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Three Reasons Refinancing Your Mortgage is So Complicated

Written by Alanna McCargo on September 13, 2013 in Real Estate  |   5 comments

If you’ve remained current on your mortgage through tough economic times, it can be incredibly frustrating to be unable to refinance—especially when rates are hovering far below historic averages. Real estate expert Alanna McCargo explains what’s keeping today’s homeowners from refinancing.

mortgage, refinanceMortgage interest rates are on the rise, but today’s rates are still well below the historical average of 7 percent. If your interest rate is above today’s average, you may have already tried—and failed—to refinance your mortgage, maybe more than once.

Why, if you have remained current on your mortgage through these tough economic times, is it so hard to refinance? Why does the process remain so time-consuming, cumbersome, and expensive?

Being unable to refinance is especially frustrating when you consider how much emphasis has been put on refinancing in the past few years. The Obama administration created and expanded the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to help borrowers with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans refinance their homes.

And in early 2013, the Responsible Homeowner Refinance Act of 2013 was introduced in an effort to remove the barriers that prevent many homeowners from refinancing into loans with lower interest rates. (That bill was referred to committee in February 2013.)

What’s preventing me from refinancing?

If you are a borrower who has continued to make your mortgage payment despite being underwater on your mortgage or having a high interest rate, you are probably frustrated with the banks, the government, and the real estate market. You are not alone. It seems that the majority of focus and attention has been spent helping borrowers avoid foreclosure and streamlining the modification process for distressed borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments.

Key factors as to why refinance transactions aren’t as simple as they should be include:

  • Bottlenecks. Banks are still under regulatory and legal scrutiny around foreclosure practices, and resources continue to be focused on distressed borrowers behind on their payments—not borrowers who are current on their loans. Therefore, although you may have made on-time payments, you will have to get in line behind distressed borrowers.
  • Lack of incentives. As a borrower who makes on-time payments, you are less of a loss risk for the bank and investor. Because your loan continues to be a source of cash flow, there is no reason to expedite or simplify the refinancing process for you.
  • Staffing concerns. Resources in the origination business continue to be squeezed given the number of layoffs. After an initial upswing, refinance applications have begun to slow as rates have started to creep up, and more originations staff members are being reassigned or let go due to lower volumes.

What can I do?

The best advice I can offer is this: Start the refinancing process with a great deal of patience.

  • Voice your concerns. If you are financially strained and worried that you would miss a payment if you cannot refinance your mortgage, be very vocal with your mortgage servicer about your financial hardship. The servicer may accelerate review of your loan for payment reduction options rather than allow you to default.
  • Improve your creditworthiness. The refinance process can lengthy, and in many cases you will have to provide updated documentation and also demonstrate overall creditworthiness in the form of a solid credit score. Just as when you bought the home for the first time, the bank will again look for stable income and good credit before it extends you the benefits of a refinance. Although you already own the home and have been paying your mortgage, these are not primary factors in your refinance approval.

In the current housing environment, it seems policymakers should be taking a much harder look at simplifying and accelerating the refinancing process so that many more owners can benefit. Many homeowners stand to save a lot of money from a simple rate reduction refinance.

Hopefully the efforts of the current administration and the continued outcry from consumers who feel left on the sidelines will spur the necessary change for the future.

Alanna McCargo is a housing and financial services executive and personal finance writer and advocate. She is a public speaker on hot topics in financial services and the housing market, and she writes a personal finance blog called “Matter of Money.” She is an active volunteer and serves on the board of directors for the Women in Housing & Finance Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to advancing financial literacy, housing policy issues, and education programs for women, children, and under-served communities. Follow Alanna on Twitter @myhomematters.

5 comments

  1. Donna F says:

    We are totally frustrated by our current lender Citibank…in process for 3 mos and keep getting absurd bottlenecks and changes in staff. We have had 3 different loan processors and have sent everything requir Ed within I day and honestly feel we are being overlooked since we have never missed a payment or even been late in 9 yrs with them…have perfect credit score and have paid all our fees upfront to expedite. Who can we report this too…we are both over age 65.. CPU,d that be it?

    • Alanna McCargo @ myhomematters says:

      Donna, your frustration is completely justfied! I have heard of stories just like this from many homeowners who have gotten lost in the process with their banks, which is why I wrote this story. This is not unique to a particular lender but seems to be a challenge for many lenders. Given we are now in a rising interest rate environment, the time it takes to process and lock your rate can be very costly and almost negate the value of a refinance altogether if rates continue to creep up. I am most concerned with your comment about paying fees up front to expedite? Are you committed to a loan type and rate already just waiting to close?

      One place that you can submit complaints related to the process with your lender is with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They have a complaints process that allows you to get support in expediting and reporting your issue with your lender. The website is: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

      You can also look at refinancing with a different lender. Refinancing is a very competitive business given the fact lenders are hungry for new business. With your good credit history, you are well positioned. You could shop your refinance around (perhaps with a good reputable broker) to get the best rate and a quick lock. If you are not getting the customer service you deserve with your current lender, you should look elsewhere. Community banks and Credit Unions are also a good option. At the end of the day, it’s your money — and in this case, time is money!

      Alanna
      Follow me on Twitter @myhomematters

    • Jean N. says:

      You have the right to go to another lender. Citi bank is not the only gig. We refinanced our home and the lender Wells Fargo kept on dragging their feet with on excuse after another, i finally called and asked where we stood on the loan and they had more lame excuses, I explained to our rep that I had taken the paper work to 2 other lending institutes to look over, I explained that whomever loaned the money to us first would get our business. Amazing how fast Wells Fargo operated when we said we were looking elsewhere. You may also want to look at your local credit unions, they are more professional and willing to work with homeowners. good luck to you in your refinance.

  2. Ilyce R. Glink, Managing Editor, Equifax Finance Blog says:

    You should also try HelpWithMyBank.gov. Citi is regulated by the OCC and that is the website to use if you have a problem. File a complaint there and then you’ll be able to check back on the status with the case number you’re given. Let me know what happens.

  3. Dave says:

    just refinanced with Quicken Loans and believe it or not, they made the experience a lot of fun. Especially the closing. In addition to that, they were extremely fast at getting things done. I have done “11″ different closings in my 64 years and this by far was the most efficient and easiest experience for me, by far. Just don’t think you are going to get one of those 3.5% loans any time soon. Read all the fine print in anyone’s advertising. Unless you are looking at a 200K or 300K loan you can hang that wonderful interest rate up. If you are someone ready to retire and you have downsized and borrowing a normal human amount of money just forget the 3% stuff. They all say they just can’t make any money off of you irregardless of your credit history and good behavior for long extended periods of time. Other than that, I say KOODO’s for Quicken loans.


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