Reader Question: Do underwriting guidelines vary between lenders?

I recently received this email from a Mortgage Porter subscriber:

Do different banks need different underwriting documents? I am talking to two lenders now, and one will give me a lower rate but asks for the bank statement from my family which wires me money; the other one has a higher rate but only needs a gift letter. Is it because some banks are more strict because of their lower rate? Thanks.

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Why getting a mortgage is more challenging today

Typically when I hear media say that it’s difficult or impossible to get a mortgage, my hair stands up on the back of my neck. Often times, they’re misstating mortgage programs and saying something like “you need 30% down payment and 760 credit scores to buy a home” which simply is not true. However something that I cannot argue is that it is more challenging to go through the mortgage process today.

The process is tedious as borrowers are asked to provide more supporting documentation to prove they’re qualified for the mortgage. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you know I was never a fan of stated income mortgages. However it’s to a point where home buyers and home owners wanting to refinance are having to do things like document and prove where a large deposit from a month ago came from…even if they have plenty of funds for the transaction. Underwriters are calling for additional documentation.

This is partly happening because of tougher guidelines to make up for the sins of the subprime era of mortgages. Loosey goosey underwriting guidelines allowed just about anyone to obtain a mortgage with no regard to if the borrower would actually be able to make the mortgage payments. 

What’s also impacting guidelines are buy backs. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are pushing back loans that are not performing back to the banks.  If that loan was not originated by a bank (for example, a correspondent lender, like us), the bank will try to force the originating lender to buy back that loan. This is one reason why many banks prefer working with correspondent lenders over mortgage brokers – correspondent lenders have skin in the game.  From Reuters:

Historically, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have taken banks at their word when they said loans were eligible. If later there were problems (because the borrower’s income was not properly verified, for example), then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could ask banks to buy back the mortgages at face value and absorb any losses.

Those repurchase requests are increasing as Fannie and Freddie apply more scrutiny. Both companies have hired more staff to comb through loans and determine which can be sold back to banks.

In the second quarter, outstanding repurchase requests at Fannie Mae grew by 20 percent to $14.6 billion from the first quarter, according to a filing last week.

In order for a bank or lender to have a fighting chance in not buying back the loan, they need to be able to show they had a complete and strong loan package with all of the borrowers supporting documentation to illustrate they qualified for the mortgage program.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds pretty fair. If a loan is not performing, then the originating lender should have to buy it back and deal with the losses. Banks are arguing that some loans that are not performing may be caused by the economy (loss of employment) and not due to the quality of the loan. A lender has to consider what are the odds the borrowers will be able to make the mortgage payments in the future.

As Fannie and Freddie increase scrutiny on mortgages and force more buy backs, banks will lend to fewer borrowers and toughen up guidelines. It’s already happening – just ask any HARP 2.0 borrower who’s trying to go back to their bank to refinance. Odds are, unless the refi has no pmi or lpmi, the bank may refuse it. Some banks have turned their backs on FHA streamlined refi’s as well.  Many banks are “cherry picking” mortgages…and with all the current volume, they can easily afford to. 

NOTE: If your bank has turned down your HARP 2.0 or FHA streamlined refinance on a home located anywhere in Washington, I’d love to see if I can help you. We work with several lenders who offer HARP 2.0 mortgages – even if you have LPMI. We are also still doing FHA streamlined refinances on Washington homes as well. One of the benefits of working at a correspondent lender is that we have several lenders to work with – we are not limited to one set of programs and guidelines. Click here for a mortgage rate quote. Okay… commercial over.

Watch for guidelines to continue to become tougher and expect to be asked for more and more documentation from your lender if you are considering a mortgage… we still have the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fine tuning “the ability to repay”.  More mortgage fun coming your way soon!

With a little patience and cooperation with providing requested documentation to your mortgage professional, you will survive the mortgage process with success.

Washington Correpsondent Lenders are forced to have Consumer Loan License

DbToday’s Mortgage Brokers Commission meeting was attended by many concerned mortgage brokers and correspondent lenders (brokers with warehouse lines of credit) who feel as though they’ve had a real doozy pulled over them by recent legislation, specifically SB 6471.   Deb Bortner of DFI (bad photo compliments of my Treo) insists that it was not DFI’s intentions to rope in the correspondent lenders who are licensed as mortgage brokers to be regulated by the Consumer Loan Act.

Many Washington State correspondent lenders (and we, loan originators who work for a correspondent lender) are feeling very frustrated (to sugar coat it).  A majority of us have abided by the State’s licensing laws, paid our dues, passed our background checks and the exam…even if we were not a “true” broker.  We played along and played by the rules.  In an attempt to “capture” a few Correspondents who apparently do not broker (they’re direct endorsed lenders, like Mortgage Master, except we will broker a small portion of our loans), who were exempt from the Mortgage Brokers Practice Act, the State decided to deem any mortgage broker with a warehouse line (i.e. Correspondent Lenders) will now be regulated under the Consumer Loan Act.   Correspondent Lenders can retain both licenses and be held liable accountable under both acts, or just maintain their newly required Consumer Loan License.   There’s significant expenses for both licenses which I may or may not get into in a future post. 

After Deb Bortner defended DFI’s position, she handed the floor over to the audience and here’s a few of the comments from “the floor” of brokers that  I found interesting (I’m paraphrasing, since I was not able to write fast enough and I’m not quoting the individual broker):

“This [obtaining a consumer loan license] goes against every value we have in our business.  We can now hire felons, are no longer required to do continue education and the consumer will pay.   What you’re doing is STUPID.”

“This is a nasty little bill with nasty little consequences.”

“We are Correspondent Lenders.  We are different than Mortgage Brokers and we are NOT a Pawn Shop.”

“I wish the media was here to see all of these mortgage brokers fighting for the consumer.”

“For half of the mortgage industry to have to go through the licensing again is crazy.”

“Everyday that goes by is less chance of closing a loan.  We [correspondent lenders] have the ability to draw docs and close loans quicker and more efficiently than true mortgage brokers.”

“How many lenders were actually not licensed through the loophole?  It seems the motivation here is more taxes.”

“What is DFI going to do with all the extra money?”

Mortgage Brokers and Correspondent Lenders, your next chance to hear what DFI has to say is next week in Bellevue on Tuesday, May 13–however you must RSVP by this Friday, May 9, 2008.  For more information, click here.   As of midnight, June 11, 2008, if you have a warehouse line of credit and you’re a mortgage broker or correspondent lender, you need a Consumer Loan License.

Now is the time to work with a Correspondent Lender

A correspondent lender is a blend between a bank and a mortgage broker.   What sets correspondent lenders apart from others is that they have significant credit lines that allow us to fund loans which are then sold to the lender after closing.   A correspondent lender processes, underwrites and prepares the loan documents which allows them more flexibility than the traditional broker.  Correspondent Lenders have access to many different lenders unlike most banks.   Even if bank mortgage companies can broker, loan originators often will not as they’re typically paid a lower commission if they do not use their bank’s products.

So why is now such an important time to select a correspondent lenders?   With banks pulling back (or suspending) products or repricing and lenders shutting down, it’s important to work with a Mortgage Professional who can make adjustments if needed in a rapidly changing market.   Many were caught at closing when they sent loans to American Home Mortgage, one of the nations largest lenders.   If you were getting ready to close with a mortgage broker, the loan would need to be re-processed, re-underwritten, and new loan docs prepared and delivered to escrow.  With a correspondent lender, as long as the rate had not changed, you could possibly keep the same docs and your escrow appointment.

Because it is more difficult to become a Correspondent Lender vs. a Mortgage Broker there are fewer of us and therefore, we’re a bit more challenging to find.  How do you  know if your Mortgage Professional is employed with a Correspondent Lender?   Ask.  A “mortgage broker” or “mortgage banker” is not the same as a correspondent lender. 

A Correspondent Lender just may make the difference in your transactions closing on time in this uncertain market.