Written By: Bonnie Wilt-Hild, Op-Ed Writer
About 4 months ago I was out and about with one of my Account Executives. He had asked me a few days before if I would come out and say hello to his brokers, perhaps provide some training and maybe some insight as to how we get things done from an underwriting standpoint at the bank. I was more then happy to accommodate him because as we all know, this kind of excursion not only gets us out of the office for a day but also means free lunch.
When we left that morning the plan was to spend some time in one of his broker shops that did predominantly government loans. Mostly FHA but some VA stuff as well. This made me happy; I love the government stuff, particularly FHA. When we arrived my AE made a quick round saying hello and introducing me as his underwriter. As he did this I noticed that the employees of the company started to slowly peer around the sides of the cubicles and certain others approached me, but very slowly. Finally I reached my hand out and shook one of the managers hands, smiling, you know the “how is it going” kind of thing. Immediately he relaxed, smiled and said, “You need to bear with us, we have heard of underwriters but never really met one, so you guys are sort of like trolls under a bridge to us”. I started to laugh, my kids had called me a troll before but my brokers hadn’t.
Once everyone relaxed, we covered the how to and in this I mean submit and loan, what we were looking for in terms of a qualified applicant, how we handled the prequalification’s and what they needed to do if they had questions which was to call or email me and I would be happy to help them. As it turns out, they are one of my favorite broker shops now, all of the employees are great to work with and a few of them have actually taught me a couple of things.
After we left, I thought it was too bad that they had all been in the business for quite some time and had never really met an underwriter. After all underwriters participate in the mortgage process the same way as the originators and processors do. I generally get to work and there is a line of about 4 or 5 people deep in front of my office door with questions, both professional in nature and personal. I refer to it as “Holding Court”. At any rate, I enjoy the interaction with both my immediate staff as well as with my brokers. I can pretty much tell you what is going on with all of the broker shops I deal with, if someone is out sick, having a baby or it their wife has the flu and they had to leave early. Yep they call me and say, “I have this thing but I need to get that deal closed today so if you need anything call me on my cell”. I like it, being a team player is rewarding.
Now back to the troll statement. As I said, I have a pretty good relationship with all of my brokers so sometimes they call just to shoot the breeze. Very recently I have had a lot of them say that they feel like it is impossible to get a loan approved. They have said that it seems like all of the common sense in underwriting has gone out the window and that most underwriters have really become “The Troll” under the bridge. The complaint is, if the case is not perfect, DU Approve/Eligible, they can’t get it approved. Underwriters will not talk to them or make a decision beyond what has already been decided by DU. Some have even said that underwriters are just shouting, “I’m not approving it” at them.
What a shame. I do realize that the industry has changed quickly and that is a lot of indecisiveness as to what our investors will purchase or not purchase but I don’t think this is a reason to play the troll. I can personally tell you that I get concerned too as to what is going to be acceptable for purchase on the secondary market, and I don’t mean if the deal is approvable from a credit and collateral standpoint, I mean saleable from a secondary standpoint. But I try not to let this get in the way of prudent underwriting decisions or my professional relationships.
It’s my theory that as underwriters, we are not only judge and jury, but also teachers. We have acquired the skills to determine if a case is acceptable under general underwriting criteria and I think we have a responsibility to our professional peers to pass that the knowledge along.
In recent months, instead of saying NO, I have explained how current market trends have inhibited our ability as underwriters to approve cases that might have been approvable in the past under other circumstances and for the most part, my brokers and retail staff have understood. It is just as tough out there for them as it is for us on the inside. More importantly if we as underwriters don’t take the time to help them understand what we as underwriters are dealing with, we can’t help them improve their skills, which will ultimately make our jobs easier.
Trolls. Yep, that’s what underwriters have been reckoned too lately and I think the more recent opinion is actually getting worse. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against trolls but I certainly don’t want to be compared to one. I think now is a good time for all of us to realize that working together to educate each other is what is going to make this period of uncertainty a little easier for all of us and hopefully bring some sanity to the office.
Underwriters, if you can’t get the deal done, communicate why to the support staff and without a doubt the next deal you get will make more sense. As for those of you that would be part of the support staff, remember the responsibility of the loan decision does fall back to the underwriter and try to have some patience, to be brave is one thing but to be stupid is another. Lastly, can I suggest a new name for underwriters, perhaps something a little taller.....
About The Author
Bonnie Wilt-Hild - As an op-ed writer, Bonnie has held many mortgage underwriting positions, including Senior FHA DE Underwriter for a major lending institution. With over 25+ years of senior-level FHA/VA Government underwriting experience, Bonnie is considered the "Queen of FHA Loans".