Saturday, December 16, 2006

Can a Borrower Obtain a Mortgage While in Consumer Credit Counseling?

If your goal is to purchase a home in 2007 and you have credit issues needing to be addressed now is the time to structure a “game plan” to ensure that your goal can be accomplished. When consulting with credit challenged clients we often engage with individuals who either are considering or are presently working with a Consumer Counseling Agency such as CCCS. The decision to enter into a modified payment agreement should be carefully considered to ensure that all of your goals can be met.

How do mortgage loan underwriters view borrowers currently working with a credit counseling agency? This week I sought the opinions of two experts on the subject and here is an overview:

I spoke with the Sr. Underwriter for Cherry Creek Mortgage Company to gain perspective from the mortgage loan underwriter’s point of view.

FHA and VA Borrowers – If a borrower utilizes an FHA or VA loan product, the borrower is eligible to receive a mortgage if the following three requirements are met.

1. The borrower has been in an approved consumer credit plan for a period of at least 12 months.
2. The borrower has a satisfactory “paid as agreed” record with the agency as set forth in the agreement.
3. The borrower has obtained written approval from the counseling agency to enter into a mortgage loan agreement.

Conventional Borrowers – For borrowers seeking a Conventional loan such as a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac program the situation is quite different. The guidelines for these programs require the underwriter to view a consumer credit plan the same as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan, which must be fully paid prior to entering into a mortgage loan agreement.

I spoke with a program specialist with Consumer Credit Counseling Services which is a HUD approved counseling agency and ask the question, “what are the factors that effect the decision to allow a borrower to enter into a mortgage loan agreement?”

There are a number of consumer driven factors which include the following:

1. Is the agreement with the existing creditors for full or partial payment of the credit balances?
2. Can the borrower’s adjusted debt to income ratio support the addition of a mortgage payment?
3. Has the borrower made the consumer credit plan payments as agreed?

Additional factors to consider before entering into a consumer credit plan:

1. If the consumer budget results in a plan for partial payments to creditors, many report “payments not as agreed” on the consumer’s credit report.
2. The consumer’s present credit report will impact Alt A or Sub-Prime underwriting decisions.
3. After the payment plan has been paid as agreed, the reporting agencies will remove all references to consumer credit counseling, etc.

The Bottom Line: Whether you are currently enrolled in a consumer credit plan or considering doing so, your dream on purchasing a home is still a possibility. I recommend scheduling a private consultation with a knowledgeable mortgage professional in order to make an informed decision. I also recommend avoiding the tendency to be steered into a sub-prime mortgage, which usually calls for higher rates, pre-payment penalties, and less favorable terms overall than the options noted above.

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