Thursday, October 29, 2009

Money Money Everywhere But....

The money supply to Banks is there. Interest rates for Bank borrowing is still near 0%. But, homeowners are now subject to much tighter rules for borrowing because the Banks follow the BOOK, or in this case the Federal Reserve Regs. As a result, home mortgages are MORE DIFFICULT to get than anytime in the past decade or two.

There are new rules to try to reign in the high-cost, so-called "subprime" predatory loans. As of October 1st "High Cost Loans" have a new definition: any loan that is "1.5 percentage points" above the average prime mortgage rate. (Note: that is not the prime rate mortgage index but a prime rate mortgage - a mortgage given to a "prime borrower" or a so-called "a" borrower - great credit). If a loan is a "high-cost loan" under the new definition lenders must verify that the borrower can repay the loan through earnings and other income, not simply by a foreclosure or refinance.

That rule may not appear to be a departure from the "old" way but it is. The crisis we are still in was caused by some large lenders/brokers making loans to anyone who could pass a basic screening:"Can you hear thunder and see lightning?". Greedy and ignorant brokers/lenders would often give loans to borrowers without requiring any proof of the borrowers ability to pay.

Sometimes the borrowers knew exactly what they were doing and did not care - they gambled that the market for houses would keep rising and that they could refinance their way out of any problem There were no verifications of employment or verifications of deposits send. No bank statements showing a steady balance, for the self employed were requested, and often, for employed borrowers, W-2 copies were ignored or not sought.

Basically, the new rules that the Federal Reserve has put into effect as of October 1, 2009, merely force lenders/brokers AND borrowers to do what they should have been doing all along. That borrowers would fabricate income and lie on applications was ignored, or even encouraged.

Some states, like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and a handful of others across the country have already put regulations in place that make the lender/broker certify that the loan is in the best interests of the borrower. In fact, Massachusetts REQUIRES this criteria be met for high cost loans, as defined by the Commonwealth General Laws. Also, many states, Massachusetts among them, have enacted legislation or have had the highest court in the state rule that certain threshold questions (like can the borrower repay and is does the loan lower payments or allow for home improvements, or lengthen the term) must be met on a refinance before the lender/broker can consider itself safe from violating such laws. UNFORTUNATELY, many of the National Banks, and some Savings Institutions governed by the Office of Thrift Supervision, claim that state law does NOT apply to them.

The Federal Reserve Rules also state, in part, that Prepayment penalties are banned if the mortgage payment can change in the initial four years of the loan. For other higher-priced, mortgage loans, a prepayment penalty period cannot last for more than two years. (this is the link to the 65 page Regulation:

Banks have over-reacted so NO MONEY TO HOMEOWNERS. Foreclosure proceedings are still climbing. The worst may not be over for the average homeowner who has a financial problem, or a first-time home buyer who does not have a high (700s) credit score.

Author's Copyright by Richard I. Isacoff, Esq, October 2009

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