Mortgage lender shell game

mortgage lender
How to choose a mortgage lender (infographic from

Realtors and other real estate professionals eagerly look forward to the annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.  The Profile, published by the National Association of Realtors, provides insight into the preferences and decisions of home buyers and sellers. After thirty-five years of publication, the Profile has become somewhat of an important contribution to housing trends and economics.  But did you know that the mortgage lender and the mortgage industry has a survey of their own?

The National Mortgage Database (NMDB) is a multiyear project conducted by the Federal Housing Finance Agency ( and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (  The NMDB project incorporates two consumer surveys, the National Survey of Mortgage Originations and the American Survey of Mortgage Borrowers.  The NMDB is meant to provide statutory guidance and lending policy direction.  The database has yielded interesting data about how and why borrowers choose their mortgage lender, as well as their experiences and interactions during the mortgage process.

The NMDB has produced a colossal amount of data across many aspects of the consumer-mortgage lender relationship.  The preliminary analysis indicated that consumers don’t really shop for a lender.  Many home buyers use the mortgage lender recommended by their agents and others.  Most notable is that about half of the home buyers surveyed only considered one mortgage lender.  Not a surprise is that the small percentage of home buyers who apply to more than one lender are typically motivated by better terms (such as interest rate).

The mortgage lender is an important aspect of the home buying process.  Unfortunately, the NMDB suggests that home buyers are not doing their homework, and possibly choosing their mortgage lenders for the wrong reasons.  The mortgage process is an intricate dance between the buyer, the loan officer/processor and the underwriter.  The mortgage lender can either provide a smooth and “stress free” closing, or a bumpy process that can cause anxiety and delays.

When you’re buying a home, “time is of the essence” (it states that on the first paragraph of your contract).  Choosing the wrong lender can cause delays and potentially cost you money.  Issues can occur with any mortgage lender at any time during the mortgage process.  Problems can sometimes stem from the inexperience of the loan officer/processor, who does a poor job communicating what is needed from you.  More often, issues arise during the underwriting process because of a slow turnaround time.

Believe it or not, many mortgage lenders have their loan officers, processors, and underwriters separated in different offices.  Sometimes the different offices are located in different cities, which can add time to the process.  Sometimes. lenders have their processing and underwriting all in the same office, which helps facilitate communication and a loan approval.

As a home buyer, RESPA gives you the right to choose your mortgage lender.  The process of choosing the best lender for you should not be much different than choosing your Realtor.  Ask your agent and others whom you respect for referrals.  Do your homework and consider at least three of the referrals, if not more.

In addition to comparing interest rates, compare the lender fees.  Lender fees can vary and can add unnecessary cost to your closing.  Since you will be communicating with the loan officer and processor a great deal through the home buying process, talk to them to get a feel for how they interact with you.  Besides to asking about their company, ask the loan officer about their background and experience.  Find out how their underwriter operates and ask about the underwriting turnaround time.  And make sure the lender is licensed.  You can check a lender’s licensing by checking with the consumer portal of the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System  (also known also known as the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System or the NMLS).

Original located at

Copyright© Dan Krell

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article,
like it on facebook
or re-tweet.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

RESPA empowers home buyers and consumers


Although the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) is one of those laws that you don’t hear much about, it’s a consumer protection statue that has been around for while.  Enacted in 1974, RESPA was intended to help home buyers be better shoppers by requiring the disclosures regarding the nature and costs related to the real estate settlement process.  Keeping RESPA relevant, there have been modifications and clarifications through the years, most notably the change of administration and enforcement in 2011 from HUD to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).

RESPA is generally known for empowering consumers in the real estate process by allowing consumers (in most cases) to choose service providers, and prohibiting kickbacks (e.g., unearned fees) for referrals.  Section 8 of RESPA prohibits real estate service providers from giving or accepting a fee, kickback or anything of value in exchange for referrals of settlement service business involving a federally related mortgage. While Section 9 prohibits a home seller from requiring the home buyer to use a particular title insurance company, either directly or indirectly, as a condition of sale.

RESPA also requires the disclosure of affiliated business arrangements associated with a real estate closing.  An affiliated business relationship is considered to exist when there is a direct or indirect referral from a service provider to another provider of settlement services when there is an affiliate relationship or when there is a direct or beneficial ownership interest of more than one percent.  The disclosure of such a relationship must specify the following: the nature of the relationship (explaining the ownership and financial interest) between the provider and the loan originator; and the estimated charge or range of charges generally made by such provider. This disclosure must be provided on a separate form at the time of the referral (or at the time of loan application or with the Good Faith Estimate if referred from a mortgage lender).  In most cases, you’re not required to use the referred affiliated businesses.

RESPA violations are serious, and penalties can be severe.  For example, HUD ( lists the penalties for violations of Section 8 “… anti-kickback, referral fees and unearned fees provisions of RESPA are subject to criminal and civil penalties. In a criminal case a person who violates Section 8 may be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned up to one year. In a private law suit a person who violates Section 8 may be liable to the person charged for the settlement service an amount equal to three times the amount of the charge paid for the service.

The real estate industry takes RESPA very seriously; the industry educates service providers about empowering consumers, as well as regulation compliance.  And although modifications of RESPA are to keep up with the real estate industry; some still claim that there are sections of RESPA that remain vague, as demonstrated by the Supreme Court opinion of Freeman v. Quicken Loans, and further clarifications (such as the RESPA Home Warranty Clarification Act of 2011).

In the past, RESPA violations were pursued vigorously by HUD; resulting in settlements as well as criminal investigations.  Today, the CFPB ( has taken over the reins, and continues the pursuit of RESPA violations with the same if not increased vigor.  More information and guidance about RESPA can be obtained from the CFBP (

by Dan Krell
© 2014

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector

Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Where to turn when having problems with mortgage lender or servicer

If you’re having trouble with your mortgage company, you’re not alone. Prior to the housing market crash, many consumers complained about originating practices and predatory lending; however these days complaints are increasingly due to servicing, mortgage modifications, and foreclosures. If you’re having issues with your mortgage company, it’s sometimes not easy to figure out where to turn for answers or to file a complaint.

One of mandates of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law last year, was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ( Although the “Bureau” does not just regulate the mortgage industry, the focus of the CFPB will be on consumer protection and compliance: education, enforcement, and research. It’s akin to “one stop shop” for consumer protection.

Some of the Bureau’s functions are described by the CFPB as follows: “conduct rule-making, supervision, and enforcement for Federal consumer financial protection laws; restrict unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices; Promote financial education; research consumer behavior; monitor financial markets for new risks to consumers; enforce laws that outlaw discrimination and other unfair treatment in consumer finance; and create a center to take consumer complaints.” Many of the CFPB’s functions will go into effect July 21, 2011.

So until the CFPB is fully operational, you’re left to decide where to direct inquires and/or complaints. However, as the CFPB slowly implements its authority, the Bureau is still offering assistance and information. The CFPB website has a page dedicated to directing consumer inquiries (click the “Get Help Now” tab at the top of the page); the CFPB has an interactive questionnaire that is meant to decide what financial sector you are inquiring about and then directs you to the appropriate agency (click on the “Consumer Question and Complaint Assistance”).

At present, if you’re having trouble with your mortgage company, you’ll have to decide what regulatory agency to direct your questions and/or complaints. Your lender could be regulated by one of the many state or federal financial regulatory agencies. Maryland’s financial regulatory agency, the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, is limited to regulating financial institutions that are chartered in Maryland. If your lender meets the criteria, then the agency may accept your inquiries and/or complaints.

If the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation does not regulate your lender, it may be regulated by another state, or a federal agency – such as; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (, which regulates and supervises all national banks; the Office of Thrift Supervision (, which regulates and supervises savings associations; or the National Credit Union Administration (, which supervises national credit unions. The Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation posts a list of entities that it does not regulate on their website (; you can call their office if you need further assistance.

Additional resources include the Federal Trade Commission (, which offers information and assistance if you have mortgage servicing issues (such as problems with your payments, escrow accounts, RESPA, collection practices, etc.); and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General (www., which may help resolve your problem as well as collect your complaint.

Until the CFPB is fully operational, you’ll have to contact the appropriate agencies to help you seek a resolution if you’re experiencing issues with your mortgage lender.

by Dan Krell
© 2011

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Smile, your home is on candid camera!

Have you seen people in your neighborhood drive up to a home, pull out a camera and take some pictures? You might wonder if they’re casing your neighbor’s home, or if they’re terrorists. Certainly, it may seem disconcerting to have strange people take photos of homes in your quiet neighborhood. Who are these people and why are they taking pictures?

Most likely, these nosey folks are just your neighborhood real estate agents preparing a broker price opinion (bpo). A broker price opinion is a report that a lender will ask for to determine the marketability of a home in which they are the mortgagee (the lender). The report is used to assist the lender to understand market conditions by having the real estate agent provide recent sale and listing comparables for the home. Additionally, the lender asks for photos to note the condition of the home and the neighborhood.

A bpo is not an appraisal and should not be confused with one. An appraisal is provided by a licensed appraiser to ascertain a home’s value. A bpo, on the other hand, is provided by a real estate agent or broker with the intention of assisting buyers or sellers or prospective buyers or sellers in deciding the listing, offering, or sale price of the real property. (There is a controversy within the industry over the use of bpo’s.)

The lender uses the bpo for a number of reasons which include selling mortgages, eliminating private mortgage insurance, and loss mitigation. Although we now have a bad taste for the bundling and selling of mortgages on Wall Street, nevertheless this is how a majority of mortgages are sold. The broker price opinion is often used by investors to place a current market value on the mortgage asset by interpreting the bpo.

If you have asked your lender to reduce or eliminate your private mortgage insurance, there is a good chance your lender used a bpo in their decision process. A lender will look at current market conditions and recent sales to decide if a home has the potential of falling below the 80% loan to value threshold.

In the current market environment, loss mitigation is a more common reason for a bpo. Every lender has a loss mitigation department to determine how much they may lose if the home goes to foreclosure. Believe it or not, your lender may order a bpo if your payment is one week late!

Additionally, the loss mitigation department is the office you would communicate with in order to ask for a short sale on your home. So if you are asking for a short sale, you may see these surreptitious agents driving by and snapping photos. Sometimes, the lender may ask for an interior bpo, and you will have to invite the agent in your home.

So, if you see these folks poking around your neighborhood taking pictures, it is likely to be your local real estate agent; however, to be sure you should ask for their card. In taking their photos and inspecting properties, they should be law abiding (which means they do not peek into windows nor should they trespass). However, the police should be called if you have doubt about their identity, or you feel unsafe.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of December 1, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.