The Wall Street Journal quoted me in Attention, Jumbo-Mortgage Shoppers: Deals Ahead (behind paywall). It opens,
With more lenders offering jumbo loans, borrowers have more bargaining power to negotiate the best terms.
During the first quarter of this year, 20.3% of all first mortgages originated were jumbo loans, according to Guy Cecala, CEO and publisher of trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance. That’s up from 18.9% last year and 5.5% in 2009, just after the financial crisis.
“At the end of the day, it’s all just supply and demand for capital,” says Doug Lebda, founder and CEO of LendingTree, an online financing marketplace. “Over 60% of people still don’t think they can shop for loans—even rich people. But everything is negotiable.”
Since only a small percentage of jumbo loans are sold to investors, the “vast majority are winding up on bank balance sheets,” according to Michael Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association. But because these loans are held in a lender’s portfolio and aren’t subject to the guidelines of investors purchasing them—as opposed to conforming loans, which must comply with hard-and-fast parameters established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—terms and underwriting standards vary widely.
“Borrowers may find more flexibility with lenders that keep mortgages on their own books,” says David Reiss, a Brooklyn Law School professor who specializes in real estate. “These lenders can usually take a more individualized approach to underwriting than a lender that sells its mortgages off to be securitized with a whole bunch of other mortgages.”
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Here are a few things to consider when negotiating a jumbo loan:
• Prepare before applying. “Jumbo lenders are focusing on borrowers with good credit and resources,” said Brooklyn Law School’s Mr. Reiss. Before applying, borrowers should clean up their credit report and keep debt in check. Lenders look at total debt-to-income ratio and overall credit to determine how strong a buyer is; the stronger the buyer, the more the negotiating power.
• Create a relationship. “If you’re a substantial borrower with a substantial relationship with a bank—one of our wealth clients—the guidelines might get a bit more flexible,” saysPeter Boomer, executive vice president of PNC Mortgage, a division of PNC Bank NA.
• Don’t hesitate to negotiate. “They are the customer, and the lender is not doing them a favor,” says Mr. Lebda, of LendingTree. “People are ecstatic when they get approved for a mortgage, but they actually need to think about it the other way—that the lender should be ecstatic for giving them a loan.”