Sunday, December 9, 2007

No Cost Mortgage - A Real Deal Or Not?

With the onset of 2008 we have seen mortgage interest rates begin to fall. When mortgage rates fall, misleading mortgage advertising schemes seem to show up in the media all around us. For example, I recently watched an advertisement on Television for “The Real No Cost Mortgage”. I shudder each time I see or hear advertising about this type of mortgage because it is misleading and deceptive. The sadness in this for me as a 12 year mortgage broker veteran is that this type of advertising is indicative the bad apples that contributed to a great degree to the mortgage industry meltdown in 2007. I am going to say it right off the bat: There Are No “No Cost Mortgages” on the Planet!” Is this clear? All mortgages have costs associated with them. This is the end of the story.

Most “no cost mortgage” loan programs are designed the same way: the interest rate of your loan is increased to cover the costs associated with your mortgage. There are a select few mortgages that have very little costs associated with them: these are home equity lines of credit – or HELOCS. Often you can get these little or no cost loans at your local credit union or small community bank. Additionally, these loans typically only allow you borrow up to about 90% of your home’s value. Credit Unions are small enough that they perhaps can offer to pay some of your costs as a courtesy to earn your business. The larger banks simply cannot pay or give you these costs for free or it would set them back a few dollars.

With these small second mortgages and HELOCS aside, the rest of the mortgage market is primarily made up of larger first mortgages. As I previously stated, these mortgages have costs associated with them such as: paying a processor to process your loan, the cost for an appraisal, the underwriter, the title insurance policy, your credit report, tax and insurance escrows, and of course the money that your loan officer makes in commission. All of these fees in one form or another get paid, and guess who pays them? That’s right, you do. You will pay these fees one way or another.

So what is the catch to this type of advertising? As I previous pointed out, the mortgage company charges you a higher interest rate. If you are paying a higher interest rate, then your monthly payment is higher. So your higher payment month after month pays your closing costs over time. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing if you know what you are getting into. Where I have a beef with this type of advertising is that it is not telling you the whole truth. You do have closing costs and the mortgage company is charging you a higher interest rate to compensate for those fees – and they do not tell you this in the advertising. They lead you down some fantasy of a no cost mortgage, or a free mortgage, and ultimately charge you a higher interest rate than you would normally get if you paid your costs either with your loan proceeds in a refinance or out of your pocket in a purchase mortgage. The misleading advertising got you to call them.

Initially, this loan can be good if you are low on cash. Hey, it is not a bad loan in the short term. Let’s just say that the interest rate that they charge you increases your monthly payment $150 a month for a no cost mortgage. After 30 months, or 2.5 years you have paid $4,500 extra. What if that was the amount of your closing costs when you first got the deal? Well, for the first 30 months you saved money and were better off. However, once you hit month 31, you are now paying more for your mortgage’s closing costs than you would have if you had paid them up front when you got the mortgage.

Another thing to be careful about with this type of mortgage is that it is very easy for a mortgage company to charge you more than might have been able to charge you because their profit is made in the interest rate and in the slightly higher interest rates. With this said, it is hard to tell how much a mortgage company makes on your loan given your payment increases slightly over what you could have been paying if you had paid your own closing costs.

So, the next time you hear of this kind of mortgage program, make sure you ask about the difference in your monthly payment between paying your own closing costs, or for paying a higher interest rate. If you know you are only going to be in the home for a few years and then you are going to sell the home, then a no closing cost mortgage might good for you. If you are planning on staying longer and you know you are going to refinance in the near future, then this loan might be good for you too. But, if you do not want to refinance in the future, or be forced to have to refinance to get out of a no cost mortgage when it starts costing you money then the no cost mortgage probably is not right for you. Make sure you take a look at all your options. Do not let a slick mortgage person tell you that this loan saves you money – as this is not necessarily the case.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 14, 2008 at 11:08:00 AM PST  
Blogger Mace said...

Why don't you give credit to the real author of this article - ME. Funny that you somehow posted it in 2007 yet the article was written in mid January 08 by me!

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