HUD

New-QM-rulesNew Four Letter Word In the Mortgage Industry

Say the word “QM” (short for Qualified Mortgage) to any mortgage banker these days, and watch their reaction. If they were smiling, they will stop. Better yet, lock the doors to prevent them from jumping off the nearest bridge.

“QM” refers to the new Qualified Mortgage rules passed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the Dodd-Frank Act which went into effect on January 10, 2014. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed as a response to the late-2000s recession, and has brought the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the regulatory reform that followed the Great Depression.

Seeking to prevent the sub-prime meltdown earlier in the decade, the new QM rules — through stricter underwriting guidelines and debt-income ratios — require lenders to ensure that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan today and into the future. In exchange, lenders will be protected from borrower lawsuits.

According to a recent ComplianceEase study, 20% of today’s mortgages would not meet the new qualified mortgage standards and would be rejected. According to most loan officers who I’ve spoken to, the general consensus is that the QM Rules will make for even stricter underwriting, more loan application rejections, especially for the self-employed, and even higher interest rates for certain loans.

Debt to Income Caps
For a loan to be considered a qualifying mortgage, the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio can be no more than 43%. This means that if a borrower has $4,500 in gross monthly income, his total debt payments including his new mortgage cannot exceed $1,935 per month. Previously, some lenders had been willing to go up to 45%.

Fee And Term Caps
Lenders will be less able to make creative loans, as well. Loans that meet the QM rule can be no longer than 30 years in length. They also cannot have closing costs and fees that exceed a cap of 3% of the loan’s balance.

Self-Employed

Self-employed borrowers will also take a hit under the QM rules. In addition to two years of personal and business tax returns — the typical requirement and now the official standard — self-employed borrowers should also be prepared to produce a profit-and-loss statement and a balance sheet.  A declining income trend will require explanation, because lenders need to establish the stability and continuity of the income source. Although capital losses and net-operating-loss carry-overs cited on a tax return could previously be added back to the income, their re-inclusion under the new rules will make the loan a nonqualified mortgage. The problem for self-employed people, as always, is that they want to minimize their tax liability, but some of the ways they do so impact their ability to borrow.

Less Availability Of Higher Risk Loan Products

The QM rules will also have a negative effect on the availability of non-QM loans with higher debt to income ratios, stated income loans for self-employed, and over 30 year term loans. Non-QM loans will be subject to significant legal risk under the Ability to Repay (ATR) rule and the liability for violations is draconian, according to Jack Hartings, President and CEO of The Peoples Bank at a House hearing panel. Mr. Hartings also noted that non-compliance with QM rules could also serve as a defense to foreclosure if the loan is deemed not to be a QM loan and small community banks do not have the legal resources to manage this degree of risk. Thus these banks, he said, will not continue to make some of the loans they have made in the past such as low dollar amount loans, balloon payment mortgages, and higher priced mortgage loans.

Loan officers, I would love to hear your thoughts about the new QM rules. Realtors, were you even aware of these rules coming down the pipeline which may affect your buyers?

{ 1 comment }

CFPB.pngCFPB Issues Long Awaited “Know Before You Owe” Mortgage Disclosures, Replacing Truth in Lending, Good Faith Estimate, and HUD-1 Settlement Statement

As part of a continuing overhaul of the home mortgage market, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today issued a final rule to bolster fairness and clarity in residential lending, including requiring a new good faith estimate of costs for homebuyers, Truth in Lending disclosure and a new HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

The new Loan Estimate will replace the current Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and the current Truth in Lending Disclosure (TIL). The new Closing Disclosure will replace the current HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The new forms are embedded below.

The real estate industry will have 20 months to implement the new disclosures, by August 1, 2015. The CFPB website has a summary of the new rules and disclosures here.

Initial Impressions, Did The CFPB Finally Get It Right?

Overall, I would say that the forms are a major improvement over the existing disclosures, especially the Truth in Lending disclosure. I always joke that the Truth in Lending disclosure should be called “Confusion in Lending” (which usually gives the borrower a chuckle) as it’s nearly impossible to explain even for a trained attorney and sophisticated borrower. That may be rectified now with the new forms — although I still may employ the joke!

The new HUD-1 Closing Disclosure is a longer and more involved form, but it basically just reorganizes all of the information now contained in the current 3 page HUD-1 Settlement Statement, and it appears to be easier to read and explain at the closing table.

The CFPB says that the new forms will replace the existing forms, resulting in a decrease in pages to review — which is a minor miracle in and of itself. A common complaint from borrowers is the sheer number of forms and disclosures signed at the closing, so this is welcome news.

3 Business Day Rule May Be Problematic

As Bernie Winne of the Massachusetts Firefighters Credit Union testified at the announcement hearing today in Boston, the new requirement that the Closing Disclosure (new HUD-1) be provided to the borrower within 3 business days of the closing may pose a problem in some transactions and will certainly result in a major adjustment in current practices. There are often last minute changes in closing figures, seller credits, holdbacks, payoffs, etc., which result in last minute changes. Hopefully, the CFPB will realize this in the upcoming implementation period and relax the rules in certain circumstances. There has already been significant chatter on Twitter and the blogosphere about this new requirement.

Another encouraging note was CFPB Director Cordray’s comments today about the agency pushing for more electronic closings. Fannie Mae has done squat to push e-closings, so hopefully CFPB will take the lead in this important area!

Loan Estimate Disclosure

  • The new Loan Estimate will combine the disclosures currently provided in the Good Faith Estimate and the initial Truth in Lending statement.
  • Lenders must provide the Loan Estimate 3 business days after an application is submitted by a consumer, excluding days that the lender is not open (e.g., Saturdays).  However, it is not clear based from materials available thus far when a consumer has submitted sufficient information to constitute an “application.”
  • The Loan Estimate will conveniently provide for the monthly principal and interest payment, projected payments over the term of the loan, estimated taxes and insurance (escrows), estimated closing costs, and cash to close.
  • It will provide for a Rate Lock deadline.
  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) appears on page 3, despite requests by consumer advocates that it appear in a prominent location on the first page.  In addition, it appears that the Bureau did not adopt the proposal to revise the APR calculation to include more items in the finance charge and thereby potentially increase the number of loans that would fail the Qualified Mortgage’s points-and-fees test or would be treated as “high cost” or “higher priced.”

Closing Disclosure

  • The Closing Disclosure will combine the disclosures currently provided in the HUD-1 settlement statement and any revised Truth in Lending statement. It is now a 5 page document compared to the current 3 page document.
  • Critically, the Closing Disclosure must be provided at least 3 business days before the closing. Lenders and closing attorneys will have to adapt to this new requirement as currently we usually get the final HUD approved by the lender 24-48 hours before the closing.
  • Page 1 of the Closing Disclosure carries over much of the Truth in Lending information previously found in the TIL form.
  • Page 2 and 3 replicate the existing HUD-1 Settlement Statement (pages 1 and 2) outlining the fees and closing costs, adjustments, and commissions charged to the buyer and seller. It also contained a more extensive section on Cash to Close which will be helpful to explain.
  • Page 4 contains a nice easy-to-read section on the escrow account which is often challenging to explain to borrowers.
  • The last page is similar to the current page 3 of the HUD-1, providing a quick summary of the loan terms, interest rate, total payments and APR.

CFPB Loan Estimate

CFPB Closing Disclosure

{ 5 comments }

CFPB.png

Updated 11/20/13: CFPB Issues Final Mortgage Rules and Disclosure Forms (click here for more info)

A long awaited regulatory and compliance announcement may be coming to Boston next week.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced that on November 20, 2013, it will hold a field hearing in Boston on the “Know Before You Owe: Mortgages” rules. Industry experts predict that CFPB will announce its long-awaited new Truth In Lending (TILA)-RESPA integrated disclosures final rule and forms.

The new rules and disclosures will result in another dramatic change in the Truth in Lending, Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Statement used by lenders and attorneys in residential purchase and refinance transactions. A new “Loan Estimate” would replace the current Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and the current Truth in Lending Disclosure (TIL). A new Closing Disclosure would replace the current HUD-1 Settlement Statement. Our prior post on the new closing disclosures can be found here.

The event will feature remarks by CFPB Director Cordray and testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public. The event will be held at the Back Bay Grand, Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116. If I’m lucky enough to get an invite, I will be there and will report back on what happens.

{ 0 comments }

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.”

{ 1 comment }

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

{ 0 comments }

2011-20121I always look forward to recapping the year that was, and bringing out the crystal ball to predict the year ahead. This year, like years prior, was an active year for Massachusetts real estate law, with several important court rulings, legislative developments, and emerging legal trends. The year 2013 is expected to be just as busy.

Eaton v. Fannie Mae and Fannie Mae v. Hendricks Foreclosure Rulings

Another year, another pair of huge foreclosure rulings by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. On June 22, 2012, in Eaton v. Federal Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, the SJC held that lenders must establish they hold both the promissory note and the mortgage in order to lawfully foreclose. This posed major problem for the vast majority of conventional mortgages which lenders securitized and sold off on the secondary mortgage market, thereby splitting the note and mortgage among various securitized trusts and mortgage servicers. Responding to pleas from the real estate bar, the SJC declined to apply its ruling retroactively, thereby averting the Apocalyptic scenario where thousands of foreclosure titles would have been called into question. My prior post on the Eaton ruling can be read here.

The FNMA v. Hendricks case had the potential to change Massachusetts foreclosure practice, but the SJC rejected the challenge. The court upheld the validity of the long-standing Massachusetts statutory form foreclosure affidavit which provided that the foreclosing lender has complied with the foreclosure laws,rejecting the borrower’s claim that the affidavit was essentially robo-signed.

New Medical Marijuana Law Has Landlords, Municipalities Smoking Mad

Burned up Massachusetts landlords and anti-pot local pols are still fuming with concern over the state’s newly passed but hazy medicinal marijuana law. The law — rolling out Jan. 1 — mandates the opening of at least 35 medicinal marijuana dispensaries, and grants users the right to grow a two-month supply of marijuana at home if they cannot get to a dispensary because they are too sick or too broke. The new law also potentially opens landlords up to federal prosecution for violating the federal controlled substances laws. Many towns and cities are contemplating banning dispensaries or passing zoning by-laws regulating their locations. My prior post on the new marijuana law can be read here.

539wApartment Rental Occupancy Limits

In 2013, the SJC will consider the Worcester College Hill case which will significantly impact landlords renting apartments to students and in other multi-family situations. The question is whether renting to 4 or more unrelated persons in one apartment unit requires a special “lodging house” license which would, in most cases, make it cost-prohibitive to rent to more than 3 unrelated persons. (Lodging houses require a built-in fire sprinkler system, for example). The SJC will hear oral arguments in the case on January 7, 2013.

Foreclosure Prevention Act Passed

On August 3, 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Foreclosure Prevention Act. The new law requires that lenders offer loan modifications on certain mortgage loans before foreclosing. Unfortunately, the law did not fix the problem with existing title defects resulting from the U.S. Bank v. Ibanez case in 2010. (Sen. Moore’s office plans to re-introduce Senate Bill 830 in 2013). My prior post on the new law can be read here.

SJC To Consider Realtor’s Liability for Erroneous MLS Info

Sometime in 2013, the SJC will issue a very important opinion in the controversial DeWolfe v. Hingham Centre Ltd. disclosure case where a Realtor was held liable for failing to verify the zoning of a listing on the Multiple Listing Service. The Court will also consider whether the exculpatory clause found in the Greater Boston Real Estate Board’s standard form purchase and sale agreement legally prohibits a buyer’s misrepresentation claim against the real estate agent. The Massachusetts Association of Realtors and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board have filed friend of the court briefs urging the SJC to limit Realtors’ disclosure obligations in the case. My prior post on the case can be read here.

Good Faith Estimate, TIL, and HUD-1 Settlement Statement To Change Dramatically

In the second major overhaul of closing disclosures in three years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be rolling out in 2013 a new “Lending Estimate” and “Closing Estimate” which will replace the current Good Faith Estimate, Truth in Lending Disclosure, and HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The changes are part of the Dodd-Frank Act, and has the lending and title insurance industries scrambling to figure out who should be ultimately responsible for the accuracy of closing fees and other logistics in delivering these new disclosures. My prior posts on the topic can be read here.

mw_1011_FISCAL_CLIFF_620x350Fiscal Cliff Anxiety Syndrome

The Year In Review would not be complete without mention of the dreaded Fiscal Cliff. As of this writing, President Obama and the House (which even rejected its own Speaker Boehner’s last proposal) have been unable to 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.

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

_____________________________________________________

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.

{ 0 comments }

Mandatory 3 Business Day Waiting Period Will Delay Closings

Action Needed: Comment On Proposed Rule

While our attention has been diverted from more important issues such as Hurricane Sandy and the election, please be advised that November 6, 2012 is the last day for lenders, settlement agents, Realtors and the public to comment on the controversial new combined Truth and Lending/HUD-1 Disclosure rules proposed by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For those who don’t know, the CFPB has proposed a major overhaul to closing disclosures, combining the Truth In Lending and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement into a single 5 page disclosure form.

Of paramount concern to the real estate community is the proposed Three Business Day Rule, which would require that lenders provide the final Closing Disclosure (the new HUD-1) at least 3 business days prior to the closing. The major problem with this rule is that if there are changes in settlement and closing figures between the time of disclosure and the closing, the consumer must be provided a new form, and the closing must be delayed for at least 3 business days. ((There is an exception for adjustments between buyer and seller, such as a repair credit and for items under $100.))

In today’s lending environment, last minute changes to settlement numbers are common, and given the crush of underwriting tasks, final closing figures are typically provided 24-48 hours prior to the closing, or even the day of closing. Moreover, there are often delays getting information from outside sources — real estate tax information from municipalities, insurance information from independent agents, final water/sewer readings, oil bills and 6d condo fees from Realtors, and payoffs from sellers — all of which are out of the control of the lender and the closing attorney.

If there are last minute changes to settlement numbers, the proposed rule will delay closings for at least 3 business days, which could be catastrophic. This will have an unintended ripple effect on both the borrower and other parties, especially where the borrower is doing a “sell-buy” on the same day.

The CFPB is out of touch with the real estate industry on this rule. Indeed, at a recent symposium on the new rules, the CFPB’s new general counsel was reported as being very surprised that last-minute changes in settlement figures were relatively common. Delaying closings for 3 business days through delays of no fault of the lender or settlement agent hurts all the parties to the transaction. The rule is regulatory overkill.

CLICK THIS LINK TO COMMENT ON THE NEW CFPB RULE (CLICK SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT)

Tell the CFPB that the 3 Business Day Rule is a bad idea, and give anecdotal stories about how delays in closings will affect your business. And please share this post with fellow lenders, mortgage bankers, closing attorneys and Realtors.

________________________________________________________

Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is a Massachusetts real estate attorney with offices in Framingham and Needham, MA. You can reach him at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com.

{ 2 comments }

All Politics Aside, It’s Time To Bring Housing & Real Estate Back To the Forefront

In the most tweeted, Facebook-ed and instant polled Presidential Campaign ever, there is one topic which has been met with surprisingly deafening silence: the U.S. Housing and Real Estate Market. During last week’s debate, we heard a lot about tax plans and cuts, energy, health care and jobs, but nothing on the real estate market. Nothing…This year’s presidential candidates have mostly avoided discussing an industry that’s largely responsible for the last five years of economic pain. But why?

For sure, the subject of housing remains an extremely sensitive one. President Obama might prefer that the real estate market, whose imbalances sparked the financial crisis, to remain a ghost issue because of a lackluster record at combating the foreclosure epidemic. He is also blamed for not doing enough on the loan modification front with the dismal HAMP and HARP programs. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, might like to steer clear of the topic because a hard stance on housing could alienate voters whom he needs to win. I’m not here to debate one particular side or candidate, but rather to simply pose the question of why no talk on real estate?

Obama Falls Short of Expectations?

“Obama’s major housing initiatives have fallen short of expectations, and so Obama doesn’t have big victories to point to,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist for listing service Trulia. “The housing market is still struggling in many parts of the country, so this is not a problem that’s been solved.” The administration’s flagship relief program, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), has helped 1 million homeowners obtain lower interest rates, principal reductions, more time to pay their mortgages or any combination of the three. But that pales in comparison to the 3 to 4 million homeowners whom the program was supposed to help. Meanwhile, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), designed to help 5 million homeowners refinance their mortgages into lower interest rates, has benefited only about 1.5 million homeowners.

Romney Gun-Shy On Housing?

Romney’s housing platform includes the potential elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that prospect may be just too scary and radical to everyday voters and homeowners who have relied on the government giants to stabilized the formerly free-falling real estate market. “To stake out what you think Fannie and Freddie’s future is is to alienate somebody,” commented Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. “Realtors and home builders tend to be politically active — and Republicans,” noted Mr. Calabria. Indeed, Romney’s free-market stance on housing, if articulated bluntly, could unsettle many distressed homeowners as well. He has said that he believes that the housing market should naturally “hit bottom,” and has harshly criticized Obama’s relief programs.

Let’s Get The Housing Dialogue Going!

Over the past several months, I’ve enjoyed healthy (and even civil) political discussion on the issues on my Facebook feed. (Please join in!). The real estate market and housing always comes up, whether it’s in the context of folks not able to refinance their underwater mortgages, the loss of their equity, or the impact of unemployment on the general real estate sector. Granted, the real estate market has made significant gains since the bottom fell out in 2008, but folks are still hurting out there and it’s really been the Fed and its low interest rates which have largely kept the market from imploding. So, we should be talking about all the issues. And that means federally assisted refinancing for underwater mortgages, Fed policy on interest rates, and the future of the GSE’s. Oh and by the way, where did all that foreclosure crisis settlement money go? I have yet to hear about anyone who has received any assistance from that fund.

Well, if Obama and Romney aren’t going to talk housing and real estate, we can do it here on this blog. Feel free to post your comments, diatribes or soapbox speeches in the comment section below. You can use the Facebook comments too. Keep the debate civil please!

{ 4 comments }

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.

______________________________________

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.


{ 1 comment }

Concise Disclosures Aimed At Reducing Borrower Confusion and Helping Comparison Shopping

As part of a continuing overhaul of the home mortgage market, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday issued proposed rules to bolster fairness and clarity in residential lending, including requiring a new good-faith estimate of costs for homebuyers and a new closing settlement statement.

My understanding is that the new “loan estimate” would replace the current Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and the current Truth in Lending Disclosure (TIL). The new closing disclosure would replace the current HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The new disclosures are open to industry and public comment for 120 days, after which they will be finalized and codified as law. For more details on the new disclosures, go to the CFPB site here.

Here is the new Loan Estimate.

201207 Cfpb Loan-estimate

Here is the new Closing Disclosure

201207 Cfpb Closing-disclosure

I’m interesting in hearing comments on the new forms from mortgage professionals, real estate attorneys and borrowers. Please comment below!

_______________________________________________________________________

Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate closing attorney who has closed thousands of purchase and refinance transactions. Please contact him if you need legal assistance purchasing residential or commercial real estate.

{ 2 comments }

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!

_________________________________________________

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.

{ 4 comments }

Final product will be a combination of both the final Truth in Lending (TIL) form and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement — a dramatic change from the existing forms.

For the second time in as many years, the federal government is substantially overhauling two of the most important disclosures given to mortgage borrowers, the Truth in Lending Disclosure and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The revisions are mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in charge of re-designing and testing the new forms.

Most real estate industry professionals are unaware that these new changes are on the horizon. The new forms are expected to be implemented in 2013 after rule-making and industry comments are completed.

If you want to track the CFPB’s activity on these forms, I highly recommend the CFPB Monitor. The CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” website also has updates and is pretty good for a government site.

Here is the new prototype HUD-1 Settlement Statement:

20120220 Cfpb Basswood Settlement Disclosure

What do you think about the new forms? At first, glance it is easier to read, understand and explain to borrowers. We’ll keep track of this important issue.

{ 1 comment }

by Brian Cavanaugh, Senior Mortgage Banker, RMS Mortgage and SmarterBorrowing.com

Overall, despite being a fairly light week in terms of economic releases and relate events, it is still relatively crucial for the mortgage market. We saw the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury Note spike higher Friday as a result of the stronger than expected employment data. Stocks rallied as a result of that data, extending the 2012 stock rally that has pushed the Dow up over 5% and the Nasdaq up 11% year-to-date. Both indexes are at their highest levels since May 2008 and December 2000 respectively. This has me believing we are due to see a pullback in stocks fairly soon. If/when this happens, we should see funds shift back into bonds for safety, leading to lower mortgage rates. Keep in mind that this is more or less just speculation, but I am expecting to move to a less conservative approach regarding short-term mortgage rates in the near future.

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…

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

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

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

There are only two pieces of monthly economic data scheduled for release this week. Neither of them is considered to be highly important, so we don’t have much to pin our hopes on or to be concerned with this week. There are two Treasury auctions on the calendar that may influence mortgage rates the middle part of the week and the second part of Fed Chairman Bernanke’s testimony to Congress, but no important economic data.

Nothing of concern is due tomorrow, so look for the stock markets and news from Europe- particularly Greece, to drive the markets tomorrow. Fed Chairman Bernanke will speak to the Senate Budget Committee at 10:00 AM Tuesday. I don’t expect him to say anything different than he said last week to the House Budget Committee, but the Q&A portion of his appearance could lead to something new. It is worth watching, but it will probably not lead to a noticeable change in the markets or mortgage rates.

Treasury Auctions Ahead

The two important Treasury auctions come Wednesday and Thursday when 10-year Notes and 30-year Bonds are sold. The 10-year sale is the more important one as it will give us a better indication of demand of mortgage-related securities. If the sales are met with a strong demand from investors, we should see the bond market move higher during afternoon trading the days of the auctions. But a lackluster interest from buyers, particularly international investors, would indicate a waning appetite for longer-term U.S. securities and lead to broader bond selling. The selling in bonds would likely result in upward afternoon revisions to mortgage rates.

Unemployment Numbers

With little monthly and no quarterly economic reports being posted, Thursday’s weekly release of unemployment figures may end up moving the markets and mortgage rates more than it traditionally does. The Labor Department is expected to announce that 370,000 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed last week, rising slightly from the previous week’s total. The higher the number of new claims for benefits, the better the news for the bond market and mortgage pricing as it would indicate weakness in the employment sector.

The first monthly report comes early Friday morning when December’s Goods and Services Trade Balance data will be posted. This report measures the U.S. trade deficit and can affect the value of the U.S. dollar versus other currencies, but it usually does not cause enough movement in bond prices to affect mortgage rates. It is expected to show a $48.2 billion trade deficit.

Consumer Sentiment

February’s preliminary reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment will be released late Friday morning. This index measures consumer willingness to spend and usually has a moderate impact on the financial markets. If it shows an increase in consumer confidence, the stock markets may move higher and bond prices could fall. It is currently expected to come in at 74.0, down from January’s final reading of 75.0. That would indicate consumers were less optimistic about their own financial situations than last month and are less likely to make large purchases in the near future. Since consumer spending makes up over two-thirds of the U.S. economy, this would be considered good news for bonds and mortgage pricing.

  • 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

{ 0 comments }

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.

 

{ 1 comment }

Annual Percentage Rate (APR), Amount Financed, Finance Charge, and Total Payments…the Truth In Lending Disclosure Statement is one of the most challenging disclosure forms to explain to borrowers at a Massachusetts real estate closing. I like to call it the “Confusion In Lending” Statement because the form is what happens when the government attempts to recalculate your interest rate and closing costs in a way most human beings would not even consider.

To explain the Truth In Lending Disclosure, we’ll use a dummy form for a $500,000 purchase transaction with a $400,000 loan (20% down payment), a 30 year fixed rate loan at 5.00% at a cost of 1 point.

Annual Percentage Rate

The confusion begins. The Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, as you can see is not 5.00%, which is the contract interest rate for the loan. Why? Because the APR does not use the loan amount for its calculations but rather the “Amount Financed.”

Amount Financed

And the confusion continues. The Amount Financed is not the $400,000 loan amount, but is about $6,600 less than the loan amount. That is because the Amount Financed equals the loan amount ($400,000) less prepaid loan and closing fees and payments. Fees included in the amount financed are: points, lender fees such as underwriting, process, tax service, mortgage insurance, escrow company fees, prepaid interest to end of closing month, and Homeowners Association fees. All of these fees are added up and subtracted from the loan amount to reach the Amount Financed figure. Note that depending on when the loan closes in the month, and fees from third parties such as escrow companies the Amount Financed will vary and therefore so will APR.

How The APR Is Calculated

Now that we have the Amount Financed, we can calculate the APR. For a 30 year fixed loan such as this, the true loan amount is amortized for the loan period using the interest rate. In our example $400,000 amortized for 30 years at 5.00% has a payment of $2,147.29 per month paying principal and interest.

To calculate the APR, we use the same payment –$2147.29 every month for 30 years– to pay off an Amount Financed of $393,372.22 (loan amount less costs) to reach an APR of 5.141%. So the APR is higher than the interest rate because the Amount Financed is lower than the loan amount for the same monthly payment and term.

ARMs–Adjustable Rate Mortgages

If you are taking out an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), you may as well just throw the Truth in Lending Disclosure out the window. The TIL is allowed to be based on the introductory interest rate through the entire life of the loan. Your adjustable rate mortgage, however, will reset its interest rate after 3, 5, 7, or 10 years depending on the type of product. There’s no way to predict where interest rates will be in the future, so the Truth in Lending Disclosure is inherently inaccurate for ARMs.

Explaining the Truth in Lending Disclosure is one of the many functions of a Massachusetts real estate closing attorney. In other states which aren’t required to use closing attorneys, they will not explain these complicated forms to you.

___________________________________

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

{ 4 comments }

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.

{ 5 comments }

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?

{ 0 comments }

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.

{ 1 comment }

The recent historic drop of mortgage rates has created a refinancing boom for qualified homeowners. Unfortunately, the refinancing wave washing over the country has paradoxically left dry homeowners who would most benefit:  those who are “underwater.” Underwater mortgages, or “negative equity” (i.e., they owe more on the mortgage than the property is worth) cause foreclosures and serves to bottle up the housing market. Thus, assisting homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage is good public policy. According to a CoreLogic study, there are currently 11 million mortgages underwater and another 2 million nearly at negative equity in the US housing market – a figure that comprises 28% of all residential properties with a mortgage. In Massachusetts, there are 225,000 properties with negative equity and another 52,000 with near negative equity.

The government has made attempts to address this crisis. Last year the Obama Administration created a loan modification program, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, to help refinance borrowers whose loans were worth up to 125% of their homes value. The program did not take hold, and only a relatively minor number of modifications/refinances occurred.

Writing in yesterday’s New York Times, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and current Dean of Columbia Business School Glenn Hubbard penned an intriguing column proposing easier refinancing of underwater mortgages.

Under the proposal, quasi-governmental entities like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA, and the VA would require loan servicers:

  • To send a short application to all eligible borrowers promising to allow them to refinance with minimal paperwork.
  • Servicers would receive a fixed fee for each mortgage they refinanced, which would be rolled into the mortgage to eliminate costs to the taxpayers.
  • The agencies would issue new mortgage-backed securities to cover the refinanced mortgages, using the proceeds to pay off the loans held in the existing securities.

The proposal also mandates that existing second lien holders provide a subordination agreement (which benefits the holder because it lowers the default risk).

The program would have immediate benefits: a distressed homeowner could save approximately 15% in their monthly mortgage payment, which would greatly help homeowner’s through the current crisis.

Is there a guarantee that this modification will become law? No, there is not, but it certainly makes sense for policymakers to move on it right away.

In the words of Glen Hubbard, “[i]f we can lower mortgage payments for struggling homeowners, it will reduce future foreclosures on federally backed loans, providing savings to the taxpayers.” And that’s a good thing for everyone.

{ 1 comment }

By Karen Rabinovici, UConn Law ’12

It seems more outdated than hair scrunchies, something we witnessed years ago: discrimination against pregnant women seeking mortgage loans. Apparently it’s still going on and worse than ever which is why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is investigating numerous cases of alleged pregnancy discrimination in lending. The New York Times recently wrote about it: Seeking a Mortgage, Don’t Get Pregnant.

Spurred by the financial crisis, lenders have created more stringent guidelines for granting loans to borrowers looking to buy homes, and have zoned in on pregnant women, essentially deeming them to be liabilities. Lenders are equivocating maternity leave with unemployment, which results in automatic disqualification or reduced buying power for a loan. Although some women on maternity leave can be entitled to temporary disability insurance, this disability insurance may not be used as qualifying income because it is allocated for a period of time less than three years. Women who are on maternity for only a few weeks are also affected, so the range of women denied loans is vast.

In the past, maternity leave was considered a break from work and was not taken into account when considering whether or not to grant a loan. In this financial climate, however, maternity leave has come to be viewed differently – as complete unemployment. So, lenders will not approve a loan until the mother is officially back at work. This subjects women to more red tape:  providing documents from their employers specifying the length of their maternity leave and the date of their return to work, as well as letters from their doctors, and other information deemed relevant.

These new guidelines have resulted in too many claims of discrimination from pregnant women to ignore, and thus has resulted in the HUD investigation. If HUD concludes that discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers is indeed taking place, this could be a violation of the Fair Housing Act, one purpose of which is to protect families.

Some results of all this are that families are forced to wait until the mother returns to work (possibly rushing maternity leave), families are altogether giving up on buying homes, or families are purchasing homes that they can afford on one salary.

Families are feeling punished for having babies, and the irony that most families are buying new homes in the first place because they are expecting children does not fail to come through.

While tougher standards for approving loans have become an obvious step to take by lenders, these types of resulting consequences walk a dangerous line between what needs to be done, and unfair treatment towards one group of people. In either case, the allegations of discrimination against pregnant women reek of the sexism that was rampant in the professional world decades ago.

What do you think? Are pregnant women being treated unfairly, or are they indeed a liability to lenders because of the income gap resulting from their maternity leave?

Related Articles:

Pregnant Women Losing Out On Home Loans, Change.org

Pregnant Women Denied Loans? Realtor.com

{ 2 comments }

Real Time Analytics