Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire…"Liar Loans" Lead To A Spike In Mortgage Foreclosures
It starts out all so innocently, the loan application (1003) is filled out while gathering the income and debts verified through credit reports and mortgage payoffs. Then the Debt To Income Ratio (DTI) is calculated dividing the debts including the new housing expense by the income and wham, it happens. The DTI is over 60%. Conventional loan guidelines historically have been around 28% for housing expenses including taxes, insurance, private mortgage insurance and homeowner maintenance fees. The total debt ratios had been around 36% for all monthly debts including the housing expense. With computer modeling and automatic approvals some DTI ratios have been allowed to float up in some cases to 50% to 60% if the borrower has lots of assets and the loan is on a full doc basis. As time passed, more and more hybrids began to show up. Mortgage Brokers were inundated with this new loan product called Stated Income. Simply the borrower would state their income on page two of the 1003 loan application and ratios would fall within lender acceptable limits. The original thinking by lenders were grounded in the premise that many busy well to do borrowers didn’t have time to compile tax returns and a litany of proof of their assets. This especially applied to borrowers who owned a multitude of income producing properties or had filed for extension on filing a personal or corporate return for a self-employed borrower. This was a very popular plan and billions of new mortgage originations were sold using the Stated Income or other derivations of the basis plan. It was great for self-employed borrowers who found it difficult to compile in a timely manner all the documentation for a fully documented loan which would use tax returns and a year to date statement from a CPA.
Later on, due to the heavy volume of mortgage business and a desire on part of lenders to expand this popular niche into other areas W-2 wage earners were allowed to state their income as well as those on fixed income such as social security, disability and pensions. For a few years this seemed to be ok. However, as time went on, and the economy in various parts of the country began to slow down, borrowers with stated income loans began to have an inordinate amount of foreclosures. At this time, Stated Income mortgage loans rival the Option ARM for frequency of foreclosures. Fraud reared its ugly head as participating players in the loan process were structuring deals with phony baloney borrowers who didn’t exist. These phony buyers are called “straw buyers” by prosecuting attorneys. Many times the first payments were never made. Most mortgage brokers and lenders have buy back agreements from the secondary markets so when a loan goes bad the originator is on the hook to buy the loan back. If fraud was involved, that shop many times already closed up and had run away with any ill-gotten gains together with the rest of the crew who were working the scam. Those players are prosecuted and serve prison time for their sins.
The other borrowers who were just trying to get a loan to pay off debts and a few months down the road after the new mortgage was in place were not able to make their payments. A Notice of Default is sent to the borrower with foreclosure action following when mortgage payments are not made. In a foreclosure process, the lender holding the bag goes back through all the files looking to perform an autopsy on the loan to determine what happened. Every piece of paper is examined, verifications are double-checked with a high powered microscope. All who committed a fraudulent lending practice are sought out and demands are made for redemption and loan buy back. Some enterprising participants had provided false bank statements and other loan documents, which were in fact fraudulently created on a fine computer word processor. The fix had been in.
Many of these stated loan products were all the rage then the fraud hit the fan. Borrowers could not afford the payments and did not even come close to having enough to even live on. Major changes are afoot. Many mortgage brokers exercise much self-discipline and will not even consider a Stated Loan with someone on fixed income. Where is the “real” money going to come from? Guidelines are tightening well after the horse has escaped from the barn. There is a web page called www.salary.com that gives the high and low range of income for various occupations. Lenders will immediately check this to see if the Stated Income is within this range. In the past, many times, these loans were done with a wink. This is no longer the case. Recently, Form 4506, which is an IRS form that a borrower signs allowing the lender to check with the IRS and determine income from the borrowers tax returns and W-2s if any. Formally this verification process with the IRS was a time consuming endeavor, but this is not the case anymore. For like .00 per file, a lender can access, with the borrower’s written permission, an online web site and access the IRS site to verify income. Many lenders will not close the Stated Income loan without an IRS Form 4506 being signed. Many of these loans are sold into the secondary market that helps keep the mortgage money supply flowing. As more and more foreclosures ensue from the Stated Income Mortgage Products there will be a major shake out with tightening of regulations and a search for any player, including the borrowers, who may have had a hand in this “Liar Loan” product. The fallout is already underway.
What is a borrower to do? For one, look for mortgage products that do not require stating a phony income number. A No Doc loan requires stating No Income on the 1003 loan application. A No Ratio does not require income to be listed but verifies employment and term on the job. It has to make sense. The days of loose lending may be over for many. Bottom line, if it doesn’t make sense, it probably is not a good loan. Think long and hard about using a Stated Income loan product. If it conforms with what it originally designed loan program for the busy borrower with lots of cash and assets and no time to pull things together, great. If not, think about passing for some other loan product. It could impact your walk around freedom. A negative loan experience will certainly impact a borrower’s credit and help precipitate a long and painful recovery from this credit blemish resulting from a foreclosure. Find another mortgage product to achieve your financial goals.
About the Author: Dale Rogers is a thirty-year mortgage veteran and frequent contributor to the Broken Credit Blog. The BCB is a free website created to assist the general public with information about credit repair and responsible mortgage lending.