Pay Extra Attention To Mortgage Financing Contingency Clauses During Today’s Credit Crunch

by Rich Vetstein on September 6, 2010

in Massachusetts Real Estate Law, Mortgages, Purchase and Sale Agreements, Title Defects

iStock_000005550102XSmall.jpgToday’s strict lending and underwriting environment has resulted in quite a few delays and even losses of buyers’ financing for home purchases. Loan commitment deadlines are being pushed back due to underwriting delays, regulatory compliance and appraisal issues, among other delays. The worst case scenario for any borrower is the wholesale rejection of financing in the middle of a transaction.

What Is The Typical Mortgage Contingency Clause?

The Massachusetts “standard” form purchase and sale agreement contains a mortgage contingency clause which protects the buyer (and his deposit) for the period of time until he can obtain a firm loan commitment. The date is negotiated by the buyer and seller, and is usually around 30 days from the execution of the purchase and sale agreement, depending on the closing date. If the buyer cannot get a firm loan commitment by the deadline, he can opt out of agreement with a full refund of his deposit. Here is how a typical Massachusetts mortgage financing contingency clause operates:

In order to help finance the acquisition of said premises, the BUYER shall apply for a conven­tional bank or other institutional mortgage loan of $300,500.00 at prevailing rates, terms and conditions. If despite the BUYER’S diligent efforts, a commitment for such a loan cannot be obtained on or before October 15, 2010, the BUYER may terminate this agreement by written notice to the SELLER in accordance with the term of the rider, prior to the expiration of such time, whereupon any payments made under this agreement shall be forthwith refunded and all other obligations of the parties hereto shall cease and this agreements shall be void without recourse to the parties hereto. In no event will the BUYER be deemed to have used diligent efforts to obtain such commitment unless the BUYER submits a complete mortgage loan application conforming to the foregoing provisions on or before 3 days from the execution of this Agreement.

What If There Are Delays In Obtaining My Loan Commitment?

The buyer really has only two choices if the lender cannot deliver a firm loan commitment by the mortgage contingency deadline: (1) ask the seller for an extension of the loan commitment deadline, or (b) terminate the transaction. There is, however, a smart way to handle this situation.

I always couple a request for a loan commitment extension with notice that if the seller does not agree, then the buyer will exercise his right to terminate the agreement. That way, the seller has to make a tough choice: grant an extension or lose the deal. If the seller does not want to grant an extension, the buyer really has no other choice but to move on to the next home for sale.

Parties need to make mortgage contingency deadlines workable and don’t wait until the last minute to ask for extensions. See this post about a recent case for what happens when you don’t do this.

What If There Are Conditions In My Loan Commitment That I Cannot Control or Meet?

Loan commitments are often riddled with conditions which must be reviewed carefully with counsel. Sometimes, there are conditions that a buyer simply cannot meet or control. To account for this I always insert this clause in my Massachusetts purchase and sale agreement rider:

Application to one such bank or mortgage lender by such date shall constitute “diligent efforts.”  If the written loan commitment contains terms and conditions that are beyond BUYER’S reasonable ability to control or achieve, or if the commitment requires BUYER to encumber property other than the subject property, BUYER may terminate this agreement, whereupon any payments made under this agreement shall be forthwith refunded and all other obligations of the parties hereto shall cease and this agreement shall be void without recourse to the parties hereto.

This protects the buyer in case there are those uncontrollable conditions, and also limits the buyer’s efforts in applying for a mortgage to 1 application.

What If There Are Title Defects Which Delay The Transaction And My Rate Lock Expires?

Under paragraph 10 of the Massachusetts standard form purchase and sale agreement, the seller has the option (or the requirement, depending on the negotiation of the agreement) to cure any title defects, and has up to 30 days to do so. Sometimes, during this 30 day cure period, the buyer’s rate lock will expire. In this situation, I insert the following clause into the purchase and sale agreement:

MODIFICATION TO PARAGRAPH 10: Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Agreement, if SELLER extends this Agreement to perfect title or make the Premises conform as provided in Paragraph 10, and if BUYER’S mortgage commitment or rate lock would expire prior to the expiration of said extension, then such extension shall continue, at BUYER’S option, only until the date of expiration of BUYER’S mortgage commitment or rate lock.  BUYER may elect, at its sole option, to obtain an extension of its mortgage commitment or rate lock.

This gives the buyer an “out” of the transaction if his rate lock expires.

As always, feel free to contact me, Richard Vetstein, for any questions about the Massachusetts purchase and sale agreement process.

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