Women and Homeownership: Hurdles of Refinancing

Adèle_Söderberg_-_Easter_cardI started this blog a few months ago, but failed to write much because of a series of events. One of these included a re-financing of my house at this time when mortgage rates in the U.S. are at a remarkable low.  Obtaining a loan to purchase a home is no walk in the park and for weeks I dealt graciously with one demand after another from the bank for proof of various things – sometimes multiple times. Sometimes they lost things I sent them or failed to send me something they wanted to have signed, etc. So, apparently, it’s no cake walk for the people doing the spade work on the loan, either, or else they’d have their act better together.

As I went through this stressful process, I thought about how I would not have been able to obtain a mortgage at all if I had been born a few years earlier.  When I was a child, just approaching the right age to begin being sexually harassed by adult men while shopping at the store with my mother, banks did not lend to women. If a woman wanted a mortgage on a house, she could not acquire it on her own. No. She had to have a husband, a brother or a father with her – and if you were a woman with none of those willing to sign his name next to yours as a co-sign, you wouldn’t even dream of going to a bank for a mortgage on a house.

When I was born, which was not all that long ago, women had far fewer rights where both finance and education were concerned. This is because we were slaves in the established order. Fortunately, some things have gotten better for us. For instance, back then there was no Title IX and no one would have considered something like boys sexually assaulting us in school a problem to even be discussed. At least, now it is being discussed – even if it is not being taken seriously – and that is another big difference between then and now.

In the U.S., we’ve always been a little ahead of things in England and maybe elsewhere in Europe with regard to women having rights to our own property – surprisingly, because things have been pretty bad for women here ever since the beginning of European colonization! It was back in 1862 that the white men running the show agreed that we could be allowed to hold and keep (to “have and hold”) our own property. Whether or not women could inherit property, be permitted to keep property once married to a man, open a bank account of her own, or obtain credit to purchase something like a home or business, are pretty much settled issues as far as I know in the U.S. For instance, in my state we women don’t really own our own bodies when it comes to rape or health matters, but we do have equal real property rights and the right to defend it to the death, if need be, under certain circumstances – and that is some progress.

But, it’s not this good everywhere. For instance, at no time would I expect to be asked any sexualized or sexually harassing questions by the loan officer at a bank here, but apparently this is something a woman trying to obtain a loan or mortgage without the assistance of man may very well be asked in the U.K. right now according to this shocking article from the UK Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3094966/Why-having-baby-block-chances-getting-mortgage-Mums-say-picked-loan-firms.html  What’s more disturbing than the article is all the dudebros commenting beneath the article that this is perfectly fair and reasonable. Here it would get a bank sued. In fact, it would be so illegal that your mortgage lender would have to be not only morally but mentally impaired in some way to even have such a thought enter into his perverted head.

Now, as a woman living post-1974, I can get on the phone and call up a bank offering a low interest rate and discuss with another woman (working as a loan officer) how I can get the best deal on a mortgage right now and be treated with some respect and regard for my human dignity. And, that’s what I did.

Despite the fact that women make less money than men, we are far more likely to own our own homes than men. We are more likely to have better credit than men (unless maybe we’ve been roped into a marriage contract with one of these dick-wielding parasites whose main aim is to suck a woman’s finances, labor and credit dry) and to manage the relatively little money we make better than men do. We are more likely to be single-heads of households, whether we own our own homes or not. Women are more likely to be independent, adult people living on their own – as opposed to living in mom’s converted garage or dank basement.

The same leaps in progress we have made in education, we have made in finances, as well. This is amazing since it was not long ago we were denied scholarships, diplomas, bank accounts – and in some places even service in a restaurant, lest we might be whores waiting for a john to come a long.

Still there are some ordinary obstacles to be overcome. The world of mortgage loans is the world of the manliest men, the most psychotic men, on the planet. It is a web of sticky snares, slick deception, and tricky, tricky devices.

Anytime you go to negotiate a mortgage, you’re going to have to deal with whatever dirty tricks the patriarchal banking establishment is dealing out at that particular time and, believe me, they always have another ace up their sleeve!

The Tricks Banks Use

If you live in the U.S. and you’re thinking about obtaining a mortgage or doing a re-finance on an existing mortgage, I’d like to give you a little heads up. If you’re outside the U.S., what I say here may apply to you or it may not. I have no idea what’s going on with mortgage lending and the housing markets outside the U.S. or what kind of laws might pertain. I only know what little I know about what’s going on where I live, which just happens to be in the U.S. Furthermore, my perspective is probably very colored by my experiences in the region of the country where I live, which is a very rural one that was specifically targeted for illicit bank activity back in the 1980s. People here who have faced off with crooked bankers before are less trusting of bankers than people who live in someplace like Los Angeles or New York City.

Every time the bankers get caught with their pants down and get a little slap on the wrist as a result of their criminal actions aimed at defrauding the people they lend to, the Fed comes out with some more papers for you to sign, which are called “disclosures,” whenever you go to obtain a mortgage. A few of those papers you sign when you get your mortgage, particularly the RESPA form regarding your right to be told if your note is sold and to whom it was sold, is a result of what they did to farmers out here in the heartland back in the 1980s. Before the 1980s, one of the bankers’ tricks was to sell your loan to someone else without your knowledge, then continue to accept payments from you, while your property was foreclosed on by some banking outfit you’d never heard of. They can’t do that particular trick, anymore.

But, your note still can and will be sold, especially if it is a traditional mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or a similar Federal charter. The banks make money, 1% of the loan, when they sell it. Now, they have a law that says that they have to advise you that your note may be sold (if it may be sold) and that they must notify you to whom it was sold. Now, a word of advice from someone who has been there. If you go to obtain a mortgage or refinance, look for a bank that continues to service the loan that they issued you, even after they sell it. It’s better to have it serviced locally by people you can go into the bank and talk to face to face, then to have it serviced by a faceless entity of some kind, which is often the case. Usually, whenever the loan is sold, so is the servicing on the loan and this can be very undesirable. To be clear, the loan service provider is the entity that collects payment from you monthly and manages your escrow account (the account containing your annual taxes and insurance on the property).

Be aware that while mortgage rates are very low, you have to have a very good credit score (most people’s credit has been trashed by banking fraud of some kind in the past few years as both credit card companies and mortgage companies did a lot fraudulent things to otherwise good, paying lendees and got away with it) and you have to be able to provide proof of income for the past two years and that income has to be sufficiently high in order to qualify for the lowest rate on the amount you wish to borrow.

That said, there is one other possible hurdle, which I saw coming at me like a freight train, but could do nothing to stop, of course. That is the collusion of bankers and appraisers. About 10 years ago, when I bought my house and got the first appraisal on it by some really dopey, clueless-seeming appraiser, who I wondered if he had even visited the property (he had written down the wrong number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the square footage was way, way off), appraised it pretty high – I thought, at the time, too high – but there’s not much to do about an appraisal. You’re pretty much stuck with it under even the best circumstances. I remember asking the lender before-hand, point blank, when I was getting ready to make the purchase on this house which was listed about $10,000 higher than other nearby comps if it would appraise out to that amount. Without as much as a blink she said to me, “It’ll appraise out where we say it will appraise out.” This is called “collusion.” It is illegal and a whole bunch of appraisers got sued – not mine – but some others.

The reason the banks wanted these inflated appraisals 10 years ago was simply that they wanted to write the mortgages and lock people into paying a hellacious amount of interest very, very fast. They did a lot of sloppy paperwork and if you pointed it out to them – as I did – they would simply tell you not to worry about that fine detail. The lenders knew they were going to bundle the loans and sell them and they knew that they were getting ready to crash the market like an engineer driving a locomotive at high speed off a cliff, straight down into a gaping chasm!

The old words of wisdom in real estate went something like this: “Banks don’t want your house.” But, this is a lie. This sort of banker-appraiser collusion was a way to make a whole lot of money selling little pink houses across the country, particularly with Class D loans to very high risk borrowers in a market that they knew they, themselves, were going to crash. After which, they would obtain that property. Notice I said, “obtain” not “take back” the property. I said, “Obtain” because this is how the banks got into the real estate business in the U.S. Banks don’t traditionally own houses they only write up mortgages on them, therefore, they can’t “take them back” when they foreclose, but they can obtain houses that way and that’s exactly what they did on a grand scale in about 2008.

The bankers got a good little wrist-slapping a few years ago, so this time when I refinanced and went through both the mortgage-obtaining procedure and the title company procedure I had to sign inches-thick more paperwork than before. There about are about 300 and some pages to the closing documents and there were a good 80-plus pages to the mortgage-lending application, itself. That was a little surprise. I knew it would be more, but I didn’t expect that much more. It won’t stop the next round of banking fraud that’s coming, whatever it is, I can tell you – because it never does.

Right now, the banks are making it very, very hard for most people to obtain a mortgage or a refinance at those low, low rates. It’s a vicious cycle: The banks won’t lend, so nobody much can buy, at least, not at retail price. So, even though there were several houses sold near mine in the past year, none of the buyers were able to obtain bank financing. They were all cash deals – all wholesale. This means that my house appraised pretty low – at least, an honest appraisal on my house is fairly low.

Although, it is not as low as the figure I was given by the dopey appraiser. This is the new rub! This is the new potential obstacle you will encounter if you are going to try to re-fi right now or to obtain a first mortgage on a house – or to sell your house!

I cannot prove it, but I still believe that the banks and the appraisers are colluding. Here’s what they do to you when you go to get a re-fi on your old mortgage, which you acquired when rates were higher and home values were artificially inflated. You have to show them everything you’ve got – all your assets, all your bank accounts and what’s in them. This gives the bankers the chance to assess what they believe you can or will pay to obtain the mortgage.

If you have a lot of money in those accounts, they want to get it up front now, by deflating the appraisal. Previously, they were getting it in inflated interest on the back end by inflating the appraisal value. Now, it’s the opposite. When they see that you have the money to pay, they send appraisers to your house to stumble around, snap some pictures and make up a bunch of bullshit to ensure that the appraisal on your house is low enough to obtain a very large down payment. Since the deal on a traditional, fixed-rate mortgage is a loan of 80% of the home’s value and a 20% down payment, they examine your personal coffers and determine that you have the money to pay a larger down, then the falsify the appraisal to an artificially low amount of money.

This is how it works:

So, let’s say that you know your house is worth $100,000. Up front, they’ll tell you that they’re going to lend you $80,000 and you need a $20,000 down payment. You agree to that in pre-approval. Then, they put you through the wringer looking at your financial documentation – and you must disclose everything you own, or else there are severe penalties – and if the determine you can pay more, they send appraisers to your house with a goal in mind to reduce the appraised value of your property. The appraisers come back with a fictional account of your home that says it’s only worth $80,000. Of course, the amount of money you have to borrow is higher than that (close to the $100,000 figure) because, in fact, the house is worth more and you have a mortgage to pay off, which was obtained when the banks were fraudulently inflating appraisals. So, now you have to borrow more – maybe a lot more – than they say your house is actually worth.. (Furthermore, if you were trying to sell your house under these circumstances you simply could not – it could not be done – because no one can obtain a loan to cover the amount you have to have to be able to sell it. A lot of real estate deals are being lost right now, just shattering to pieces, once the appraisers are done trashing the property and falsifying information on the appraisal.)

So your $20,000 down payment just turned into a $40,000 down payment to cover for the banks’ previous collusion when they inflated the value of the home and their present apparent collusion when they deflated the value of the home.

Now, none of this is really a problem if you can kind of see it coming (and I did) and you have the money to make the inflated down payment. In fact, this all good in the end – if you can pull it off. This is because in the end, if you can do a short-term re-fi for a one of those ultra-low rates they’re offering right now, you end up getting your mortgage payment super-low and you end up feeding very little interest to the banking beast by the end of it all.

Furthermore, my new mortgage allows me to pay a huge annual lump sum toward the principle amount, thus shortening the life of the loan and reducing the total amount of interest paid even further.

So far, I am thrilled with this whole thing – except the fictional appraisal. That’s the one thing that has kind of stuck in my craw simply because I hate lies and I despise liars and there’s something especially disgusting about professional liars – people with certifications who lie for a living.

The appraisal on my house began with the appraisers claiming that I live in the suburbs. The fact is I’m a country gal, born and bred and I’ve only ever lived two kinds of places: The big city, as in The Big Apple and in the country. I’m a little extreme I guess. I’ve never liked the suburbs. I don’t like manicured lawns, screaming kids, barking dogs and barbeque grills. I live far from any city of any size  – at least, a good hour’s drive from a mid-sized city. Furthermore, I am surrounded by trees. My house is in the trees. When I bought it, it was accurately described as a “cabin in the woods,” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a nice little cabin. I just put a brand new, attractive and highly durable metal roof on it. I’m here by a waterfall on a mountainside surrounded by hooting owls and gobbling turkeys. You can’t plant anything outside because the deer will come and eat it. I can keep chickens, but if I try, the foxes and coyotes will come and get them one by one until they’ve eaten every last one of them. It is so rural here, in fact, and so wild that I can’t get a television signal and barely a radio or cell phone tower signal. It is the very picture of rural life. Yet, for some reason the real estate appraiser checked the box that said “suburbs” on my appraisal document. (The government’s definition of “suburba” is residing in a municipality outside a city larger than 50,000 people. I’m a 4-hour drive away from such a city!)

That’s a head shaker, all right. They, also, called my new metal roof “average,” even though most neighboring houses and all the comps they used have 20-year asphalt roofs that are at the end of their natural lives. They said I have a fireplace, although I don’t – I had the leaking chimney removed when I re-did the roof. This is a modern cabin in the woods and I’m planning on getting an electric or propane fireplace insert at some point in the future. They asked about other improvements I made on the house, which are numerous, but they blatantly ignored everything I told them.

They, also, deducted a big sum of money from the value of my house on account of it not having a “lake view.” They claimed that three of the comps they used had lake views, although this is not true. Only one of them has property that runs down by the lake. I was surprised they didn’t deduct for my lack of a tennis court or helicopter landing pad.

After they walked around my place, which is full or charming rocks and wild things, but not a blade of actual grass or any fancy flowers, because it is too dark and densely forested where I live to be able to grow either the semblance of a lawn or flowers or, in fact, much of anything except more trees and vines, then one of them looked me straight in the face, totally dead pan, and asked, “Do you have landscaping?” Witty, witty folks these were! And, clearly up to something!!!  Nobody who can walk and breathe at the same time is this stupid so the only alternative had to be that they were up to something, which didn’t surprise me because they were just like the bullshit artists who appraised the house the first time, only clearly they’d been given different instructions than last time. (Last time, they were focused on my windows and my lighting. When I bought the house, it had 4 new energy efficient windows – I’ve since replaced all of them – and it does have very pretty light fixtures, not fancy, but nice. And, this was the reason for inflating the appraisal the first time around!)

Still I was surprised at the low, low appraisal, which has some other imaginative and fictional things written on it, and had my house appraised out at a value lower than other houses sold here in the last year, which were not in nearly as good condition. On the other hand, in addition to the new roof and brand new windows and the addition of new doors and security doors,  I recently added on an entire room. Still, my house somehow appraised at the bottom of the barrel. There’s definitely something fishy about that.

Now, of course, these imaginative fiction writers did me a favor, because I’m now paying less than a 10th of the interest on this mortgage than the previous one I had, but I did have to come up with a little more money up front than I was expecting. I, also, immediately submitted this official appraisal to my local county real estate appraiser and they called back in a few hours, agreeing to lower my property taxes!

I simply want to say this to you: If you go hunting for a mortgage and especially a re-fi on your house that you financed when the appraisals were inflated, be aware of this potential pitfall.

My final piece of unsolicited and wholly unprofessional financial advice to other women who may be reading this, no matter where you live, is this: Reduce your debt and if possible get out of debt. I say this because I see what is going on with the mortgage lending right now and I’m interpreting a possible long-term motive on the part of the bankers, which doesn’t bode well for regular, tax-paying folks who work hard and try to do the right things. I’m not an economist or a lawyer or an accountant or any of those things, but I have some experience and I was involved in real estate during the last round of criminal activity – and what I know about it scares me.

At least, try to position yourself where you can pay off your debts quickly if something goes haywire – and it could anytime – because much the same way we see men redefining women and redefining language, they just as quickly redefine the laws and redefine the terms of financing and lending with the flourish of a fountain pen. When they can get away with it, which is most of the time, they just act illegally and don’t say a word about it  – and they go on with their crimes.

Most women cannot buy their homes, especially their first homes, without a mortgage. Being able to get financing, to be able to call up a lender, to be allowed to have a bank account, to be able to get a house this way, is a great benefit. But, remember we are dealing with the devil – as in THE DEVIL. The most manly of all manly institutions: Banking. They’re wily and duplicitous and even when you can guess what they’re going to do next, you don’t know all the details of it and there’s always a little surprise.

The best way to avoid surprises is to be utterly solvent. That’s a goal to strive for and one I hope to eventually obtain.

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