Legitimate Ad or Marketing Ploy?

RadioI was listening to my radio when on came yet another ad by a local mortgage company. Maybe you’ve heard a similar ad and wondered if it was a great company to get a loan from. Or maybe you’re a real estate agent and wondered if this company could get your buyers good financing.

In this ad, the owner of the mortgage company was telling listeners about his fantastic, historically low interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates). Fine, no problem. But then he capped off the ad by saying, “With us, you never pay an upfront fee!” Like it some kind of unique, special deal: no up front fee.

THE TRUTH: Federal banking law forbids any mortgage lender–including banks, direct lenders, credit unions, or brokers–from collecting any money up front, unless you want them to pull your credit report; and in that case, they can ask for payment for the credit report only (which is normally less than $30).

It is illegal to ask you to pay a few hundred dollars, for any amount whatsoever, for an application fee, processing fee, acceptance fee, or any other type of fee. Other than paying for the credit report, a lender must not ask for any money without first providing you with a Good Faith Estimate.

If you already know your credit score or know that you have excellent credit with at least three accounts on record, then there is no need to have your credit report pulled before you are ready to commit to that lender. If you are shopping for a good loan, do not disclose your social security number or let the loan officer pull your credit.

Ask the loan officer for a Cost Estimate or a Fees Worksheet. It doesn’t matter what they call it, the up front estimate does not require a credit report pull. Before 2010, it was the Good Faith Estimate that was given up front; now it is the Cost Estimate. It’s the same thing, different title at the top of the page. Due to (insipid) federal regulations, lenders were forced to change the title of the upfront estimate. You have the right to receive this without cost, obligation, or credit pull.

The radio ad I heard, the one bragging about “we have no upfront fee” was on Christian radio. So listener beware: just because an ad is on your favorite station, it doesn’t make it 100 percent honest. No upfront fee is the law. Touting it as unique to your company is a marketing ploy. So if you don’t like shady ploys, ignore those ads.

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