Experts Are Predicting a Surge in Foreclosures, But I See the Situation Differently

With the continued high unemployment rate and the expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), many homeowners are hurting, so it makes sense that we may have a foreclosure crisis in our future.

CoreLogic reported recently that back in June (when the Feds were still sending $600/week in PUA to Americans) the share of mortgages with payments 90 to 119 days late had already risen to 2.3%, “the highest level in 21 years.” A rate that high could result in a foreclosure crisis, the report said. Not only could millions of families potentially lose their home, but that would also create downward pressure on home prices.

But I see the situation differently, and after consulting with Jaxzann Riggs of The Mortgage Network, here’s why I don’t expect that flood of foreclosures.

First of all, foreclosure should only happen when a seller owes more on their home than it is worth. That’s because sellers lose all their accumulated equity in a foreclosure, and most people have accumulated a lot of equity thanks for the sellers’ market we have been experiencing.

Secondly, federally mandated forbearance is in effect, which is unlike the forbearance which delinquent borrowers may have enjoyed in the past. Under the current plan, lenders add extra payments at the end of the loan instead of requiring any kind of catch-up payments. This mandate could be extended, too.

The only people likely to face foreclosure will be those who recently took out 100% VA loans or 96.5% FHA loans or conventional loans with only 3% down payment, and for whom there is hardly any equity to lose in a foreclosure action.

Being on forbearance doesn’t affect one’s credit rating even though you are not making payments (again, part of the federal mandate), but once you resume payments, you need to make a minimum of three on-time payments to qualify for a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan, which will restrict your ability to sell your home and purchase a replacement home. Some lenders require six months post-forbearance loan payments.

That, too, will slow down any surge in what are known as “distressed listings.”

The Licensing, Regulation and Ethics Requirements for Mortgage Loan Officers

By JIM SMITH, Realtor

In a recent column, I described the legal and ethical obligations that come with working in real estate, particularly as a Realtor. The mortgage lending industry has a similar obligation to protect consumers from unethical and fraudulent practices. Both industries are regulated by the Colorado Division of Real Estate, but the mortgage industry is subject to additional regulation on the federal level.

I spoke with one of my preferred mortgage brokers, Jaxzann Riggsowner of The Mortgage Network, to learn more about the subject. Here’s what I learned.

There are four main sources of mortgage financing for home buyers — credit unions, banks, mortgage companies and mortgage brokers. While there are many differences between each, the most significant is the additional training and regulation that mortgage  brokers must go through. Whereas “loan officers” or “loan originators” working at a bank or credit union are not required to be licensed, all mortgage brokers must be licensed at both a national and state level.

Registration and licensing (which are different) is completed through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS), created in January 2008 in response to the housing market crisis occurring at the time. The Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing (SAFE) Act, enacted in June 2008, further mandated licensing by prohibiting individuals from originating loans without obtaining and maintaining their status as a licensed mortgage loan originator (MLO) through the NMLS, unless employed by a depository bank or institution such as Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, to name just a few. All individuals originating mortgage loans must register with NMLS and obtain a unique identifier (NMLS number, which allows monitoring of performance), but not all “loan officers” must be licensed. While mortgage brokers must be licensed, loan originators working for banks are not required to complete the additional licensing and testing that mortgage brokers must go through. 

Before applying for a license, potential mortgage brokers must complete twenty hours of pre-licensing education, which consists of training on Federal laws and regulations, ethics, and general mortgage origination basics. Many states, including Colorado, require additional state-specific training.

After a prospective MLO has completed his or her pre-licensing education and passed the SAFE test with a score of 75% or higher, they are required to submit their credit report and their fingerprints for a criminal background check.  Only then can applicants apply for a license.  Once the individual has obtained their federal license, he or she is required to take additional classes to obtain their Colorado license, and there are annual continuing education requirements on both the state and federal level.

Another great benefit to working with mortgage brokers is that they must legally disclose all fees upfront, including how much they will be compensated for their services. By contrast, banks are not held to this same standard. Banks are not required to disclose how their loan officers are compensated.

The most important “take away” from this discussion is that it benefits the consumer to shop for a mortgage. In addition to the loan costs, ask your potential lender about their education, experience and licensing status. When working with buyers, I always recommend working with a mortgage broker for the reasons mentioned above. I recommend calling Jaxzann at 303-990-2992.

Real Estate Buyers & Sellers Have Become Prime Targets of Cyber Criminals

A couple weeks ago, Jaxzann Riggs (right) of The Mortgage Network was the guest speaker at our weekly office meeting, educating us on the important subject of cyber security.  Here are some of the things we learned from her.

As we move into an increasingly digital age, cyber crime is rapidly becoming a major part of fraud. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates that there was an 11-fold increase in real estate email phishing scams between 2015 and 2017. Moreover, 2018 saw a 166% increase in the amount of money lost to real estate wire fraud compared to 2017.  As these crimes become more and more prevalent, what can you do to ensure that you do not become a victim?

Cyber crime can take many different forms, but one of the most common is something referred to as EAC, or “email account compromise.” The FBI estimated that this type of fraud accounted for $1.2 billion in losses in 2018—just under half of all reported losses for 2018. In real estate transactions, this typically occurs as wire fraud. There are many different variations of this scam, but the basic idea is the same: just before closing, a borrower receives an email with instructions from what appears to be their title agent/lender/Realtor, informing them that their closing funds should be wired to a different account. The information about their property is correct; the name on the email signature is identical to the person the borrower had previously been communicating with. The borrower, having no reason not to believe the request, sends the money to the new account. In reality, however, a criminal has hacked or spoofed the email address—meaning that the funds meant to be sent to the title company for closing have now wound up in the fraudster’s account. Although there are occasionally “success” stories of money being recovered, oftentimes, the money is gone for good.

If you are going to be involved in a real estate transaction, an easy step you can take to protect yourself is to create a physical list of phone numbers for those involved in your transaction: this can include lenders, Realtors, title agents and more. If you receive a change in wiring instructions, you should always call the sender to verify that the instructions are real. If the instructions came via email, do not refer to the phone number listed in the email signature or reply to the email— if it is a fraudulent email address, your reply will divert back to the criminal, and it will almost certainly contain a fraudulent phone number that does the same. Because phone numbers can easily be spoofed to appear as a different number, do not immediately assume a phone call you receive with a change in wiring instructions is legitimate, either: before wiring anything to a different location, you should always call back the number on your list to verify that the instructions are real. Although this may seem tedious and repetitive, as the old adage goes, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Unfortunately, even when taking steps to protect yourself, wire fraud does happen. If you realize that you have fallen victim to a wiring fraud scheme, the first thing to do is immediately contact your bank and ask them to attempt a wire recall. Criminals will often have the funds transferred into a bank account in the U.S. before transferring them to a foreign account. If the money has not left the United States, there is a much higher chance your bank can stop the transfer and that the money can be recovered. Be sure to contact your local FBI and Attorney General in addition to filing a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Though wire fraud is scary, the best thing you can do is stay aware and prepared. By working with a trusted professional and taking precautions, you can minimize your risk. Are you looking for more tips on staying safe in our digital world?  Give Jaxzann Riggs a call at 303-320-3400.