Thursday, March 03, 2011

No Love for Mortgage Bankers

We closed on the refinance of our home mortgage this morning. The euphoria we experienced back in late November when we locked in a historically low interest rate had completely worn off by early January. Between then and now it has been increasingly an exercise in anger and frustration. We didn’t even celebrate after closing, we felt beat up. We were simply happy to be done with the process and even now I’m not so sure it was worth it.

Yesterday I had to make a trip to Howard Bank to get a cashiers check. We opted not to roll the closing fees into the mortgage so we needed to fork over a check at closing. While waiting for the check to be prepared I spent some time talking to Tim Kelley, the Branch Manager. Tim said that the bank was “crushed” with mortgage refinancing last fall. It didn’t sound like much fun. Every day he dealt with customers distraught by the underwriting process. He told me that his competence was regularly called into question by customers irate over the seemingly endless requests for more documentation from the underwriters.

It wasn’t his fault either. Howard Bank simply acts as a conduit for the actual lender; they are at the mercy of the lenders underwriters who seem to always want more. Tim is merely a messenger who has to relay these sometimes absurd requests to the customers. Consequently he gets to bear the brunt of customers’ ire.

I can certainly relate. On more than a few occasions we were ready to walk away.

It was inevitable that the pendulum would swing far from the freewheeling lending that pushed the country into recession. In 2005 if you had a pulse you could get a mortgage. Today, even customers with stellar credit scores get put through the underwriting wringer. In a few years it should drift back to a more reasonable center but by then rates will undoubtedly be higher too.
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