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.

A Mortgage Broker is not a Lender

At the beginning of every law, there’s a preamble and then a set of definitions. Many of you know this: A mortgage broker is not a lender.
A lender is defined by federal law, RESPA, as an entity that makes loans.  This means the entity has the money to fund the loans.

Brokers, by definition do not loan their own money. Instead, they’re middlemen who go out and find the mortgage money. The entity funding the loan is the “lender.

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.

Major Proposed Changes for Residential Closings in 2008

Alternative sexier titles to this post are: “Your Escrow Officer is a NARC” or “No More Quicky Closings” or how about “The Escrow Hills have [photopress:detctive_1.jpg,thumb,alignright]Eyes”. There are some major changes brewing with how escrow will be practicing their business in 2008. Escrow companies may become “undercover

Are you really preapproved or just prequalifed for a mortgage? Part 1

There’s quite a difference between being prequalifed for a mortgage and preapproved.   The letters that Loan Originators provide when requested for a prequal or preapproval may appear very similar.  In fact, I’ve talked to borrowers on the phone who thought they were actually preapproved, when all they really had was a Good Faith Estimate from a lender.  A Good Faith Estimate is just a rate and fee quote–an estimate is not a commitment to lend and does not indicate that someone has been prequalified.

Getting prequalifed is the stage just before becoming preapproved with a lender.   It’s a good start.  This is a great way to learn about a Loan Originator and to help you determine which Mortgage Professional you’re going to select to assist you with financing one of your largest investments.   There’s no strings attached yet to the lender, you’re investing a little of your time and perhaps a few bones for a credit report.   

The prequalification process help you determine:

  • What your mortgage payment will be
  • Available mortgage programs
  • How much home you can afford
  • How much money you will need for the down payment and closing costs
  • Your opinion of the Loan Originator (what is their skill level, knowledge, experience, available programs, etc.)

Once a prequalification is complete, you or your Real Estate Agent can request a Prequalification Letter that may be used for presenting an offer on a home.   A preapproval letter is stronger, however, a prequal can help buy you some time until a true preapproval is possible.  

When a buyer is prequalifed, this should mean at the very least, the LO has obtained their income, assets (down payment and additional savings) and credit information.   This can just be verbal—over the phone.   The information that you have provided is not necessarily verified (if you have not provided your W2s, paystubs, asset accounts to your LO, you’re definitely not preapproved).  If your information has not been ran through underwriting, you are not preapproved.  It’s possible that you have provided your supporting documentation and that the LO has submitted your information to underwriting and you may still not be preapproved, or you may be “preapproved with conditions”.

Sometimes home buyers need a little elbow grease or significant documents are still required and you don’t want to disclose it on a preapproval letter.   In this case, a prequal letter may better serve the client to buy them some time (if the listing agent will accept a prequal letter).

At the minimum, a prequal letter from a Loan Originator is simply confirming that an interview has taken place between a potential buyer and the LO.    When I write a prequal letter, it will state something along the lines of:

“Dear Agent, This letter is to certify that based upon preliminary information,   Ima Buyer has been prequalifed for conventional financing from Mortgage Master Service Corporation to purchase a home with a sales price of $375,000.   A full approval is expected after receipt of the Purchase and Sale Agreement and other documentation.  

This prequalification is based upon final verification of information supplied by borrower.  A satisfactory property appraisal & clear title must also be furnished to the lender prior to closing this loan.

Confessions of a Zero-Down Lender

This is a two part (well so far I’m planning a second post…their could be more) series of a couple of clients (names changed to protect identities, of course!) who have purchased homes utilizing 100% financing.   Both parties utilized similar programs but they wound up in entirely different situations.  

Mr. and Mrs. Spender eagerly wanted to purchase a home.  They were tired of renting and had two kids with one on the way.   They didn’t have a lot of money in savings and their credit had a troubled past (some of it was medical and some was plain irresponsible).    They live paycheck to paycheck but they are anticipating receiving raises and bonuses from their employer.   Their credit report shows that they rely on their credit cards and you can see on their bank statements that they dine out a lot and spend their money on frivolous extras.  

Based on their credit scores, I was able to provide them with an 80/20 from a sub-prime lender who does not verify where their funds are coming from for closing and would allow for the seller to pay up to 6% of the closing costs.   I structured their preapproval with the seller paying all the closing costs.  In fact, at funding Mr. and Mrs. Spender receive a check back for a majority of their earnest money.

Not long after closing, the Spenders discover that the gas heater in their home was defective (apparently this was missed on the home inspection?).   It just so happened that the repair company they called to repair it had previously serviced it and informed the previous owners that it needed to be replaced.  Mr. and Mrs. Spender decided to take their Seller to Small Claims Court and their Agent attended with them.  I had asked them what the results were, here is their edited response:

“Yes we took them to court and even though we had all the documents showing that the (sellers) knew the furnace needed to be replaced and needed to be fixed the judge did not find that we had proved our case… so we got nothing.. (the Real Estate Agent) came with us and she was just as shocked…  She too was amazed that all the paperwork we sign to protect us from buying a home with flaws, the (Sellers) even stated and had to initial that there was no problems with the heating system and even though we had documentation to show that they knew there were problems and didn’t disclose it… we got screwed to be honest…. They knew.. They didn’t care… and the judge just wanted to get out of there… It was a joke…

Agent FIRED! – Lender Fraud

[photopress:fired.jpg,full,alignright]Has Lender Fraud become the standard?

Very sad, but very true story. I received an email from a Rain City Guide reader yesterday. The reader happens to be a local agent who was fired, because of her efforts to both accommodate her Buyer Client, without committing Lender Fraud.

The buyer fired her for not wholeheartedly complying with their WANTS, and for even considering for a moment, the Lender fraud implications of their WANTS.


Suffice it to say, what they WANTED was cash back at closing under the table.

Apparently this has become so commonplace, that it is now the standard to which she was held. Money “off the sheet”. I can name more examples of commonplace Lender Fraud…but that is not the question here.

Sadly many told her she was being “a goody two shoes” about it. Very sad indeed.

Beginning the Home Buying Process – Part 1

[photopress:matt.jpg,thumb,alignright]My friend “Matt” is a first time buyer beginning his home search/buying process. That is not his picture, or his real name, of course. By giving him anonimity, I can take him through the steps here on RCG, so that others can follow along with us. Think of it like a board game. The “Matt” game. This will be a series that will run up until “Matt” closes escrow, and possibly beyond into his first month or two as a homeowner, and the surprises that may come up after he moves in.

Given a “blog” is a web log, it seems appropriate for a real estate blog to offer a log of real people in the home buying process. So lets log and blog the adventures of “Matt” and his home buying process. I’d love for someone to turn it into a board game at the same time. We can give it to potential homebuyers. Maybe Galen or Robbie. It could be like the game of “Life” and people who are thinking about buying a home, can buy the game and “play” before stepping out into unknown territory.

START: “I’m thinking to buy a home this fall. Likely an (x area) townhome just outside the (x) growth zone. Any advice on what I should be reading/doing to get up to speed for home-hunting?”

Now I am going to make this as transparent as I possibly can, without giving away the identity of “Matt” or the location of the home search, for obvious reasons.

STEP 1: The first step is the most extensive one, as it combines many factors. Home Price, which is determined by monthly payment affordability, cash needed to close, and commission to be paid to the Buyer’s Agent. This is all one big first step, as the Commission Negotiation affects the “cash to close” issue. So let’s do that first.

The target purchase price, as already pre-conceived by the word “townhome”, and specified area in the email, is $295,000 to $495,000. For the purpose of this Step, let’s assume that “Matt” has in mind to purchase something for around $375,000, that he is thinking his monthly payment is going to be about $2,200 and that he has saved $20,000 toward the home purchase. This may or may not be the case, but let’s start with that assumption for now.

The ball is in my court. Since I know that “Matt” works in the Technology Industry, and I believe he is a first time buyer, I have already picked up the phone and called Jennifer Chi at First Tech Credit Union. The number one issue is, do they still have that fabulous first time buyer program that I have not used for awhile, and if so, what is the current interest rate, downpayment requirement, and cost for that program. I am waiting for a call back. Left a message. My expectation is that they require little or no money down, have total lender costs of about $600, and the rate is about 5.75 %. Let’s see how close I am, if in fact that program is even still available.

Some people think the first step is for the buyer to go to “the lender”, without consulting the agent. Not so. As the agent I first want to determine who might be the “best” lender for this particular client, as I have already done. Of course the client can do whatever they want over there on the side, and check out all kinds of lenders and loan programs. But that does not relieve me of the responsibility to seek out the best and special programs, especially when I am already aware of their existince, and the likelihood that he probably qualifies for it.

Next on my “To Do” list is to Negotiate the Commission. Since I already know “Matt”, I don’t have to stick him in my car and interview him to determine the fee. Based on a sale price of $375,000, I would not normally negotiate the fee up front, as in that price range, I need to reserve monies for repairs and other issues. But since we will likely be looking at newer townhomes and he gets that “special friend” treatment, let’s establish a flat fee of $6,000, which should give him an extra $5,250.00 to spend, and still leave me enough to fix a few things and get him a nice housewarming gift 🙂

This is an important first step because if any sellers are offering less than 3%, it becomes “Matt’s problem” and not mine. Everyone makes such a huge big deal about Negotiating Buyer Agent Fees. Look. It is that simple. Matt didn’t even have to put in his $.02. LOL. Of course Matt has other options, but that is my offer and he can take it or leave it or negotiate it back at me. We’ll see what he does.

That’s all we can do until we get that call back from First Tech Credit Union, as we cannot determine the price of property to look for, until we know the monthly payment he can afford, which we cannot know until we know the interest rate and cash requirements for that particular loan, which is the best, if they have it and he can qualify for it. More to come…

No Credits "For Repairs" Allowed

This excerpt from a recent comment to an old article of mine, deserves more than “comment back” attention.

“we said we would take $5,000 for…repairs…The addendum was signed by both seller and buyer….Our lender wanted us to take the word repairs out of the contact, but we wouldn’t do it, so our loan fell through…’

Lenders do not want to lend out money for future repairs to a home, nor do they want to finance properties that need repairs. Let’s say a house needs a new roof and the cost of that roof is $7,500. Agents cannot write a contract with an addendum that says “Seller to credit Buyer $7,500 for a new roof” and expect the sale to close. Nor can the lender simply say “remove that addendum”, as if the buyer is supposed to pay the same price without a new roof or the money to buy a new roof.

Clearly this situation has come up several times in my career. Most recently, the roof was OK, but was two layers of composite over a wood shake roof, meaning at time of replacement all three layers would have to come off. Also, since wood shake roofs do not have sheathing, the new roof would have to include all new components and not just new shingles. The owner agreed to “pay” for most of the new roof and the buyer “agreed to pay” for a portion of the new roof. The new roof was installed by the seller prior to closing, and the sale price was increased to include the buyer’s share of the roof cost. Excellent resolution as the lender financed a house with a brand new roof. Everyone is happy.

Another good and often used solution, if the buyer wants to take a credit and pick and install their own roof, is for the buyer to take a credit “toward closing costs”, They simply use the money they were going to use to pay closing costs, to put on a new roof. It’s just a replacement of these monies for those monies. It satisfies the lender, as they will usually allow a credit toward closing costs, but not for repairs. As long as the appraiser doesn’t “call” the roof and require it to be done before closing, the buyer can get the monies this way.

So is Denise “bad” to refuse to take the word “repairs” out of the addendum? Or are the agents (if there were in fact agents involved) “bad” for writing and accepting an addendum in the first place, that they should have known would cause the loan to fail?

It is no surprise to me that a lender would not fund a loan that included a $5,000 credit “for repairs”. It is worth noting here, so that others do not write or accept addendums that offer credits for repairs, that send up red flags to the lender that the house is not in good condition. Perhaps it was a For Sale By Owner that Denise purchased without the assistance of agents. So to For Sale by Owners and private individuals buying from For Sale by Owners. and attorneys who assist in transactions without agent involvement, please note that generally speaking, a lender will not fund a loan with a repair credit, especially if there is little or no downpayment.

How to Value a House

[photopress:bullseye.jpg,thumb,alignright]While “market value” and “appraised value” are not always one in the same, calculating a home’s value is both a science and an art, whether the value is being ascertained by an appraiser or a real estate professional.

The purpose of the valuation can actually have some bearing on the value itself. If you have a client who is purchasing a property to remodel and flip it, the value for that client has to take into consideration the cost of the improvements and the eventual resale value. Consequently, one has to be involved in both knowing, and making recommendations with regard to, which improvements will produce the greatest return, before the client makes an offer on the property.

Just as a lender has to take into consideration many factors when recommending various loan programs, a real estate professional has to take into account many factors before determining a home’s fair market value. When you are representing a seller, you have to lean towards the high end of the value range. An appraiser would call this “highest and best use”. A real estate agent would call that “if purchased by a person of the best buyer profile. For example, someone purchasing a property to live in it, will pay more for a property than a builder who is going to tear it down or an investor who is going to remodel and flip it.

When you represent the buyer, you have to consider the home’s resale value and any money left on the table by the seller. A seller leaves money on the table by various means that are generally not reflected in the asking price itself. I use this test when valuing a property for the buyer: If they called me in a very short period of time to sell it because they decided to move back from where they came from, could I get them out whole, meaning purchase price plus the costs of purchase and sale. By being a “listing agent” in your mind when representing a buyer, an agent will perform a better valuation than if they are just considering how much the buyer wants or likes the property. Of course, the buyer can always choose to pay more than that value and say “I don’t plan to sell it as I plan to live here for a very long time”, but they will at least know how much they are overpaying for the privelege of getting the home. Very important when the buyer is trying to determine the cap on their escalation clause.

Let’s go to the science part of the valuation. Some houses have what are called “true comps”. This would be most true in a very large community of newer homes. I am not going to spend a lot of time on valuing property with “true comps” because here in the Seattle Area, there are very, very few houses that can be valued by those normal methods. In fact the only ones I have been able to value by normal methods have been newer townhomes. Proximity to the subject property is not always relevant, especially in Seattle vs. Eastside. The comps have to be ones built in the same “finish period” and have the same “buyer profile”. For instance, a property built in 1991 may have white cabinets, gray countertops, white appliances and 4″ white tile in the baths. Using that as a comp to a property built in 1995 with granite tile countertops vs. gray laminate and maple cabinets vs. white cabinets, will not produce a reliable end result. Nor would using a comp with granite slab counters, stainless appliances and hardwood floors.

For the most part, we are lucky to find one recent sale that is quite similar to the property we are valuing. I call that the home’s “significant other”. An appraiser will still use three solds, whether similar or not, to ascertain value. A real estate agent will pull the significant other from the solds and move to properties that are pending and STI and ACTIVE in determining what a buyer will pay or should pay or what a seller should set as an asking price.

A few recent examples. When I valued a property for a seller back in May, I had comps of $325,000, $327,000 and $337,000. I priced the townhome at $350,000 and it sold for $350,000. The upward momentum of the marketplace from May was a significant factor. For this particular townhome, best buyer profile was someone who was relocating to the area and the buyer was in fact relocated here for her new job.

When I recently valued a newer townhome at this time of year, I needed to be more “right on target” as we are in a sluggish month of August aka “agents take vacation time month” and running into September which generally has two weeks out of four that are hot. The buyer profile of this particular townhome was a single person who would take in roommates. It did sell quickly and at full price to a student taking in two roommates. The danger on this one was pricing against new construction. You have to be as high as you can without encroaching on the price at which a buyer can get a brand new townhome nearby. I could not use the comps at all when valuing that property, because the subject property was built in 2001 and the comps were 2003 and new. The interior finishes were not comparable and could not compete, so to get a fast full price was their best chance of not having to bargain down to a level below the highest achievable price.

Let’s flip to buyers and how I value a property for a buyer vs. a seller. I’ll have to make this another article as the Vicodin for the root canal is kicking in and I’m going to barf.