Ask the Experts – Mortgages: What You Need to Know

In 2010, Congress transformed consumer lending. But what does that mean for potential real estate sellers, and homeowners to be?

Great question. This month, we interviewed Matt Jablonski, Loan Officer at Citizens’ Bank, to find out. Matt set the record straight on loan officer commissions, rate negotiations, and whether it’s best to buy now…or wait.

Myth: Loan officers profit from higher rates

Before 2010, loan officers often received higher commissions for more profitable transactions. Naturally, this gave loan officers the incentive to hike interest rates: at your expense.

Then came the 2008 financial crisis. To safeguard the public from future harm, the federal government signed the broad-ranging Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law. Among other things, the law prohibits profitability-related commissions for loan officers. “The lender I work for has to pay me exactly the same amount, no matter what terms are offered,” said Matt.

What does this mean for the borrower? “You are better protected than you’ve ever been,” Matt said.

Myth: You can talk the loan officer down to a lower rate

While Dodd-Frank is a significant step forward in terms of protecting borrowers, it comes with a downside, too.

“An individual loan officer doesn’t have the power to negotiate like they used to,” Matt said. In other words, you can’t haggle your way to a cheaper rate.

But there’s still one way to secure a lower rate. “A bank is allowed to offer better terms than what they have in place under one set of circumstances only: and that is for competitive purposes,” Matt said.

If a lender can document that a competitor is offering a lower rate, they can adjust their rate accordingly. But it has to be an apples-to-apples comparison: loan amount, purchase price, property type, FICO score, loan program, and fees must be the same; and the rate estimates need to be given at or around the same time.

That said, if all the criteria fit, a borrower need only show a loan or preliminary cost estimate from a competitor to, potentially, secure a matching mortgage rate from any lender.

Myth: Now is a bad time to get a loan

Because mortgage rates are currently on the rise, many people assume we’re headed toward a correction of sorts, and that as such, it’s best to hold off on taking out a mortgage until the market recalibrates.

Matt dismissed that notion. In spite of rising rates over the last few months, he said, rates are still impressively low. And if the current trend continues, those rates won’t be coming down again any time soon. In fact, this loan officer—and others we speak with—expects rates to be higher six months from now, and for that trend to continue. With that in mind, he recommends acting now.

There are multiple reasons to do so. For one thing, New York’s economy is booming. With tens of thousands of tech jobs coming into the city (witness Amazon’s upcoming move), this likely means higher demand. It’s impossible to predict how and when the market will be impacted, but suffice it to say interest in New York City will only continue to grow. Of course, there’s also the cost of waiting to buy. Waiting for prices to re-calibrate means building in a 12-24 month period for the market to adjust (sellers don’t drop prices overnight), all the while paying rent somewhere else and in the meantime if rates continue to rise, it will by default mean you’ll have less purchase power. You are probably better off using your time wisely and taking advantage of the current market dynamics: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

“If I was on the fence about buying, I would buy now instead of waiting,” Matt said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we were in the low fives, or five and a quarter, before 2019.”

From what we have observed and understand, Matt’s words reflect a consensus among industry veterans and insiders. With rising interest rates still astonishingly low, now is in fact the ideal time to buy. Of course, only history is 20/20…but we are certainly bullish on this market, as you’ll read, and we think Matt is right.

 

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