October 6, 2022

Mortgages: Sorting Through Lending Costs

Even before it officially opened for business on July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency created to oversee mortgage lending, started looking at loan shopping. The bureau is legally required to propose by July 2012 a way to streamline mortgage disclosure. It is exploring avenues for combining the two forms that borrowers get now — the three-page Good Faith Estimate and the two-page Truth in Lending Act form.

These forms tell would-be borrowers the terms of their loan — for instance, how payments on an adjustable-rate mortgage change. They also lay out fees.

Although interest rates grab attention, fees can make a big difference, said Eileen Anderson, senior vice president of the Community Development Corporation of Long Island, which provides home buyer education. The easiest way to compare loans, she said, remains the Annual Percentage Rate, or A.P.R. That calculation rolls in fees as well as the stated interest rate. Because lenders are required to follow the same formula, useful comparisons can be made. “That’s the best way to shop for a loan, whether it’s 10 years ago, or now,” she said.

In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau solicited reactions to two versions of a form that combines the current forms onto one double-sided sheet. It received more than 13,000 comments. According to a bureau summary, people praised the effort, but had specific suggestions on layout and phrasing.

On June 27 the bureau posted two more revised versions. The comment period on them closed July 5; among those responding was the Mortgage Bankers Association, which said in a three-page letter that the proposals didn’t mesh with current laws, and also criticized the mechanics and design. The bureau says forms are evolving.

All this comes less than two years after the Department of Housing and Urban Development overhauled the Good Faith Estimate — an effort that involved years of soliciting comments and was mightily resisted by some in the lending industry. That form not only changed the way information was presented, but also required brokers and lenders to commit to many parts of their estimates — a big change, as previous estimates sometimes had little relationship to actual closing costs.

But the forms themselves are longer and, for some borrowers, more confusing than the previous ones, Ms. Anderson said.

The form is still “horrible, just horrible,” said Mark Yecies, an owner of SunQuest Funding, a lender in Cranford, N.J. “The G.F.E. doesn’t actually itemize the closing costs in such a way that makes it easy for a borrower to understand what they are.”

Still, he advises people to get the form from every lender they approach. “If you receive approximate closing costs in an e-mail or a form that is not the G.F.E.,” he said, “it doesn’t mean squat.”

He added that some lenders had become adept at manipulating the estimates, by providing interest-rate quotations that expire almost instantaneously, or by low-balling fees in instances where they have legal flexibility. “If you get two or three different G.F.E.’s and there’s several thousand dollars’ difference,” he said, “you know someone is playing games.”

But David Flores, a financial counselor with GreenPath Debt Solutions in New York, which provides home buyer education, says game playing is not as big a problem as it used to be. “We’re removed from the day when it was a 3 percent interest rate with a big asterisk,” with the asterisk leading to fine print about teaser rates, he said.

Borrowers seem to have learned a lot from the attention paid to shaky loans in the last few years, he said. “More people are asking the right questions when it comes to these adjustable rates and exotic loan types. More people are wise to them.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5bc73eb430b9273fdc14fd4ac147fe1e

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