Resisting lenders' misleading spiels

Posted: September 12, 2010

Arden Hander of Meadowbrook, like thousands of homeowners who had their mortgages originated by ABN Amro, now has his loan serviced by Citimortgage, which took over the Netherlands-based lender's portfolio a few years back.

There's nothing unusual about that.

What's more, Hander fits into that group - 75 percent of people who borrowed to buy a home - with problem-free loans.

The Handers' mortgage, taken out in March 2003, was a standard 20 percent down and originally for $297,000. The amount had decreased to $262,000, and not a single payment was ever missed or late.

"We had whittled the amount down by $35,000 by rounding the monthly payment up against the principal, which continues," said Hander, who is retired after a 40-year college-teaching career.

His wife works part time in the medical-billing department at Abington Memorial Hospital. They have credit scores of 669 and 749.

Their monthly payment started at $2,300, but escrow adjustments have raised it to $2,500.

The interest rate is and has been 6.125 percent, which was low in early 2003. Their custom house would list in the "very high $500,000s or even more," Hander said.

Looking at their interest rate, and the 4.5 percent available now, the Handers talked about refinancing "but never did anything about it."

That is, until they began getting "relentless calls" from someone who identified herself only by her first name and said she was from Plymouth Meeting.

The woman "would only speak to my wife, who was never available," Hander said. Finally, about six weeks later, the connection was made, and "my wife listened to her spiel."

The woman was a loan officer from a lender - I know which one, but all of them have been doing this, so insert your favorite one here.

Hander already had been informed by one of the credit-reporting services that the lender was on the prowl.

A second phone call from the woman informed his wife that a refinance would be an FHA-insured mortgage, even though the couple's current mortgage wasn't.

His wife told the loan officer that "[you] could have saved yourself a lot of time if you'd have said that first," Hander said. "Nevertheless, she listened to the details and reported the same to me."

The new mortgage was to have a fixed interest rate of 5 percent, but with a mortgage-insurance payment on top of the one charged by the FHA.

If they signed up, "we would lose the $35,000 we'd paid down in the almost eight years of holding the mortgage, be billed for $2,500 monthly for a new 30-year period, and pay $6,600 up front in cash [to the lender] for the privilege of doing business with them."

Closing fees, not detailed, would be rolled up in the mortgage.

"My wife offered her the verdict, that I'd never agree to something so bland and misleading, and that I'd laugh at it all," Hander said.

The March 2003 closing totaled $102,000, including the 20 percent down, and "we would never see that again," Hander said. "Surely we would be better off to keep our 6.125 percent mortgage and add to the principal payment monthly than to be the sucker in a deal like this."

Their decision: No deal.

Hander articulates the views of dozens of you who contact me every week, calling lenders "a bunch of merchants of deception and outright lies."

"They troll [credit bureaus like] TransUnion et al., without our being able to defend ourselves from their intrusions," he said.

"While we are in no danger of falling into foreclosure since we do not deal with them, one can certainly see how they engineer holes for the customer to fall into," Hander said.

Inquirer real estate writer Alan J. Heavens is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing). His home improvement column appears Fridays in Home & Design. "On the House" appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or

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