They had a team of lawyers, appraisers and lenders. Nice hustle......but I could never do this to anyone. Single mom sucked in by home sellers Monthly payment was higher than her income BY JUAN GONZALEZ DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST Posted Friday, March 30th 2007, 4:00 AM Four years ago, Sandra Barkley, a single parent and an employee of the New York City Housing Authority, got fed up with rising rents in Brooklyn and decided to buy her first house. A friend of hers recommended a firm called United Homes LLC, which has sold more than 1,000 homes during the past few years in minority neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. Within two weeks, Barkley was signing a stack of mortgage documents at the closing for her new two-family home on Hancock St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant. That's right, two weeks - which is sure to amaze anyone who has ever purchased a piece of property. The folks at United Homes weren't just lightning fast, they were uncommonly helpful. They provided Barkley with a lawyer; they secured her 95% financing from a company called Olympia Mortgage Co., and they kept assuring her she could easily meet her monthly payments by renting the upstairs apartment. But Barkley and a half-dozen other black plaintiffs are now suing United Homes in Brooklyn Federal Court. All allege that the company was part of a ring of appraisers, lenders and lawyers that conspired to defraud minority families by "flipping" properties, inflating their prices and saddling inexperienced homebuyers with predatory loans. Housing advocates say a big part of the foreclosure crisis spreading across the nation is not simply a result of risky lending. They say there are many signs of fraud. Barkley, for example, claims the United Homes salesman didn't tell her until the day of the closing, even though she repeatedly asked him, the actual price of her new home. The price turned out to be $359,000 for a home United had purchased for $153,000 - less than three months earlier. Barkley also claims she never received a written good-faith estimate of costs from Olympia Mortgage prior to the closing. That estimate, required by federal law, is supposed to list all costs and terms associated with a loan. "[United] built up my level of trust, they seemed very knowledgeable and they kept telling me they had my best interest at heart," Barkley said. Even though Barkley provided Olympia's representative with pay stubs that showed her salary was only $2,300 per month, she did not learn until the day of the closing that the two "piggyback" loans Olympia was providing her - one at an adjustable rate of up to 11.6% and the other at 12.5% with a huge balloon payment after 15 years - required monthly payments of $2,536 a month. In other words, her mortgage payments were higher than her income. Where, you might ask, was Barkley's lawyer in all this? She fired the first one - the one United gave her - a few days before the closing. But she immediately got an unsolicited call from a second lawyer who informed her he would be representing her. "These people were very high-pressure in the final days before the closing," Barkley said. Barkley didn't know it then, but now assumes that United also gave her the second lawyer. "United Homes categorically denies there was any conspiracy to harm these homebuyers in any way," said company attorney Alan Vinegrad. "They had the right to hire their own lawyers, inspectors and engineers, whether recommended by United or not." "These plaintiffs," Vinegrad added, "represent an extremely small number of more than 1,200 satisfied customers that United has done business with over the years." The court papers, however, raise many questions about the United Homes sales. Barkley's Olympia mortgage, for example, was immediately purchased by a subsidiary of Credit Suisse First Boston that specializes in marketing what the company calls NINA's, short for "No Interest, No Asset" loans. A January 2003 internal appraisal for Credit Suisse concluded that Barkley's home was worth only $260,000 when it was sold. That appraisal labeled the loan "high risk." Still the bank went ahead and purchased the loan, then marketed it as part of a bigger securities package. A lawyer for Credit Suisse, which is also named in the United Homes lawsuit, refused to comment about the case. As for Olympia Mortgage Co., it has been the subject of several investigations of its lending practices in recent years. The state Banking Department suspended its license in September 2004, and California followed suit early in 2005. In December 2004, the U.S. Justice Department accused Fannie Mae, the huge secondary loan buyer, of accepting money in a loan fraud scheme that involved Olympia Mortgage and United Homes LLC. Fannie Mae admitting no wrongdoing but ended up paying a $7.5 million fine. Olympia's attorney Eric Grannis did not return my call for comment.