Michael J. Kanuka
Author Archives: Michael J. Kanuka

The Light of Rotary

There is a tradition at a local Rotary Club (the original Rotary Club of Vero Beach) wherein an award is presented each year at Christmas to the member who exhibited “Service Above Self” – someone who has clearly exhibited the true meaning of “giving” in the Club over the past year. The emphasis is mainly on personal volunteer efforts, with the focus on active involvement in a cause that helped local charities.

The recipient of the Light of Rotary Award receives well-deserved recognition for his or her contributions, including a prize in the form of an idiosyncratic lamp that has a very colorful history. Their name is engraved on this trophy, which also lists the other exemplary recipients before them. It is fitting that the award be a lamp, because the good deeds performed were truly meant to light-up the lives of those less fortunate in the community.

One of the expectations is for each recipient to leave a little of their personality with the lamp. It could be a surprise decoration hung from the shade, a flag or sticker affixed to the stem, or something else with special meaning. Such contributions have molded and transformed the lamp – as if to bring it to life as the perfect Rotarian.

Those most deserving of any humanitarian award are genuinely shocked when they find out they were selected as the recipient. Why? Because they had no expectation whatsoever about receiving it… their time and effort was truly for someone else’s benefit – and not their own.

Here’s the Point: ’Tis the season to give freely to others like never before – with no expectation of gratitude, but rather to just feel good about helping someone else.

Immigrant Lending: An Odd Discussion With A Banker

Immigrant Statue of Liberty“Mike, I’d like to refer you a typical immigrant client who doesn’t have a social security number and runs a ‘cash business’ – and I think you know what I mean”.

“No, actually, I don’t know what you mean.  Does their business generate a lot of cash earnings that they do not report to the IRS?”

“Well, I didn’t say that – but okay”.

“Sorry, I can’t help you – I don’t risk my reputation by recommending that my capital sources conduct business with someone who illegally evades taxes.  Moreover, I think it’s offensive to imply that immigrants typically operate cash businesses to evade taxes”.

“Well then what exactly do mortgage brokers do?”

Before quickly ending my conversation with the banker (for obvious reasons), I indicated that I would be happy to work with self-employed people who legally minimize their taxes with legitimate expense deductions.  Also, I would be happy to source mortgages for those who have not yet become U.S. citizens, do not have U.S. permanent residency, or even have not yet qualified for a social security number.

Surprised?!

As long as a “foreign national” or non-U.S. citizen can evidence an adequate two-year foreign or domestic credit history, there are capital sources who will gladly underwrite their mortgage.  In fact, it is a preferred business platform because statistics prove that these borrowers work hard to repay their debts – and tend to have solid liquidity and reserves.  One key issue is that all required documents written in a foreign language need professional translation.

Here’s the Point: Not having a social security number or green card doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for a mortgage – but you must be properly reporting your income.

Since When Do Builders Dictate Your Loan Terms?!

Do you really want to build your own house? The planning, budgeting, change orders, cost overruns, time commitment and anxiety… but, admittedly, it still may be the most economical way to own a home.

Then there are ramifications behind financing either the construction of a to-be-built home, or the acquisition of a home nearing completion. If you own the land, then you would need a construction loan – and your land investment would likely act as the equity or down payment for your lender. Construction loan draws would reimburse the builder as the home reaches certain levels of completion. Once completed, the construction loan would convert to a standard mortgage.builder lenderIf you are buying a speculative or partially completed home, then standard purchase mortgage guidelines should apply after you sign the builder’s purchase contract. Once the builder completes your home, your mortgage lender provides you acquisition financing (loan closing would coincide with receipt of the certificate of occupancy).

In either case, builders also hope to profit from your loan. They do this by offering attractive financing incentives, such as covering a portion of your loan closing costs if you use one of their affiliate or approved lenders. But be careful, because when they say: “We will cover closing costs if you use one of our approved lenders”. Not only will your interest rate likely be higher, this really means: “We will not provide any closing cost credits unless you use our affiliate lender” (thereby essentially “tying” you to their loan source).

Here’s the Point: When financing a property purchase from a builder, always compare the loan terms offered by the builder’s “approved” lender to those from other unaffiliated lending sources.

 

Would You Lend Money to Donald or Hillary?

Trump and ClintonYou may have been conscientiously deliberating which candidate to vote for over the past several months. Your selection might become clearer if you contemplate this title question – as if you were a lender deciding whether to extend them a loan! Not voting is always an option, but not likely a decision that would sit well with you (even though reports suggest this option is seriously being considered by many voters).

When a client applies for a mortgage, the assignment is either accepted or declined – with concrete rationale behind either decision. But a lender electing to entirely avoid making the decision to either lend or not – may be compared to not voting. Imagine a lender choosing never to return your phone call to give you their credit decision. In this analogy, not voting (or not providing a credit decision) doesn’t help either candidate (or borrower) – nor would it likely help yourself.

There is no excuse for lender/voter unresponsiveness. Borrowers/candidates deserve prompt, reliable feedback which, from a lender’s perspective, is generally based on the following 5 “C’s” of credit:

  1. Credit History (Repayment History & Credit Score)
  2. Capacity (Ability to Repay & Earnings Stability)
  3. Capital (Down Payment & Liquidity)
  4. Collateral (Property Type & Value)
  5. Conditions (Loan Terms & Purpose)

The first one above was formerly entitled “Character” – which arguably is still the most important factor. But by telling a client their loan was declined because of “Character” (or lack thereof), the decision could be judged as discriminatory.

Here’s the Point: Don your lender’s cap and consider the key factors that would be used before advancing money to either candidate – and focus particularly on “character” before making your decision.

 

Student Loans Matter

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 43% of the 22 million people with federal and private student debt are notstudent loan debt making their monthly loan payments.  This includes those who are in default (more than twelve months late), delinquent (more than one month late), or received permission to postpone their payment due to economic hardship.  It’s no wonder lenders have tightened their related underwriting requirements!

Some say the consequences of simply assessing a higher default rate of interest is not harsh enough.  Others say student borrowers are more apathetic now because they are in the same boat with 10 million others – and the problem is just too large to penalize everyone.

A lender cannot generally repossess a borrower’s car or other assets in the event of a student loan default.  But to recoup losses, the government is now garnishing wages and withholding tax refunds once students commence a job after graduation.

When seeking mortgage pre-qualification, applicants have not been required to include deferred student loan payments in their debt-to-income ratio calculation – provided the deferral was for more than 12 months beyond the proposed mortgage closing date.  Now, FHA lenders will generally use the known monthly payment or 2% of the student loan balance – versus conventional lenders using the greater of the actual monthly payment or 1%.  Assuming a $37,000 deferred loan (the average U.S. student loan balance today), suddenly having to include a 1% or $370 monthly projected payment would certainly have an adverse effect on a mortgage qualification ratio.

Here’s the Point: Even when your student loan is deferred, lenders are now likely to take the projected monthly payments into consideration when qualifying you for a mortgage.

 

Foreclosure? No Problem

Image result for foreclosureIt is surprising how many people have zero remorse after a foreclosure. There are those who think nothing of going through the process again to advance their self-interest, with little regard for either their ability to repay or their reputation with a lender. For this reason, lenders do not zealously arrange mortgages for post-foreclosure loan applicants without a thorough screening process.

It doesn’t take long to deduce moral character and integrity. If it is evident the “incident” will never happen again, there are reputable private lenders who are willing to provide a new mortgage – even one day after the foreclosure is finalized (at interest rates that are reasonable under the circumstances).

The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), the ultimate buyer of a conventional loan advanced by a mortgage lender, requires borrowers to wait seven years after title has transferred in a foreclosure proceeding. However, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requires that just 3 years elapse before they insure the mortgage advanced by an FHA lender – whereas the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) needs only 2 years to elapse before guaranteeing the mortgage of a VA lender.

As long as the Certificate of Title is produced evidencing that the 3-year anniversary requirement has been met, a post-foreclosure borrower may obtain an FHA mortgage. And the loan application can be made in advance so that borrowers are ready and able to close on a timely basis, regardless of how the foreclosure is reported on a credit report by the credit bureaus.

 

Here’s the Point: After a foreclosure, an FHA mortgage is the most common type of conventional financing used because only 3 years need to elapse from the Certificate of Title transfer date.

 

Saved by… the Appraiser?

I think it’s time we cut them some slack. No doubt there are instances where the appraiser completely missed the boat – when values were quickly overturned either after correcting errors or reflecting missed facts. I hear countless stories where the FHA appraiser was “too picky” regarding some of the reported observations on the condition of the property.

Lately, I have had several borrower prospects complain about their realtor or mortgage broker not recommending a property inspection. “I bought the house and had no idea there was a roof leak.” “You should have seen the termites in the attic right after we closed the deal.”

Let me tell you something: Engaging a property inspector is entirely up to the borrower/buyer – caveat emptor. Sure, there are times when it is obvious – and therefore when it is incumbent upon the industry professionals to strongly suggest an inspection by a licensed contractor. But if you purchase a property, it is your fault if you elect to forego the inspection and later find serious problems.

One appraiser recently conditioned his report on the receipt of an inspection report – to address what appeared to be some insignificant siding damage. The lender refused to close and fund the loan until a professional contractor confirmed in writing that the damage was cosmetic. It was a great call by the appraiser, because it turned out there was over $15,000 of structural damage from dry rot. That “picky” appraiser saved my clients from committing to a serious money pit.

Here’s the Point: If you decide not to have a licensed contractor perform a property inspection, then you are to blame for problems uncovered after your purchase.

 

Beware of Bonus Income Guidelines

bonusTo qualify for a conventional mortgage, your income should be “…stable, predictable and likely to continue”. You need to demonstrate your ability to repay – and, ideally, that your income is likely to continue for 3 years. If you earn bonus or commission income, your employer needs to verify that you have received it for the past 12 to 24 months – showing positive factors that offset the shorter income history.

But what if you decide to move to a different location (i.e., to maximize your earnings, to be closer to family, or because it’s just too cold where you are)? Unless your “transfer” is with the same company, you won’t be able to use your bonus income to qualify for a mortgage in your new location.

One of my clients has had consistent earnings with the same major automotive company for 25 years. But because the dealerships are franchisees, each franchisee is deemed to be a separate employer – so his move from one franchisee to another disqualified him from using his bonus income. And because the majority of his income is always from bonuses, he couldn’t qualify for a conventional mortgage. Even though he generated consistent monthly bonuses over the past 7 months at the new franchisee, he needed to show at least 12 months of bonus earnings.

The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) would not bend the rules for this solid income earner. The prevailing private lender agreed that the conventional bonus income guidelines do not incorporate common sense.

Here’s the Point: If you do not have at least 12 months of bonus or commission earnings, you will not be able to use that income in your mortgage qualifying ratios.

 

Condo Loan Craziness

Just because you have good credit, low debt-to-income ratios and a good size down payment, don’t think that qualifying for a purchase mortgage on a condominium will be a breeze. It may not be you that the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) is concerned about. Since FNMA is the likely buyer of the mortgage advanced by your lender, they are fastidious about how the condo homeowners association (HOA) or property management company is managing the affairs of the building.

There are some rules you should know before making an offer:

  • If you intend the condo to be an investment property, over 50% of the units in the building must be owner-occupied.
    WHY? Owner Occupants look after their units and are less apt to default on their mortgages
  • If the building offers in-room housekeeping and concierge services, FNMA will assume the condo is operated as a hotel and your loan will be declined.
    WHY? Short-term rentals (daily/weekly/monthly) are prohibited – whether offered by the HOA or the unit owners (and if the latter, the HOA will need to police this use)

It is not easy for the HOA to monitor the number of rental units – in which case the appraiser will need to make what is often an unreliable estimate. If this estimate is high, it triggers a red flag in the eyes of the lender. Letters of explanation and verbal confirmations will be required, thereby causing substantial delays and increasing the odds that your loan may not close.

Here’s the Point: Need a loan to buy a condo unit? If the building offers short-term rentals, chances are you won’t get your loan.

 

Free Money at the Closing Table

Free?  I think not!  But there are definitely “lender credits” available to you, depending on the interest rate you select.  The technical term for this credit is “yield spread premium”.  But is the lender passing this credit on to you, or are they keeping it – and therefore booking additional profit from your loan?  This profit would be in addition to their processing fee, and results from the earnings spread they generate between what you pay them versus what it costs them to fund your loan.

The higher the interest rate you pay, the higher the credit to which you should be entitled – all of which can be applied towards offsetting your closing costs.  In arriving at this credit, the lender factors in certain standard risk adjustments that are based on variables such as your credit score, loan amount, collateral type, and loan-to-value ratio.  The lesson to be learned is that your lender should always fully disclose the amount of this credit – even if it is in the form of a reduced interest rate.

Recently I had a client who was able to increase his lender credit by simply taking a few steps to improve his credit score.  After following a program of credit card debt reduction, his FICO score increased from 599 to 642.  This favorably resulted in an increase to his lender credit of 1.25% of his loan amount – a savings of $2,500 which he was able to apply towards the closing costs on his $200,000 residential mortgage.

Here’s the Point: The next time you get an interest rate quote from a lender, be sure to ask them how you can increase the “credit” to which you may be entitled to apply against your closing costs.