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Bad Mortgages – Not Just For Dummies
September 24 2008
[ Non-fiction : Current Affairs/ ]

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In these recent times of financial turmoil one finds fingers of blame being pointed in all directions. It’s the big corporations fault for writing bad loans, it’s the consumers fault for getting big credit lines without reading the conditions, Wall Street greed. Who’s really at fault? Who are the victims? Who is going to pay for this mess?

Although I have had several home loans since I became an adult and never had a problem being fiscally responsible with them, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that most recently I fell prey to predatory lending. Many will say that it was my fault, no matter what the circumstances, for ultimately signing the documents but I will let the readers decide. Here is my story:

In April of '06 my husband and I got married and were looking to buy our first home together. We did a little research and upon a real estate agent’s recommendation we found a mortgage broker to help get us qualified for a home loan. He originally worked for De Oro Home Loans in the Phoenix area, and that is the company for which we filled out all of initial documentation. A few weeks later, the broker called my husband and told him that he now works for SLC Mortgage and that he would use all the docs from the previous company and continue with the qualification process.

We finally got word that the loan had been approved and we were sent the Truth In Lending statement. The home that we had found had a price tag of $369,000 and we got the green light, along with the rates and loan terms that are required to be disclosed, by law. The loan(s) were for 100% financing. It showed that our interest rate on the 1st loan would be 6.33% fixed and on the 2nd, 8.5% fixed. No pre-payment penalties on either. My credit score at the time was 723 and my thoughts were that these interest rates were right in line with what my score would demand. I had no concerns at this point and I carefully examined all of our pre-closing documents to make sure that everything was as it was supposed to be. In retrospect, I should have stayed away from the bad practice of 100% financing as I’m sure that no financial institution will engage in this practice ever again.

A major red flag for me should have been when I was slowly figuring out that our escrow date was drawing closer and closer to our final date for closing. I didn’t realize that there was a specific reason as to why it kept being postponed until the last few hours of the last day that we had to close. Upon closing, we found out that he gave the loan to Bear Stearns to write. The closing docs were drafted on May 23rd, 2 days before closing, and we did not see them until May 25th...1 ½ hours before the Title Co. closed. The interest rates presented to us were 7.5% variable and 10.375% interest only. While looking at the final documents the reason behind the delay became clear: Bear Stearns was paying the broker up to a 2.5% Yield Spread Premium based upon how high he made the interest rates at closing. This amounts to up to $9,000 in the broker’s pocket.

Now I know I didn’t have to sign and I could have walked away and believe me, I wish I had. I signed under duress, tears, and anger because of how we were lied to. The things that were going through my mind at the time to sway my decision were:

• We had to close that day or lose our earnest money, $3,500, that took months to save.
• I was 1 month pregnant and was trying to avoid any undue stress.
• We had already given notice to our (2) landlords that we were vacating by months end.
• We already had a non-refundable deposit with the movers
• Our liquid assets were depleted for the earnest money and deposit and did not have enough left to find last minute housing…not just for the two of us, but my 3 other children, as well.

We had to sign ALL of the docs for Bear Stearns at the time of closing, including the loan application and all the disclosure forms. I dated every form with the current date so there was no confusion in the future as to when we were presented with that information for the first time.

For the next year and a half, we paid the negative equity option to keep our payments as close to what we had been originally told and soon found ourselves owing close to $15,000 more than when we started. We stopped paying in July '07 because EMC (Bear Stearns mortgage service division) said that they could not help us with modification unless we were at least one month behind on payments. After we were finally in ‘default’ they refused to honor their original rates and the only way that they would re-write the loan is if we paid the pre-payment penalties as outlined in the closing documents. With the value of the home dropping fast, we decided to let them keep the house. We started getting the collection notices and phone calls, and then finally, an auction date. We moved out in December of ’07 and it sold in February of ’08 for $109,000.

Since then, I have contacted such places as the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions and lawyers to see what my recourse is for being treated this way. I have all the docs to prove the bait and switch tactic used and thought that I could really bring light of what is going on in regards to home loan lending. AZDFI said that they could not do anything because I made my case against EMC because, even though they were the ones collecting the payments, they were not the ones who wrote the loan. Bear Stearns did and we all know what eventually happened to them. No lawyer would take the case on a contingency basis as I was just one consumer and these types of cases can be dragged on for years and nothing may ever come of it.

In closing, this was just a case of a sub-prime loan being sold the highest bidder when a sub-prime loan was not warranted. If I could go back, again I would never do 100% financing and I would make it to where I was not so dependant on such things as the immediate return of earnest money, or having to find alternative housing at the last minute. I would have more than 1 lender ready to finance the loan and if ever I was presented with disagreeable terms, I would walk away. The only clear winner in this case was the broker who got paid for increasing the rates at the last minute. I lost my house and ruined my credit, and Bear Stearns was absorbed by JP Morgan.

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Comments from Our Readers

  "Zonie, this is a shame. I feel for you and wish you the best in the future. Unfortunately, I have heard several similar stories. The greedy few have ruined it for those legitimate purchasers/agents." - TJCool, September 27 2008 - reply
  "This story needs to be told louder than the media is crying. Among my co-workers there were speculative discussions that the sub-prime lending chaos was based on those who acquired homes they couldn't pay for due to the late-night infomercials scams. These scams told people with horrible credit and no means to afford a home that they could simply get a Tax ID number and acquire business credit to buy their home. No big deal on default, because it is in the credit line of a fake business. This is what many people believe happened and why so many Americans don't care if they default. Your story needs to be told louder than the media ruckus. I'm praying for you and wishing you the very best. Sincerely, Camille W." - Camille W., October 9 2008 - reply

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