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 be 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.