Borrowers beware of Google: JVM Lending

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote another great blog about Google, and how it can be both a friend and enemy. I have my own story about Google, but I’ll get to that at the end. First, read Jay’s take on why borrowers should beware of Google:

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One of the reasons loan officers and borrowers were able to get away with so much fraud prior to the mortgage meltdown was the lack of public records and information in general. That is no longer the case, and borrowers need to be extra careful nowadays because underwriters Google everything – borrowers, employers, self-employed businesses, and even renters.

We recently had a transaction questioned because the borrowers rented out their $500,000 departing residence to a person who already owned a $1.5 million home. The underwriter Googled the name on the rental contract and rightfully wanted to know why the renter would want to downsize into a rental that was much smaller and in a vastly inferior neighborhood.

We had another situation where the borrower was subject to numerous criminal allegations that will likely prevent him from garnering business for his consulting firm (killing the deal), and this too came up with a Google check because it was all over the news.

Underwriters also Google employers to make sure they exist, no longer exist (if the application says a business with losses is closed down), or that public records match what is stated on the loan application. We have had borrowers, for example, claim to not have ownership interest in a business to avoid providing corporate tax returns, but the internet made it clear that they were owners.

Sometimes borrowers try to fool us, and sometimes they are just not careful enough when filling out their loan applications. Either way, they need to be ultra-careful these days because there really is no getting away with anything. In addition, once an underwriter thinks the borrower might be trying to mislead, she will not want to approve the loan under any circumstances because of the risk.

Kristin’s take: This is a great blog. My own Google story is about sellers who Googled the buyer, and some criminal allegations showed up. We only had one buyer, so we accepted the offer, but we figured out from the internet that he wasn’t the most stand-up individual. Sure enough, we had problems closing. They were contingent on the sale of their condo, and that also did not go smoothly, between the two, we were delayed a month.   In this situation I had no control over the other parties or the process.  In the middle of all this, our buyer went out and bought a vehicle, which changed his debt-to-income ration and had to be paid off with some of the proceeds in addition to a tax lien. It dragged out the process and naturally, the sellers were very frustrated. That was just one of many issues that were not shared with me.   If my clients had another offer I believe after their Google search they would  have never accepted the buyer but they were prepared for a rocky road;  none of us knew how painful it was going to be.

Moral of the story? Always Google, and be prepared to be Googled.

Pre-Qual vs Pre-Approval

People don’t understand how knowing the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval can make a huge difference in an offer being accepted, and how the right choice can make them a stronger buyer. It’s extremely important! Luckily, my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending broke it down for us:

Image: meyerpottsproperties.com

Panicked Borrower on Verge of Losing Deposit

We had a borrower in contract come to us a few weeks ago in panic mode. The reason? He was on the verge of losing his earnest money deposit b/c his loan had just blown up at America’s largest mortgage lender.

The loan officer had only done a “pre-qualification” and had missed a major issue with the borrower’s commision income. We were able to salvage the deal and still close on time, but the risk to the borrower was enormous.

Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval

Most lenders only “pre-qualify” borrowers. Pre-qualifications consist only of a perfunctory glance at a credit report and a few income documents. Most lenders do not do full pre-approvals b/c they require so much more work.

Why Pre-Approvals?

We do full pre-approvals b/c they are absolutely necessary. Full pre-approvals (1) allow our borrowers to make non-contingent offers; (2) ensure there are no major issues missed; and (3) allow us to close in 14 days b/c we do all the work on the front end.

In other words, full pre-approvals make our clients’ offers far more competitive, and they eliminate stress for everyone – buyers, sellers, Realtors, escrow and us :).

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Image: Masonknowsmortgages.com

Full pre-approvals can take several hours, requiring us to review income, asset, employment and credit documents with a fine-toothed comb. But experience has shown that they are well worth the effort. 

Issues that can be missed with only a “pre-qualification” include the following:

  • missed 2106 expenses; 
  • unexplained and unusable deposits; 
  • side businesses with losses; 
  • K1 and partnership losses;
  • spousal and child support obligations;
  • lack of employment seasoning;
  • lack of bonus seasoning; 
  • lack of commission seasoning; 
  • debts not on credit reports

A major source of our business includes transactions that blow up at other lenders b/c the loan officers only did pre-qualifications. Realtors come to us b/c they know we can make the deals work and also b/c we can usually still close within the remaining contract time.

Top 5 Housing Predictions for 2018

As the first month of the new year closes, we are starting to see the 2018 market take shape, and getting a clear look back at the 2017 year. Last year was a strong one for sellers – interest rates remained low, but are now rising, and refinancing plummeted. So, what’s next for 2018?

Take a look at the summaries of Summit Funding’s Top 5 Housing Predictions for 2018, with commentary from yours truly:

  1. A rise in cash-out refinance

Low-interest rates have fueled buying, kept inventory low, and likely even helped speed up housing recovery in Miami and Houston after their 2017 hurricanes. Interest rates will continue to rise in 2018, but not high enough to deter interested homebuyers. We should, however, keep an eye on a potential rise in cash-out refinance, as Americans’ home equity wealth is at an all-time high. We are also seeing the rise of all-cash purchases, a high rate of home purchase co-borrowers, and increased buying assistance from family. As home prices become even higher — and overvalued, according to CoreLogic — expect to see more parents cash out their home equity to help their adult children begin building their own housing wealth.

  1. Return to services

With higher home prices come great risks and more compromises for homebuyers, who will become ever more reliant on experienced and informed housing professionals to make buying and mortgage decisions. Mortgage rates will continue to become a commodity; homebuyers have access to rates on their devices and know mortgage brokers are quoting from the same rate sheets. As homebuyers evaluate their partners, they should look for realtors and mortgage professionals who offer value that protects the clients’ bottom line. Housing professionals who deliver this will be the ones who can truly stand out and have longevity in this crowded market. A great lender and agent can make all the difference in the world. Be careful you are comparing apples to apples when getting rate quotes, as it can’t be locked in until you get an accepted offer so lenders can you give varying rates as they know they will be different the day you get an offer accepted.

  1. Advancement in housing Fintech

Expect technology to continue to make breakthroughs in housing. The proliferation of information has made everyday consumers more demanding of progress and fairness, which is a good thing. They demand more competition for their business and stronger customer empowerment. New housing financial technology will not just be about faster search results or more photos, it will be expected to serve up more home buyer protection. In 2018, homebuyers will increasingly question why they could sell a home at a loss when realtors still collect their brokerage fees. When they see a pre-closing statement listing fee paid to protect their lenders, they would demand to see the calculation of risks and returns designed to protect their purchase. Getting ahead of these questions and demands will become table stakes in the advancement of housing financial technology.  This may be a ways off.  There is a lot of buyer protection now as a result of the downturn.

  1. Millennials may continue to prolong homeownership

Americans — including millennials — want to own homes; we knew this already. However, millennials may want other things in life more than homeownership, or they don’t want to be “house poor.” Affordability is definitely the top barrier to home buying, no doubt. However, there are increasing indications that millennials are not pulling out all the stops to buy a home even if they could afford one. In ValueInsured’s latest Modern Homebuyer Survey, 36% of millennials who want to buy a home say they are delaying buying in order to keep their options open. Nearly half (47%) of millennials also say they worry their job future is uncertain and want to figure that out first. Instead of paying high home prices, millennials have proven unafraid to give up buying and go back to renting. A generation known for defying conventions and expectations may change the housing market forever in 2018 if they say “enough” to high home prices and decide to do their own thing.

  1. The next Seattle or San Jose

In the future, scorching-hot real estate markets will give rise to more calm and cool emerging markets. Places like Provo, UT, Athens, OH and Aberdeen, SD may be hot spots in 2018. More Americans will telecommute to their jobs or shop from their devices instead of at malls. This is simply a fact of life. So, as real estate prices and commercial rents increase, more Asian fusion restaurants, CrossFit studios and organic micro-breweries will open in previously ‘B’ or ‘C’ designated counties. Once upon a time, Portland, OR and Chattanooga, TN were seen as hidden real estate gems, and now they are cities millennials are leaving behind in search of more affordable homes. Millennials’ tendencies to be nomadic and to reject established institutions (or markets), and their sophistication in forming their own community, could prove to be very interesting in challenging traditional housing cycles and expectations.

Stay tuned for December to see if these things panned out or were just a pie in the sky.

Applying for a Home Loan? See JVM Lending’s “Don’t” List!

Once you’re pre-approved, the last thing you want to do is knock yourself out of qualifying range. My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending is a great source on this issue, as he’s seen hundreds of borrowers in this situation. Now, he sends them a list of “actions to avoid” with every pre-approval letter. Heeding his advice will help you at least prevent delays and extra paperwork. Take a look!

1. Do not make large deposits that can’t be explained. When you are trying to qualify, any large deposit – think $500 for a new mattress, or all-cash payments – must be explained. Otherwise, an entire account can become invalid and unusable for qualifying. Always keep a paper trail to make large deposit explanations easier!

2. Do not take on new debt. If you increase your credit card balances, finance a vehicle, or take on debt in another way, your ratios will be impacted and it will reduce your maximum purchase price.

3. Do not take vacation days if you’re paid hourly. A single day off work can push you out of qualifying range if your debt ratios are high and approaching your limit.

4. Do not spend liquid assets. Pre-approval software relies on specific liquid asset levels. So, pre-approval amounts can change if liquid assets are significantly reduced.

5. Do not miss payments on any debts reporting on a credit report. This one is pretty obvious, and you should avoid missing payments anyway, but missing monthly payments that reduce your credit score may also reduce your qualification amount!

6. Do not co-sign for someone else’s debts. That’s a dangerous maneuver anyway, but even if you’re just a co-signer, the debt will show up on your credit report. That makes you responsible for the debt and the payments.

7. Do not file taxes with a tax liability owing, or with less income than in previous years. This mostly applies to self-employed borrowers (especially during tax season). The most recently filed tax returns will be what the qualifying income is based on, and all tax liabilities must be proven paid. JVM recommends that borrowers file an extension when possible if they are making offers during tax season.

What to know about the new tax bill limits in 2018

The GOP finally pushed through its tax package, and the reaction has been interesting to say the least. While some seem to love it (The Wall Street Journal said the bill is the best thing to ever happen to our economy), many others hate it. Regardless of how you feel about the bill, it is signed in now and it’s time to see how it affects you, as a homeowner, seller or buyer.
My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together a blog detailing some main points about the GOP tax bill and how it may affect real estate. Here are the main thoughts:
1. Current homeowners will be grandfathered in and still allowed to deduct interest against $1 million of mortgage debt. In 2018, buyers will be limited to $750,000 and interest against home equity lines will not be deductible.
2. State and local tax deductions will be capped at $10,000. This will be difficult for people in California.
3. Standard deductions are doubling to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for married filers, so many homeowners won’t have to deduct their interest and property taxes anymore.
4. We have no idea what exactly the bill will do for the market when all is said and done, but for now, we can expect the low-inventory, high-demand market to suffer in high-end areas down the road, while remaining neutral in the short term.
5. To fully understand the bill’s impact on you, see a CPA. Defer your commissions. And if you’re planning an out-of-state move, consider relocating to a low-tax state like Florida, Texas or Nevada.
I’d like to expand on #5 quickly – as Jay mentioned, there will be a new $10,000 cap on tax deductions starting in 2018. If you paid off your property taxes before January, you should be able to save thousands of dollars on that by avoiding the new rule for a year. And if you are planning a move out of the Bay Area to another part of California or another state, you should be consulting a realtor or a CPA to see what kind of savings you can get!

Why it may be a really good time to be a borrower

You may have heard of the wild events at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently. My friend Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending had a few words to say about it on his blog, the main points of which are summarized below:

The departing director of the CFPB, Richard Condray, named his deputy, Leandra English, to be his successor. President Trump named his own acting director, Mick Mulvaney. Both claimed to be head of the CFPB, and English sued to nullify Trump’s appointment, but lost.

So, from a real estate perspective, this is what it means for the industry. The CFPB is extremely powerful and was created by the Dodd-Frank Legislation in 2010. It is funded by the Fed and mostly outside the control of Congress. So, the CFPB is well known for being aggressive in auditing and fining, even when offenses had no effect on borrowers.

On that note, Mulvaney – Trump’s appointment – has been openly anti-CFPB, and will likely try to roll back some of the agency’s enforcement efforts. If this holds true, there are two takeaways, or perspectives:

  1. A strong CFPB is necessary to keep the mortgage industry in check and avoid another meltdown like in 2008. It can be countered by pointing out that there are already other factors in place to prevent those abuses, including scrutiny from agencies such as HUD and state agencies.
  2. Lenders and loan officers spend an inordinate amount of time and money to make sure they never endure a CFPB investigation. These efforts often do little to help consumers, and only increase the overall costs of obtaining financing.

A weaker CFPB could result in more free time for lenders and loan officers, and lower borrowing costs for consumers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also announced their 2018 loan limits, which went up significantly. The “Low Balance” limit for a one-unit property jumped from $424,100 to $453,100 and the “High Balance” limit increased from $636,150 to $679,650.

These jumps allow more borrowers to take advantage of conforming loan guidelines when buying properties in areas with increasing home prices. Combine this with the CFPB appointment, and we may be looking at an incredibly good time to be a borrower!

Also, note the Fed is most likely going to raise interest rates on the 13th and then again in the first quarter of 2018. The market has already taken it into account, and we might see rates drop slightly after the 13th.

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Are millennials looking for homes or glorified dog houses?

Everyone loves dogs! I love my dog! You love your dogs, too! It seems that millennials especially like their dogs, as a recent Time article explained that “space for a dog” is the third-most common reason cited by millennials for buying a home in today’s market.

What really struck me about the article is this: “space for a dog” is listed ahead of “children” or “marriage” as reasons for purchasing a home. It came in only behind “more living space” and “building equity.”

Now, isn’t that interesting?  We know millennials are getting married later and having fewer children than previous generations, and the housing market has become so expensive across the county that it prices out people who have spent money on marriages and providing for children, but it’s still surprising to see it behind a reason like “space for a dog.”

The rental market prices have also skyrocketed, which makes me think that millennials would rather pay a mortgage in some cases and have their own home with ample room for their four-legged friends, than pay a monthly rent in properties with strict pet policies.

I guess you can always buy a home first, let your dog break it in, and then bring in a partner and children! Whatever works! It’s just funny to see the difference between their generation and mine, and why they pursue home-buying.

How the tax bill potentially will affect homeowners

This past weekend, the GOP passed its tax plan along party lines, despite heavy opposition against it in CA. I was wondering how the new plan might affect homeowners, and my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending had the perfect answer. See his summary below!

The bill has a provision to cap the mortgage interest deduction to loan amounts of $500,000 or less. To be clear, borrowers will not be ineligible for the mortgage interest deduction if they owe more than $500,000; borrowers will only be able to deduct interest that accrues against $500,000 of their mortgage, no matter how large it is. Here are some observations:

1. Only 5% of all mortgages are over $500,000. And the vast majority of them are in California. Hence, it is unlikely that we Californians will get a lot of sympathy from middle America. But this also explains why there is so much concern in California.

2. How much will it actually hurt borrowers? For a $1 million home (not a lot in coastal California) with 20% down, a borrower will have an $800,000 mortgage. This means that $300,000 of that debt will be ineligible for the mortgage interest tax deduction. If the interest rate is 4%, the borrower will not be able to deduct $12,000 of interest from his or her income for tax purposes. If that same borrower is in a 40.5% combined tax bracket (33% Federal, and 7.5% State), he or she will lose $4,860 in direct tax savings. That is real money for anyone.

3. Current borrowers will be grandfathered, meaning they will be able to continue to deduct interest against a $1 million mortgage (or $1.1 million if they have an equity line). This provision will likely hurt inventory, as this will create another disincentive to sell. 

4. Standard Deduction Doubling: This is the bigger issue for real estate in general, as most lenders and Realtors aggressively sell the tax benefits from buying a house. If the Standard Deduction for married couples doubles to $24,000, most taxpayers will not be eligible to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction (it would only make sense if their mortgage interest and other itemized items exceeded $24,000; a $500,000 loan at 4% would only accrue $20,000 of interest). 

5. The real estate lobby is extremely powerful. This is the biggest factor of all. The real estate lobby (that includes builders) is exceptionally powerful, and most of the lobby is opposed to the above-referenced provisions.

I always find Jay’s perspectives insightful with helpful information. Jay wrote this prior to the bill being passed by the Senate. Now that it has been passed, here are a few of my own observations:

  1.  There is a lot of jockeying of blame between the two parties (status quo).
  2.  If it was so negative, why did the Senate Bill get passed so quickly?
  3. The Senate and House will now go back and forth on all the details to get final approval before it goes to President Trump. Changes can still be made or it could possibly fall apart.
  4. Back to Jay’s last point – there is a very strong lobby that still can push change.
  5. I see this continues creating a disincentive for people to sell. It used to be that on average people moved every 7 years; that number has now increased to approximately every 20 years, thus the continued low inventory.

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Tips for preparing to buy a home

It takes a lot of preparation to buy a home. I know, I know, thank you Captain Obvious, right? But if you’re going to be searching for a home in 2017, I want you to be ready for what is headed your way!

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From our friends at Bank of the West, here is a list of great tips for preparing yourself to buy a home. See my summary below:

1. Fix Your Credit

Your credit is one of the first things a lender will look at when approving you for a mortgage loan. You can get a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure to check for mistakes and file a dispute with the business in question, as well as the credit agency, if you find any inaccuracies. They must investigate within 30-45 days.

2. Maintain Your Credit Score

Your FICO score is the most common number used by mortgage lenders to rate your creditworthiness. You can get your credit report with a FICO score for free, or for a small fee. Anything above a 740 FICO score will help you secure better interest rates. If your score is lower, you may still qualify for a mortgage, just with a higher interest rate attached. Your first instinct may be to find ways to boost that credit score. Here are two things NOT to do:

– Don’t close lines of credit – it may indicate credit risk and actually hurt your score

– Don’t open new lines of credit – the uncertainty of your spending habits with a new card might indicate risk and cause your score to tick up

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3. Get a Big Down Payment

You’ll get a better interest rate on a mortgage if you have a larger down payment because lenders will think you’re less likely to default on your loan. Aim for a down payment of at least 20 percent of the selling price. This will also protect you from paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects lenders if you default on a loan.

4. Get Pre-Approved

Meet with a mortgage specialist before you start shopping. They can help you determine an accurate budget and decide what kind of home you can realistically afford. Get a pre-approval letter and add it to a good credit report, income verification and a maximum allowable loan, and home sellers will take you most seriously among the suitors.

5. Keep Track of Your Money

You’ll have lots of documents, bank statements, etc. during the pre-approval and underwriting processes. These will be examined closely to verify income and expenses. If your records show unusual activity, you’ll be asked to explain it and you’ll have to jump that hurdle before continuing the approval process.

If you need a recommendation for outstanding mortgage brokers.  I have a few that I highly regard.

 

Mortgage Terminology 101

mortgage-1 Buying a home, even for those with experience, is already a tricky process to navigate. Add choosing a mortgage on top of that and things can get really stressful. Luckily, Keith Loria of BHG posted a great list of basic mortgage terminology to help guide buyers through this process. Check out our lightly edited version:

“Mortgage Lenders” – lenders make the loan and provide the money you’ll use to buy your home. You’ll need a lot of financial background information when you meet with a lender so he or she can set mortgage interest rates and other loan terms accordingly.

“Mortgage Brokers” –  brokers work with multiple lenders to find you the best loan. This can be confusing, but their jobs are essentially to get you the best rate and terms on your loan.

“Mortgage Bankers” – most lenders are bankers, which means they don’t actually lend their own money, but borrow funds at short-term rates from warehouse lender. Some larger mortgage bankers will originate their own loans and sell directly to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or investors.

“Portfolio Mortgage Lenders” – they originate and fund their own loans, offering more flexibility in loan products because they don’t have to adhere to secondary market buyer guidelines. Once these loans are serviced and paid for on time for at least one year, they’re “seasoned,” and can be sold more easily on the secondary market.

“Hard Money Lenders” – this may be your last resort if you’re having trouble getting a mortgage and working with a portfolio mortgage lender. They are private individuals with money to lend, though interest rates are usually higher.mortgage-2

“Wholesale Lenders” – they cater to mortgage brokers for loan origination but offer loans to brokers at a lower cost than their retail branches offer them to the general public. For you, the loan costs about the same if it were obtained directly from a retail branch of the wholesale lender.

“Correspondent Mortgage Lenders” – these lenders have agreements in place with one or more wholesale lenders to act as their retail representative. They lend directly to buyers and use wholesaler guidelines to approve and close loans with their own money. They will also buy back any loans they close that deviate from those guidelines.

“Direct Mortgage Lenders” – direct mortgage lenders are simply banks or lenders that work directly with a homeowner, with no need for a middleman or broker.