The Fed’s new GFE Helping to Insure Consumers Get ‘It’?

[Editor’s Note: I’m excited to publish this guest post from Adam Stein on changing role of good faith estimates. He’s a long-time local mortgage professional with Cascade Pacific Mortgage. ]

ftc screengrabThe FTC study reported on the proposed new Good Faith Estimates early on in 2005. Armed with a very thorough and unbiased study the FTC went on record, early and often, and clearly stated the FTC’s position on (then) HUD’s proposed revised Good Faith Estimate:’ DON’T DO IT!’ It seems the FTC’s findings clearly showed that consumers failed to be able to choose what loan was in their best interest when comparing rates and fees. [here’s the FTC’s Facts for Consumers: Looking for the Best Mortgage: Shop, Compare, Negotiate] So much was the confusion caused by the new Good Faith Estimate that over sixty percent of the consumers could not identify the best loan for them when comparing Good Faith Estimates generated by mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers. HUD, not to be outdone, quickly came to their own rescue with their own ‘not-so-unbiased’ study. HUD, supporting their own, quickly produced a study stating that the consumer really does understand the new disclosure (Really?).

And so the battle over RESPA reform has been waged for the better part of the last ten years. At one point the Secretary of HUD attempted to ‘slip RESPA reform under the mat’ by submitting the proposed rule just hours before Congress went on recess. Those who would have been impacted by the rule change clearly and accurately viewed this effort as ‘under handed’ as much of the required ‘commentary period’ passed by without any representative government in session to discuss the proposed RESPA reform. That effort failed in the end. The banking special interests, however, have finally figured out how to get a Good Faith Estimate through the rule making process under the guise of ‘what you can’t buy in an administration you’ll just have to do yourself’. Enter the Federal Reserve Board.

While the FRB sounds like a branch of the Federal Government it really isn’t. The Federal Reserve is a codified, private sector, coalition of the nation’s largest banks and finance companies who collaborate and advise government on key financial issues. The Federal Reserve Board also is empowered to regulate the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA) and promulgate rules as required. Is it any wonder that the new Good Faith Estimate, vilified by the FTC for creating consumer confusion, creates a bias towards Good Faith Estimates that are generated by banks over those prepared by mortgage brokers?

My concerns are twofold: if the consumer can’t properly identify the best loan they will pay more; if mortgage brokers appear less competitive due to the disclosure of indirect compensation the mortgage broker channel will be reduced if not eliminated.

Mortgage brokers were initially the scapegoats of the ‘mortgage meltdown’. More recently, however, the broader aspects of derivatives and the role played by Wall Street and the nation’s largest investment banks have come to light. I find it ironic that now, after the creators of toxic assets have been exposed, that the FRB will promulgate rules that make their disclosures deceivingly more appealing to consumers. In the end the rule will hasten the consolidation that is already occurring in this battered real estate economy. There will be fewer choices for the consumer to choose from, moreover; when the consumers do choose their mortgage over sixty percent will choose higher rates and fees thanks to the new disclosures. Way to go FRB – You have successfully reduced, if not eliminated, competition in the mortgage marketplace and virtually guaranteed the mortgage shopping consumer will get it ‘in the end’.

Calculating Income of Employed W2 Borrowers for Mortgage Qualifying

Jillayne wrote a post about the upcoming national licensing exam that mortgage originators will have to take and pass (unless they work for a depository institution) due to the SAFE Act.   She provided examples of questions that may be on the exam.  One of them is how to calculate income–which is receiving quite a few comments on her post.

If an applicant works 40 hours every week and is paid $13.52 per hour, what is the applicant’s
monthly income?
(A) $2,163.20
(B) $2,343.47
(C) $2,379.52
(D) $2,487.68

The correct way to calculate this is 13.52 x 40 hours x 52 weeks divided by 12 months = (B) $2,343.47.   The mortgage originator should also review the last two years W2’s to make sure the income is steady or increasing.   If it’s decreasing, this will need to be explained and the income may be averaged or a lower income may be used.   For example, if the borrower recently had their hours cut due to the economy, the new lower figure will most likely be used.   What’s most important is steady hours for the hourly employee…a recent jump in hours may not be considered either.

It’s important that the borrower has a minimum of a two year history in their line of work in order to be able to use the income (secondary education may be able to count towards the two year requirement).   If someone started a second job one year ago as a waitress for supplemental income, it might not meet the criteria to be factored towards income unless the borrower had a second job in the same industry over the past two years.

Overtime and bonus income needs to be received for the past two years to be factored for qualifying as well.   Again, this boils down to stability and trends with income are heavily considered.    

Commission incomes (W2) requires a two year history as well and the income is averaged.  If a borrower’s commission income is more than 25% of their annual income, they’re treated more like a self-employed borrower.  They’ll need to provide their last two years complete tax returns and non-reimbursed business expenses that are claimed on the tax return will be deducted from the gross income (they’re treated more like a self-employed borrower).  A situation that I’ve seen is where a borrower was paid a salary and then received a promotion where they had greater earning potential.   The employer reduced their base and added a commission structure.   Because the commission was a new feature to the income, only new lower base income was used for qualifying.

It all pretty much boils down to showing stability over the past 24 months and recent trends when calculating income.   Also be prepared to complete a Form 4506–even if you’re paid salary–as a measure to prevent fraud.   Lenders may also require a Verification of Employment with your employer to confirm the information provided regarding employment, income is accurate and that employment is likely to continue prior to funding your new mortgage.

There are many other types of income–for purposes of keeping this post short, sweet and simple, I’ve stuck to income that’s reported via a W2 and a “full doc” loan.  

Hopefully you’re working with a Mortgage Professional who reviews your income documentation upfront and calculates it correctly…and I hope you’re quickly providing the information that is being requested so that you’re properly qualified in the beginning of the process.   Nobody likes to get involved with a transaction to find out that the underwriter is not going to use the income that was used on the application because it was figured incorrectly.

Questions?  Ask!  🙂

When is Foreclosure Right for You? Part 2 of 2

This post is not legal advice. It is a general discussion of SOME of the relevant legal issues surrounding foreclosure. If you are considering or facing foreclosure, you need specific legal advice for your particular situation. Consult an attorney in your area.

In my last post, I discussed the difference between a judicial and a nonjudicial foreclosure, which is one of the two essential issues to understand when considering whether to allow your property to go into foreclosure. The other essential issue concerns the number of mortgages you have on the property.

For many reasons, people often took out a first and a second mortgage when they bought property. Others opened up a home equity line of credit which they then used to pay other bills. In either case, the owner has a first and a second mortgage on the property. Where there are two mortgages, foreclosure creates much greater risk.

First, some background: mortgages, like all other liens, are arranged by seniority. (A “lien” is a legal right to force the sale of particular property to repay a debt, whether on a mortgage, unpaid property taxes, an unpaid contractor’s bill, etc.) As a very general rule, seniority is determined by time; the older the lien (i.e. the longer ago it was created or placed on the property), the greater the seniority. The “first” mortgage (or any other lien) — known as “first position” — will be paid in full by the sale of the property before the second and all subsequent liens are paid. The second will be paid in full before the third and all subsequent liens are paid. The third will be paid in full before the fourth, and so on. So, in a market like this one, the only debtor who has any real chance of being repaid in full is the mortgage or other lien in first position.

Where an owner has two mortgages, one is senior to the other (usually in first and second position on the property). Typically, when an owner stops making payments on these mortgages, the first position mortgage will foreclose. By foreclosing, the first position mortgage (under authority created by the deed of trust) forces the sale of the property and the proceeds (after payment of costs) are used to satisfy the debt. If there are any remaining funds (very unlikely in today’s market), they are applied to the second position mortgage and then to the remaining liens in order of priority.

Now, here is the important part: foreclosure extinguishes the debt that is being foreclosed, but it does not extinguish the junior debts (such as a second mortgage). So, if the lender forecloses the first mortgage and the proceeds are insufficient to pay the total amount due, the balance is extinguished as a matter of law (with certain tax implications — perhaps the topic of a future post). In other words, even though the debt was not repaid in full, the debtor is off the hook and does not need to pay the difference on the first mortgage.

However, the debt of the second mortgage survives. Admittedly, the second lender can no longer foreclose on the property because the legal right to do is extinguished by the foreclosure of a senior debt. The problem for the owner, though, is that he still owes the money borrowed under the second mortgage. In WA, you have six years in which to sue for breach of contract. The owner/debtor’s failure to make payments on the second mortgage (per the terms of the promissory note) constitutes a breach of contract. So, after foreclosure of the first, the second lender will have six years in which to sue the debtor for the full amount of the debt. The debtor will probably lose that suit. At the end of that process, the lender will have a judgment against the debtor for the full amount of the balance due, plus interest and late fees, plus attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the suit. Judgments are bad (see Part 1).

So, if you’re thinking about foreclosure, you’re taking a very big risk if you have multiple mortgages. You could get a very, very unpleasant surprise five years later. At that point, bankruptcy may be the only viable option.

Twas the Night Before March 4: Mortgage Eve

Twas the night before

more information to follow

about the new refinances and cram downs

…almost too much  to swallow. 

Okay…I’ll stop with the rhyme simply because I can’t keep it going!   There are a lot of Mortgage Professionals and Homeowners waiting to hear if they will be helped tomorrow. 

According to the White House Blog, responsible upside down home owners with good credit may qualify to refinance with a loan to value up to 105% with a conventional 30 or 15 year amortized mortgage.  (I’m guessing most would and should opt for a 30 year amortized mortgage)…tomorrow:

  • When can I apply?

Mortgage lenders will begin accepting applications after the details of the program are announced on March 4, 2009. 

I’ve heard nothing as of yet…    I have a lot of questions that I hope will be answered soon.

This from Kenneth Harney’s article on Sunday:

In a letter to private mortgage insurers Feb. 20, Fannie and Freddie’s top regulator confirmed that there would be no requirement for refinancers to buy new mortgage insurance, despite exceeding the 80 percent LTV threshold.

James B. Lockhart III, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, described the new refinancing opportunity as “akin to a loan modification” that creates “an avenue for the borrower to reap the benefit of lower mortgage rates in the market.” Lockhart spelled out several key restrictions on those refinancings:

• No “cash outs” will be permitted. This means the new loan balance can only total the previous balance, plus settlement costs, insurance, property taxes and association fees.

• Loans that already had mortgage insurance will likely continue to have coverage under the existing amounts and terms, thereby limiting Fannie and Freddie’s exposure to loss. But loans where borrowers originally made down payments of 20 percent or higher will not require new insurance for the refi, despite current LTVs over the 80 percent limit.

• The cutoff date for the entire program is June 10, 2010.

The “no cash out” factor is concerning.  Refinances where a second mortgage and/or HELOC is included (being paid off) that was not obtained when the home was purchased, is classified as “cash out”.  Even if the second mortgage was refinanced as a rate-term (only to reduce or fix the rate–the home owner never saw a dime of equity from their home in the form of cash).    It appears as those home owners with second mortgages will only be able to subordinate the second mortgage…and good luck with that!  

Banks have yet to adapt the higher conforming loan limitseven though it’s been announced by HUD and FHFA…I’m hoping we’ll see this tomorrow as well “in concert” with the unveiling of Obama’s mortgage plan.

Obama’s plan promises lower mortgage rates…butthese rates are fighting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s LLPAs (huge price hits, such as the 0.75% hit to fee with condos over 75% loan to value).   Why not just get rid of some of these adds that are making rates unactracting…or atleast consolidate some of the brackets.  Is there really a difference between a home owner with a 739 and 740 middle credit score?

We’ll know tomorrow if there is a Mortgage Santa Claus and if he left any goodies under the tree.

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.

Mortgage Interest is paid “in arrears”

For Home Buyers: This means the first payment is usually a month later than you expect it to be.

For Home Sellers: This means your mortgage “payoff” is going to be higher than you expect it to be.

This is one of the small issues that often surprises people when they are buyng and selling homes.  Often sellers will think the payoff is wrong, because it is higher than the principal balance on their most recent mortgage payment statement.  Often buyers will be worried about paying rent and a mortgage payment for the month after their close date, and are surprised that the first mortgage payment is a month later.

Basically all “mortgage interest is paid in arrears” means is that your March 1 payment, pays February’s interest on your loan.  Your April 1 payment pays your March interest.

For a buyer, if your closing is February 26th, your first mortgage payment is due on April 1st, and that will include all of the interest for the month of March. (February’s interest per day from closing to month end is paid AT closing)

For a seller, if your closing is Feburary 26th and your principal balance is $362,000 and your monthly payment is $2,800 including taxes and insurance, your payoff may be more like $363,500.

I was preparing some numbers for a client with a March close, and decided to post this for anyone having similar questions.

President Obama’s Foreclosure Rescue Plan: Loan Modification Analysis

Underwater homeowners looking for a bailout from President Obama’s Foreclosure Rescue speech might be wise to think very carefully about all the possible consequences of grabbing the new loan modification offer. The White House press release on the full plan is located here. President Obama’s plan offers homeowners in trouble a helping hand, at the expense of all the other taxpayers who didn’t speculate, but let’s put aside our outrage for now. Instead, let’s look at whether or not the loan modification program is a good decision.

Clearly everyone is in a unique situation but there are some commonalities within the group we’ll call People Seeking Loan Modifications. I am openly stereotyping for the purpose of making this blog article general instead of case study specific. People Seeking Loan Modifications (PSLM) are typically folks who had a certain level of income when they purchased the home, and today that income has been dramatically reduced. Some may be facing a rate increase or a payment recast if negative amortization has pushed the principal balance to, say 115% or 125% LTV. Most purchased at 100% LTV, some decided on interest only loans, or interest only for a set period of time, in order to achieve a lower payment, speculating that future appreciation would bail them out at the next refi. They have two big problems: Negative equity AND an unaffordable payment.  PSLM typically have other consumer debt as well as mortgage debt. When income drops off a cliff, PSLM use credit cards to pay for routine expenses. By only offering a modest rate reduction, I predict that the re-default rate on these new loan modifications will be easily over 50% and I’m being optimistic. A rate reduction only solves half the problem. Their monthly housing expense has been reduced but their other expenses have not gone away. (If When the banks are nationalized it will be a lot easier to offer rate reductions on credit cards and perhaps that will be in the next bailout proposal.) There IS a solution for the typical loan mod seeking homeowner; President Obama wants principal balance cram downs in bankruptcy. Now the homeowner has to make a sacrifice: Trash my credit record for 10 years with a BK in exchange for getting a financial matrix reboot.

The key to whether or not a loan modification under the new program will work rests with the homeowner: What is the homeowner’s income today v. when he/she obtained the mortgage loan? Many of these folks have been laid off, some were living on extended overtime as a regular part of their monthly income, others were commissioned salesmen with flatline commissions during 2008, some had to take mandatory salary reductions, and still others have had NO disruptions in income but were qualified at the teaser rate of an Option ARM. What if the homeowner has no job at all? Does the homeowner get a zero percent interest rate loan? I’m thinking no, so how do we underwrite this loan and make a determination if this loan mod will fail? PSLM are high risk borrowers and re-defaults will likely occur. But the theory goes that if we can slow the foreclosures to the pace of a river instead of a flood, then doing so *might* help stabilize neighborhood home values and prevent even more foreclosures.

The Tim at SB reminds us to consider that when speculation occurs, foreclosures are a natural part of the solution and may not always be a negative, especially when a homeowner is far better off renting a similar home for far less than the (even modified!) mortgage payment. Home values fall and people who can afford to purchase do so. This begs the question: Do modified mortgage payments really help homeowners? The answer is, it depends on the homeowner.

In order to project future performance, it is important to visit past efforts in helping homeowners face foreclosure.  Past performance: FHA Secure: Projected to help 80,000 Actually helped 266. Hope for Homeowners: Projected to help 400,000 actually helped 312. Projections for President Obama’s loan modification program are that it may help 3 to 4 million homeowners. I project it will help far less. Perhaps we’ll break a thousand this time. This new plan appears to be a bailout for the banks, disguised as a bailout for homeowners. Same siren as FHA secure and H4H, she’s just wearing a different dress.

Will this piece of the Foreclosure Rescue package from the President help stabilize falling values? No. Instead, it will just flatten out the cliff diving and extend the pain that much longer.  From CR:

“For homeowners there are two key paragraphs: first the lender is responsible for bringing the mortgage payment (sounds like P&I) down to 38% of the borrowers monthly gross income. Then the lender and the government will share the burden of bringing the payment down to 31% of the monthly income. Also the homeowner will receive a $1,000 principal reduction each year for five years if they make their payments on time. This is not so good. The Obama administration doesn’t understand that there were two types of speculators during the housing bubble: flippers (they are excluded), and buyers who used excessive leverage hoping for further price appreciation. Back in April 2005 I wrote: “Housing: Speculation is the Key [S]omething akin to speculation is more widespread – homeowners using substantial leverage with escalating financing such as ARMs or interest only loans.” This plan rewards those homebuyers who speculated with excessive leverage. I think this is a mistake.

Another problem with Part 2 is that this lowers the interest rate for borrowers far underwater, but other than the $1,000 per year principal reduction and normal amortization, there is no reduction in the principal. This probably leaves the homeowner far underwater (owing more than their home is worth). When these homeowners eventually try to sell, they will probably still face foreclosure – prolonging the housing slump. These are really not homeowners, they are debtowners / renters.

Is it possible we are at the bottom?

***Updated/Revised 4:30pm 02/08/2009 PST:  Here is the link to the “Memorandum” (.pdf document) showing how this mortgage broker, in his own words, fraudulently originated millions in loans and how the fallout will plague our economy.  Big thanks goes to blogger “Scotsman” for the getting the document to me.


This is how is it possible………..we may not be at the bottom.

Ardell, I share your hope.   My hope for change is that real estate and lending industry comes to grips with how out of control the core players were that led us to the crisis we are in.   If we all point incriminating fingers to other people in our industry from escrow people to mortgage brokers to agents to Wall Street, pretty soon there’s nobody else to point to.  It circles back to all the players who participated.  Too simple of an explanation of a complex problem?  Maybe.  But, it’s fix has got to start with people in the trenches who are transacting the sales and arranging the financing.

But my hope and Country fight an uphill battle because of people such as Christopher Warren, the mortgage fraudster who wrote the above missive, “how is it possible”. Christopher Warren skipped out of the country on a private plane this past Monday.

See his incredibly clear picture of what is facing our markets by his “memorandum.” (.pdf document).

If one man’s expose of what went on in lending by one person does not make you pale, then I don’t know what will.

An excerpt from Christopher Warren’s  “how it is possible:”

  • That CITI Mortgage didn’t catch correspondents Mortgage Bank of California and Bondcorp Realty Services over-financing over $30,000,000 in bad mortgages with cash-back purchases for straw buyer groups?   How many of these loans are already now owned by our government, tax-payer subsidized, FNMA and Freddie Mac?
  • That GMAC Mortgage LLC., bought over $3,000,000 in mortgages secured in the Orlando Academy Cay Club aka “The Greens

Obama plans on tighter regulations for mortgage brokers

From the New York Times

The Obama administration plans to move quickly to tighten the nation’s financial regulatory system. Officials say they will make wide-ranging changes, including stricter federal rules for hedge funds, credit rating agencies and mortgage brokers, and greater oversight of the complex financial instruments that contributed to the economic crisis.

Aides said they would propose new federal standards for mortgage brokers who issued many unsuitable loans and are largely regulated by state officials. They are considering proposals to have the S.E.C. become more involved in supervising the underwriting standards of securities that are backed by mortgages.

None of this should be a surprise for regular readers of Raincityguide.  I’ve been talking about tighter rules for mortgage brokers since 2001 and here on RCG for two years.   Mortgage brokers will always argue that they are already tightly regulated. In some states, brokers have tougher regulations than consumer loan companies.  Hey, wait a minute.  Is President Obama going to let the consumer loan companies slide by without proposing tougher regulations for them as well?  The top two largest predatory lending lawsuits were against consumer loan lenders Household Finance and Ameriquest. Both companies settled out of court and “admitted no wrongdoing” even though there was lots of evidence that their sales people were meticulously trained by management on how to do wrong. 

Maybe tougher minimum sanctions and penalties are in order as well.  We must also realize that these new regulations mean nothing without enforcement.  I would rather see the states be in charge of enforcement than the federal government (well, with the exception of Florida where they have proven their supreme incompetence.) We need only to look at RESPA and the miserable job HUD has done trying to enforce this massive piece of regulation since 1975.  So if it’s going to be up to the states, then the industry should prepare for a higher cost of doing business as a mortgage broker or consumer loan lender.  This will be passed on to the consumer in the way of higher fees, rates, or both.

Thanks for the great time, Zillow!

As one of the presenters put it, last night Zillow took a page from real estate agent’s marketing tools and conducted an “open house.”  A certain number of agents were invited to attend, some mortgage professionals, and there were even invites out to buyers and sellers that frequently are on the site. Part of the open house involved sessions where the attendees could learn more about how Zillow functions – one session for marketing and another for the more technical side of the site.  So, my business partner and I split up to cover as much ground as possible.

For me, the marketing session didn’t produce anything new.  But, I guess I hadn’t realized until being there what a “power user” me and my team are with their site. Somehow I thought that the invites had said that they would be introducing new features, but as far as I could tell it’s stuff that we have found and started using as each new feature was introduced.  Plus, we also had already figured out that syndication sites (like Point2, vFlyer) weren’t the best way to get an individual agent’s info maximized for SEO. Although we do still use syndication sites because the go out to a lot of other sites that we just don’t want to spend the cycles having to re-enter each listing over and over and over.  It is very time consuming.  Gotta love widgets, that’s for sure!

Speaking of technical stuff… I was interested to see the data that they gave about the various sites and the stats for user activity.  Part of what was shown here also filtered over into the conversation at the after-function with regard to Zindexes ( and how that is measured and it’s rate of accuracy.

Afterward there was a soiree down at the Waterfront Grill in their private function locale in the former Rippa’s space.  (I’m curious to know where those photos they had taken will end up…. no, nothing tawdry, just lots of PR stuff) Good times had by all and some great debate between agents and Zillow employees alike.  Thanks to David Gibbons, Drew, Mike, and Scott Huber for all of your discussions with us and for being wonderful hosts along with your other employees.  It was really great to meet all of you and we look forward to seeing what else is “up your sleeve.”