Can a Mortgage Company Change the Terms?

Buying a home is stressful enough without worrying about whether your mortgage company can change the terms before closing, or afterward. In fact, under specific circumstances, a mortgage company can change the terms. Here are the details. (See Understanding Your Mortgage for more.)

What Happens When Your Loan Is Approved?

Imagine that you’ve found your dream house, completed the reams of papers for your mortgage loan application (for help, see Mortgage Calculator and Shopping for Mortgage Rates) and received the loan approval commitment letter. The commitment letter outlines the loan term, interest rate and other details. At that point, you may be required to meet certain conditions before closing such as obtain additional documents, homeowners insurance and more. 

Next, the mortgage company is required by law to provide important disclosure forms. These documents include:

  • Good Faith Estimate – details your settlement and closing costs.
  • Truth-In-Lending Disclosure Statement – provides an estimate of the costs you’re likely to pay during the closing of the mortgage loan. The form includes the total costs of the mortgage as per the terms of the loan agreement.
  • HUD-1 Settlement Statement – specifically details the closing costs, including credits and debits, and is presented 24 hours before closing. This is the most accurate statement of your expected costs. 

When Terms Can Change Before Closing

After you’ve received the loan details and disclosure forms, here are the circumstances under which fees may change – and why.

Your interest rate could change. Interest rates fluctuate daily. If you didn’t receive an interest rate lock, your interest rate could change at any time between your mortgage acceptance and closing date. In some circumstances, even if you have an interest rate lock, your rate can change if there are changes in your personal circumstances or if you fail to close the loan within the locked time frame.

If you have a rate lock, then your interest rate and points should not change, as long as your loan closes within the lock period. Rate locks mean that your interest rate will remain constant during the lock period – 30, 45 or 60 days or longer.

Your closing costs could change. If you choose to get a different type of loan or if you change your down payment amount, your closing costs could change. Also, if the home appraisal comes in higher or lower than expected. Finally, your behavior or income could be a factor:

  • If you take out another loan, miss a payment or do something else that results in a change in your credit; or
  • If your employer was unable to document your income sources, such as overtime, bonus or other circumstances, your loan and closing costs could change.

These scenarios are called a “change in circumstances” and indicate that some former agreements are not binding.

Some of your closing costs aren’t controlled by your lender and can change due to circumstances outside of his or her control. These include:

  • Homeowners insurance premiums, escrow payments and prepaid interest
  • Fees for services required by the lender, such as title insurance or other required items that aren’t on the lender’s preferred list
  • Fees for services that the lender doesn’t require 

Certain fees are allowed to rise and are capped at 10%, as long as there is no “change in circumstances”:

  • Recording fee
  • Third party services from the lender’s written list of preferred providers, unless the provider is an affiliate of the lender, in which case the cost must remain firm 

How Your Loan Can Change After Closing

If you choose an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), your loan amount will change according to the terms of the mortgage. There are many varieties of ARMs, from 7/1 to 5/1 to 1-year. The numbers refer to time periods when the mortgage rate will change. It’s important to understand the parameters of your loan before signing on the dotted line.

Your property taxes and homeowners insurance premium might change periodically. These types of items are typically paid for from your escrow account, which is set up by your mortgage company. It’s likely that over the life of the loan, the amount of the escrow expenses will change and consequently impact your total payment to the mortgage company.

The Bottom Line

In the end, many initial fee estimates will change at closing. The items that should remain the same are the loan terms, as long as you don’t experience any major financial changes in your circumstances.