No-Fee Mortgage Option Is on the Way



By Jennifer Liberto

NEW YORK -- Lenders would have to offer potential homebuyers an option to get mortgages with no fees, under a rule proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Generally, homeowners pay fees and points in exchange for lower overall interest rates on mortgage loans.

"Consumers have a hard time comparing loans when they are dealing with a bewildering array of points and fees," said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in a statement. "We want to provide consumers with clearer options and enable them to choose the loan that they believe is right for them."

In the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress wanted to clean up the process of getting a residential mortgage, which was criticized as a contributing factor to the financial crisis. The idea was to ensure that consumers understand the mortgage loans they're offered, as well as all the accompanying fees.

While good news for consumers, the mortgage proposal is actually easier on lenders. Lawmakers banned extra fees and points on mortgage loans in cases when the originator makes a commission -- which happens with most mortgages.

Under this proposed rule, the bureau would allow lenders to keep offering consumers options to reduce their mortgage interest through fees and points, as long as those fees and points actually reduce the overall interest rate on the mortgage. Lenders must offer the no-fee mortgages as well.

A senior official with the consumer bureau explained that the rule was a balance between a blanket ban on fees and the current origination process, which has no rules for mortgage fees. Consumer groups and those in the lending industry weighed in, saying it would be better to keep giving consumers the opportunity to lower interest rates by paying more up front.

The bureau will now collect comment on the rules and finalize them to take effect by January.

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