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mortgage brokers

Do mortgage brokers act in their customer’s best interest?

By definition, a broker is a person who arranges or negotiates something like a settlement, deal, or plan. It follows that mortgage brokers arrange or negotiate a mortgage.  But what does “arranges or negotiates” really mean?

More importantly, does a mortgage broker always act in the best interest of their customer, the mortgage borrower?

These questions come up whenever we meet with financial advisors. Understanding the answer (hint: it is not a simple yes or no) is essential for a fiduciary advisor who wants to remain, well, a fiduciary advisor. Failing to understand this answer results in failing to look out for the best interest of your client. 

Let’s examine how mortgage brokers come up with their mortgage rates.

How mortgage brokers come up with rates

A mortgage broker will compare various wholesale lenders when examining loan options for a potential customer.  Wholesale lenders (which have approved the mortgage broker as a partner) will supply rate sheets or the raw data to populate loan pricing software.

In this sense, wholesale lenders are just like wholesale suppliers in a retail market. They can have specialties such as “jumbo loans” and rate or pricing differences will certainly exist amongst them.

The graph below represents the wholesale price from three different wholesalers available to a mortgage broker. For our purposes, we’ll imagine there are just three different wholesale lenders being considered for a particular loan.  Truth is, there could be many more options considered by one mortgage broker.

Mortgage broker wholesale pricing

To grasp the concept of how this process works we are omitting the actual interest rates.  Rather, we are going to focus on their relative position to each other. Note the Y-axis is simply “Interest Rate” and void of specific numbers.

In the case above, Wholesale Lender 1 is offering the lowest wholesale rate given the mortgage customer’s credit, income, and other criteria. In contrast, Wholesale Lender 3 is providing the highest wholesale rate.  Lower rates are always better when other things such as origination fees and discount points are held constant.

With an understanding of the mortgage broker’s “suppliers,” let’s move on to how the mortgage broker makes money.

A mortgage broker adds margin

A mortgage broker will add a retail margin, or markup, to each wholesale rate.  These two items, when combined, determine the final interest rate presented to the mortgage customer.

Industry compliance and several other factors ensure that a specific mortgage broker earns the same markup on each loan they could offer.  As a result, the same margin is added on top of each wholesale rate.

Mortgagebrokeraddsmargin

With the retail margins added to each wholesale price, the relative attractiveness does not change. Wholesale Lender 1 + broker margin is still the most attractive loan option.  Said another way, this wholesale price and the margin combined will result in the lowest rate for the mortgage customer.

A mortgage broker presents their best option

Mortgage brokers want to present their best option to increase their chances of winning the loan business. They are indifferent as to which option they provide because they generate the same margin in all cases. In this sense, a mortgage broker does “shop” rates in some way. But there is MUCH more to the story.

Mortgagebrokersbestoption

The fact is, there are many wholesale lenders and a mortgage broker selects a certain number with which to partner. While a mortgage broker may have access to many wholesale lenders, they will NEVER have complete representation.

Other mortgage brokers have their own best options

Each mortgage broker has an individual set of wholesale relationships. These relationships can be based on familiarity, proximity, or any other factor.

Additionally, each mortgage broker must be approved by a wholesale lender in order to offer their products and terms. Some wholesale lenders enforce minimum production requirements in order for mortgage brokers to remain “active” with them. Further, certain mortgage brokers can receive better/worse wholesale pricing based on a range of factors including quality of submissions and volume of transactions monthly/quarterly.

As a result of these factors, each mortgage broker will have access to a “best wholesale price.” Said another way, they will each have a different starting point with which to build their retail rate.

Otherbrokerswholesalelenders

Mortgage Broker 1 has presented the wholesale price that is lowest from his stable of options. Mortgage Broker 2 has access to a lower wholesale price. Mortgage Broker 3 has access to a less favorable wholesale price – the worst of the bunch.

If we assumed (wrongly, btw) that retail margins are all the same, then we see (below) how a wholesale price is related to a lower rate.  In these cases, the wholesale price is the main determinant of interest rate for the consumer.

wholesalewithretailmargin

When presented with these options, we should choose to work with Mortgage Broker 2.  Due to their exclusive access to the lowest wholesale price (amongst the three), they will provide the lowest interest rate.

A lower interest rate results in lower monthly mortgage payments – who wouldn’t want that?

Retail margins differ between mortgage brokers

Mortgage brokers generate revenue only when they produce loans. All expenses, such as loan officer commissions, office overhead, and marketing/advertising, are paid for from this transactional revenue. As a result, each mortgage broker requires a different retail margin to maintain profitability and the range can be significant.  

Operational overhead is one of the most common reasons why retail margins range. A mortgage broker with a large executive team (drawing hefty salaries) will result in the need for larger retail margins.

A mortgage broker paying a hefty monthly “marketing expense” to a real estate office can also be a contributing factor. These monthly fees, called MSAs, are masked from compliance regulators by associating them with “joint marketing activities.”  While the legality of them may be increasingly questionable, the funds required to repay this large expense increases the retail margins charged.

Applying the logic from above, let’s take a look at how our Mortgage Brokers made out in a competitive environment.

DifferentRetailMargins

Mortgage Broker 2 ends up being the worst choice for a mortgage borrower.  The large retail margin results in the highest interest rate compared to both other options.

Mortgage Broker 3 ends up with the lowest rate for a mortgage borrower.  Their low retail margin means they can provide the best interest rate, resulting in the lowest payment compared to the other two options.

Shopping between mortgage brokers is vital

According to the Freddie Mac April 2018 Insight, shopping just one additional source for a mortgage can result in savings approaching $2,000.  Shopping up to five sources can result in savings that approach $4,000.

While these numbers may seem significant, we see rates vary by as much as 0.50% between mortgage brokers. This difference presents a more significant opportunity than the Freddie Mac April Insight suggests.

Because mortgage brokers can’t represent every single wholesale option and inevitably have a differing retail margin, they can only partially act in the best interest of a customer.

Despite advances in technology and efficiency, mortgage shopping is a vital part of the mortgage process and should be done in each and every instance.

Purchase Mortgages MortgageCS

3 keys to understanding purchase mortgages

Wondering how to buy a home and don’t know where to start?  You aren’t alone in your quest to understand the home-buying process.  Those looking to buy a home can quickly become overwhelmed resulting in burnout.  The best way to avoid information overload is to walk before you run.  Here are the 3 keys to understanding purchase mortgages.

Key 1: What is a mortgage?

A mortgage loan is a loan that is used to purchase a home.   A borrower will obtain a mortgage from a bank or other lending institution in lieu of using all cash to purchase the home.  Just as someone could finance the purchase of a car, would-be homebuyers can finance the purchase of a home.

When a mortgage is used by a borrower, the bank or lending institution will place a lien on the property’s title.  This is not a bad thing! When mortgages are secured by a home’s title, they become less risky.  Lower risk means the banks will offer more favorable interest rates when compared to personal loans that are not secured by any property. Lower interest rates will translate into lower payments, and that is a great thing!

The exact term “mortgage” refers to a specific document that is created and recorded as a public record:

A mortgage is a legal document creating a lien on a property after an agreement is reached between a borrower and lender. The mortgage becomes a public record document at the county’s office and secures a property as collateral in consideration for funds borrowed.

How does a mortgage help homebuyers?

Without mortgage loans, buying a home with cash would be the only option. Yikes!

With mortgage loans, buying a home is much more manageable. Would-be buyers will use cash to pay only a portion of the home’s purchase price.  This is called the down payment.  It is also typical that a buyer will pay at least a portion of the closing costs out of their cash.  Take a look below for a simple example regarding a $200,000 home purchase.

Purchase mortgages

 

In the example above, purchasing a $200,000 home results in a $160,000 mortgage and $50,000 cash required at closing.  This $50,000 includes $40,000 for a down payment and $10,000 as closing costs.

Key 2: What is a debt ratio?

Debt ratios matter a great deal when qualifying for a purchase mortgage.  The bank or lender requires proof that you can manage your soon-to-be housing payment. They’ll look for this proof by comparing your monthly debts to your monthly income and establishing a debt ratio. Your monthly debts will be obtained from your credit report and your monthly income will be calculated using paystubs and recent W2 statements.

Once a debt ratio is calculated, it is typically converted into a percentage. A debt ratio that is too high will either restrict the loan programs you may have access to or disqualify you completely. Yikes!

Two different debt ratio calculations?

The front-end debt ratio examines all debts except for those associated with the new housing payment. The back-end debt ratio will examine all debts and include a soon-to-be housing payment. A back-end debt ratio below 43 percent is typically low enough to have access to virtually all loan programs. Once a debt ratio exceeds 43 percent, loan program availability will be reduced drastically.

 

MortgageCS Debt Ratio

Debt Ratio Example

Assume you earn $10,000 monthly and have a car payment of $400 and student loan payments of $400 each month.  Your front end ratio will be ($400+$400)/$6,400 = 12.5%.  This number is far below the typical requirement of 31% for FHA loan front-end debt ratios.

Add in a new housing payment of $1,600 and the back-end debt ratio becomes ($800 + $1,600)/$6,400 = 37.5%.  This ratio is approaching the limit for of 43% but still within a reasonable range to obtain access to most loan programs.

Important Tip: When calculating a debt ratio, mortgage lenders will use gross income (income before taxes). 

Key 3: What goes into a mortgage payment?

A monthly mortgage payment is typically made up of four key components: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. These four items are commonly referred to as PITI.  Phonetically, PITI is pronounced “pity.”

PITI explained

Principal and interest will be calculated based on your starting loan balance and the interest rate associated with your loan.  Taxes refers to the real estate taxes associated with the property.  Insurance refers to the cost of the homeowners insurance required to protect the property. Homeowners insurance is a requirement when a mortgage is used to buy a property.  This is because the mortgage lender needs to ensure the collateral (your home) is protected.

 

Mortgage PITI

 

If you put down less than 20 percent of the purchase price when you buy a home you may need to add mortgage insurance to this number.  You also may need to add monthly association dues if you purchase a condo, townhouse or any property included in an association.  Since you know the basics of PITI now, these are simple to add to your monthly required payment.

What’s next?

You now have a firm understanding of mortgages, debt ratios and the components of a mortgage payment. Armed with this information, you can now continue your learning with ease – good luck!

Buying Your First Home: 5 Steps to Success

If you’re considering buying a home but you aren’t quite sure where to start, you’re not alone. Our step-by-step guide can walk you through the process with ease.

 

For those who are getting tired of renting and have decided it might very well be time to buy, it’s important to understand the buying process, what type of property is best for you and the type of financing you’ll need. Here is a step-by-step program for those who see a first home purchase in their future.

Step 1: Think it through

It’s important, early on, to understand the pros and cons of buying versus renting. It’s not always in one’s best interest to buy a home instead of renting. While there is certainly time to change one’s mind during the home buying process, it helps to understand the benefits and downfalls of owning a home before applying for a mortgage.

Pros of home ownership

  • Each month, as you make a mortgage payment, you’re contributing to your own financial stability in the form of increased equity in the property. Over time, your equity grows and it belongs to you, not to your landlord.
  • Mortgage interest is tax deductible, whereas rent payments are not. Property taxes may also be tax deductible for those who itemize.
  • The property belongs to you and you can have pets, paint the walls whatever color you like, and create your own kitchen.
  • When financing with a fixed-rate loan, your monthly payment will never change.
  • You won’t have a landlord who can increase your rent each year.

Cons of home ownership

  • You’re not as mobile as you once were. As a renter, you had the option to change your scenery and move across town, or to another city each time your lease was up for renewal.
  • When the heater broke down in your apartment, you called your landlord. When the heater breaks down in your own home, you’re the landlord.
  • You no longer have the free access to a fitness center, pool or other amenities offered by your apartment building.
  • If you make a poor decision when selecting an apartment, you can always move when your lease expires. If you make a poor decision when buying a home, the consequences will be much more severe – negatively impacting your finances significantly.

Step 2: Credit and lifestyle check

At the very beginning of this process, it’s important to check your credit report. When consumers pull their own credit report, they should be looking for errors or mistakes that might be incorrectly lowering credit scores.

Fortunately, it’s no secret that credit files can be rife with errors. Similar names can pop up on one another’s reports, and old accounts can show as open and in collection when they’ve actually been paid in full.

Consumers should regularly check their credit regardless of whether or not they’re looking to purchase a home, and free credit reports can be obtained annually at a website supported by the three main credit repositories: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The site is www.annualcreditreport.com.

Consider your lifestyle to help focus in on a neighborhood and property type that will best suit your needs. Do you want to live the high-rise condo life downtown, or does a neighborhood and your own lawn sound better? Are school districts a priority for you? What about your commute to work?

These and other questions should be settled before you seriously begin your home search.

Step 3: Understand your finances

How much are you comfortable paying each month? Remember that when you begin the mortgage process, how much you qualify for and what you’re comfortable paying can be two very different amounts. It pays to get prequalified early on, but stay in your comfort zone and don’t get carried away taking on a payment that is too high for your own good.

Use MortgageCS to get a feel for current mortgage rates and for the program that best matches your available down payment amount. By the time you close on a home, rates will more than likely be different than they are now, but you need to familiarize yourself with credit markets and monthly payments.

As always, keep your personal information safe during this early stage. Uninvited pressure from a loan officer or multiple credit pulls over time can create unnecessary issues and stress. Using MortgageCS to ensure your personal information remains protected is a great way to understand your options and find a trusted source for your financing without the hassle.

Don’t forget about homeowners insurance. Contact your insurance agent and get a quote on coverage for your new home. Your lender will require a minimum amount of coverage required, but speak with your agent about any additional coverage options you might want to add to your policy.

Step 4: Get organized

Begin gathering your financial documents. Once you’ve selected the loan officer you’re going to work with, they will provide a list of required items. This list will include bank and investment account statements, and income tax returns might be required along with W2 forms and paycheck stubs. You’ll need to update these items once you get closer to a loan approval, but gathering them early lets you know if there is anything missing that you’ll need to track down.

Step 5: Find the property!

Looking at many different properties can be exciting and frustrating at the same time. Once you have an accepted sales contract on a property, follow the requests of your real estate agent, loan officer and loan processor when additional information or action is required. Most sales contracts conclude in 45 days or less. Don’t assume anything during this critical time and be sure to keep the communications line up and working!

How fast?

You can follow these 5 steps in 5 months, or in almost any time frame, but giving yourself enough time to complete each step will help create a stress-free experience.

Ask anyone who has been through the home buying process before and they’ll tell you that spending more time shopping for homes with a preapproval letter is far better than chasing down loan documentation at the last minute. So plan ahead and make the process as easy as it can be!

3 must do’s after a weekend of house hunting

It’s Monday…and you’ve just had an exhilarating weekend of house hunting. You’ve seen the good, the bad, and just about everything else while driving all around town. Some of the properties you just walked through may already be under contract – so you can cross them off your list!

A weekend of house hunting can be quite discouraging in a seller’s market. So how can you keep your head up when you feel like you are fighting a losing battle? Do these three things each Monday – and you’ll be ready to act when the time is right.

Catalogue the properties you viewed

Document the property address, style of home, list price, best attributes & other important details. Ask yourself this question: What kept you from being interested in the property or what made you want it?

By doing this, you’ll find that certain property features will come to the surface as most important. This will help guide your future searching and make you more confident (so you can act more quickly next time).

Check in with your Realtor

Contact your trusted Realtor to talk through the properties that were most attractive to you.  After learning of a small price change or other information, a “maybe” on your list could turn into a “yes!”

If you do find yourself interested in a property, the time to act is now. You can request a second showing or cut to the chase and get a purchase contract written up! Remember, you aren’t the only one eyeing that property in this seller’s market – so act quickly.

Stay current on mortgage rates

Interest rates change at least every day, and can swing drastically over the course of a week. A small change in interest rate can make a BIG difference in monthly payment – so staying up to date on available mortgage rates and programs is a must!

For example, the monthly payment on a $350,000 mortgage will drop by $26 if rates are just 0.125% lower! That’s a savings of $312 a year – or about one free car payment!

Just as it is important to shop lenders early in the process, it is also important to keep your knowledge level up as you hunt for that perfect home. After all, a dip in mortgage rates will make all homes more affordable.

Related posts:

What is a seller’s market? Look here.

Concerned about increasing interest rates?  Look here.

3 ways to keep your payment the same when rates are on the rise

When it comes to mortgages and the home buying process, interest rates are almost always front and center. This is not a surprising thing, as nothing else impacts the housing market quite like a quick rise (or drop) in mortgage interest rates.  Additionally, mortgage interest rates are one of the most commonly compared terms when consumers shop lenders and loan officers.

For most first time buyers, sticking to a budget is essential. So what is one to do when rates suddenly increase?  Well, there are a few options – some a bit easier to consider than the others.

Look for smaller homes in the same area

If your heart is set on purchasing a home in a particular area, interest rates have recently increased AND you are on a fixed budget, there is little you can do but search for a lower priced home. If you were looking for a townhouse, this may mean you need to reduce the bedroom and bathroom count or perhaps even switch to consider condominium units. You may no longer be able to afford a home with the upgrades you hoped to include or perhaps you can no longer afford the unit with a basement or garage.  In either case, some level of sacrifice will need to be made as the macro-environment of interest rates increases.

Look for homes in a less expensive area

Maybe your heart isn’t set on buying a home in a particular area – but rather the home’s amenities are front and center. If this sounds like you, then it may be easy to consider a home in a different school district, township or even over state lines (if applicable). Keep in mind that the school district can be a very important factor in reselling a property – so a bargain price today may be more difficult to sell in the future (and may appreciate at a slower rate overall).

Delay buying until next year

No real estate professional wants to see you delay the purchase of a home – and perhaps you don’t want to either. However, if you are set on a certain property type and location for your new home, this may be the most viable option provided that you can save money at a rate that will outpace the appreciation on the home and any subsequent increases in interest rates. Note: This may be a HUGE amount and ultimately be unknown until a time in the future. 

Keep in mind there are some significant risks with delaying the purchase of a home. First, the interest rate environment is largely unpredictable and rates could increase further – actually making the home less affordable next year.  Second, home prices could increase which translates to you spending more over the life of your loan, and missing out on a year’s worth of home value appreciation. Third, there is no way to know what the home inventory may look like.  If there are homes you would consider purchasing today, there is no way to guarantee the inventory will be available next year (Just ask anyone that wanted to buy a house in 2016 and waited until 2017 when inventories were down 40%!).