Tips on selecting the ‘right’ mortgage lender

May 24, 2013

Whether you are a first-time buyer or seasoned veteran, obtaining a home loan today is more difficult than ever.

The level of lender scrutiny and the maze of loan programs has never been more complex or illogical. The key to navigating this “Kafkaesque” process is selecting the right mortgage loan officer. But before you open up your personal information vault, do your own due diligence.

There is one Web site that makes the loan officer investigative process relatively easy. The National Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) maintains a site providing consumer access to the administrative and license information for state regulated mortgage lenders in all 50 states and the District. The NMLS Consumer Access site can be searched free of charge at www.nmls
consumeraccess.org
.

With a few mouse clicks you can obtain a treasure trove of information about your proposed mortgage lender. Before revealing any personal financial data, you should confirm that your loan originator is licensed. In fact, in the Washington area, Keller Shinholser, senior loan officer for Apex Home Loans in Rockville, advises that you work with a loan officer that is licensed in all three local jurisdictions. “If you start working with a loan officer only licensed in the District, and you later decide to buy a home in Virginia, you may have to start the loan approval process all over again,” she said.

One of the most important pieces of information available on the NMLS Consumer Access site is whether your loan officer has been the subject of any state disciplinary proceedings. The site also lets you see immediately how long your loan officer has been in the business and with what companies.

Shinholser, also stressed the importance of using local lenders that underwrite, process, appraise and close your loan using local experts. “If your Internet-sourced loan does not fund, what recourse do you have?” she added.

In D.C., mortgage lenders, brokers and loan originators are regulated by the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking ( www.disb.dc.gov ). Kate Hartig, public information officer for the DISB, said consumers can also verify licenses by contacting DISB’s Banking Bureau at (202) 727-8000 or via e-mail at BankingBureau@dc.gov. District residents also can register complaints about mortgage loan originators through its hotline at (202) 442-9828, Hartig added.

The Virginia Bureau of Financial Institutions Division of the State Corporation Commission has jurisdiction over financial institutions charted in the Commonwealth. If consumers are unsure about whether their proposed lender is chartered in Virginia, they can check the bureau’s regulated institutions list. If consumers have a complaint about a lender on that list, they can file a complaint with the bureau using the online form.

In Maryland, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation commissioner of financial regulationhas jurisdiction over mortgage loan originators. Maryland residents wishing to file a complaint may do so by downloading the commission’s online form.

Maryland’s attorney general is also a resource for mortgage-related complaints. Consumers can call the attorney general’s office at (410) 576-6300 to initiate a complaint.

“Depending on the nature of the problem, we advise anyone with mortgage issues to seek legal advice or housing counseling because of the complex nature of the transaction,” said David Paulson, public information officer with the Maryland attorney general’s office. “If they cannot afford such advice or representation, there are nonprofit legal aid organizations and housing counseling nonprofits throughout Maryland who can help.”

But not all mortgage lenders are regulated at the state level. For example, commercial banks that have the word “National” or use the initials “N.A.” (National Association) in their name, savings banks and savings and loan associations having the word “Federal” in their name or which use the initials FSB (Federal Savings Bank), FSA (Federal Savings Association), FA (Federal Association) or FSLA (Federal Savings and Loan Association) are organized under and subject to federal law. These federal institutions are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Verification of these institutions can be done online at www.helpwithmybank.gov or by calling (800) 613-6743. Federally regulated credit unions also use the word “Federal” in their name. Inquiries and complaints concerning federal credit unions should be directed to the National Credit Union Administration www.ncua.gov or by phone at (800) 755-1030.

Harvey S. Jacobs is a real estate lawyer in the Rockville office of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake. He is an active real estate investor, developer, landlord, settlement attorney and lender. This column is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without obtaining legal counsel. Jacobs can be reached at (240) 399-7900 or ask@thehouselawyer.com.

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