially sounds good but my personal concerns surround the mold issue, the fact that it has not been specifically identified in the mold specialist/inspection results, and the amount of work that actually needs to be done to get this house back in to the condition that this neighborhood typically expects. We are getting conflicting reports about the source of the mold and no one has sent my friend photos of the subject property to review. Also, there is the stigma associated with trying to sell a house that has HAD mold – and note I say “HAD” mold because frequently the average consumer can’t get past… well, the past. Agents are required to disclose known material defects, and so are homeowners (at least in WA State), so you’d have to tell a prospective buyer about the issue, even if it was fixed.

The BIL is a contractor and thinks he can replace the floors for about $20k and the only other item he thinks he needs to fix is a broken bathtub. Again, hmmmmmm……. Somehow I don’t think that this will be all that needs to be done.

His (BIL) expectation is that someone else will come in with the money to buy the property and he’ll do the labor and then they’ll split profits. I’m telling my friend/client that there is a lot more that needs to be sorted out and specified in a contract between the parties of the financial investor and the contractor (BIL). Thankfully, she agrees. On top of this issue there are questions of whether or not the house can be purchased with financing (likely not), what type of financing (preferably a renovation loan) is available, can it get insured, will it require oversight (it seems so based on the mold report) and by which entities (city, inspector, insurance, bank? most likely all of the above) and what it will cost to have re-testing done (what if it doesn’t pass?).

After even more phone calls today to the agent I have now learned that the listing agent is actually his secretary who has just gotten her license 2 months ago and that this is her first deal – ever. On top of this news, I also ferret out that the house is in foreclosure so we’re in a short sale position IF the $400k is even accepted. Wait, let’s recount the issues in a quick rundown….

1. mold problems that may or may not have had the water issue fixed.

2. foreclosure with short sale with proposed sale price at 80% of owed amount.

3. estate sale with unknown additional liens, taxes, etc. owed or owing. If the guy was truly a cocaine addict as desribed to us then there could be a lot more outstanding. Also unknown is who is actually selling the house: the widow, the attorney, the lender? Since it’s not yet foreclosed it’s likely the widow or attorney.

4. listing agent that works for the guy trying to be the buyer’s agent (MAJOR conflict of interest and not initially disclosed)

5. 1st time listing agent that has no other sales or negotiating experience working with a guy who has little, if no, experience in short sales.

6. unknown actual costs of repairs

7. no current photos available for review by prospective buyer (yet)

8. unknown lending environment for a distressed and damaged property

9. unknown insurance liability and potential to be an uninsurable property

I know what I think about this deal (a potential disaster) but I’d be curious to hear from others. What are your opinions? Would you go for it, and why? If you wouldn’t touch it, I’d love to hear your comments too.

Mythbusters takes on water heaters as rockets….

The other night I watched Mythbusters with my partner, Michael, a show which I have to admit I only see occasionally and only when he’s watching it. It’s okay, but I usually prefer reading. Anyhow, one of the myths that they were attempting to bust is the idea that a water heater can become like a rocket and shoot through a home’s roof when it has failed.

Ok, I’ve been an agent, and a homeowner, for many years and I am fully aware of this “truth” mostly from having spoken with many knowledgeable contractors and inspectors over the years – not to mention feedback from my dad who is an all around great fix-it guy.

Well, for anyone who has heard about this “myth” before but didn’t believe it… here is the clip from the Mythbusters folks. It’s quite eye-opening….

I wonder, if this happened to a homeowner and the insurance company determined it was the homeowner’s fault due to negligence because of lack of maintenance – does this mean they wouldn’t pay? I’m all about maintenance on a home’s water heater and replacing them BEFORE failure of any kind so I hope I never find out personally.

laughing through the pain

I have heard many times the adage that many a comedian became a funny man or woman because of painful experiences. Well, it seems to continue to have a grain of truth after watching this video of Molly Shannon – funny woman from SNL. A contributor on my own blog had posted info on September as Life Insurance Awareness Month and he had the link to Molly’s piece as part of it. I had no idea that she had suffered such an awful experience as a child. As a professional that has always promoted overall financial planning savvy and long-term planning to clients over the years the reminder of life insurance is a good one. Just like you insure your home, its contents, and your car – you should insure yourself if you have dependents or to make sure your heirs aren’t left holding the financial bag for you after your demise, be it untimely one or after a long good life.

Got renter's or condo unit insurance?

I’m constantly amazed at how many people don’t get renter’s insurance when they are renting a house or apartment. Did you realize that if a major catastrophe happens to the property you’re renting that the landlord is not responsible for your belongings?  You should.

Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive for the peace of mind that it will give you. Not only are you covered if a major issue happens to the property and damages your belongings, you can also check to see if the policy will cover you in the event of a break-in. Most people don’t consider the fact that a water heater might blow out and cause flooding to the interior of a property. This event could damage clothing, furniture, or more. The landlord will likely be responsible for fixing or replacing the water heater but they won’t be responsible for your stuff.

A while back we were representing a buyer on the purchase of a 20-unit apartment complex. There were 2 buildings with 10 units each. For some bizarre reason the seller decided to replace the roofs mid-contract. Unfortunately for her it rained right at the time the new roofs went on and 4 units were ruined and more were damaged – along with the tenant’s belongings. Thus began a nasty fight between her and the tenants – several moved out, resulting in lost rents, and others started attempting to boycott the property and prevent others from moving in to replace those that chose to move.

The majority of these tenants did not have renter’s insurance. More landlords are getting savvy and are adding provisions to their lease agreements that spell out a requirement for renters to show proof of insurance within a short period of time of moving in. My own lease agreements have similar language and it states very clearly that I’m not responsible for their stuff if something happens. Nature can impact a property at any time – I had this happen when a neighbor’s tree smashed into my duplex roof a couple of years ago. Thankfully my tenant’s didn’t get impacted but they could have since the tree punctured holes in the roof. Thankfully we got the roof repaired pretty quickly so no major damage occurred but it could have been ugly.

New condominium buildings are also requiring owners and tenants to have contents insurance. For owners of these units the requirement is that the policy cover up to the deductible of the homeowner’s association policy. Frequently that amount is roughly $50,000.00.  These are good things to know. Many of the condo sales require proof of insurance at closing so be sure to contact an insurance company prior to the end of your transaction if you’re in the process of buying. One guy I know that can handle this for you is Gerald Grinter of Gerald Grinter Insurance.  He can handle policies for condo owners and renters.

Futures and property values: you can bet on the bubble

Last November, Slate magazine posted a piece on the housing market futures. The gist: you can hedge a drop in your house’s property values by buying derivatives that pay if the region’s property values drop a specific amount over a specific time period or even if predicted growth doesn’t materialize:

Next spring, however, investors might finally have a better hedging product. Just in time for the apparent top of the housing market, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is introducing futures and options on housing prices in 10 cities for the second quarter of 2006.

It’s pitched to big institutions, but it would probably benefit individual investors immensely. That is, if they used it. Unfortunately, the individual home owners it would benefit the most didn’t have enough cash on hand to put money down on their house and are currently just paying interest, so they probably don’t have extra money to invest in hedges.

Also, as Ardell eloquently pointed out a while back, different sectors of the market can “pop” at different times and at different rates. Unfortunately, this could only protect against region-wide shifts:

These options will cover large markets—it will be tough to hedge the value of your own house, which depends so much on your particular neighborhood.

I liken it to buying an index fund (or mutual fund) instead of a single stock, although maybe insurance against extreme price swings is a better analogy; the effect is to reduce the upside and the downside of your investment. It doesn’t seem very exciting in the least so I’m putting this one in the “popular after the crash” basket, as it’s hard to plan for hard times when the good times have lasted so long.

So who’s buying on opening day? And can the market correctly predict housing prices over the next few years, or are investors so oriented toward a bubble popping that they can’t see the inherent strength of the market (or vice versa)?

Title Insurance 101: What is Involved in Issuing a Title Insurance Policy?

Magnifying GlassBelieve it or not, title insurance is one of the most integral parts of the real estate process, yet many people readily admit they have very little understanding of what it is and why it is important.

Within King and Snohomish Counties, title insurance is commonly opened at the time a listing agreement is signed. Once the listing agreement is signed, the listing agent will often contact their preferred title company and ask to open a preliminary title commitment. It is referred to as a preliminary title commitment, because the proposed party to be insured (the buyer) has yet to be identified.

Once the order has been opened, the title company creates a file for the property by doing an initial pull of basic information in connection with the property – legal description, plat map, assessor parcel numbers, tax roll information, etc. This will form the base of the file and provide specific information from which the property can be further inspected.

Once the file has been created, a title search will then ensue. A title search is the process of determining from public record just what these rights are and who owns them. The title search is a means of determining that the person who is selling the property really has the right to sell it; and the buyer purchasing the property is getting all the rights that he or she is paying for.

A title search will typically contain the following steps:

1) Chain of Title: This is simply a history of the ownership for a particular piece of property, telling who bought and sold it, and when.
2) Tax Search: This is a search to determine the present status of general real estate taxes against the property. The tax search will reveal if taxes are current or past due and what amounts are unpaid from previous years.
3) Report on Possession: Title companies may send inspectors to look at the property to verify the location of improvements, look for evidence of easements that are not shown on public record, and for encroachments.
4) Judgment & Name Search: This determines if there are any unsatisfied judgments, IRS liens, state tax warrants, and superior court actions against the seller or previous owners which were in existence while they owned the property. A judgment is a general lien against the property and constitutes security for any money owed to a particular party under the judgment.
5) Commitment: Once all searches have been completed, the title company issues a commitment to insure, stating the conditions under which it will insure the title to the property.

Once a commitment has been issued, the title company simply waits to be made aware of a mutually accepted offer. After an offer has been accepted, the title company will update the commitment with the proposed insured party’s (buyer’s) information. Once the commitment has been updated, the buyer, seller, mortgage lender (if applicable), and escrow can proceed with closing the transaction. To help protect the buyer and the seller in a transaction, a disinterested third party, known as an escrow holder, will often be contracted with to assist in the clearing of any encumbrances on the title and ultimately closing the transaction. Once the transaction is closed and recorded on county records, the title company will officially issue a title insurance policy to the buyer’s of the property.

I will post another message in the near future outlining what title insurance covers for the buyer and a summary of the three different coverages available. Also be on the lookout for a message from me in regards to the role escrow companies fill, the customary closing costs you can expect when buying or selling a home, and the keys to a successful closing.