Washington Report: HUD Unveils Proposed Changes to Mortgage Process

Written by Posted On Sunday, 02 March 2008 16:00

Within days, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development plans to unveil sweeping proposed changes to the American mortgage application process and real estate settlement system.

The rule changes are the end-product of HUD's five-year effort to streamline mortgage disclosures, promote comparison shopping by loan applicants, and to stamp out eleventh-hour surprises at closings -- where fees come in hundreds or thousands of dollars higher than initial estimates.

Realty Times obtained a point by point summary of the proposals in advance of their official release by HUD. The changes are designed to radically overhaul the current, much-criticized "Good Faith Estimates" (or GFE) disclosures and the "HUD-1" closing procedures.

Among the key changes in the 250-page HUD proposal:

1. Transformation of the GFE into a consumer education and shopping tool. The GFE will now explain in detail to an applicant how a particular loan works, how high monthly payments could rise, disclose any potential fees such as prepayment penalties, and provide information about escrow items.

2. New, strict limits on how much settlement charges can depart from the Good Faith Estimate stage -- within three days of the loan application -- to the HUD-1 closing stage. Total settlement charges could not be more than 10 percent above the initial estimates, absent tightly-defined "unforeseen circumstances" limited to acts of God, war and disasters, among others.

3. The Good Faith Estimate and the HUD-1 forms are aligned with each for easy comparison, with similar categories and graphic displays of loan origination charges and settlement cost items on both.

4. All fees paid to mortgage brokers by a lender in connection with the interest rate charged to the consumer must now be disclosed and listed on the Good Faith Estimate as a "credit to the borrower." Brokers are likely to oppose this strenuously, arguing that competing loan originators -- such as retail bank personnel -- are not required to disclose fees they receive in connection with higher note rates.

5. All settlement agents will now be required to "read aloud" a new "closing script" to mortgage borrowers. The script walks consumers through the various charges on the revised HUD-1, and whether and why they differ from earlier estimates. Finally, the script requires the settlement agent to explain the loan terms and mechanics as stated in the mortgage note itself.

The proposals will have a 60 day period for industry and consumer comment, after which HUD is expected to issue them in final form with a period of months set aside to allow lenders, title companies and attorneys to gear up for the new forms and procedures.

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