Dear Liz: I’m in a potentially bad situation with my home equity line of credit. I’m trying to refinance my primary mortgage and would save nearly $150 a month. But the HELOC lender is dragging its feet on agreeing to a subordination. If the lender doesn’t agree, I lose the deal. I’m wondering why the lender does not believe it to be in its interest to help when I am trying to improve my financial situation. Can you give me some insight into the line of thinking here?
Answer: Unfortunately, many would-be refinancers are in your uncomfortable position. They have a second mortgage, such as a home equity line of credit, on their property. These loans are known as “seconds” because the lender is in second position to be paid off when the home is sold, after the primary lender has been paid.
For a refinance to proceed, these HELOC lenders have to agree once again to be subordinated into second position. Some lenders balk because they don’t believe their borrowers have sufficient equity to cover both loans (even though, as you note, a lower payment on the first mortgage could make it more likely that the borrower could make payments on the second).
But a bigger problem seems to be lack of staff and lack of priority. Lenders are so busy trying to meet the demand for refinancing that other concerns, including subordination, often fall to the bottom of their to-do list.
That means you have to be extremely vigilant if you don’t want your refinance deal to fall apart. Call your new lender and your HELOC lender every few days to track the progress of your subordination. If there are problems or missing paperwork, promptly address those issues.
If your rate lock is within two to three weeks of expiring and your subordination still hasn’t been approved, call your HELOC lender and politely ask that your request be given top priority.
If you can’t get through to the subordination department’s main line, ask the phone reps if there is a fax number or e-mail address you can use. If all else fails, take your problem to the bank’s chief executive. You’ll find the name and address online.