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Your Mortgage Closing Costs Forced to be More Transparent

This post was written by jd on January 20, 2010
Posted Under: Real Estate

Big changes have finally arrived in making good faith estimates when getting a home loan. The following  are required on good faith estimates as of January 1st of this year:

Consistency.

Lenders are now required to use a uniform three-page document when they give prospective borrowers a good faith estimate, says Vicki Bott, deputy assistant secretary for single-family housing at HUD.

Lenders also are required to provide the document within 72 hours after prospective borrowers apply for a loan.

This will allow consumers to figure out a loan’s total cost, including fees, and compare loan offers on an apples-to-apples basis, Bott says. “We encourage consumers to shop for the best rates and fees, and not just the best rate,” she says.

Transparency.

Many borrowers who bought homes during the housing boom later discovered that their loans contained hidden bombs that made their mortgages unaffordable. The new good faith estimate requires lenders to disclose features that could drive up costs. For example, the document requires lenders to disclose whether your interest rate will rise — as would be the case with an adjustable-rate mortgage — and if so, by how much. Lenders will also be asked whether the loan includes balloon payments or imposes penalties for paying the loan off early.

“All of these are really important questions,” says Helene Raynaud, vice president of housing for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “It will be able to raise red flags for consumers.”

Trade-offs.

Some lenders offer borrowers a lower interest rate in exchange for higher upfront costs — or vice versa. A new table in the good faith estimate (see box) helps borrowers compare how different interest rates and settlement charges will affect monthly payments.

Reliability.

Lenders are required by law to give mortgage applicants a copy of their settlement costs, known as a HUD-1, at least one day before closing. In the past, though, many borrowers discovered that the costs shown on the HUD-1 bore little connection to those provided in the good faith estimate.

The new rules will make it much more difficult for lenders to depart from their good faith estimates, Bott says. The new HUD-1 includes a line-by-line comparison to the good faith estimate, making it easy to identify any change in costs.

Lenders are prohibited from increasing costs they control, such as origination and processing fees. Fees for third-party services, such as appraisals and title insurance, can increase no more than 10% from those provided in the good faith estimate, as long as the borrowers use providers selected by the lender. The limit doesn’t apply if borrowers select their own third-party providers.

Other costs that aren’t subject to the 10% limit include the initial deposit for the borrower’s escrow account, daily interest charges and homeowner’s insurance (see box).

Source: USA Today

HUD has published a guide for home buyers, Shopping for Your Home Loan: HUD’s Settlement Cost Booklet. You can find it at HUD

Reprinted for educational purposes

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