Yes There's Mortgage Money, Yes Rates Are Good

I keep hearing from people that they think that the banks have stopped lending money to prospective home buyers.  This is simply not true!  The loan officers I work with regularly have no problems approving my clients, though credit & income is looked at more intently than in the past.

In addition, I’m seeing most loan officers quoting 5.75% – 6% today, which is down from 6.75% a couple days last week.  Rates around 6% have been the norm for the last few months but historically are still extremely low.

If you are a buyer who has been turned down for a loan or worries about qualifying, please give me a call and I will set you up with one of my loan officers to see if we can get you set up.  Not everyone can qualify, but the vast majority of buyers out there can still get loans.

Edina Realty Mortgage Speaks About Mortgage Market

An Important Message from Todd Johnson,
President and CEO of Edina Realty Mortgage

To Our Customers,

The dramatic events taking place in the financial services industry and economy are historic in scope and proportion. You may be asking yourself, “What does this mean for me as a home buyer or home seller? When I want to obtain a mortgage, will there be funds available?” The answer is simple: at Edina Realty Mortgage, it’s business as usual. Yes, we continue to originate mortgages for home purchases and refinances. Our wide product range features FHA, VA, MHFA, Conventional, Jumbo, Relocation, Renovation, and Reverse Mortgages. We are committed to helping as many customers as possible enjoy the personal and financial benefits of homeownership. We provide competitive, fully disclosed, and responsible and fair pricing for all borrowers.

A Solid, Stable and Secure Lender

We want to assure you that we remain a solid, stable, and secure mortgage lender. We are a well-capitalized company, and we hold fast to our long-standing responsible lending principles. Edina Realty was one of the first real estate companies to offer integrated mortgage services more than twenty-five years ago. For over ten years, Edina Realty Mortgage has been a joint venture between Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.) and HomeServices of America, a Berkshire Hathaway Affiliate. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., is the only bank in the United States, and one of only two banks worldwide, to have the highest credit rating from both Moody’s Investors Services “AAA,” and Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, “AAA.”

We Are Committed to Your Successful Closing

We stand by our word. Our exclusive On-time Closing Guarantee (1) ensures that you will close on time AND for the amount quoted on the Good Faith Estimate, or you will get money back. Are you already working with another lender? We will be happy to review your Good Faith Estimate and Truth-in-Lending Disclosure Statement. This no-obligation second opinion from us takes just few minutes, and we may be able to provide reductions in interest and/or closing costs. (2)

As a responsible lending leader, we work closely with our customers to help you reach your personal and financial goals through homeownership. Our team works hard to know you, understand your needs, and listen to you. We put you at the center of everything we do.

Thank you for trusting us with your business.

Todd Johnson
President and CEO
October 2008

1. Available on all qualified purchase transactions. Other terms and conditions apply. See a Home Mortgage Consultant for details.
2. If you have a current lock-in agreement with another lender, this is not an inducement to transfer your loan.

All first mortgage products are provided by Homeservices Lending, LLC Series A dba Edina Realty Mortgage. Edina Realty Mortgage may not be available in your area. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ©2008 Edina Realty Mortgage. All Rights Reserved.

A New Way to Handle Foreclosures


The foreclosure process in Minnesota is a long one… often consuming an entire year from when the borrower first misses a payment until the time that the bank assumes control of the home. The Minnesota Home Ownership Center has put together a great flyer on the process and an average timeline.

Right now the Minnesota Legislature is considering a bill to “defer” the foreclosure process for up to an additional year if the borrower of an owner-occupied home makes partial payments (65% of principal and interest amount due). If this bill is signed by Governor Pawlenty, Minnesota could potentially have a 24 month disposition window for some foreclosures.


A lot can happen to a home in the 12 months from the date the borrower stops making payments. In many cases, the homes fall into disrepair as the borrower knows that any investment of time or money on the property will ultimately be lost when the bank assumes possession. Property taxes and municipal bills are also often neglected… I have seen delinquent water & sewer bills for a foreclosed property above $1000 and delinquent property taxes above $5000. These are all bills that will have to be assumed/paid for by the mortgage company. Also, often times there is a significant amount of trash/debris left by the borrower… it is not uncommon to see a large dumpster in front of these properties full to the brim. Add to all of that the year of non-payment of the loan and the legal expenses to the lender to complete the foreclosure process and it is likely that a lender already has a $10,000 – $20,000+ loss at the time they repossess it.

In Minnesota, we have 5 months of average low temperatures below freezing. If a home in foreclosure is vacated during these months, often the utilities are shut off before the bank secures the property and the home’s plumbing ends up freezing and pipes burst. In good circumstances the water was shut off at the meter or the street (sometimes done by the city from non-payment of the water bill) so that only the pipes need to be repaired, which could cost as little as a few hundred dollars or climb to several thousand, depending on the location and extent of pipe damage. In bad circumstances the water can literally fill the house and cause near complete destruction of the interior of the homes, which then become great incubators for mold when they thaw in the spring. In a house profiled by the Star Tribune, one house once worth nearly $700,000 was resold at auction for only $280,000… a loss of over $400,000… about 60% of the value of the home.

Once the bank has possession of the property, the previous owner has vacated, and any debris has been removed from the property, the bank can go about listing the home for sale. Based on a sample of homes sold in Plymouth and Maple Grove in the last 10 months, when the bank resells the property they will lose 23.4% from the value at the previous sale. All told, banks lose $10’s of thousands of dollars on the average property… and on some, $100’s of thousands!

Current Actions

While the banks are already overloaded with the huge numbers of foreclosures they have been taking on and are even more buried in their short-sale departments, where responses to offers can take months, the more proactive a bank can be with their defaulted borrowers, the more likely it is that they can recover a larger share of their investment.

Regulatory and industry efforts to create work-out agreements between lenders and borrowers has met limited success and while without these programs foreclosures would be higher, the number of foreclosures today and in the near future are still substantial.

The mortgage lenders are trying to ramp-up staffing for their short sale and foreclosure departments, but these efforts are not proactive, but rather reactive.

While it is in the banks’ best interests to work with their borrowers to modify the loan terms and keep the borrower in the home, there are many circumstances where no reasonable workout can be made. Instead of the banks letting these homes go through the foreclosure process, they should attempt to work with the borrower to get the home sold directly from the borrower to a new buyer, with the bank accepting a sales price that only returns a portion of what they lent back to them, which is called a “short sale.”

The approval of a short sale is a long and difficult process that can take a lender 60-90 days to approve once an offer has been submitted. The largest problem with short sales is that many buyers simply do not have the time nor the patience to wait 2-3 months for a response. Further, the process is not the most appealing for sellers either, since they receive no monetary gain from the sale, many borrowers see little value in the enterprise. These short sales are seller-initiated and more than 1/2 of the listings never close.

A New Way to Handle Foreclosures

Lenders can be more proactive with their defaulted borrowers by initiating a short sale process when the probability of foreclosure is high and the likelihood that a lender-negotiated loan modification that will allow the borrower to become current on their mortgage is low.

Based upon my analysis of sales in Maple Grove and Plymouth in the last 10 months, bank owned properties on average sold for 23.4% less than their previous sale but short sale properties sold for only 16.4% less than their previous sale. Taking into account many of the other costs I mentioned earlier in this article, the savings to lenders could easily be in the 10’s of thousands of dollars vs. letting the home go through the standard foreclosure process.

Here’s the overview of the concept:

  • For loans in default where the borrow and lender are unable to provide a viable loan modification program, the lender refers the loan to their short sale department.
  • The short sale department immediately initiates the approval process for a short sale, including reviewing the borrower’s financials (which they have updated copies due to the failed loan modification program), get BPO’s (Broker Price Opinions) of the property, and send a letter to the borrower detailing this new option.
  • The borrower is presented the option to basically do nothing and let the home eventually go through foreclosure or work with the lender to get the home sold via a short sale.
  • If the home is successfully sold via a short sale and the foreclosure process is averted, the lender would offer the borrower monetary compensation for their participation and their assurance to maintain the property and leave it in good condition when they vacate.
  • If the borrower agrees to the terms, the lender sends out one of their pre-approved real estate agents for a more in-depth valuation, lists the home for sale and actively markets the property.
  • There is no cost to the in-default borrower for participation in the program… all costs are borne by the lender.
  • When an offer comes in, review and negotiation of the offer can occur quickly since the lender has been working on the file for some time already and can better rely on the advice of the listing agent as it is someone whom they have an existing relationship with and knows their processes.
  • The home is sold directly from the in-default borrower to the buyer, giving the defaulted borrower some money to walk away and the lender with substantially fewer expenses, return of more of the original investment, and substantially less risk of damage to the property in the meantime.


To discuss a new way to handle foreclosures is not helpful if it ignores the realities in the market. Here are the biggest hurdles (as I see them) that could make such a plan difficult to implement:

  • Banks can’t sell real estate
  • 80/20 loans where the 20% 2nd lien is not held by the same bank… much harder to coordinate but quite often the 2nd lien holder gets NOTHING from a foreclosure so it is in their best interests to cooperate.
  • Mortgage insurance companies that don’t want to get with the program
  • Investors/CDOs/etc that add so much complexity and/or bureaucracy that makes it a logistical nightmare
  • Already overburdened Short Sale Departments that simply cannot handle more files
  • Simple inertia: with so much of this problem centered in large banks, it is likely that only smaller, more nimble banks could
  • As Minnesota has one of the longest (if not the longest) timeframes from default to end of redemption, banks may not understand the true consequences of a 12 month process.
  • No one to champion the cause. Someone would have to step up and try this as a “guinea pig” before it is likely any other banks would adopt it.


Until these properties cycle through the system and are resold to new buyers they cast a negative effect on neighborhoods, other homes for sale, and other foreclosures too. Waiting for defaulted borrowers to complete the foreclosure cycle when it is all but a sure-thing earlier on in the process is not the best way to protect the investment but rather employing a proactive approach is something can benefit all parties involved and the housing market in general.

Mortgage Rates Tumble

Over the last couple of weeks 30-year fixed mortgage rates fell substantially… I’ve seen some recent quotes for 5.5%!

Taking 1/2% off the interest rate (which is what has happened in the last few weeks) on a $300,000 loan saves you $1500 per year in interest charges, which would be a savings of $125 per month or is like taking nearly $21,000 off the purchase price of the house, as compared to the higher interest rate.

With record high inventory and affordability at 3 year highs, this is a great time to be a buyer!

Here are a couple loan officers that I recommend if you are looking for information on what you can afford, how mortgages work, or want to get a pre-approval.  Please feel free to contact them or myself if there’s anything we can do for you!

Nicci Brown – Edina Realty Mortgage

Cheryl Stuntebeck – Bell Mortgage

No consideration has been received for these recommendations.

Top 10 Reasons Why Countrywide is Being Stupid With REO's

Time and time again, I see Countrywide Home Loans (CHL) listing their Real Estate Owned (REO) properties on our local MLS and requiring buyers to get pre-approved with a Countrywide Retail Loan Officer prior to submission of their offer.  In fact, in their required addendums, it is specifically noted:

If the Agreement is contingent on financing, as a sales condition, Buyer must obtain a pre-approval letter from a branch office of Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (“CHL”) for a mortgage loan in an amount and under terms sufficient for Buyer to perform its obligations under the Agreement, and such letter must accompany the Agreement.  The pre-approval shall include, but is not limited to, the pre-approval letter, a satisfactory credit report, and proof of funds sufficient to meet Buyer’s obligations under the Agreement. Buyer’s submission of proof of pre-approval is a condition precedent to Seller’s acceptance of Buyer’s offer. Seller may require Buyer to obtain, at no cost to Buyer, loan pre-approval as Seller may direct. Notwithstanding any Seller required pre-approval, Buyer is not required to obtain financing from CHL or Seller- Buyer may obtain financing from any source.  As an incentive for the Buyer to obtain financing from CHL, CHL will offer a free appraisal and a free credit report if the Buyer finances and closes the purchase of the Property through financing from CHL.

This is ludicrously stupid for the following reasons (not a complete list):

  1. Most buyers are pre-approved early in the home search process and have already chosen a lender they are comfortable with and are ready to buy NOW.
  2. Most buyers do not want to share private information with a stranger.
  3. Most buyers have no intention of working with the Countrywide Loan Officer.
  4. Countrywide pulls credit, meaning another inquiry on buyer’s credit report.
  5. Countrywide’s lending capabilities (product options) have been dramatically reduced since they are doing mostly/only loans that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will buy.
  6. Agents have existing relationships with loan officers that they know, trust, and can count on… they don’t like to have an ultimatium put to them any more than a buyer and don’t like interference in their client relationship.
  7. Agents often have such a long list of potential homes to show that they need to find reasons to eliminate some… this is an obvious candidate for removal.
  8. Countrywide doesn’t care who the approval is from or how solid the buyer is… if they are using financing, they HAVE TO get a pre-approval from Countrywide Retail. Period.
  9. Offering to do a free appraisal on a home that they own is akin to having the fox guard the hen house simply because he’ll do it for free… where’s the buyer’s protection when the seller is the loan originator?
  10. And finally- buyers are not stupid and they know when they’re being jerked around.  With so much inventory on the market, they can choose to tell Countrywide to keep their property and they’ll go find someone else who won’t treat them like a fool.

According to the Countrywide Foreclosure Blog, Countrywide had 14,442 REO homes listed on their site as of 12/5/07 at a total asking price of just over $3 Billion.  With so much inventory, so much competition, such a difficult buyer market, and tough times keeping Countrywide financially afloat, you would think that they would want to do everything they could to get their properties sold!

Recently I have seen several of Countrywide’s properties in the $200,000 range price reduced $30,000 and $40,000 all at once.  Such drastic price reductions have generated interest in the properties but also shows the motivation, and possibly desperation, of Countrywide to get these houses off their books.  If they eliminated their pre-approval requirement, they might see more interest from qualified buyers without having to so drastically reduce prices.

Some people suggest that Countrywide requiring a pre-approval is smart business, that it gives them an opportunity to pick up the buyer’s mortgage.  I would be surprised if they had more than a 20% capture rate on these leads (but I have no knowledgewhat their capture rate is), and the added holding costs for longer sale, disinterested buyers, and further price reductions make me think that this is a losing battle for them. 

Message to Countrywide: eliminate your CHL pre-approval requirement.  You’ll sell more houses, sell them faster, and likely at a higher price.

Should Banks Convert ARMs into Fixed Rate Loans?

CNBC has a great aricle titled: “Loan Modification Anyone?

The article does bring up a good point… while saving buyers that are in danger of losing their homes is a good policy, going too far is not fair for everyone else and can potentially lead to more fraud in the market.  It’s amazing to see the differences in opinion and direction this market seems to be taking.

All I know is that they better come up with something… the foreclosure market continues to grow as a percentage of listings for sale on the MLS and that isn’t good for the long-term health of our housing market.

Loan Officer: I Have The Same Products As I Did 5 Years Ago

I was talking to my favorite loan officer, Cheryl Stuntebeck at Edina Realty Mortgage, about the current market for loans.  While most lenders have tightened up lending standards, the current loan loan products she has are almost identical to the ones she had 5 years ago.  This means that 100% financing is very limited, that credit scores and income verification are necessarily most of the time, and that sanity has come to the lending market.

Some of the standout loan products today are geared to 1st time and/or lower income borrowers.  Via government-sponsored programs there is still 100% financing with market rates and no mortgage insurance.  No private loan program can beat that!

The loan products that we had 5 years ago worked just fine for consumers… we had great sales activity and low defaults in those years… and will serve us yet again.  While lending has tightened, it isn’t like we’ve gone back to 1980’s style loans… there’s still a lot of great options in this market and I’m quite confident that qualified buyers will still be able to buy a home in this changed landscape.