You have the legal right to see the price of a mortgage before providing any personal information or having your credit report pulled. Some shady loan officers are trying to get people to commit to them before providing a cost estimate — and that is ILLEGAL.
Recently, I heard from two different book readers in two different states about loan officers who tried pulling tricks. I share their stories with you so that you won’t fall prey.
Loan Officer Asks For Money Upfront — Illegal!
When the home buyer asked for a cost estimate (the Good Faith Estimate has been retired), the loan officer pressured her for her credit card information. He refused to take any of her criteria (loan amount desired, etc.) or let her make an application until she paid for an appraisal report with her credit card. “I want a commitment from you first,” he said.
This is illegal, and the home buyer is filing a complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau against this large national direct lender.
Loan Officer Sidesteps Questions with the Runaround
Another home buyer had a different kind of trouble when she asked for an upfront estimate.
The loan officer said, “How can I give you an estimate when we don’t have a specific house, specific loan amount, and I don’t know which lender I am going to choose?”
The home buyer then asked what the lender fees would be.
“I don’t know, because I don’t know which lender I will broker out to,” she (dishonestly) replied.
This unprofessional individual was recommended by the real estate agent. Here’s a valuable tip: do not choose your mortgage advocate by who the agent is friends with. You make your own choice.
First, the loan officer should give an estimate for the maximum home price the buyer may want. No address is needed at this point.
Second, the loan officer knows the lender fees and should provide the figures when asked.
What You Can Do
If you encounter this type of nonsense, walk away. Don’t reward a dishonest shark with your business. Loan officers are paid on commission, so when you walk away, it makes a big impact. There are plenty of good, ethical mortgage professionals who are state licensed and trustworthy.
You can also file a complaint with the CFPB. I would not advise filing against someone who gives you the runaround, but if a loan officer asks for any type of payment (including collecting your credit card info) before providing you with complete disclosures, that is a violation of federal lending law — and therefore, that person and the company they work for should face consequences.
No More Good Faith Estimate
The GFE has been replaced with a different form: Cost Estimate, Fees Worksheet, Cost Worksheet, whatever they want to call it. Ask for a Cost Estimate and an ethical, honest loan officer will provide you with the information you need on the form their company uses. We don’t care what title they put at the top of the page: the information you need about the loan is there. (Do not ask for the Loan Estimate. That comes later with your disclosure package after you have a purchase contract.)
No one would think of putting money down on a car without first seeing the price tag. The same applies to a mortgage. You have the right to see the terms of the loan before making a commitment.
If you would like my help, I am state licensed (NMLS 1284134) in California and Washington.
The Cost Estimate Worksheet or Initial Fees Worksheet is the form loan officers provide before they have taken a full application and pulled your credit report. What people are asking me now is, “Can I trust this estimate or will they increase their fees later?”
Great question, and I have an answer for you that will make sense.
The official 3-page Good Faith Estimate is a contractually binding document from the lender to you (per recent lending laws). The lender may not increase their lender fees by even one dollar from that GFE to the final Settlement Statement.
But the problem is, you cannot get that GFE without having your credit report pulled and submitting your financial documents. The new law ties the lender’s hands in that regard, because how can they commit a contract to you without verifying what you qualify for? So the worksheet serves as the upfront estimate now, due to this federal regulation.
This is no problem. The upfront worksheet is more specific than the GFE designed by the feds. I actually prefer it for comparing loans. However, it is not a contract, so can they increase fees later?
Yes, they could; but it would be a very stupid thing to do. And no, the good, honest, ethical loan officers would never do that!
The good, honest, ethical loan officers don’t lie to potential customers. They look out for your best interests and do all they can to help you get the best financing. They would never risk having you ditch them and file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for committing bait-and-switch. Moreover, their personal moral compass would never allow that.
Even still, I have seen a minority of loan officers increase their fees between the initial worksheet and the GFE. (I see estimates from lenders all around the country from good folks using my coaching service.) There are usually red flags on the worksheet that raise suspicion.
For example, they leave off essential costs such as the appraisal report and property taxes. Then on the GFE when those are added in, they also show an increased origination fee. If that should happen to you, please send me an email and let me know. I will reply explaining what recourse you have.
Fortunately, most of the shady loan sharks are no longer in business. If your loan officer has a Mortgage Loan Officer License with a MLO #, it means he or she has completed the 20 hours of study plus additional hours of state-specific study, has passed an extensive background check including fingerprinting, and a credit check. Look for that number (or ask) and listen to your gut instinct or internal lie detector.
If you still feel uncertain, feel free to send me a question here. Your mortgage is important, and you should feel confident as you proceed with your loan.