July 24, 2011 |
Federal law prohibits kickbacks among brokers and others in home real estate deals. That sounds pretty straightforward: You can't give money to someone simply for steering a home buyer or refinancer to a particular title agency, mortgage lender or escrow company without providing any actual services to the consumer. Yet as four recent legal settlements suggest, there is still plenty of action underway at the fringes of the law, where technology and creative financial arrangements are raising new questions about what's permissible and what's not. Take the multimillion-dollar settlement July 11 between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Fidelity National Financial Inc., the country's highest-volume title insurance and settlement services company.
May 22, 2011 |
Want to refinance into a seven-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.99%? Or how about 10 or 15 years fixed in the mid-3% range? These may sound suspiciously like teaser quotes with tricks in the fine print, but they are in fact signs of an important shift underway among American homeowners: Not only have they been refinancing at a robust pace in recent weeks, but they're dialing down on the remaining number of years they plan to pay on their mortgages....
May 8, 2011 |
What if the federal government spent years designing a tool to help consumers shop intelligently for mortgages — comparing lenders' rates, terms and total settlement costs — but consumers ignored it or didn't use it? No need to speculate here; it appears to have already happened. A new survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers suggests that the good-faith estimate (GFE) disclosures that all home buyers and refinancers receive at loan application to facilitate shopping are not getting the job done.
April 8, 2011 |
A rebound in mortgage rates from last year's near-record low has reduced consumer demand for home loans and refinancings, leading Wells Fargo & Co. to join other industry stalwarts in laying off loan processors and related workers. The San Francisco bank, the nation's No. 1 mortgage lender, has handed pink slips to about 1,900 workers who had processed loans generated both by Wells' mortgage unit and by independent brokers, a spokesman said Thursday. About 230 of the positions were in California, said Jason D. Menke, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Des Moines, Iowa.
April 6, 2011 |
California homeowners who refinanced their properties for cash or took out home equity lines of credit will now be allowed to participate in parts of the state's $2-billion foreclosure relief initiative. Many people tapped their rising equity during the boom years, using their homes as ATMs to fuel spending. The California Housing Finance Agency had initially excluded people who used their home equity in such a manner from participating in its Keep Your Home initiative, which launched this year with federal funds reserved for the 2008 rescue of the financial system.
April 3, 2011 |
Could the federal government's booming FHA mortgage program be forcing homeowners to pay tens of millions of dollars of extra interest charges when they sell their houses or refinance their loans? Critics say yes. The government says the critics aren't providing the full picture. Those critics include Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit Federal Housing Administration lenders from collecting a full month's worth of interest from sellers and refinancers who pay off their mortgages — close escrow — before the final day of the month.
December 25, 2010 |
A rating company's decision to downgrade certain bonds issued by the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority this week left economists scratching their heads. The reason? The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are celebrating one of their biggest one-year increases in trade in the last 25 years. That means it's also a good year for the Alameda Corridor, a 20-mile express route built to speed the flow of cargo from the ports to the region's railroad hub and on to retail shelves across the U.S. "It seems like an overreaction," economist John Husing said about Moody's Investors Service's downgrading of the bonds.
December 22, 2010 |
With two secure incomes and money in the bank, Victoria and Stuart Glick have been shopping for a larger home since April, looking at more than 30 houses and making offers on three of them. The process has proved frustrating: The Glicks, who live in Dana Point and want to buy in Laguna Niguel, have lost out to other bidders all three times. And now, rising mortgage rates have left Victoria feeling less sure that they will find the ideal trade-up from the 850-square-foot cottage where they live with their 9-year-old daughter, Sarah.
December 19, 2010 |
Dear Liz: We just refinanced our $100,000 mortgage into a 15-year fixed-rate loan at 3.75%. We have an extra $500 a month and want to know what we should do with it. Should we use the money to pay off the mortgage early, increase the contribution to my 403(b), or start a rainy day fund and try to save up to three months of my take-home salary? I'm 44, my wife is 35, and we have three kids ages 5, 3 and 9 months. I would like to retire in 16 years. Answer: At least two of your children won't be through college by the time you want to retire, so you may need to rethink your plans unless you have an exceptionally generous pension or a lot of money saved in that 403(b)