Do Lenders Go Too Far in Collecting Personal Data on Home Buyers?

underwear I once had a client ask me, “What does the underwriter want to do next, look in my underwear drawer?”

Interesting question! Especially since more data is collected nowadays than ever before. Here is a list of personal information that lenders collect and the reasons why.

   8 Things Your Lender Will Ask When You Apply for a Mortgage

1) Age. A person must be at least 18 years old to qualify for a mortgage. It is illegal to discriminate based on age. Thus, a 95-year old can get a 30-year loan. It is illegal to charge young borrowers or old borrowers more based solely on age.

2) Race/Ethnic origin. It is illegal to discriminate or charge certain races/ethnic groups more than others. In Mortgage Rip-Offs and Money Savers (p. 211), I tell how some lenders get around that regulation and why minorities often pay more–as well as how you can prevent that from happening to you.

On the loan application, there are boxes to check for your race/ethnicity. One of the boxes says you prefer not to give that information. However, if you check the non-reveal box, the loan officer is required by law to take a guess and check one of the boxes. For people who are of mixed race, loan officers often get it wrong. Or if the loan officer isn’t good at telling whether you are Italian, Hispanic, or a Pacific Islander, you could easily have incorrect personal information in your file. Maybe you don’t care; it is up to you to decide whether to let the loan officer take a guess or to state the information yourself.

3) Marital status. This information is required, because in community property states it is illegal for a married person to sign for a mortgage loan without the spouse knowing about it. The non-borrowing spouse must sign documents of acknowledgement and consent, even if he or she is not on the loan contract or title.

4) Sex. On the loan application, there is a box for male or female. The purpose is for government agencies to verify that lenders are not charging women more than men. Lenders do not ask or care whether you are straight, gay, or other. So when you see an ad that says, “All people accepted here,” that is not special to that institution. The law says all people are accepted at all lending institutions.

One of my coaching clients said his Realtor told him and his partner to go to a certain mortgage bank “because they accept gays.” The Good Faith Estimate he received was an over-priced loan. I told him that all lenders accept gays; and in fact, they don’t ask and they don’t care. Knowing this enabled him to go get a better priced mortgage.

5) Number of dependents. This refers to number of dependents under age 18. If you’re supporting an elderly relative or a 22-year old college student, you need not include that person as a dependent, because it is considered voluntary. On the other hand, children must be cared for, and the number of dependents you support is a factor is determining the allowed debt-to-income ratio. A family of ten needs more money for groceries than a family of three, so more disposable income is required.

6) Income Verification. You must show you have enough income to handle all your current obligations plus a new mortgage with taxes, insurance, and the monthly mortgage insurance fee, if applicable. The current guidelines say your debt-to-income ratio should be no more than 43%; however, there are exceptions.

7) Two-year employment history. Income stability is an issue. For self-employed people, your business license must be at least two years old. If you’re thinking of quitting your salary job and making a go of your own business, buy a home first or wait two years. It is acceptable to change jobs within that two-year period, so don’t pass up an opportunity for advancement. The “No Employment Required” loans of the sub-prime era are gone.

8) Asset Verification. Lenders require two to three months’ statements showing assets. You must verify where your down payment money is coming from. If it is gift money, that must be verified. No secret side loans for your down payment! No taking a cash advance on a credit card for your down payment! And, you’ll need to have some cash reserves left in your account after your loan closes, so you can’t use every last dollar you have.

In addition, a lender may ask for anything and everything else they believe they need. 

Sometimes borrowers ask, “Do they really need that?” And, “Why do they need that?” Or, “Can they ask for that?”

Those are valid questions, and you have the right to know. Feel free to ask your loan officer why. A good, experienced loan officer should be able to answer your questions. If they don’t know the answer, they should offer to ask the underwriter and then let you know. Underwriters don’t speak with borrowers directly; that is your loan officer’s job.

If you have more questions or comments on this topic, feel free to ask. I promise to answer. You’ll see the comment button at the top right of this column.

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