Lending

Is There a (Juris) Doctor in the House?

There's a 60% default rate associated with modified mortgages.

November 15, 2010
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Many homeowners could use a doctor right about now—a Juris Doctor, that is.

Should you hire a lawyer to review your mortgage documents when you buy, sell, or refinance your home?

OK, I can hear the clucking already with those lawyer jokes and comments about being licensed to steal. Well, stick with me. You might rethink the notion that you don’t need a lawyer when conducting a mortgage transaction.

I haven’t hired a lawyer to review my mortgage agreements since I bought my first home in 1982.

And while I haven’t bought a home in years, I have refinanced enough 15-year mortgages to feel like the home I’ve been living in for the past 22 years has been bought and sold more times than Brett Favre has unretired.

So much for saving money with a shorter-term mortgage.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineIt just didn’t seem like I needed an attorney to check things out. But I’ve been rethinking that “wisdom” in light of the whole mortgage processing scandals that hit news outlets every week or so.

Today if I buy or refinance, I’m going to hire a lawyer. Better to be safe than sorry if some lender of ill repute—not a credit union for sure—would deliberately (or not) mess up the review of the paperwork.

Luckily, I haven’t had to face the dire straits that so many Americans today face, having taken out mortgages they cannot afford, suffered a serious setback financially because of health or marital status, or lost a job.

Fortunately, I rarely bet on the hole cards.

An estimated 3.5 million home owners will receive foreclosure notices this year, a 26% increase over 2009, according to government data.

And the percentage of mortgages that are delinquent has soared. The Mortgage Bankers Association says loans delinquent 90 days or more stood at 9.5% in the first quarter of 2010, up from 4% at the same time in 2008.

Next: Potential for gridlock

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