Beware of Bait-and-Switch Mortgage Fees

loan sharkLoan sharks are still in business, lurking inside of what are supposed to be reputable banks and mortgage lenders. These are the liars who bait you with an Initial Fees Worksheet or Cost Estimate that looks like a good loan. When doing your comparison shopping, they appear to be the cheapest and best. The icing on the cake is their personal charm; loan sharks are famous for being good communicators.

A home owner refinancing in Southern California asked me to review the three cost estimates she received. The one from a direct lender in San Diego appeared to be the best, so she proceeded with her refinance. But two days later when she received her official Good Faith Estimate, she saw that every one of the fees had been raised.

The lender underwriting and processing fee? Higher by about $400!

The appraiser fee? Higher!

The credit report fee? Higher!

The flood certification fee? Higher!

The tax service fee? Higher!

I advised her not to sign the paperwork until all the fees were corrected. The loan officer quickly apologized and blamed his loan processor. But guess what? The next day when he came out to her home to get the loan disclosure package signed, the fees on the new documents were still higher than initially disclosed. He mumbled some excuses and explanations and told her to sign.

She refused to be a victim of bait-and-switch and sent him packing. She then chose to go with a different, more honest lender.

This was the right choice. A one-time mistake can be fixed, but try to raise fees a second time, and it’s time to move on to a better loan officer. In this case, I don’t blame the lender, but the individual loan officer. He quoted fees that were lower than the company allowed, presumably thinking once he baited in the customer, she would stay no matter what.

A home buyer in Seattle last week had better luck. He also used my review and consultation service, because he didn’t want to spend the time and hassle of shopping around.

“I figured I would get one estimate and if it looked okay to me, get your expert opinion,” he said.

The initial estimate looked just fine. The interest rate was at the best available rate for the day and there were no unnecessary junk fees. The lender’s fee was competitive. I told him to proceed with confidence, and if he had any questions when he received his loan disclosures, to let me know.

The next day he emailed me his official Good Faith Estimate, and right away, I spotted a problem. The appraisal fee had been raised from $450 to $500. I pointed this out to him and suggested he ask the loan officer to correct it. Happily, the loan officer fixed the “error” right away, and all was good going forward. Using my service saved him $50 (he hadn’t noticed the increase) and gave him peace of mind.

If you’d like an expert opinion on your own loan offer, Initial Fees Worksheet, or Good Faith Estimate, please see here. One of my clients called me “The Mother Theresa of Mortgages.” Needless to say, I was flattered. It’s good people who are trying to get good loans that motivate me to do what I do.

Thank you!

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