New and improved mortgage forms

form_good_faith_estimate.top.jpgThe new Good Faith Estimate enables borrowers to compare mortgage offers more easily.By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Starting Jan. 1, new rules go into effect that simplify and clarify exactly what mortgage lenders will charge for a loan.

The initiative from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)requires that a new "Good Faith Estimate" form be given to all applicants, one that makes it easier to compare true costs of loans from different lenders.

"The main purpose is to give consumers the tools to be able to compare apples to apples," said Robert Grosser of Luxury Mortgage, a New Jersey-based direct lender. "All lenders must use a specific form and disclose fees in the same spots on the same forms." (See the new form.)

Until now, borrowers might have focused on interest rates or monthly payments to compare mortgages options. But fees play a big part in total cost, said Vicki Bott, HUD's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Programs

There are generally two blocs of fees.

One covers origination charges, what the lender receives for providing you with the loan.

The second bloc consists of settlement fees, for say, title insurance or an appraisal.

If borrowers accept the offers as outlined, lenders must issue the loans under the costs listed -- with little room for surprise.

If the mortgage originator provides services in the second bloc, it must stick to the original fees within 10%. If, for example, the lender tells you the title insurance it arranges will cost $2,000, the final fee for that cannot exceed $2,200. (If you decide you're going elsewhere for title insurance, you're on your own.)

"It truly drives accountability," said Bott. "It makes the lender say, 'What I quoted is what you get.'"

The estimate is not iron clad, and can be altered if there's a material change in circumstances. If the appraisal comes in lower than expected, for example, that could affect the mortgage rate, though the lender must quickly tell the borrower, according to Bott.

The new 3-page form has lines covering all the settlement fees, such as the origination fee and points charged up-front to reduce the interest rate. It also clearly lists the initial loan amount, the term length in years, the monthly payment, the initial interest rate, and whether that interest rate can rise plus any prepayment penalties or balloon payments.

There's also a "shopping chart" on the third page in which up to four different deals can be placed side-by-side and their costs easily compared.

Say two lenders both offer a 5% loan on a $200,000 mortgage that has a monthly payment of $1,074 a month. One lender may charge $5,000 for it and another just $3,000. The new form should make it simpler for consumers to recognize the better deal.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction toward simpler and straightforward key information on mortgages," said Alex Pollock, an American Enterprise Institute fellow who has developed and advocated for the use of a one-page mortgage form to better help consumers understand their obligations.

He does not, however, think the new form goes far enough.

"It focuses on the question of whether this is the best deal," Pollock said. "In my opinion, it's more important to ask if I can afford this mortgage. This might be the best deal I can get but I still may not be able to afford it." To top of page


Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.96%3.94%
15 yr fixed3.08%3.03%
5/1 ARM3.33%3.33%
30 yr refi4.04%4.02%
15 yr refi3.16%3.09%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,974.31 -31.44 -0.18%
Nasdaq 4,549.23 -15.07 -0.33%
S&P 500 1,982.30 -2.75 -0.14%
Treasuries 2.31 -0.01 -0.47%
Data as of 8:39am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Facebook Inc 75.86 -4.91 -6.08%
Bank of America Corp... 16.99 0.19 1.13%
Apple Inc 107.34 0.60 0.56%
Ford Motor Co 13.91 -0.12 -0.89%
Alcoa Inc 16.27 -0.33 -1.99%
Data as of Oct 29

Sections

Swift pledges to donate all of the proceeds from her new song "Welcome to New York" to the city's public schools. More

Apple CEO Tim Cook writes column in which he announces that he's gay: "I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me." More

Marc Andreessen says venture capital funding is likely to increase as tech startups touch more sectors. More

In cities across the United States, millions of people will be kicked out of their homes this year. Some can't afford their soaring rent, others are getting evicted over minor violations by landlords eager to get higher paying tenants in place. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.