Banking Backlogs and Inconsistencies Plague the Mortgage System
By: Elaine VonCannon ABR, SRES, REALTOR, Notary, Team Leader, Residential and Commercial Property Manager, Managing Partner VonCannon-Starke Commercial Division, Member of the National Association of Residential Property Managers, Award Winning Agent, RE/MAX Hall of Fame, Licensed in Virginia, Member of Commercial Council VAR, Director WAAR MLS Board
As a REALTOR in Williamsburg, VA, I have seen many of inconsistencies with mortgage companies during a down market. Frankly, this frustrates buyers and sellers, me, my staff and colleagues.
I have mortgage company incompetencies, slowdowns and backlogs to share. I have collected some stories from other agents in my RE/Max Capital office in Williamsburg, too. These snafus in the mortgage approval system impact buyers and sellers in a negative way.
Short Sales Frustrations
It is common for a seller to short sale a property, and to have the lender(s) make the seller wait six months for approval - and then deny it! More often than not this crucial decision leaves the seller in financial ruins. The sale of the home is never closed, and the property now exists as bank 'inventory' and may not even hit the real estate market for a year or two. Wasting time on short sales leaves homebuyers and home sellers hung-up in financial limbo, and real estate agents without a closed deal. This cannot be good for the economy.
FHA Owned Properties: HomeSteps and HomePath
The FHA is a government agency, backed by tax dollars. If a buyer happens to put an offer on an FHA owned property, they have to use the recommended program. The federal government, in its infinite wisdom, has instituted the HomeSteps program through Freddie Mac and HomePath through Fannie Mae as public loan programs for the home buyer to help assist in the process of closing deals on FHA owned properties. Private lenders work through the program while adhering to government guidelines.
Though the HomePath and HomeStep Programs are enticing for what they offer, the process is slow and unwieldy. Some real estate agents have found the formula applied to each loan approval is not always the same. One agent in my office had a buyer turned down because HomePath indicated they did not have enough income. When the agent confronted the loan officer, she wanted to know why the 10-month income verification was not applied, instead of 12-month verification. She said her clients would qualify with a 10-month formula, and the loan officer agreed it was allowed. Her complaint is that formulas are not being applied consistently. Even those with good credit and stable work histories are finding it hard to close on HomePath loans.
HomePath Lending Program
Fannie Mae's HomePath program offers a traditional mortgage with 3% down, and no appraisal or premium mortgage insurance (PMI) is required. In addition, Fannie Mae offers another 3% down loan that includes home purchase and light to moderate renovations on primary or second homes or investment properties. A separate loan funds manufactured homes with the same 3% down payment.
HomeSteps Lending Program
The Freddie Mac Loan Program, HomeSteps, is stricter. The HomeSetps website recommends a 5% down payment with the possibility of qualifying for special programs offering down payment assistance. An appraisal is required on HomeSteps property purchases. Only certain homes will qualify for this program. A public review on the HomeSteps loan program is just as discouraging as HomePath. According to one buyer who complained publicly on CityData.com, the lender was Wells Fargo and the buyers made an initial offer on a Homesteps property, then made a lower offer once it was determined the house had 'illegal problems.' She inquires, "Is it normal to wait three weeks for a reply?"
Often buyers become frustrated with these slow moving property deals and move on. More often then not, the sale never closes.
Bank of America Backlog on Foreclosure Contract & Loan Approval
The Bank of America foreclosure department also drags its feet on closing real estate sales. I had a buyer ready to close on a Bank of America owned foreclosure and it took them two months to produce a contract. My buyer had an 800 credit score, but it took so long to approve his application, he became frustrated and pulled money out of another investment to pay cash for the property. I was lucky he had assets and was not totally reliant upon bank financing.
Bank of America Loan to Income Ratio Askew?
Another client I had was prepared to close on a property with Bank of America financing and he had a 780 credit score. The loan officer waited until one week before closing to inform him he did not qualify because his debt to income ratio was too high. When we considered lending alternatives, five other banks approved his loan, and even the USAA approved it. Why was Bank of America's loan to income ratio different than the rest?
The backlog in application requests, slow customer service, and inconsistencies with loan approvals are all reasons for concern about the mortgage lending industry today. Everyone involved in closing real estate deals becomes frustrated: real estate agents, buyers, sellers, lawyers and contractors. Even the federal government has become suspicious of Bank of America's (and other mortgage lenders) incomplete foreclosure paperwork and processes.
Though the federal government has been investigating some issues, lender inconsistencies and slow or no customer service are rampant in this real estate market. Buyers need to build extra time into their home sales process and agents need to exercise patience and attention to details for property deals to close.
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