FHA

TRID-1

Major Change To Current Practices | Expect Delays and Bumpy Road Starting Oct. 3

I just finished yet another closing where a national lender issued the closing documents the morning of the closing, and worse, issued a revised TIL (Truth in Lending) disclosure during the middle of the closing! Under the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rules (TRID) set to start on October 3, this too-common practice would have resulted in a closing delay of up to 7 days, to the dismay of everyone in the transaction.

The new TRID rules are game-changing regulations which threaten to disrupt and delay closings across the country. The new rules, already pushed back once due to industry outcry, go into effect in about 60 days on Oct. 3. I am very worried that lenders, Realtors and closing attorneys are not at all prepared for one of the most significant changes in how we do business. Experts are predicting that closings will be delayed, 60 day loan approvals will be the new normal, and new forms will bewilder buyers. “Expect a one- to two-week delay in closings,” said Ken Trepeta, director of real estate services of the government affairs branch for the National Association of Realtors, when describing the impact of TRID.

Check out my latest article: Best Practices In A New TRID World

Currently, we are finishing one of the strongest spring markets in a decade, but I’m quite concerned that come Fall, the new TRID rules will put the fall market into an ice bath. The best thing that every real estate professional can do is get educated and get prepared now for these changes. August is typically a slow month, so use it to get ready. My team will be doing a roadshow Powerpoint seminar to any local real estate office to explain the new changes. Contact me at rvetstein@vetsteinlawgroup.com for more info.

New Closing Disclosure Replacing the HUD-1 Settlement Statement: 3 Day Rule

Under TRID, there will be a new settlement statement called a Closing Disclosure, which must be issued to the borrower at least 3 days prior to closing. If that does not occur, the closing will be delayed for up to 7 days. We are hearing that lenders will require that the information contained in the Closing Disclosure (all fees, closing costs, taxes, insurance, escrows, credits, etc.) be finalized as early as 20 days prior to closing, to give them enough time to generate the new Closing Disclosure in a timely fashion and to account for delays.

What does that mean for us professionals? It means that everything will need to be pushed up and done faster than before. That goes for titles, CPL’s, broker commission statements, invoices for repairs, insurance binders, condo fees, recording fees, title insurance, everything. And it means we can all expect delays as everyone adjusts to the new timetables and rules.

Practice Pointer: Click here to get my new TRID addendum/rider. 

What Forms Will Be Signed At Closing?

Lenders will require the new Closing Disclosure (embedded below) be signed by the borrower at closing. However, although the Closing Disclosure was intended to replace the current HUD-1 Settlement Statement, the geniuses at CPFB neglected to put a signature line for the sellers on the new Closing Disclosure. I’m not making this up. And we are no longer supposed to use the “old” HUD-1 Settlement Statement. Thus, our title insurance companies are telling us that there may be three settlement statements signed at closing: a Closing Disclosure for the buyer, a Closing Disclosure for the seller, and a combined Closing Disclosure. ALTA has created a new Combined Settlement Statement which can be found here.

Bank of America was asked whether it would require the use of the ALTA model forms, and it stated in a June 9 memo that it prefers the ALTA model if a closing attorney chooses to use a settlement statement to supplement the Closing Disclosure (CD), but specified that the settlement statement figures must reconcile to the CD and a copy of the settlement statement must be provided to the bank. The bank also stated that all revisions to fees and costs will require bank approval and an amended CD. In other words, closing attorneys will not be allowed to revise fees and costs by simply supplementing the CD with a settlement statement.

60 Day Approvals/Closings The New Normal?

With any historic change to how lenders disclose fees and approve loans, there’s going to be a steep learning curve — and delays. You can count on that. Industry insiders say the days of 30 and even 45 day loan approvals may be over, at least temporarily. Sixty (60) day approvals may be the new normal, and agents should build the longer timeframe into their offers and purchase and sale agreements and educate their buyers and sellers accordingly.

Repairs and Walk-Throughs

Since lenders will require all fees and credits finalized 7-10 days prior to closing, this will significantly impact how we handle repairs and credits. Agreed upon repairs also affect how the appraisal is conducted which will further impact the timelines. Experts are suggesting that Realtors consider doing walk-throughs at least 14-21 days prior to closing instead of the typical day before or day of walkthrough, because all repair issues and credits should be set in stone at least 7-10 days prior to closing and changes in fees and credits on the day of closing will not be permitted by the lender. Some experts are even saying that agents should do two walkthroughs, one within the TRID timelines and one immediately prior to closing. Also, under TRID paid outside closing (POC) items will be discouraged by lenders.

Take-away:  Realtors should be warned that repairs contained in the purchase and sale agreement will have the potential to delay closings under the TRID rules. Ensure that any repairs are completed 14-21 days prior to closing. Better yet, don’t have the seller make repairs at all; use closing cost credits instead. 

No More Back to Back Closings?

Due to the high potential for delays caused by TRID, back-to-back or piggyback closings may be a thing of the past, at least for now. A delay with a closing obviously has a domino effect on a back to back closing. The best practice, at least for the first few months of the new TRID era, is to schedule closings at least 3 days apart. Seller/buyers will have to prepare for this reality with bridge loans, use and occupancy agreements, or temporarily staying with your nearest relatives.

1416821334979Partner with Trusted and Verified Providers

Now more than ever, Realtors are going to want to partner with lenders and closing attorneys who have been vetted and verified as fully compliant with the TRID rules, so there will be minimal disruption and delay on their transactions. Realtors and loan officers should ask their closing attorneys whether they are compliant with the ALTA (American Land Title Association) Best Practices, which is quickly becoming the standard for TRID compliance. Under the ALTA Best Practices, the attorney will have passed an intensive initial due-diligence screening, a third-party internal audit, background and credit check, extensive review of applicant’s experience, business model and policy loss history, and licensing verification. The closing attorney should also have secure document encryption capabilities and privacy/technology policies in place. My office has been vetted and verified by Stewart Title which has a comprehensive website on the TRID rules. If your buyer wants to use his personal attorney who does not specialize in real estate, explain to him or her why that is a mistake which could ultimately delay the closing. 

Bumpy Road Ahead?

In my opinion, the TRID rules are the biggest change to the industry in 20 years, and will be much more difficult to implement than the new GFE and 3 page HUD of several years ago. As discussed above, my team will be doing a roadshow Powerpoint seminar to any local real estate office to explain the new changes. Contact me at rvetstein@vetsteinlawgroup.com to schedule your complementary seminar.

More information:

Mass. Ass’n of Realtors Webinar on TRID with Ruth Dilingham, Special Counsel
National Ass’n of Realtors Webinar with Phil Schulman
Old Republic Title FAQ on TRID
CFPB Monitor TRID FAQ
CFPB Webinar Rebroadcast May 2015

CFPB Closing Disclosure by Richard Vetstein

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gill08900Court Halts Eviction For Distressed Homeowner, Validity of Foreclosure In Question (Wells Fargo v. Cook, Mass. Appeals Court May 19, 2015)

In response to the foreclosure crisis, HUD enacted regulations requiring lenders to provide distressed borrowers with a meaningful opportunity to settle their FHA-insured mortgages and obtain a loan modification during a face-to-face interview. In an effort to accommodate the hundreds of Wells Fargo clients facing foreclosure in Massachusetts, the San Francisco based lender held a mass “homeowner’s workshop” at Gillette Stadium in August 2008.

Three months behind on their Mattapan mortgage, Nancy Cook and her daughter showed up to the stadium with a little over $10,000 in cash, in anticipation of signing a repayment plan. After waiting in a long line, Cook received a ticket and sat down with a bank representative. Despite HUD guidelines requiring that loan representative have actual authority to settle accounts and enter repayment plans, the Wells Fargo representative said that he was unable to accept any payments at the event. The counseling session lasted only 15 minutes, but the reprepresentative promised that Ms. Cook would receive a loan modification package in the mail.

Ms. Cook did receive a Special Forbearance Agreement in the mail, which she accepted, and made the first three payments under the agreement. When she went to make the fourth payment, Wells Fargo rejected it, claiming that Cook owed it $2000 more than the scheduled payment. Wells Fargo then issued a default notice, accelerated Cook’s debt, and foreclosed her home.

Several years after completing the foreclosure sale, Wells Fargo brought an eviction case against Cook and her daughter, who at this time were represented by lawyers from Harvard University Legal Aid. (The reason for the long delay is unclear). Boston Housing Court judge Marylou Muirhead ruled against Cook, clearing the way for her eviction.

On appeal, Appeals Court Justice Scott Kafker halted Cook’s eviction, ruling that the Housing Court judge should reconsider whether the Gillette Stadium mass counseling event complied with HUD guidelines. Justice Kafker noted that a reoccurring theme of the HUD rules is to provide personalized consideration for each homeowner. That apparently was not done, said the justice, or at least there is a dispute as to whether the mass Gillette Stadium event could satisfy that guideline.

Of particularly interest to the real estate conveyancing community, the Court held that if the lower court ultimately rules that the counseling session was insufficient, the lender could be found in noncompliance with the mortgage terms and foreclosure power of sale, and its foreclosure could be deemed defective and invalid. A court holding to this effect could potentially invalidate completed foreclosures of FHA insured mortgages over whether the lenders complied with the face-to-face meeting requirements of the HUD guidelines. Ensuring a lender’s compliance with HUD rules is not typically part of a title examiner’s scope of examination. Lenders would need to provide an affidavit certifying that all pre-foreclosure counseling requirements were complied with. Accordingly, this is yet another reason why obtaining an owner’s title insurance policy is a prudent choice for all buyers of foreclosed properties.

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christmasFeds Hope New Low Down Payment Will Boost Housing Market

Ho, ho, ho, early Christmas and holiday presents are coming to first time home buyers courtesy of Fannie Mae! Hoping to broaden the pool of home buyers and boost the real estate market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are launching mortgage programs with down payments as low as 3%. The new loan program, unveiled Monday, reverse a trend of tighter lending standards by the government-sponsored mortgage giants since their taxpayer-financed bailouts. To qualify, at least one of the borrowers (if a couple) must be a first time home buyer.

This is great news for the 2015 real estate market!

Like the holiday gift flyers, expect to see mortgage professionals waiving the 3% down payment banner in the months to come.

Up until now, the only game in town for low downpayment loans has been FHA. But FHA mortgage insurance (MIP) costs have risen to dizzying heights in the last few years, so first time buyers have stepped back to assemble more down payment and qualifying virtues to secure conventional financing.

Enter 3% down payment conventional mortgage financing and the landscape changes dramatically. Conventional financing does not handcuff borrowers to mortgage insurance forever like FHA loan programs. Once equity targets (20% – 22%) are reached, current appraisal supported value can eliminate conventional PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). Not so with FHA, once you get it, the only way to get rid of it is to refinance out of the FHA loan or sell the house.

In other words, boom does the dynamite for first time buyers! If you are interested in how you can obtain a 3% down payment loan, send me an email to rvetstein@vetsteinlawgroup.com and I can put you in touch with a great mortgage banker.

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government shutdown I’ve been glued to CNN in recent days, watching incredulously as those buffoons in Washington grind our government to a halt. I though for sure that a midnight deal would have been struck, but I woke up this morning with the dreaded news that the government has indeed shutdown. I’ve been trying to get a handle all morning on how this is going to affect the Massachusetts and national real estate market, and here’s what I have so far. (Updated 10/1/13 at 4:30pm below).

Tax Transcripts/SSN Verification Delays

Virtually all federally back mortgage lenders request copies of borrower’s tax transcripts through the IRS and social security numbers through the SSA. According to my friend Rick Moore, loan officer at Lendmark Loans in Framingham, and media reports, the shutdown will apparently either stop or hinder the federal agencies’ ability to issue those verifications, resulting in mortgage approval delays across the board. I know that lenders were furiously ordering tax transcripts and SSN verifications last week, in preparation for the shutdown. If your loan is in the middle of underwriting, speak to your loan officer now. You may be facing a delay in getting a clear loan commitment and a resulting delay in your closing date.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
The shutdown’s impact on FHA loans appears to be not as bad as originally thought. HUD’s Contingency Plan states that FHA will endorse new loans in the Single Family Mortgage Loan Program, but it will not make new commitments in the Multi-family Program during the shutdown. FHA will maintain operational activities including paying claims and collecting premiums. Management & Marketing (M&M) Contractors managing the REO portfolio can continue to operate. You can expect some delays with FHA processing.

VA Loan Guaranty Program
Lenders will continue to process and guaranty mortgages through the Loan Guaranty program in the event of a government shutdown. However, borrowers should expect some delays during the shutdown.

Flood Insurance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confirmed that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will not be impacted by a government shutdown, since NFIP is funded by premiums and not tax dollars. Changes to the flood insurance program scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1 will be implemented as scheduled.

USDA Loans
For USDA loan programs, essential personnel working during a shutdown do not include field office staff who typically issue conditional commitments, loan note guarantees, and modification approvals. Thus, lenders will not receive approvals during the shutdown. If the lender has already received a conditional commitment from the Rural Development office, then the lender may proceed to close those loans during the shutdown. A conditional commitment, which is good for 90 days, is given to a lender once a USDA Underwriter approves the loan. If a commitment was already issued, the funds were already set aside and the lender may close the loan at its leisure. If Rural Development has not issued a conditional commitment, the lender must wait until funding legislation is enacted before closing a loan.

It is important to note that the traditional definition of “rural” for qualifying communities for assistance will be continued in effect during the shutdown.  We expect that language to continue the current definition will be included in whatever funding measure is eventually enacted.

Government Sponsored Enterprises
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue operating normally, as will their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, since they are not reliant on appropriated funds.

Treasury
The Making Home Affordable program, including HAMP and HAFA, will not be affected as the program is funded through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act which is mandatory spending not discretionary.

Updated (Oct. 1 at 4:30pm). Memo from national mortgage lender:

“There has been no progress today toward a resolution to the government shutdown. Fortunately, the initial impact of the shutdown on mortgage originations has been small. The biggest concerns are obtaining transcripts from the IRS and social security verifications from the SSA. Certain Government produced economic reports will not be available. The Construction spending report due out this morning was not issued. The Non-Farm Payrolls report due on Friday may be affected. The impact on the mortgage market of this lack of data is difficult to anticipate.

At this time, Fannie, Freddie, and Ginnie say they will continue to operate as normal. VA says that they, too, will have no disruptions in services. FHA, however, expects delays due to reduced staffing. Origination companies, correspondent banks, and warehouse lenders may react differently as they access the risks associated with an extended shutdown.”

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CPFB copy

New Rule Aims To Prevent Predatory Lending

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has just issued what it deems “one of its most important rules to date.” It’s called the Ability To Repay Rule. The rule will ensure that a borrower should be able to afford their mortgage payment. Sounds like common sense, right? Yes and no, according to the agency. The CFPB is trying to prevent the subprime and predatory lending crisis of several years ago by requiring that lenders jump through several strict underwriting hoops for “fail-free” loans.

“When consumers sit down at the closing table, they shouldn’t be set up to fail with mortgages they can’t afford,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Our Ability-to-Repay rule protects borrowers from the kinds of risky lending practices that resulted in so many families losing their homes. This common-sense rule ensures responsible borrowers get responsible loans.”

The Qualified Mortgage (QM). The key feature of the new rule is the establishment of a “qualified mortgage” — with no risky loan features – such as interest-only payments or balloon payments – and with fees that add up to no more than 3% of the loan amount. In addition, these loans must go to borrowers whose debt does not exceed 43% of their income. These loans would carry extra legal protection for lenders under a two-tiered system that appears to create a compromise between the housing industry and consumer advocates.

End of No-Doc Loans. In the past, lenders could get away with offering low- or no-doc loans (they required few financial documents, if any, from the borrower and then could sell off the risky loans to investors). With the new rule, lenders must do a proper financial background. That means sizing up borrowers’ employment status; income and assets; current debt obligations; credit history; monthly payments on the mortgage; monthly payments on any other mortgages on the same property; and monthly payments for mortgage-related obligations.

Risky borrowers will have a harder time securing a loan. The lender must prove the borrower has “sufficient assets” to pay back the loan eventually. According to the CFPB, that’s determined by calculating debt-to-income ratio of no more than 43%.

Bye-bye to teaser rates. Lenders love to roll out juicy low introductory rates on mortgages to lure borrowers in, but under the new rule, they must calculate a borrower’s ability to repay his loan based on the true mortgage rate –– including both the principal and the interest over the long-term life of the loan.

The rule does not go into effect until January 1, 2014. This new rule has the potential of really shaking up the mortgage industry. We will be tracking future developments. We appreciate comments from mortgage professionals below.

More info:  CFPB Blog — Ability to Pay Rule
The Mortgage Porter: CFPB’s Qualified Mortgage Rule and The Ability to Repay

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High Anxiety Heading Into 2013

The term Fiscal Cliff should be as ubiquitous as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” through the year-end, especially if President Obama and Congress cannot work out a deal to resolve the more than $500 billion in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect after Jan. 1, 2013. If there is no deal, and the country goes over the fiscal cliff, the consensus is that it will have quite a negative effect on the economy and the real estate market in particular. (I debated using the word “disastrous” because there is a segment of commentators who say the housing market may survive a fall off the cliff).

There are four particular aspects of the Fiscal Cliff which could impact the real estate market.

1.  Expiration of Unemployment Benefits. Emergency jobless benefits for about 2.1 million people out of work will cease Dec. 29, and 1 million more will lose them over the next three months if Congress doesn’t extend the assistance again. Unemployed, even those receiving assistance, cannot and do not purchases homes. Democrats and President Obama want the unemployment benefits extended, but the Republicans are attempting to use this as leverage for their own fiscal cliff agenda. The real estate market will surely suffer if benefits aren’t extended.

2. Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. The Mortgage Forgiveness Act is set to expire December 31. This tax break is critical for short sales, relieving homeowners from being taxed on any mortgage debt that was forgiven through a short sale, foreclosure or loan modification. If distressed homeowners are subject to tax on millions in debt forgiveness, short sales will likely decrease dramatically.

3. Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction. Once the sacred cow tax break for millions of middle and upper class homeowners, the mortgage interest deduction is reportedly on the chopping block. The National Association of Realtors and real estate groups have been apoplectic in urging no change to this important benefit to homeowners. Eliminating the mortgage deduction would raise taxes on all homeowners, and could dissuade renters from becoming homeowners.

4.  FHA/Fannie Mae Bailout. The Federal Housing Administration, the lender of choice for first-time homebuyers, is nearly insolvent and it could require a taxpayer bailout next year, according Edward J. Pinto, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Pinto claims the 78-year-old agency is $34.5 billion short of its legal capital requirement. “If it were a private company, it would be shut down,” argues Pinto. These aren’t the only issues threatening the real estate market. Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the government in 2008, taxpayers have plowed  $180 billion into them to keep them operational. This mess needs to be fixed next year.

Well, if your stomach isn’t in knots, mine is. Luckily, we have some medicine for you!

On January 8, 2013, we are sponsoring a breakfast seminar with veteran real estate journalist Scott Van Voorhis, who will offer his predictions on what 2013 will bring. Please email me to sign up. The Facebook Event invitation is here. The venue is Avita in Needham, 880 Greendale Ave., Needham, MA.

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Richard D. Vetstein is an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney who hopes the White House and Congress can get their acts together and pass a compromise bill to avoid the Fiscal Cliff.

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Condo Sales May Get Slight Boost, But Financing Rules Remain Tight

Responding to lender, condominium association and consumer outcry that the existing FHA condominium lending guidelines are too strict, the Federal Home Administration (FHA) on September 13, 2012 announced a round of changes which will hopefully make it easier for borrowers to qualify for FHA condo loans. The full FHA announcement can be found here.

While some of the changes are a step in the right direction, I think overall they are a mixed bag, as FHA left some of the most onerous provisions intact. I’m skeptical that these new changes will have a major impact on condominium sales, but of course, any loosening of the strict requirements is a good thing.

Condo Fee Delinquency Rule Increased to 60 Days Overdue
FHA is softening its stance on delinquent monthly condo fees and home owner association (HOA) dues. FHA is now allowing up to 15% of a project’s units to be 60-days delinquent on condo fees, up from just 30 days delinquent under the prior rule. This change acknowledges the depressed economy which has caused many condo unit owners to have trouble paying their condo fees. This is definitely a good change.

Expanded Investor Purchasing Allowed
Under the new rules, investors can come in and buy more units in a project than they could previously. They can now buy up to 50% of the project units, up from just 10% before, but with an important caveat:  the developer must convey at least 50% of the units to individual owners or be under contract as owner-occupied.

Owner Occupancy Limits and Total FHA Financing Percentage Unchanged
The biggest disappointment of the new rules is that the main impediment to FHA condo financing remains unchanged, and that’s the 50% rule. Before any new buyer can obtain FHA financing, 50% of a project’s units be sold to third party buyers. This is what I’ve called the Catch-22. FHA provides the most first time home financing, so how can a developer expect to sell out his project if he cannot offer initial FHA financing? Doesn’t make any sense. I agree with the National Association of Realtors and the Community Association Institute on this one. Get rid of the 50% rule or decrease it to 25% or less.

Another restriction that hasn’t changed is the number of units that can have an FHA-backed loan. Only half the units can have FHA financing, so a borrower can’t get FHA approval if his unit would put the number of FHA financed units over 50%. That limitation remains unchanged, and that’s a killer for a lot of projects.

Spot Approvals Remain Dead
Mortgage lenders used to love FHA “spot approvals” which could by-pass the involved standard FHA approval process in order to get individual unit financing. Problem was is that they love spot approvals way too much, and they got abused. Ah, a few bad apples ruin it for everyone. FHA did not resurrect spot approvals from the dead on this go-around. Maybe they will be back when the economy gets better.

More Commercial Space OK
Projects can also have more space devoted to non-residential commercial uses than before. You see this a now in Boston with Starbucks and a bank office on the ground floor of a new condominium building. Up to this point, only 25% of project space could be used for commercial purpose. Now 50% of the project can be commercial, although certain authority for approval is reserved for the local FHA office. This will benefit the newer mixed use projects in urban markets.

Fidelity Insurance Coverage Required

Important for all condominium professional management companies. If the condominium engages the services of a management company, the company must obtain its own fidelity coverage meeting the FHA association coverage requirements or the association’s policy must name the management company as an insured, or the association’s policy must include an endorsement stating that management company employees subject to the direction and control of the association are covered by the policy. This is a substantial change to the previous requirements that required management companies to obtain separate fidelity insurance for each condominium.

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts condominium attorney who regularly advises condominium associations on FHA certification issues. Please contact Mr. Vetstein at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com.


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Coakley Expects Fed’s Compliance with New Loan Modification Law

Attorney General Martha Coakley is picking a very public fight with federal mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in the wake of the new Massachusetts Foreclosure Prevention Act passed earlier in August. The new law requires that lenders first explore loan modifications before starting foreclosure proceedings.Fannie and Freddie control approximately 60% of all U.S. residential mortgages.

In a letter broadcast to the press yesterday, she demands that “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, like all creditors, to comply with these statutory obligations as they conduct business in Massachusetts. These loan modifications are critical to assisting distressed homeowners, avoiding unnecessary foreclosures, and restoring a healthy economy in our Commonwealth,” Coakley said. Stefanie Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said, “We are reviewing the letter and will respond soon.”

The fact that AG Coakley had to write the letter begs the question. Will Fannie and Freddie comply with the new Massachusetts foreclosure law? Maybe not, if past performance is any indicator of future results.

The Federal Housing Finance Agent (FHFA), the federal regulator overseeing Fannie and Freddie, has been acting like some sort of federal rogue agency of late. Last month, the agency publicly rejected the new Obama principal reduction plan, to the chagrin of Treasury Secretary Tim Geither. And in June, it came up with a method to skirt the new tough foreclosure law passed in Hawaii. It seems that the sole concern of FHFA is to get foreclosures completed and REO properties sold off as quickly as humanly possible, homeowners be damned.

If Fannie and Freddie blow off Coakley, this will seriously dilute the new Foreclosure Act. We will monitor the situation as always.

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney with an expertise in foreclosure related issues. You can contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com.

 

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Real Estate Crash Has Resulted In Many More Forms and Disclosures

These days buyers are leaving closing rooms with not only their keys but a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome! The reason for sore forearms and wrists is the voluminous stack of closing documents which are now required to be signed and notarized at every Massachusetts real estate purchase or refinance closing.

One of my opening “break the ice” lines at closings is to suggest that the buyers start massaging their writing hands. Then I show them the 2 inch stack of documents they must review and sign, and they usually say, “Are you serious? We have to sign all that?” Yep, I reply. You can thank Fannie Mae and the real estate collapse for that! All the new rules and regulations passed in the last 5 years have resulted in, you guessed it, more forms. Do you think the Feds and state ever eliminate old or out-dated forms? Nope.

Let me quickly go over some of the more important — and less important — documents signed at a typical Massachusetts real estate closing.

The Closing Documents

  • HUD-1 Settlement Statement. This is arguably the most important form signed at closing. It breaks down all the closing costs, lender fees, taxes, insurance, escrows and more. We did a full post on the HUD-1 and all the closing costs you can expect to pay here. Under the newer RESPA rules, most closing costs must be within 10% tolerance of the Good Faith Estimate provided by the lender (which you will also re-sign at closing).
  • Promissory Note & Mortgage. These two documents form what I like to call the “mortgage contract.” The promissory note is the lending contract between borrower and lender and sets the interest rate and payment terms of the loan. It is not recorded at the registry of deeds. The Mortgage or Security Instrument is a long (20+ page) document and provides the legal collateral (your house) securing the loan from the lender. The Mortgage gets recorded in the county registry of deeds and is available to public view. Read a full explanation of the Note and Mortgage in this post.
  • Truth in Lending Disclosure (TIL). The Truth in Lending should really be called “Confusion In Lending,” as the federal government has come up with a confusing way to “explain” how your interest rate works. This is a complex form and we’ve written about it extensively in this post. Your closing lawyer will fully explain the TIL form to you at closing.
  • Loan Underwriting Documents. With increased audit risk on loan files, lenders today are requiring that borrowers sign “fresh” copies of almost all the documents they signed when they originally applied for the loan. This includes the loan application, IRS forms W-9 and 4506’s.
  • Fraud Prevention Documents. Again, with the massive mortgage fraud of the last decade, lenders are requiring many more forms to prevent fraud, forgeries, and straw-buyers. The closing attorney will also make a copy of borrowers’ driver’s licenses and other photo i.d. and submit the borrower’s names through the Patriot Act database. They include Occupancy Affidavit (confirming that borrowers will not rent out the mortgaged property), and the Signature Affidavit (confirming buyers are who they say they are or previously used a maiden name or nickname).
  • Escrow Documents. Unless lenders waive the requirement, borrowers must fund an escrow account at closing representing several months of real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance. This provides a cushion in case borrowers default and the taxes and insurance are not paid.
  • Title Documents. For purchase transactions, Massachusetts requires that the closing attorney certify that a 50 year title examination has been performed. Buyers will counter-sign this certification of title, as well as several title insurance affidavits and documents which the seller is required to sign, to ensure that all known title problems have been disclosed and discovered. Of course, we always recommend that buyers obtain their own owner’s title insurance which will provide coverage for unknown title defects such as forgeries, boundary line issues, missing mortgage discharges, etc.
  • Property Safety Disclosures. In Massachusetts, buyers and sellers will sign a smoke/carbon monoxide detector compliance agreement, lead paint disclosure, and UFFI (urea formaldehyde foam insulation) agreement. These ensure that the property has received proper certifications and will absolve the lender from liability for these safety issues.
  • Servicing, EOCA and Affiliated Business Disclosures. Chances are that your lender will assign the servicing rights to your mortgage to a larger servicer, like JP Morgan Chase or CitiMortgage. You will sign forms acknowledging this. You will be notified of the new mortgage holder usually within 30-60 days after closing. In the meantime, the closing attorney will give you a “first payment letter” instructing you where to send your first payment if you don’t hear from the new servicer. You will also sign forms under the federal and state discrimination in lenders laws and forms disclosing who the lender uses for closing services.

Well, those are most of the documents that buyers will sign at the closing. Sellers have a slew of their own documents to be signed at closing, and I’ll cover that in a future post. As I said, at your closing, massage your signature hand, grab a comfy pen, and sign your life away!

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney. He can be reached by email at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com or 508-620-5352.

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Borrowers, Shut Up, Listen, And Do What Your Lender Asks–Even If It’s The Third Time They’ve Asked For The Same Documentation!

When I was a kid, my dad would often answer my questions with “because I said so,” and it would drive me crazy! Now it’s prudent advice to borrowers says Mark Greene at Forbes.com. Mr. Greene recently wrote one of the best articles I’ve seen in a long time about the current state of mortgage underwriting. It’s called The Perfect Loan File (click for link). It’s a must read for consumers and real estate professionals alike.

The point Mr. Greene makes so well is that lenders are going absolutely nutty over borrower financial documentation to create a “put-back” immune loan file. (A put-back is when Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac make lenders buy back bad loans). Mr. Greene tells to borrowers to give their lender everything they ask for even if they want to stick needles in their eyeballs, and don’t talk back. I will just highlight some gems from the article:

When I was a kid, my father occasionally issued directives that I naturally thought were superfluous, and when asked why I needed to do whatever it was he wanted me to do, his answer was often: “Because I said so.” This never seemed to address my query but always left me without a retort, and I would usually comply. This is exactly what consumers should do during the mortgage approval process. When your lender requests what seems to be over-documentation and you wonder why you need it, accept the simple edict – “because I said so.” You will find the mortgage approval process much less frustrating.

Every nook and cranny of your financial life has to be corroborated, double- and triple-checked, and reviewed again before closing. This way, if the originating lender has created a loan file that is exactly consistent with published underwriting guidelines and has documented while adhering to those guidelines, the chances are that your loan will not be subject to repurchase.

It all comes down to your proof. If the lender asks for a specific document, give them exactly what they are asking for, not what “should be OK,” – because it won’t be.  This is where the approval process tends to go off the rails, when the lender asks for specific documentation and the borrower supplies something else. Here, too, is where both sides get frustrated. So if the lender asks for a bank statement and there are 5 pages for that bank statement, send them all 5 pages, and not just the summary. If you send them the summary page and they ask again, don’t complain that the lender keeps asking for the same thing when you never sent it in the first place. This may sound elementary, but the vast majority of mortgage approval process woes stem from scenarios just like this.

So when your loan officer or underwriter responds to another one of your questions with “because I said so,” do him or her a favor and do it.  Your loan approval will go a lot smoother and quickly if you do.

Borrowers, agents, and loan officers, feel free to share your thoughts and advice on this article!

~Rich

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Brian Cavanaugh of SmarterBorrowing.com is back with his Massachusetts Weekly Mortgage Rate Update. Scroll to the bottom for Brian’s valuable Massachusetts Mortgage Rate Lock Advice!

Inquire within for current Mortgage Rates or Guidelines   bc@SmarterBorrowing.com  617.771.5021

Overall, I am expecting to see a much more active week in the financial markets and mortgage pricing than last week. The most important day of the week is either Tuesday or Friday due to the reports being posted those days and the FOMC meeting scheduled. Please maintain contact with your mortgage professional if you have not locked an interest rate yet because we may see sizable changes to mortgage pricing more than one day this week.

If I were considering financing/refinancing a home, I would….

LOCK if my closing was taking place within 7 days…

LOCK if my closing was taking place between 8 and 20 days…

LOCK if my closing was taking place between 21 and 60 days…

LOCK if my closing was taking place over 60 days from now…

Busy Week Ahead

This week is fairly busy in terms of the number of economic releases and other events scheduled that may influence mortgage rates. There are only four pieces of economic data for us to watch, but three of them are highly important to the markets. In addition to the economic reports, we also have the last FOMC meeting of the year and two important Treasury auctions that are likely to impact bond trading and mortgage pricing. Those events, coupled with the likelihood of further overseas developments from Europe and possibly others, make it highly likely that we will see plenty of movement in the markets and mortgage rates this week.

There is nothing of relevance scheduled for tomorrow. This means we can expect the stock markets to drive bond trading and mortgage rates again. If the major stock indexes open the week with gains tomorrow morning, bonds may move lower, pushing mortgage rates higher. But a weak open in stocks could lead to slightly lower mortgage rates tomorrow. We could also see traders position themselves ahead of the week’s agenda, so even though there is nothing concerning on the calendar, we could see mortgage rates change.

Consumer Price Index Out

The week’s most important economic data comes Friday morning when November’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is posted. It is similar to Thursday’s Producer Price Index, except it tracks inflationary pressures at the more important consumer level of the economy. Current forecasts call for an increase of 0.1% in the overall index and a 0.1% rise in the core data reading. The core data is watched more closely because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices, giving a more stable reading for analysts to consider. This data is one of the most watched inflation indexes, which is extremely important to long-term securities such as mortgage related bonds. Rising inflation erodes the value of a bond’s future fixed interest payments, making them less appealing to investors. That translates into falling bond prices and rising mortgage rates.

Retail Sales Report

Tuesday has two important events, starting with November’s Retail Sales report. This 8:30 AM ET release will give us a key measurement of consumer spending by tracking sales at retail level establishments. This data is highly important to the markets because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Rapidly rising consumer spending raises the possibility of seeing solid economic growth. Since long-term securities such as mortgage bonds are usually more appealing to investors during weaker economic conditions, a large increase in retail sales will likely drive bond prices lower and mortgage rates higher Tuesday. Current forecasts are calling for an increase of 0.6% in November’s sales.

Last Fed Meeting

The last FOMC meeting of the year will also be held Tuesday, adjourning at 2:15 PM ET. There is not much debate about what the Fed will do at this meeting with no chance of them raising key short-term interest rates. Therefore, the post meeting statement will likely be the sole source of a market reaction. This statement has the potential to have a significant influence on the markets and mortgage rates as investors look for any indication of what and when the Fed may do next. One potential move would be more debt purchases by the Fed. An announcement of another round of quantitative easing (QE3) could help boost bond prices and improve mortgage rates Tuesday afternoon. Besides that, it is believed that there isn’t much more the Fed can do to help boost economic activity.

Treasury Auctions

There are Treasury auctions scheduled for several days this week, but the two important ones are the 10-year Note sale Tuesday and the 30-year Bond sale Wednesday. Tuesday’s auction is the more important of the two and will likely influence mortgage rates more. Results of each sale will be posted at 1:00 PM ET. If they were met with a strong demand from investors, particularly international buyers, we should see afternoon strength in bonds and improvements to mortgage pricing those days. On the other hand, a weak interest in the auctions could lead to upward revisions to mortgage rates during afternoon hours.

Wednesday has little to be concerned with, except for the 30-year Bond auction. November’s Producer Price Index (PPI) will be posted early Thursday morning. It measures inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. There are two portions of the index that are used- the overall reading and the core data reading. The core data is the more important of the two because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices. If Thursday’s release reveals stronger than expected readings, indicating that inflationary pressures are rising, the bond market will probably react negatively and drive mortgage rates higher. If we see in-line or weaker than expected numbers, the bond market should respond well and mortgage rates should fall. Current forecasts are showing a 0.2% increase in the overall index and a 0.1% rise in the core data.

Nov. Industrial Production Report

November’s Industrial Production data is also scheduled to be posted Thursday morning, but a little later than the PPI. This report gives us a measurement of manufacturing sector strength by tracking output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. Analysts are expecting it to show a 0.2% increase in output, indicating modest manufacturing growth. A smaller than expected rise would be good news for bonds, while a stronger reading may result in slightly higher mortgage pricing. However, the PPI release is more important to the markets than this data is.

  • Are you a possible Massachusetts First Time Homebuyer?
  • Do you have a Real Estate client inquiring about current Mortgage Rates?
  • Do you have any Refinancing questions?
  • Should you be thinking about Refinancing out of your ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage)?
  • Have your Real Estate clients been Pre Approved?

bc@smarterborrowing.com  617.771.5021

This is only my opinion of what I would do if I were financing a home. It is only an opinion and cannot be guaranteed to be in the best interest of all/any other borrowers.

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Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) Revamped

Homeowners who have not been able to refinance because they are “underwater” — their loans are more than the value of their home due to depressed real estate values — are being thrown a lifeline by the Obama Administration’s latest housing market rescue plan, announced yesterday.

Regulators are revamping a program rolled out in 2009, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, which lets borrowers with homes whose values have dropped to refinance. So far, only 894,000 borrowers have used it, of which just 70,000 are significantly underwater. The refinancing program is open to homeowners whose mortgages are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae (FNMA) or Freddie Mac (FMCC), the two government-controlled mortgage giants whose rescue three years ago has cost taxpayers $141 billion to date.

The FHFA said the changes could at least double the number of homeowners enrolled. Analysts at Barclays Capital, however, estimated that between 1.9 million and 3.1 million homeowners could be eligible for help.

But underwater homeowners, as long as they have made all their mortgage payments on time in the past six months and meet a few other basic criteria, such as being gainfully employed, would be eligible for a new refinance product just rolled out by the Obama Administration.

According to Scott Van Voorhis at Boston.com, an estimated 230,000 homeowners across Massachusetts are underwater on their mortgages, owing an average of $120,000 more than what their properties are actually worth now. The savings could prove substantial, with $3,000 in savings each year on a $200,000 mortgage that is refinanced from 6 percent down to 4.5 percent, according to this explanatory piece put out by the Associated Press.

Given higher home prices here in Greater Boston, that could amount to $6,000 in savings a year for a homeowner with a $400,000 mortgage — nothing to sneeze at.

If this HARP finally sings a tune, it will be cause for joy among borrowers, mortgage bankers, and closing attorneys across the state. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

________________________________________________

Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate closing attorney. Please contact him if you need a mortgage referral or assistance with a refinance or purchase transaction.

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Fannie Mae and FHA Conforming Loan Limits Dropping.  Close by 9/30/2011 or sooner!

A guest post by David Gaffin, Senior Mortgage Lender, from Greenpark Mortgage.

David Gaffin, Greenpark Mortgage

As Congress lets the temporary increase in conforming loan limits expire October 1st, we have received word that some investors will require that all loans affected by these limits close on or before September 30, 2011. Other investors will have their own timelines and will require closings earlier, perhaps weeks earlier.

I have attached a chart below indicating the new loan limits for 1-4 family residences through 12/31/2011 for some investors. 2012 Loan limits for Fannie and Freddie have yet to be announced. For Massachusetts this reduction will impact the these areas as follows: Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket: Reduced from $729,750 to $625,500; , Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk Counties reduced from $523,750 to $465,750; Bristol county will be reduced to $426,650; Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester Counties will remain at $417,000.

Please follow the attached chart for the max loan amounts. It is indicated by county.

                                               1 Family 2 Family 3 Family 4 Family

BRISTOL MA

$426,650

$546,200

$660,200

$820,500

DUKES

MA

$625,500

$800,775

$967,950

$1,202,925

ESSEX

MA

$465,750

$596,250

$720,700

$895,700

FRANKLIN

MA

$417,000

$533,850

$645,300

$801,950

HAMPDEN

MA

$417,000

$533,850

$645,300

$801,950

HAMPSHIRE

MA

$417,000

$533,850

$645,300

$801,950

MIDDLESEX

MA

$465,750

$596,250

$720,700

$895,700

NANTUCKET

MA

$625,500

$800,775

$967,950

$1,202,925

NORFOLK

MA

$465,750

$596,250

$720,700

$895,700

PLYMOUTH

MA

$465,750

$596,250

$720,700

$895,700

SUFFOLK

MA

$465,750

$596,250

$720,700

$895,700

WORCESTER

MA

$417,000

$533,850

$645,300

$801,950

You can also access other states via the website: http://www.fhfa.gov/Default.aspx?Page=185 and click on the HERA Loan Limits at the bottom of the page.

With respect to FHA, more pain is ahead as FHA seeks to lower its market share and reduce exposure. Loan limits decreases will affect Massachusetts dramaticaly, as the chart below indicates:

Continuing HERA Median
Appropriations Limit House Year
Act of Price of Median
Limit 2011 2011 for House
(1-unit) (1-unit) Difference Area Price
MA BarnstableCounty

$462,500

$405,950

($56,550)

$353,000

2008

MA BristolCounty

$475,000

$426,650

($48,350)

$371,000

2008

MA DukesCounty

$729,750

$625,500

($104,250)

$626,000

2010

MA EssexCounty

$523,750

$465,750

($58,000)

$405,000

2008

MA FranklinCounty

$318,750

$274,850

($43,900)

$239,000

2010

MA HampdemCounty

$318,750

$274,850

($43,900)

$239,000

2010

MA HampshireCounty

$318,750

$274,850

($43,900)

$239,000

2010

MA MiddlesexCounty

$523,750

$465,750

($58,000)

$405,000

2008

MA NantucketCounty

$729,750

$625,500

($104,250)

$1,325,000

2009

MA NorfolkCounty

$523,750

$465,750

($58,000)

$405,000

2008

MA PlymouthCounty

$523,750

$465,750

($58,000)

$405,000

2008

MA SuffolkCounty

$523,750

$465,750

($58,000)

$405,000

2008

MA WorcesterCounty

$385,000

$285,200

($99,800)

$248,000

2008

 

Worcester County will get killed! With Loan Limits dropping by almost $100,000, FHA will be effectively increasing the down payment requirements for buyers, if they wish to purchase a home over $298,000. This will have an impact on home prices. FHA is also good for buyers who have less than 740 credit scores. Fannie has price adjustments for lower Ficos and these raise the interest rates to borrowers. The towns of Milford, Westborough, Northborough, Shrewbury, Northborough, among others could be hard hit.

Bottom line, Take advantage of the low interest rates and higher loan limits now. Greenpark is currently accepting purchase loans for the higher limits until 8/25/2011, to close by 9/30/2011.

Please send me an email me, dgaffin@greenparkmortgage.com with any questions and thank you for reading.

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Good News For First Time Condo Buyers

FHA loan programs offer low down payment mortgages which are often ideal for first time home buyers who lack cash for a 20% down payment but are otherwise strong borrowers. On June 30, 2011, FHA confirmed its commitment to financing condominiums with the issuance of revised lending guidelines (HUD Mortgagee Letter 11-22). The new FHA Condominium Project Approval and Processing Guide can be downloaded here.

“Today, we institute revised guidelines that preserve FHA’s role in the condo marketplace during these difficult times while making certain we manage risk in a responsible way,” said FHA’s Acting Commissioner Robert Ryan. “This guidance formalizes and expands the policies we put in place in 2009 and lays the groundwork for a more formal rulemaking process going forward.”

Highlights Of New Guidelines

1.  Reserve Study Requirements:
New guidelines require reserve studies on all conversion (i.e., new) developments. Reserve Studies are valid for a period of 2 years.

2.  Reserve Funding
In addition to a reserve study determination, a minimum of 10% of the operating budget must be set aside as a baseline in a reserve account. Funds to cover the total cost of any item in the Reserve Study or that will require replacement within 5 years must be deposited in HOA’s reserve account. The insurance deductible must also be included in the reserve fund.

3.  Delinquent Condo Fees

On existing projects, the condominium cannot have more than a 15% delinquency rate on unpaid condo fees. This could be a problem for struggling condominiums. A waiver may be granted, however, with supporting documentation.

4. Pending Litigation

Litigation impacting the financing soundness of the condominium must be disclosed and explained to FHA. Again, this could be problematic if the condominium is involved in, for example, a lawsuit with the original developer over construction defects.

5. HO-6 Policies

Individual HO-6 insurance policies are required if the master condo insurance policy does not provide interior unit coverage (which most don’t).

6. Fidelity Bonds For Large Projects

Fidelity insurance to protect against employee dishonesty is required for projects over 20 units.

7. New Construction Pre-Sale
New Construction pre-sale requirements remain at 30%, although only for one year after the first closing. After the first year, it increases to 50% for the development.

8.  Maximum Commercial Concentration
Remains at 25%, however, new guidance allows for possible waiver request up to 35% of the development.

9. 10% Investor Concentration
No longer includes sponsor unsold units or units required to be rented by State or Municipality, ie; rent stabilized/rent controlled.

 

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The “Standard Form”

In Massachusetts, buyers and sellers typically use the standard form purchase and sale agreement created by the Greater Boston Board of Real Estate. This form has been around since the late 1970’s and last updated in 1999–which might as well be 100 years ago in real estate life. Along with the standard form, attorneys for sellers and buyers customarily add specialized Riders to the agreement which modify the standard form and add contingencies particular to the deal.

A Vastly Changed Landscape

The legal and mortgage financing landscape has changed so much in the last few years, with Fannie Mae and regulatory agencies issuing a new policy what seems like every other week, and short sale and REO transactions becoming much more prevalent. With the recovering market and new appraisal guidelines, some homes are not appraising out. Moreover, lenders have tightened underwriting requirements considerably. As a result, borrowers have more difficulty qualifying for mortgage loans, it takes longer to get a loan commitment, and there are often delays in getting the loan “cleared to close.” All these changes in the real estate landscape require re-thinking of the standard form purchase and sale agreement and the associated riders.

As experienced Massachusetts real estate attorneys, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that we are on top of the latest changes in the Massachusetts and national real estate landscape, and have adapted our legal forms accordingly. I’ll go through 3 recent changes that I’ve adopted in my practice.

Low Appraisal Contingency

These days, appraisals are administered is a completely different fashion. New rules – the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) – hold appraisers to higher standards and sharply limit communication between appraisers and lenders. Mortgage professionals can no longer select their “hand-picked” appraiser now; there is basically a random lottery system to select the appraiser. The downside of this lottery is that the appraiser may not be very familiar with the town or neighborhood being appraised. So the appraisal may fall short of the agreed-upon selling price.

I always insist on this provision to protect a buyer against the risk of the property not appraising out.

Appraisal– The buyer’s obligations, hereunder, are contingent upon the BUYER’s lender obtaining an appraisal of the property in an amount at least equal to the purchase price of the premises.

What happens if the property doesn’t appraise for asking price? Sometimes you can ask for a second appraisal or bring different comparable sales to the appraiser’s attention and he can revise the appraisal. Sometimes, the parties must re-negotiate the purchase price. Talk to your lender and Realtor about the options. This provision, however, gives the buyer an “out” if a low appraisal cannot be overcome.

Condominium Fannie Mae Compliance

Tougher Fannie Mae and FHA condominium rules have made condo financing much more challenging. I add this clause to deal with this situation:

The Condominium, the Unit, and the Condominium Documents (including but not limited to the Master Deed and By-Laws/Trust) shall conform to the requirements of Federal National Mortgage Association (“FNMA” or “Freddie Mac”), Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) or Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“FHLMC”) or other secondary mortgage market investor, and shall otherwise be acceptable to BUYER’s mortgage lender.

Rate Lock Expirations

Delays happen. There may be a title problem which the seller needs a few days or weeks to correct. But what if your rate lock will expire and you are facing a higher interest rate loan? This provision protects the buyer in this situation:

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.

There are many other contingencies and new provisions that I use, but I cannot give them all away!

___________________________________

Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts Real Estate Attorney. For further information you can contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com.

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A guest post by David Gaffin, Senior Mortgage Lender, from Greenpark Mortgage.

David Gaffin, Greenpark Mortgage

Since Nov. 3rd when the Federal Reserve Bank released details of QEII (Quantitative Easing II), we have seen a very rapid rise in mortgage rates. On a national basis, the Freddie Mac 30 year fixed rate has moved from 4.20% to 5.05% this week. The 10 year Treasury has risen above 3.70% and Inflation seems to be the word of this month.

Last year at this time the 10 year was at 3.73% and it hit 4.00% on April 5th. It then started a fairly rapid descent all spring and summer to its low of 2.38% on October 8th. There were several economic events that brought this about, but the question in every mortgage company’s and consumer’s mind is “Will history repeat itself this year”?

Wishful thinkers will say YES. Many think the stock market is overbought. The Mid-East and Egypt situation is still very unstable. Inflation remains low according to the FED. Unemployment is stubbornly high and the housing market is continues to be very sluggish.  Until these issues are resolved, rates cannot rise too far or consumer demand will fall and economic growth will not be sustained.

HOWEVER, there are a few wrinkles that have nothing to do with Macroeconomics that will be in play in the coming months and years.

Changes In Loan Officer Compensation

As part of the Dodd-Frank Bill, loan officers’ compensation is about to undergo a dramatic change. Loan officers will no longer be paid based on certain loan characteristics such as interest rate. The intention is to have consumers with like profiles receive the same interest rate when quoted from one loan officer to another within the same company. One the surface this makes sense. In practice, the policy is very unfriendly to the consumer, limits consumer choice, and is uncompetitive for the marketplace. Loan officers already have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients to put them in the best loan for them, while compensation to the loan officer is not a major factor. This is a higher standard than the financial planning or brokerage environment which must merely come up with a suitable product, not the best product for their clients.

The anticipated effect of this change, coupled with the reduced volume of loan transactions due to rising rates, will further increase the profit pressures on lending institutions, thereby requiring them to make their loans more profitable. This may be done through reduction of expenses and overhead (read layoffs) or higher rates to the consumer, and will eventually lead to fewer choices to the consumer as companies go out of business. The large lending institutions will then be free to control the market even more so.

Fannie/Freddie (GSE) Reform

A bigger factor is the Fannie/Freddie GSE reform now being detailed by the Treasury. This plan, which may take affect over several years, will reduce/eliminate the government’s backing of the mortgage market, except perhaps through FHA, VA and USDA loans. When the government moves to a private secondary market, those investors are going to want a greater return on their investments and rates will almost certainly rise and may do so dramatically. Less than 10 years ago 7.25% was considered a great rate!

Current programs such as a 30 year fixed rate may vanish in favor of the adjustable rate mortgages which move with the interest rate market and would be more profitable for investors. Additionally, for those programs that are somewhat or fully guaranteed by the government, I would expect the fees associated with these programs to rise substantially.

The GSE reform options include reducing the Agency Jumbo Limit to $625,000, down from $729,000 in the highest cost areas. In Massachusetts those high cost areas are Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Islands off Cape Cod. The highest max loan amount in other counties is $523,750. Will this reduction of loan size have a big impact? I don’t think so. Current rates may be .250% to .500% higher with portfolio lenders that offer loans over these limits, but these jumbos have come way down in rate compared to the depths of the financial crisis. Most of the risk is relieved through very strict underwriting guidelines.

I have Portfolio lenders offering under 4% on ARM rates on loans to $1MM at 5 year interest only for the right borrower! While ARMs may not be the right product for everyone, they are for certain individuals and these folks are saving tremendous sums compared to where rates were just a couple of years ago.

A big concern for for future homeowners with GSE reform will be the minimum down payment requirements. There is talk that borrower’s may be required to put down 10 or 20% to qualify. Some major lenders have suggested 30%. Yeah, that’ll work…not. If that becomes the requirement you can kiss home ownership goodbye for the next generation or so, and rents will rise very rapidly.

I certainly recognize the need for GSE reform. Taxpayers have been getting killed by the losses from the mortgage giants, and the bleeding will not stop anytime soon. The plan as outlined by the Obama administration will gradually make changes to the GSEs over 5-7 years. But hopefully the market will understand what will be happening well in advance of the changes occuring.

Interest Rate Predictions For 2011 and Beyond

So what do I think? I think (unfortunately) rates will:

  • increase to 5.875%-6.125% for a 30 year fixed rate by the end of 2011;
  • increase to 6.50% by end of 2012; and
  • level out at closer to 7% by 2013.

By that time hopefully there will be a more clear path to GSE reform.

I want low rates. It’s good for my business, helps pay for my mortgage, and keeps the house heated.

All of this rate speculation, however, could be meaningless if Congress decides to finally act on the deficit. If they do, then rates could stay low for a very long period. One thing is for sure, my 3 kids are going to see a very different economic and housing landscape when they are ready to buy a home.

To see the  the full report on Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market, click here .

I welcome comments and your point of view.  I also welcome subscribers to my blog, The Massachusetts Mortgage Blog. Also check out my new Facebook page, Mortgagemania. I can be reached via email by clicking here.

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It’s that time again for our annual review of hot topics and top posts for the last year, 2010.

#5. The Great Flood of 2010. Ah, who can forget the flooding in the spring of 2010. I sure remember bailing out my flooded basement every 30 minutes through the night, into exhaustion. Good times… FEMA declared a “major disaster” and the IRS granted taxpayers in 7 counties an extension to file their taxes.

Read More: Federal Aid And Tax Extension To May 11 Available To Massachusetts Homeowners Affected By Flooding

#4. The Obama HAFA Short Sale Program. The Obama short sale program, announced at the end of 2009, was aimed to speed up short sales of homes and other loan modification alternatives to stem the rising tide of foreclosures. The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA) provides financial incentives and simplifies the procedures for completing short sales, a growing practice in which a lender agrees to accept the sale price of a home to pay off a mortgage even if the price falls short of the amount owed. By all accounts, however, the HAFA program has been a dismal failure.

#3. On Jan. 1, new RESPA rules went into effect, significantly changing the way lenders disclose settlement services, in particular closing attorneys’ fees, and title insurance. Read more: New RESPA Rules 2010: Disclosure of Settlement Services, Closing Attorneys’ Fees, And Title Insurance .

#2. Our popular primers on the Massachusetts Offer to Purchase and the standard form Purchase and Sale Agreement, checked in with over 16,000 reads. Great to see posts about buying a new home ranking so highly. An indicator of the recovery of the Massachusetts real estate market perhaps?

Read More:

#1–Fannie Mae & FHA Condominium Regulations:  Our series on the Fannie Mae and FHA strict new condominium lending rules were incredibly popular, combining for over 25,000 reads during 2010.  The new guidelines had condominium developers and associations, buyers and sellers in a tizzy, as Fannie and FHA imposed much tougher pre-sale requirements, condominium financial guidelines and the imposition of unit owner HO-6 insurance policies, among other requirements.

Read More:

Honorable Mention: With Old Man Winter upon us, our post on the changes in Massachusetts snow removal law is very popular:  Massachusetts Property Owners Now Have Legal Responsibility To Shovel Snow & Ice.

What To Expect In 2011

Final Ruling In the Ibanez Foreclosure Case

Early 2011 should bring the final word from the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court on the very controversial foreclosure case of U.S. Bank v. Ibanez which invalidated foreclosures across the state for sloppy paperwork. Thousands of property owners and their ownership rights to their homes hang in the balance. Click Here For Our Entire Series Of Post On the Ibanez Case.

Fate Of Real Estate Attorneys

Year 2011 should also bring the final word in the The Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts, Inc. (REBA) v. National Real Estate Information Services, Inc. (NREIS) case. This case pits Massachusetts real estate closing attorneys versus out of state non-attorney settlement service providers which are attempting to perform “witness or notary” closings here in Massachusetts. At stake is merely the billion dollar Massachusetts real estate closing industry.

What are your predictions for 2011?

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Fannie Mae will roll out new lending guidelines on December 13 which will make securing a mortgage a lot easier for some borrowers but harder for others.

The Good News: Gift Money For Entire Down Payment

  • Borrowers can now use gifts or grant funds for their entire down payment, avoiding the old rule requiring at least 5% of the down payment from the borrowers’ own funds. Gifts can come from family members and non-profit community grants.
  • The new rule applies to all single family transactions and 1-4 unit multifamily mortgages with less than 80% loan to value.
  • For multifamily properties with 80% or higher LTV, the borrower must use his own funds for 5% of the down payment.

This will help upgrade buyers and young couples who for whatever reason don’t have enough money and are getting some from their families.

Bad News: Tougher Debt-To-Income Ratios

Fannie Mae is getting tougher on debt-to-income ratios, or the amount of a borrower’s gross monthly income that goes toward paying off all debts. The maximum ratio for those seeking a conventional mortgage will drop to 45 % from 55 % under the new guidelines.

The agency is also taking a harder look at payment histories on revolving debt. In the past, if a borrower missed a monthly payment, Fannie Mae ignored it, or required that lenders add a few percentage points to the total balance when calculating the debt-to-income ratio. Now, buyers who have missed a payment will have 5 % of the total balance added to their ratios.

These new guidelines could sink many potential borrowers with student-loan debt that has been deferred or borrowers who have bought big-ticket items through financing with delayed payments.

Worst News: Foreclosure Penalty Up To 7 Years

Perhaps the toughest news from Fannie Mae concerns borrowers who have gone through foreclosure. They will be excluded from obtaining a Fannie-backed loan for seven years, up from four.

This is an especially tough pill to swallow, especially since many feel Fannie Mae is complicit in creating the very environment which lead to the explosion of foreclosures.

Buyers who do not meet the new Fannie Mae requirements may have to consider a nonconforming loan from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). These loans, which do not follow Fannie Mae underwriting guidelines, require mortgage insurance premiums and, for those with low credit scores, higher interest rates and steeper down-payment requirements.

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David Gaffin of Greenpark Mortgage,  www.massmortgageblog.com, is here with a superb summary of what’s now going on with Massachusetts (and national) residential mortgage market.

The National and Massachusetts Mortgage Lending Picture

Lot’s has been happening in the Mortgage World lately. Refinance business is very good. Purchase business is fair, heading into the all important year end buying season.

I will let this post be a little more free-form than my taking a particular topic and expounding on it (or beating it to death) depending on your perspective.

FHA has changed guidelines… Again.

USDA is still not guaranteeing loans.

Fannie and Freddie need another $200 billion of taxpayer money.

Foreclosures stopped and started again. What could that mean to you and me?

The Fed is meeting on Nov 3 to either lay the hammer down on Quantitative Easing II or will do nothing and really mess up interest rates.

Refinance Now!

1.  So you want to refinance? My suggestions:  A. Get started now! Loan pipelines continue to be backed up. Remember the bad old days when rates were an exorbitant 4.75% for a 30 year fixed rate and everyone re-fied? When was that again? Oh, right. JUNE. Well many of those same people are now re-fiing again in the low 4′s, possibly high 3′s. And people who were late to the party are adding on. So don’t expect your file to be closed in less than 60 days. Many lenders are at 120 days for refinances. If you have a current home equity line of credit that you plan to keep open, add another 30 days or so.

It is not all doom and gloom. I know of many files that were closed in less than 45 days. Purchases always get priority and about 30-35 days is the requirement. If you lender can’t get it done in that time, well my contact info is below.

Don’t be cranky with your loan officer or processor when they request enough paper work to rebuild a forest. The secondary market has really toughened its verification guidelines, cause no one wants to be left holding the bag on a loan that goes bad. Everyone wants to ensure that the underwriting, appraisal and income verification has been double and triple checked.

Good news for Realtors

End of year buying season has begun and the clients that want to be in their new homes by year end must make some decisions soon. We should see a boost in P & S activity over the next 30 days. If that doesn’t come to fruition, it could be a long dark winter for many of my realty friends.  But rates are great! If you bought the same priced home 2 years ago, you would have paid 5-20% more than current prices and your interest rates could have been more than 2.00% higher. Now is a GREAT time to buy. I know that is self-serving, but I am a numbers and value guy. I don’t like seeing the value drop in my house either, but if I were buying I would be psyched!

FHA has changed it guidelines again as of Oct 4

FHA needs money to keep guaranteeing its loans against default. Every borrower pays a fee to get into the program and to ensure its continuation. So the fees got changed.  FHA lowered the UPMIP (up-front mortgage insurance premium) from 2.25% to 1.00%.  Sounds good right? With one hand they giveth and the other taketh away. The monthly mortgage insurance will virtually all FHA borrowers pay has moved from .55% of the base loan amount to .84% monthly. On a $200,000 loan the old cost over  7 years was $12,200 and the monthly MI was $91.67.  Now the projected expense is $13,760 and the monthly MI is $140.00. Most investors have now raised the minimum credit score requirement from 620 to 640. FHA is still the best choice for borrower’s with credit scores under 660 and who may have little equity or down payment or who need higher tolerance levels for debt to income ratios.

USDA Loans

The USDA which offers a great program, or at least did, can’t seem to get its funding in order and therefore cannot issue any conditional guarantees for loans. USDA offers several advantages over conventional and FHA loans but they are proving very hard to get. If  you would like more information on the availability of these loans, send me an email.

Freddie and Fannie are in more trouble with losses.

Do we shut them off and let the private sector take over?  We can but rates would rise dramatically and put an even further damper on the housing market.  Given that TARP actually turned a profit, I think any additional funds to rescue the GSE’s should have an opportunity for the taxpayer to make a return on the re-sold properties even if it takes years to divest the shadow inventory that they own.

Foreclosure Mess

Speaking of shadow inventory… Foreclosures are on again/off again/on again.  For legal thoughts on this check out the Mass Real Estate Law Blog by Rich Vetstein and Marc Canner.

My thoughts are that although there will be a delay to ensure that the legal work has been properly done, people will unfortunately continue to lose their homes. Many will lose them due to the economic downturn or medical reasons. Others will have lost them to predatory lenders or poor decision making on their parts. I don’t really want to get started on “It was all the lender’s fault.” Needless to say, a reason the paperwork requirements exist today, is reliant upon the the lack of paperwork requirements and shoddy underwriting in the past.

I could write several scrolls on this whole mess, but I don’t wish to bore. It may already be too late.

Big Federal Reserve Meeting

Possibly the greatest short to mid-term driver for interest rates will be what the Fed decides or doesn’t decide to do at it’s next meeting. The market has baked in that the FED will ease monetary policy further. If they don’t come through in a big way the stock market most likely will drop and interest rates will rise.  But how much will rates rise? Probably enough that any one who re-fied this summer won’t be able to do so again, or at least until some other economic driver comes to bear. So get off the fence and talk to your loan officer NOW.

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