The Red Flags of Getting a Home Loan

Red flags are indicators that there may be a current or future problem with the borrower or transaction. They help Underwriters isolate pertinent issues that are part of the overall loan evaluation. They are questionable items, and when there are several, they usually indicate that something is “amiss” and should be investigated further. Lenders, who have done extensive research on loans that they found to be fraudulent, found one consistent pattern in all of the files; the Underwriter did not feel totally comfortable with the file and had asked questions about certain items. However, in every case, they had not gone far enough. They had stopped “one question short.”

The following sections contain a representative list of “red flags” in the loan package that may alert the Underwriter to possible irregularities in the data submitted by a borrower. The main purpose is to point out typical inconsistencies that have been found in fraudulently-obtained loans. It should be emphasized that the presence of one or more of these items is not necessarily indicative of fraud. They do, however, point out the need for additional review and documentation. These items may be seemingly legitimate when viewed separately, but when aggregated, a pattern of deception may begin to emerge.

Rules for Detecting Fraud:

The general rules for detecting fraud are simple:

* Use common sense. Does the loan file make sense? e.g., Is the commute from home to work reasonable? Why does a stock broker not own any stock himself?

* Go beyond the numbers. Aside from ratios, are all the parts of the borrower’s financial picture consistent? e.g., income vs. savings vs. liabilities?

* Check document consistency. Is the information the same throughout the file? e.g., application vs. credit report vs. VOE vs. VOD?

* Trust your intuition. Why don’t I feel comfortable? What questions must be answered to complete the package? Follow your instincts, but use good judgment and keep an open mind. Ask for letters of explanation and read them.


* Seller is realtor, employer, or relative of borrower (non-arm’s length transaction).

* Power of attorney is used.

* Sale is subject to seller acquiring title.

* Buyer is required to use a specific lender or broker.

* Odd amounts used as earnest money.

* Secondary financing is offered by seller or other parties.

* For sale by Owner (FSBO). No real estate agent involvement.

* Real estate agent listed but no signature.

* Assignment of contract (“…and/or assignees”) or borrower not listed as purchaser.

* Earnest money held by seller or third party other than the title/escrow company.

* Large seller credits (over 3-4%) or personal property included.

* Contract is “stale dated” (in excess of 2-3 months old).


* Income tax or judgments against borrower on a refinance.

* Delinquent property taxes.

* Notice of default recorded.

* Seller not on title.

* Modification agreement on existing loan(s).

* Seller owned property for short time with cash out on sale.

* Buyer has pre-existing financial interest in property.

* Borrower not appearing as currently vested on refinance.


* “For Sale ” sign in the photos of the subject on a refinance.

* Occupant noted as “tenant” or “unknown” for owner-occupied refinances.

* “For Rent” sign in the photos of the subject on a owner-occupied refinance.

* Appraised value lower than purchase price.

* Property recently listed for sale.

* Market rent significantly less than amount indicated on lease agreement.

Because Preferred often uses in-house Appraisers, our exposure to fraud due to the actual appraisal is limited. However, in reviewing “fee” or “WIC” (Preferred Independent Contractor) appraisals the following red flags in addition to some of those already mentioned should be noted:

* Comparables are more than one mile from subject property (except for rural properties).

* Comparables are all adjusted in the same direction.

* Line adjustments are in excess of 10%.

* Overall adjustments are in excess of 25%.

* Photographs do not match description.

* Sales contract is dated after appraisal.

* Appraisal ordered by a party to the transaction (buyer, seller, realtor, etc.).


* Significant increase or unrealistic change in commute distance.

* Number of family members compared to size of house being purchased not realistic.

* Date of application and dates of verification forms not consistent.

* Borrower’s age and number of years employed not consistent.

* Lack of accumulation of assets compared to income.

* Years of school not consistent with profession.

* Buyer is downgrading from larger to smaller house.

* Buyer currently lives in property; purchasing from landlord.

* High income borrower with little or no personal property.

* Significant increase in housing expense.

* Down payment other than cash.

* Stock, bonds (liquid assets) not publicly traded.

* “Acquisition information” left incomplete; price and date purchased not indicated.

* Borrower holds stock in employer (may be self-employed).

* Inappropriate income with respect to amount of loan.

* Significant or contradictory changes, cross outs, or write overs on handwritten application to typed application.

* No bank accounts – all liquid assets held as “cash on hand.”

* Portion of liquid assets held in bank accounts and some as “cash on hand.”

* Invalid Social Security number.


Social Security numbers identify individuals or estates of descendants. Social Security numbers consist of nine digits. A Social Security number is hyphenated after the third and fifth digits: XXX-XX-XXXX.

Social Security numbers can also be identified by the state from which it was issued. The first three numbers are a key to where the applicant was living or when they applied for a Social Security number. However, since many people do not live in the same place as where they originally applied, be careful in assuming that there could be something “fishy” going on when the Social Security number does not match the State.

The Underwriter should ask for a letter of explanation and/or a letter from the Social Security Department to validate a Social Security number for the following circumstances:

1. More than one Social Security number appears anywhere in the file for the same person.

2. The Social Security number given produces a “Hawk Alert” warning or a “victim” or “fraud” statement.

3. The Social Security number cannot be legitimized through the use of the lists provided on the Underwriting Admin web site ([]).

If ever in doubt, a call to the Social Security Administration can be beneficial (800) 772-1213.


* Income is reported in round dollar amounts.

* Employed by family member.

* Addressed to a particular person’s attention (except when it’s the Personnel Manager).

* Employer’s address is a mail drop or Post Office box.

* Document is not creased (possibly never folded and mailed).

* Evidence of whiteout or strikeovers.

* Incorrect spellings.

* Excessive praise in remarks section.

* Date of hire was on weekend or holiday (Use Perpetual Calendar to verify).

* Overlaps in current and prior employment dates.

* Drastic change from previous position or profession to current employment status.

* Numbers appear to be “squeezed-in.”

* Employer’s signature dated less than one day after originator’s signature (never mailed).

* Illegible signatures with no further identification.

* Unrealistic income for age and/or occupation.

* Borrower’s name or initials in company name (may be self-employed or a relative may have completed the verification form).

* Income is primarily commissions or consulting fees (self-employed).

* Inappropriate verification source (secretary, relative, any party to the transaction, etc.).

* No prior years earnings indicated.

* Seller has same address as employer.

* Prior employer “out of business.”

If the business that is completing the VOE is a large, established, well-known company, the VOE is usually credible. However, when it is a small operation, more documentation may be required to validate the data.

Many times a phone call or W-2 with a current pay stub may validate the information. However, when making telephone verification, make sure to be alert to any inconsistencies or peculiarities in the manner to which the phone is answered. Red flags could be:

* Answers “hello” versus naming the business (could indicate a residence).

* Does not have a Personnel Department.

* Does not recognize the employee’s name or the person who signed the VOE.

* Telephone number is unlisted or disconnected.


* Large employer has handwritten or typed W-2.

* Print on W-2 matches the print of the federal tax return (Form 1040).

* Invalid Employer Identification Number (Refer to IRS Federal Employer Chart).

* Copy submitted is not “Employee’s Copy” (Copy C).

* FICA, Medicare, and/or SDI taxes withheld exceed ceilings (Refer to Taxable Wage Chart).

On the standard W-2, the income is broken down to reflect the FICA (Social Security tax), Medicare, federal and state income tax, state disability tax (SDI-CA only), as well as the wages, tips, and other compensation. Some companies add the Social Security and Medicare together, while others break it out into two separate categories. These are calculated at different rates and have different maximum limits. The amounts have changed over the years; therefore, you need to make sure you are using the correct year.


* Large employer having handwritten or typed check stub.

* Company name not imprinted.

* FICA deductions exceed ceilings.

* Unusually high or low income tax deductions.

* Deductions not clarified.

* Name of borrower and/or Social Security number does not match information on loan application, tax returns, and/or credit report.

* Check stub numbers for each pay period are in sequence.

* Income figures appear in bolder type than pre-printed information (may indicate pre-printed form photocopied before income numbers typed in).


* Address and/or profession does not agree with other information submitted on the loan application.

* No FICA (self-employment) paid by self-employed borrower.

* Income or deductions shown in even dollar amounts.

* High income taxpayer with few or no deductions.

* High income taxpayer does not use a professional tax preparer.

* Paid tax preparer hand writes tax return.

* Self-employment income shown as wages and salaries (okay if incorporated).

* Unemployment income shown.

* Evidence of whiteout or alterations (printed lines appear to be “broken”).

* Different handwriting, type style, or computer software packages used within one return.

* No estimated tax payments made by self-employed borrower.

* Type style and alignment of type is the same for all tax years submitted.

* Tax preparer is a relative.

* Tax return is incomplete.

* Information of W-2 does not match that on the tax return.

SCHEDULE A (Itemized Deductions)

* Real estate taxes paid but no property owned (or vice versa).

* No mortgage interest expense paid when borrower shows ownership of property (or vice versa).

SCHEDULE B (Interest and Dividend Income)

* Amount or source of income does not agree with information submitted on application.

* No dividends earned on stocks owned (may be closely held).

* Borrower with substantial cash in bank shows little or no interest income.

SCHEDULE C (Profit/Loss from Business Owned)

* Gross income does not agree with total income from Form 1099’s.

* No IRA or KEOGH deductions.

* No “cost of goods sold” for retail or similar operations.

* No Schedule SE filed (computation of self-employment tax).

SCHEDULE E (Rents, Royalties, Partnerships, and Trusts)

* Additional rental properties listed but not shown on loan application

* Net income from rents plus depreciation does not equal cash flow as submitted by borrower.

* Subject property appears as a rental when borrower is applying for an owner-occupied loan.

* Borrower shows partnership income (may be liable as a general partner).

There are other sources within each Region to check on the legitimacy of information received. There are numbers to call to get information on tax returns and whether they have been filed in the current year. Refer to State Investigative Resources for a list of state specific phone numbers which can be used to verify licensing and business registration as well as several other areas of possible concern.


* Cash in bank not sufficient to complete transaction.

* New or recently opened bank account.

* Unrealistically high balances for age and/or occupation.

* Round dollar amounts (especially on interest bearing accounts).

* Significant change in balance over prior two (2) months.

* Original VOD not creased (possibly never folded and mailed).

* Evidence of whiteout of strikeovers.

* Numbers appear “squeezed-in.”

* There is no date stamp or “date received” stamp on the document by the depository (VOD may have been completed by the borrower).

* Bank account not in borrower’s name.

* Excessive balance in checking account vs. savings account.

* Account was opened on a Sunday or holiday (Use Perpetual Calendar to verify).

* Illegible bank employee’s signature with no further identification.

* Depository’s signature dated less than one day after originator’s signature (never mailed).

* Non-depository “depository” – escrow trust account, Title Company, etc.

* Brokerage statements from “lesser known” brokerage houses.


* Regular deposits (payroll) significantly different from income stated on application.

* Earnest money deposit not debited from checking account.

* NSF (“non-sufficient funds”) items noted.

* Large withdrawals (may indicate undisclosed financial obligations or investments).

* Statement appears “homemade” or altered (possible “cut and paste”).

* “Interest earned” or “dividends paid” on statements different from income stated from those sources on application.

* Address on statements different from address indicated on application.


* Gift from “friend” or “distant relative.”

* Signature or handwriting on gift letter and/or check similar to those found on other documents in loan file.

* Occupancy is questionable and borrower using ‘gifted’ funds.

* Gifted funds seem unrealistic compared to the transaction; non owner or second home.


* No credit history (possible use of alias).

* Invalid Social Security number or variance from that on other documents.

* Personal data not consistent with handwritten mortgage application – name, addresses, age, “Jr.” vs. “Sr.”, etc.

* AKA or DBA indicated.

* Employment information is different from mortgage application and VOE.

* Recent mortgage inquiries from other mortgage lenders.

* Numerous inquiries within last 90 days.

* Numerous recently opened credit accounts.

Get a Loan Modification Done With The Following Home Loan Advice and Success Tips

The best home loan advice would recommend you to consult the most experienced attorneys to get a loan modification approved in your favor. Though, one of the most crucial factors deciding the success rate of your renegotiation request is choosing the best Law firm, but besides this, there are several other points that need to be considered by you. While the following information may not guarantee a successful loan modify deal, but it would definitely help you to sail through the difficult phases:

1. Work out your actual financial conditions and fix your new loan modify deal according to your current financial goals. You can easily workout your actual expenses by using a financial spreadsheet program like Quicken that would help you establish where all your money is going. Ensure that your proposed repayment terms are based on your ‘real income’ otherwise you might fail again to fix your modified payment deals leading to foreclosure.

2. Ideally, your modified loan payment term should not be more than 31% of your gross income. If you stick to this figure, it will be easier to make the new rescheduled payments on time.

3. Before you Get a Loan Modification application on the tables for negotiations, ensure that your modification request is assigned to a “Negotiator” within the bank and not just a collector whose job is simply to try and collect money. Try to get connected to the “loss mitigation department” of the Bank, which especially deals with new renegotiation requests. The officials of this department are authorized to allow discounts and leverages for fixing modified deals. Therefore, you will definitely get the best home loan advice and help from them.

4. Ask the negotiator from the loss mitigation department of the bank to discharge all the past payments and late penalties. Tell them that you will not be able to pay any due payments, late fees, origination fees or any other garbage fees. Insist on settling all the past scores and starting the new deal with reduced principle.

5. Remember that you are here to get a loan modification approval as your current financial conditions enable you to pay the existing installments. For reducing the amount of the installment, you can ask the negotiator to increase the number of years for the new terms. This would considerably bring down the amount of your installments and help you fix a lower installment amount. The shorter the loan repayment term is the higher would be the installment amount.

6. Insist the negotiator on reducing our principal loan balance. If you owe more to the bank on your property than the current market value of your home, there are chances that the negotiator might approve of reducing the principal amount of the loan.

You can consider appointing an appropriate modification attorney, who is experienced enough to handle a Loan Modify deal that would work in your favor. Commercial Loan Solutions is a leading Law firm that can help you settle the best mortgage deal.

Home Loan – Four Infallible Tips For Recognizing and Picking a Genuine Mortgage Lender

The term ‘mortgage lender’ refers to a bank, credit union, life insurance company and any such other financial institution which advances loans to people for the purpose of buying or refinancing real estate. Knowing the criteria that make a good mortgage lender will help anyone to choose the right mortgage lender. This will in turn help to simplify the process of acquiring your dream home or refinancing a home.

Oh, you think all mortgage lenders are good and reliable and can help you in your quest to acquire your dream home? No, it does not work that way! Do not be sucked in by their flashy ads in the mass media. A good advert does not make a good mortgage lender. And a loud mortgage lender is not necessarily a good one.

In fact, there are 3 categories of mortgage lenders: first are those that are impeccably good, reliable and can satisfy your need whatever the need is and these are relatively few, second are those that may be good but are not in a position to meet your specific need and the third category comprises those that have no business being mortgage lenders at all.

The watchword, therefore, is ‘vigilance’. Yes, be vigilant when you see their ads. If you will, however, take the steps outlined below, you will always be well-positioned to see through their enticements and there will be no basis for confusion:

One, look for a genuine experienced lender. This, however, does not mean that there are no new and smaller home loan providers that are reliable. Yes, some new and smaller mortgage lenders can be quite reliable. In all cases, it is always advisable to run a check with Better Business Bureau for the credentials of the home loan provider. Your friends or family who may have obtained a housing loan in the past can be a good source of information in this respect.

Two, look carefully to be sure there are no hidden charges or fees that you are not aware of. Do not be attracted a low interest rate only. You could end up paying much more than you bargained for. Be sure that you understand every item of the terms of the loan. For example, it should be clear to you, whether the loan tenure or term is 10 years, 15 years or whatever, whether the interest rate is fixed or variable, whether flexible repayment is allowed or not, and so on. A lender with clears terms on these factors is always more reliable.

Three, check out the services of the housing loan provider. This is very important. The application procedure, negotiations on loan amount, interest rates, customization of loan products to suit your needs etc form part of the loan process. A lender who is responsive to your needs and would customize products to suit you is advisable.

Four, be aware that some mortgage lenders focus on mortgages pertaining to only a geographical area or can fund you only up to a certain amount. It is therefore important that before you approach any housing load provider, get information about its scope of operations. A lender with wide coverage is always preferable.

If you use the above tips, you will be able to separate the chaff from the wheat and will be in a position to pick the right one out of the many and different mortgage lenders contending to help you acquire your dream home or refinance a home.