It's been a while since I took the pulse of the refinancing market, but with fixed rates defying predictions and heading downward, the numbers show that refis are overtaking purchase mortgages by a wide margin.
Whether you are buying or refinancing, however, lenders are pulling the purse strings ever tighter.
A couple of weeks back, I was trying to figure out how much of the surge in new-home sales in April could be attributed to the now-expired-and-not-likely-to-be-renewed federal tax credits.
In his reply to my question about April sales, Granor Price Homes principal Marshal Granor had a couple of disturbing observations about the financial market that I'll share now.
Granor said lenders were "in snail mode - extremely slow processing, and very cavalier attitudes about making the June 30 deadline" for closings on houses so buyers can be eligible for the tax credits.
The same day, Anne Girvin of Ardmore e-mailed me with a refi horror story that reeks of "cavalier attitudes."
The basics: Girvin wanted to refinance an $80,000 mortgage on a house that was appraised a year ago at $480,000, about $30,000 better than the last time.
Monthly payments have always been automatically deducted from her checking account; she pays taxes and homeowners' insurance separately, and she is the sole owner of the property, titled in a revocable trust for her two children.
The original lender, World Savings, was purchased by Wachovia, which is now owned by Wells Fargo.
In 2009, she began contacting Wachovia to refinance. After several months and myriad correspondence, the refi was declined because "the program is not available - the borrower is not eligible for the PGE population," according to the letter.
"Upon investigation into the definition of PGE, I came to find out that that program was for first-time buyers only," Girvin said. "I was never eligible for PGE, as I have owned other properties, which was fully disclosed in the paperwork I submitted."
She dropped the matter until late March.
She called Wells Fargo, was offered a rate 1.25 percentage points below her current mortgage, and was told she would be rebated the appraisal fee and several others at settlement. The good-faith estimate included nothing about the rebates and demanded prepayment of homeowners' insurance through June 2011.
Since she pays the insurance herself, it should not be required. She asked that it be removed from the settlement papers and the rebates restored. At the same time, she complied with all Wells Fargo document requests.
The underwriting department called to ask why she had not told them "that I owned and was collecting rent from 1801 Market St. in Philadelphia. When I asked where they had gotten that information, they told me from the Schedule E in my income tax return."
Schedule E - Rents, Royalties and Leases - reflects the fact that she has a small investment in a royalty trust serviced by Janney Montgomery Scott, whose corporate offices are at 1801 Market St.
Her response: "Do you think if I owned even the broom closet at 1801 Market, we would be having this conversation at all?"
"At that moment, a sense of impending doom swept over me, and boy, was I right!"
Finally, after an experience that made her feel "as if I was no better than something [the title officer] would scrape off the bottom of his shoe," she gathered up her paperwork and walked out of the closing.
"In my almost 70 years of doing business, I have NEVER been treated so rudely," she said. "I would rather pay a little more to another lender and know I won't have my integrity questioned at every turn in the road."