Friday, September 5, 2008

Avoiding the Jumbo Mortgage Man

How do you avoid paying jumbo mortgage rates on a jumbo-sized mortgage?

You avoid taking your mortgage to a Wall Street lender, that's how.

It's pretty simple when we break it down.

The word "jumbo" is a Wall Street-specific term for home loans larger than $417,000. In certain "high-cost" areas, the number is $729,750.

Lately, rates on jumbo mortgages have been terrible compared to its cousin, the conforming mortgage. Plus, jumbo mortgages carry higher loan fees.

The price disparity is even worse for so-called "Super Jumbo" mortgages. A super jumbo mortgage is similar to a jumbo mortgage, but bigger.

But the thing is, the terms "jumbo mortgage" and "super jumbo mortgage" -- these are conventions of a Wall Street-bound loan. Just because your loan size is over $417,000 doesn't mean that you have be subject to the jumbo and super-jumbo rules.

To avoid them, just make a choice avoid Wall Street mortgage lenders when your loan size exceeds your local conforming loan limits. This means bypassing your neighborhood Big Bank retail branches in favor of a niche banks that harbor no allegiance to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Finding banks like this isn't always easy, but it's worth the effort. This is because when a lender makes its own rules, its mortgage rates tend to be lower, its downpayment requirements tend to be smaller, and its underwriting process tends to be smoother.

These are all good things when your mortgage is greater than $417,000.

Consider these mortgage scenarios from a sampling of local banks. Each example carries a corresponding mortgage rate in the low-to-mid 6-percent range:

  • $700,000 mortgage with 20 percent down, primary residence

  • $1.5 million mortgage with 30 percent down, vacation home

  • $2.5 million mortgage with 30 percent down, primary residence

Now, compared to what Wall Street lenders are offering, not only are the small bank rates up to 2 percent lower, but they're not accompanied by discount points, either. And that's even giving Wall Street the benefit of the doubt -- most Big Bank lenders won't hardly touch a jumbo or super jumbo mortgage with a 10-foot pole anymore.

The irony here is that wealthiest Americans often have private banking relationships with firms like Chase, Bank of America, and Citi among others but their private banking relationship is ill-equipped to handle the mortgage needs of a high net worth client anymore.

Jumbo and super jumbo mortgage approvals are easier with local banks and lenders as opposed to national onesIn 2005, the banks performed admirably for their wealthy clients. Today, not so much.

So, the best way to avoid paying jumbo mortgage rates on a jumbo-sized loan is to get out from Big Bank mentality and get your mortgage funded from somewhere other than Wall Street.

Jumbo mortgage rates are expensive. Niche, local bank mortgage rates are not. If you're a jumbo homeowner and you have a local banking relationship, it may be wise to call your branch to get a better rate quote.

And, if you don't have a local bank to call, know that you can always call or email me. I lend in 42 states and have niche banking relationships in all of them. If you can't find low rates for yourself, I'm happy to find them for you.