Finding the Best Mortgage Loan Officer

Minneapolis, MN:  Buying a home for most people is the largest financial transaction of your life. Finding the Best Mortgage Loan Officer  that is licensed, educated, experienced, professional and ethical is probably the most important decision you’ll make next to actually picking out that perfect dream home.

Most people these days pick their mortgage company one of three ways:

  1. Calling the bank where they have their checking account
  2. Going with whomever the Realtor suggests
  3. Online search (but usually only for the person quoting the lowest rate)

None of these in and of themselves are right or wrong, but here are some tips to know and understand:

First, understand that the mortgage company or bank that you choose in most cases has little to do with the success of your transaction. Essentially all mortgage lenders have and offer the same basic programs with the same underwriting guidelines. FHA loans for example are FHA loans no matter who you call, so in most cases, there is nothing special that one lender has over another.

Yet for others, there can be some differences, especially if you are on the edges in terms of loan approval. For example, a big bank with the stagecoach in their logo will not offer FHA loans over a 45% debt ratio, while some mortgage brokers (like us) will go to 50% debt-in-income ratio. This is a good example of why a mortgage broker may be a better choice, as they offer the products of multiple lenders, as opposed to just their own.

Using this one example, you may have lost out on your dream home simply because you chose the wrong lender.

Licensed Loan Officer Versus Simply Registered:

All mortgage Loan Officers must have a tracking / registration number known as an NMLS number. But having this number does NOT mean the Loan officer is licensed, or experienced.

Loan Officers at banks, credit unions, or mortgage lenders owned by a bank or credit unions can be, but are NOT required to be licensed in any way. Loan Officers at non-bank mortgage companies or brokers ARE REQUIRED to have an individual mortgage license.NMLS Consumer Access

You can check if your Loan officer is simply registered, or fully licensed by searching them on this public web site:  www.NMLSconsumerAccess.org.

At the bottom of the page, under licenses and registrations, there will either be one or more states listed, which means the person is licensed. If it indicates something similar to “Federal National Mortgage Originator”, this is a fancy name that means they are NOT licensed.

Being licensed versus simply registered does not automatically indicate if a Loan Officer is a good choice or not, but if one was doing the largest financial transaction of their life, I’d probably lien towards someone who has had to take schooling, pass state and federal testing, and is required to complete continuing education each year to be licensed, versus someone who didn’t have to do any of those things to simply be registered. Heck, even your hairdresser needs a license!

Using this example, you may have lost out on your dream home because of the the unlicensed, and inexperienced Loan Officer you chose.

Understanding Closing Costs and Interest Rates

Not only do most lenders only offer the same underlying loan products as everyone elsemortgage closing costs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA Loans, VA Loans, USDA Loans), but they all have the same underlying closing costs,  get the money to lend you from the same source, and interest rates are based on the same bond market everyday.

This is why you’ll notice all standard rate quotes are almost identical. This is why you’ll notice all closing costs quotes are almost identical.

All lenders have the same actual closing costs; appraisal, credit report, state deed taxes, county recording fees, title company charges, underwriting, origination fees, etc.  However, how lenders charge them to you can vary, and this is tied directly to your interest rate.

For example,  assume your shopping, and one lender says your closing costs are $5,000, and the next says $3,500. The lower price sounds good, and that would be true if the rates were the same. But they almost never will be.

More overhead equals higher rates

Advertising and buildings are expensive. The previously mentioned “Quick” lender for example advertises all day everyday on all TV channels, and radio stations all across the country.  You can’t go anywhere on the internet without seeing one of their advertisements.

How much does all that cost?  Must be millions. You are foolih to think that higher cost isn’t passed along to you in terms of the interest rate they charge you.

Sames with the big lenders with branches everywhere, and paying hundreds of millions for stadium naming rights.

Lender Credits

Lender credits towards your closing cost is a tool lender use to lower your out-of-pocket closing costs up-front by slightly increasing your interest rate. Mortgage interest ratesBy doing this, the lender requires less initially because they make it up by collecting more in interest over time.

Some lenders start right out of the gate by saying they don’t charge origination, or maybe they will pretend to pay for things like your appraisal. Someone is paying those items, and it is always you.

Now there is nothing wrong with taking a slightly higher rate to lower costs today. We do it all the time. But just understand that you are still paying for those costs, just in a different way.

Look at this 30-yr fixed screen shot from today for a $200,000 loan. At 3.875%, lender would charge $750 in discount points to “buy” this lower rate, but at 4,125%, lenders would reduce your closing costs with a lender credit of $2,250. The monthly payment difference between the two rates is $29.00.

Internet Lenders

There is nothing an internet lender can offer you that the local mortgage lender down the street can’t offer. They do not have lower rates, they do not have lower closing costs. But there are many things the internet lender can’t offer.

One big item is local knowledge, and dedication to the community. Some kid working in a cube in Detroit, MI could care less about my back yard or Minneapolis, St Paul, MN.

I constantly get phone calls from people who started a mortgage application with a big internet lender, who is “Quick In” mortgage.  They complain about high pressure sales, lack of product knowledge, mandatory up-front fees, failed closings, and more.

I also get a lot of calls from people who filled out an inquiry form at places that “Lend from a Tree”. Funny and cute commercials about applying in your underwear, but this place isn’t even the lender.  Rather, they take your name, then sell it to as many real lenders as possible for around $40 a lead. You are then inundated with calls from all these lenders trying to one up the other with false and misleading promises to get you to use them.

Big out-state internet lenders also NEVER have the ability to offer any state of local first time home buyer, or down payment assistance programs.

Using this example, you may have lost out on your dream home because you picked an out-state internet lender who doesn’t offer all the loan products available in your area.

Realtor Referrals

In theory, a Real Estate Agent referral to a Loan officer should be something of value, but not always. This is essentially because there are two underlying types of referrals.

A referral because the Real Estate Agent has worked with the Loan Officer for a long time, and knows them to be a licensed, knowledgeable, experienced mortgage professional looking out for your best interests. This is a good referral.

A referral because the Loan Officer works for the same company, or otherwise is heavily influenced by the owners of the Real Estate Company to refer to a specific lender or internal Loan Officer simply because it makes someone else money regardless of the qualify of the Loan Officer.

While not automatically bad, the second type of referral is highly suspicious. Tips to this type of referral are that the Loan Officer works for the same company, they share office space, or if you have already told your Real Estate Agent you have a lender you are happy with, and they become pushy or start talking negatively about your choice to get you to go to their choice.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, your Loan Officer choice is important. Ask questions, get answers. Just because someone refers, they advertise a lot, or appear to be quoting a super low rate or closing cost doesn’t mean they are the best for you, or that you shouldn’t shop or get a second opinion.

Take the time to pick a great lender, just as you take the time to pick the perfect house.

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Joe Metzler is a Senior Mortgage Loan Officer for Minnesota based Mortgages Unlimited. He was named the 2014 Minnesota Loan Officer of the Year, and #98 of the Top 100 Loan Officers in the Nation for 2015 by Origination News. He provides Home Mortgage Loans in MN, WI, and SD. He can be reached at (651) 552-3681


Mortgage loans. Why all the paperwork?

Mortgage loans – Why all the paperwork?

Loan PaperworkAs a Loan Officer serving Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, I am constantly asked why is there so much paperwork required to get a mortgage loan today. It seems that the lender wants to know everything about you these days, and you would be correct. Your mortgage lender does want to know a lot about you.  If you were to give a complete stranger a huge loan, for a 30-year commitment, what would YOU want to know about them?

To make it feel worse than it really is, from about 1999 until 2007 during the housing boom, there were many programs available that allowed for limited documentation, or even no proof of income. Many people took advantage of those programs. Unfortunately, a large number of those people were allowed to bite off more loan than they would have been allowed if they proved income, contributing to the real estate collapse starting in 2007.

Loan Documentation Requirements Today

No one wants foreclosures and bad loans. It isn’t good for the home buyer, the neighborhood, or the economy.  For that reason, mortgage companies need to verify and double check everything on the application, and to make sure you are a good risk.

There are three very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history.

  1. The mortgage industry was a bit too trusting in the past. Lenders for example asked for a pay stub, but we took what you provided at face value, and there was no double check. This allowed fraud to become rampant. How hard would it be to scan a W2 that said you made $30,000 a year into a computer, then use Photoshop to change that the 3 to an 8, and now you make $80,000 a year income.
  2. Even without fraud, during the run-up in the housing market, many people qualified for mortgages that they realistically could never pay back. The government has mandated new guidelines that now demand that the mortgage lender  prove beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of affording the mortgage. The rule is called ATR, or the “Ability to Repay” rule. So no more stated income, or limited income loans.
  3.  The lenders have never wanted to be in the real estate holding business. Since the collapse, lenders suffered huge losses that came close to destroying the economy, and were were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures,  and negotiating millions of more homes in short-sales.

The Good News About Mortgage Loans

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process. If you got a loan ten to 20-years ago, yes, it was easier. But at the same time, if you never experienced that in the past, your fame of reference is that it really isn’t all that difficult today.

Instead of complaining about the paperwork required, be thankful that that you can get a loan, and get it at these amazingly low mortgage interest rates.


Danger of automated mortgage pre-approval sites

It’s 2015.  I understand the daily advancements on computers, technology, and convenience. Popping up all over are sites that that claim the ability to “allows home shoppers to get pre-approved quickly and easily.” Instant pre-approval sounds cool.

But when it comes to home buying, potential home owners should be extremely wary of trusting any web site offering automated mortgage pre-approval tools.

The Traditional Mortgage Loan Process

The traditional process is you complete a loan application. ffA real live person reviews the information, talks to you about your situation, uses knowledge and expertise to explore all avenues and issues.  Then your file is run through one of the major AUS (automated underwriting system) of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, etc.

This AUS process only takes a few minutes, and the lender is provided with an answer to your loan application.  So if the computer says YES, you are good right?  NO, not even close.  This is just the first step.

The first major issue is simple. Garbage in equals garbage out.

Next, just because the AUS indicates ACCEPT (yes), there are still pages of information and requested items that need to be received and reviewed for accuracy. Common items are W2’s, pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns. Depending on your situation, you may need further items, like bankruptcy papers, divorce decrees, and more.

But it is the little nuances that even trip up less experienced Loan Officers, who unknowingly issue worthless pre-approval letters.

I was recently contacted by a client who had one of these instant pre-approval letters.  They had bought a home, and there application was now being fully underwritten by the lender. Just days before closing, underwriting was denying the file. The buyers big question, is “How can that be?  I was Pre-Approved?”

The issue in this case, was the income number the buyer input into the system was 100% correct. But the buyer was a 1099 contractor, not aW2 employee, who had only been with this company about 6 months. In the mortgage world, short-term contractor income is not allowed as qualifying income.

Did you know this? This is just one example. Could you be running around with an invalid pre-approval letter based off of income not allowed? You you make an offer, give notice on your apartment, and then possibly be homeless?

Your largest financial transaction of your life is too important to trust to just anyone, let alone a computer, without wisdom and input from a licensed, experienced, and professional Loan Officer.

Zillows New Pre-Approval Tool

Zillow recently announced a semi automated tool where potential home buyers enter very basic information. If they like the results, you continue by entering your name, email, and phone number. Your information is then sent immediately to the lenders in Zillows Mortgage Marketplace, who will get your information, pull your credit, and send you a pre-approval letter.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is have my information shared with 5, 10, 20 lenders, who all pull my credit, and have my personal information. I don’t want that floating around with a bunch of unknown people.  I also don’t want to be contacted by a bunch of meal time calling aggressive lenders who just paid money for my “hot lead.” And I haven’t even started about potential identity theft.

The Best Move When Getting Mortgage Pre-Approved?

When buying a home, your best move is to always work with a local lender the traditional way. The guy located in your geographic area, with a local reputation to protect. There is nothing anyone on the internet on the other side of the country can offer that you can’t get down the street.  More often than not, it is just the opposite… Especially when it comes to down payment assistance programs for first time buyers. These programs are always only available from the local lender.

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 Joe Metzler is a Senior Mortgage Loan Officer for Minneapolis Minnesota based Mortgages Unlimited. He was named the 2014 Minnesota Loan Officer of the Year by the MN Mortgage Association, and was ranked #98 of the Top 100 Loan Officers in the Nation in 2015 by Origination News. He provides Home Mortgage Loans in MN, WI, and SD. He can be reached at (651) 552-3681


How Mortgage Rates Change

Minneapolis, MN:  Many people believe that if you call around to enough lenders, that you will find someone offering a great deal.  The reality is that it doesn’t really work that way.  We generally say that if you call around to enough lenders, you might find the biggest liar.

Are All Lender Essentially The Same?

First understand that for all your traditional loans; FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loans, which encompass the vast majority of all mortgage loans done in this county, every mortgage lender follows the same rules, have the same underlying costs, and set rates based on the same thing.  If my rates go up, so do theirs.  If my rates go down, so do theirs.

worth_balanceEver notice that most of the time, when purchasing the same item at Target or Walmart, the price is virtually the same thing.  Maybe just a tiny difference?  The same thing goes with mortgage loans.

Are there minor differences in mortgage companies rate?  Yes, but generally, the difference between the best and the worst on any given day is about .25%, and really only has to do with overhead, not one being able to really offer something better.

If my cost is the same as their costs, but they have to pay for advertising on all TV channels, radio stations, and all over the Internet.  If they have to pay for stadium sponsorships, and the brink and mortar buildings on every corner, but I don’t… Who do you think can then offer better deals?  Yes, it is that simple.

So What Changes Mortgage Rates

Long term fixed rate loans, like Conventional fixed rate loans and Government back VA Loans and FHA Loan lenders all set their rates based on the pricing of Mortgage Backed Securities.  These mortgage bonds are traded in real time, all day in the bond market.

This means rates or loan fees (mortgage pricing) moves constantly throughout the day, being affected by a variety of economic or political events.  The bond market most days trades in a small zone. So the mortgage rate the lender sets in the morning, is usually good all day long.  But sometimes, the bond market has bigger changes though out the day, meaning a mortgage lender could potentially change rates during the day, sometimes even multiple times in one day.

This can be very frustrating for mortgage shoppers.  You call this morning to get a mortgage quote. Quote in have, you talk to your spouse about it, calling back in the afternoon, just to get a different quote.  Sometimes this change is in your favor.  Sometime it is not.

Therefore tracking these securities in real-time is critical. When MBS pricing goes up, mortgage rates or pricing generally goes down.  When they fall, mortgage pricing goes up. Click this link to track our live mortgage rates for MN, WI, and SD.

Working with a mortgage loan officer who knows and understands the mortgage back security market, someone who can help you understand when to lock your interest rate, or if you should float your interest rate it critical.

I am one of those Loan Officers, not just your typical Loan Application Clerk.  I lend in MN, WI, and SD.


Have a small side business? Disclose it to your Loan Officer

Have a small side business? Disclose it to your Loan Officer

St Paul, MN:  It is a pretty well know that when buying a home and applying for a home mortgage loan these days, mortgage companies are asking for more information from the applicants.

Standard items include photo ID, last 30-days of pay stubs, last two years W2’s, and your last two months of bank statements. What is less known are some of the additional requirements that can quickly derail your pre-approval.

When taking your application, your Mortgage Loan Officer will ask details about your employment.  If your job is paid hourly or salary, the lender does NOT need a copy of your Federal Tax Returns, so of course they would not ask you to provide them.

If you are self-employed, get tips, or commission income – your last two years of tax returns ARE required, so the Loan Officer will ask you to provide them right away.

But what if you have a small side business?  It is likely you didn’t mention it. How about the spouse?  Do they have a small side business.  Mary Kay, Tupperware, or maybe Lia Sofia?

The 4506T: All mortgage applications now require the applicant to sign an IRS 4506T. This document allows the mortgage lender to obtain a copy of your Federal Tax Returns.

They are looking for any discrepancies between what you told the lender and what you reported to the IRS.

Deal Killers: I recently Pre-Approved a couple. Only the husband and his salary job were listed on the application, but the loan was denied a week before closing when we discovered the wife reported a $15,000 loss on their joint tax return for her jewelry business.

Any side business losses will by underwriting be assumed to continue. Therefore in this case, I was forced to reduce the husbands income by $15,000 a year, which caused them to exceed debt-to-income ratios and have thier mortgage loan application denied.

This particular couple lost the dream house they were trying to buy. In the end, they were able to buy and close on a slightly less expensive home, based on their actual situation. Had this business loss been known in the beginning, they could have focused their home search on the correctly priced home, and saved a lot of time and headache.

The Bottom Line: If it is on your tax return, the lender is going to know it . Disclosed everything up front to your Loan Officer, no matter how trivial it may sound to you.

 

 

 


Tough Real Estate Market? What are buyers and sellers supposed to do?

The real estate market today is one of the toughest in recent history. A large number of foreclosed homes on the market is marking it tough on the traditional home seller. While every market is different, most areas have seen a significant drop in value.

The mortgage industry has tighten lending, with a virtual elimination of all non-traditional financing and “creative” zero down type options (although VA and USDA are still around and great zero down options). Most programs today require 3.5% to 5% down MINIMUM and good credit. Gone are the days of easy lending.

Washington has tried “fixing” mortgage lending, but has essentially failed with bad programs like FHA Secure, Help For Home Owners, HARP, and HAMP. They’ve made industry changes that have cost home buyers more money, like HVCC, and LO Compensation. They’ve created more confusion with the new three page Good Faith Estimate, and the whopper of them all… Only requiring half of the Loan Officers to have a license!

Traditional sellers have the upper hand and an easier time in most cases in the “condition of the property” category versus a foreclosure, but it is still very tough when the banks are liquidating foreclosed properties, and the prices they are giving some of them away at.

So, what is a seller and buyer to do? How does a seller sell and a buyer buy in today’s market?

First, understand that because of the large volume of foreclosed properties, it is a great time to be a buyer, whether you are a move-up buyer or a first-time buyer.

For sellers, now is not the time to try and sell your own property. You need the help of a FULL-TIME, experienced Realtor to help guide you through the process. Buyers need the same help to guide them through the maze of properties, both traditional and bank-owned. Having a good agent is extremely important. Take some time to interview your Realtor. How long have they been in business? How many sales have they completed? How many buyers have they helped? Can you get references? Don’t just pick your agent from an open house, or use your sisters best friend who got her license last month.

For move-up buyers, you may have to give in to a lower than you like selling price, but you should reap a nice reward on any new home you buy. This is especially true if you are moving from the low $200k to the mid $300k range, as homes that were selling in the $400k range are now in the $350k. Therefore, even if you have to give up a little on your current sale price, you should more than make up for it on the buy side. Remember, a house priced right, and realistic, will sell even in today’s market right away. Furthermore, with today’s standard fixed rates hovering around 5%, you can still lock in historically great rates!

For first-time buyers, it is a great time to find aggressively priced homes, whether it is a bank-owned foreclosure, or a motivated traditional seller. Not all buyers are ready, or want to tackle “AS IS” foreclosures, so be sure to be honest with yourself about what you are doing to avoid a potential disaster down the road.

Today’s prices are again extremely affordable in the first-time buyer starter home category. Even though most zero down programs are no longer available, with proper negotiation, you can get the seller to pay most, if not all of your closing costs.

This means you can buy a $150k home for just $5250 out-of-pocket. With programs like FHA, the entire down payment can be a gift from family members, or community assistance programs. That is how it was always done prior to about 1999… and somehow people bought houses then, so don’t sit back waiting. NOW is the time to buy!

Finally, one of the first things you should do is get pre-approved with a quality lender who will discuss with you your qualifying ability and program options in today’s market. Someone who has the knowledge, expertise, and full range of programs (like FHA) to bring you to a successful no surprises closing. This is never the guy on the internet posting the lowest rate, or the unlicensed bank representative at the 1-800 number bank call center.

A word of caution. If you are shopping for a lender based on rate, be prepared to get screwed. Be sure to read these informative articles for more information: “Rate Shopping – How to do it right“, and “Lender Shopping – How to do it right“.

No matter what your real estate needs are, buying or selling, with the proper guidance of full-time professional Realtor and Loan Officer, you should be able to have your dreams come true.