Automatic Loan Mods?

Just Like The Lottery

Believe it or not, one bank has actually started offering automatic loan mods. No more reams of paperwork delving into intimate financial records of borrowers [treated more like beggars], no more waiting for six months, eight months and even more than a year to get an answer from the haughty banks. Finally, one bank, JP Morgan Chase, is automatically writing loan mod contracts for its underwater borrowers.

Chase Bank

Yes, it’s true. Some Chase customers are getting loans mods, offering rate reductions, principal reductions or both–all without having to file the onerous paperwork. In one case cited by CNN Money, Chase surprised a Darrington, Wash. couple, who had tried, without success, to effect a loan mod with the very same bank, with a loan mod reducing their interest rate from 6.5% to 2.8% for five years and then a fixed 3.19% for the remaining 18 years of their loan, saving them $229 a month. For this couple, still suffering with job loss as well as an underwater house, it was just like winning the lottery.

Why Would Chase Offer Automatic Loan Mods?

Bank Trick

Why would Chase be doing this? Is this a trick?

It’s not a trick. In fact, in accordance with the $25-billion mortgage settlement agreed to a few months ago by 49 out of 50 attorneys general, discussed in a previous post, Chase’s share of the payout burden is $4.2 billion.  Because banks get “extra credit” for acting quickly and making their mods during the first year, Chase  bit the bullet and decided to go ahead and make loan mod offers to thousands of underwater borrowers. In the past, contacting all these homeowners has proven difficult if not impossible. Many homeowners are so inundated with financial woes they no longer read their mail or answer the phone. Many underwater homeowners move out, anticipating a foreclosure.

Borrowers who receive the loan mod offers must, of course, sign the new contracts which typically would run for 5 years and then, most important, start making the new payments which are usually hundreds of dollars less than the previous amounts. Between March and June 2012, Chase claims that it has completed 3,086 loan mods,  $359 million’s  worth.

But, Isn’t The Housing Crisis Over By Now?

To understand how deep-seated this problem is despite the good news we’ve been hearing about home prices rising,  look at what Chase, just one of the five major banks involved, says it still has to do: another 11,500 loan mods. I say, “Bravo,” to Chase for undertaking to honor the settlement. It is too bad, though, that the banks had to be forced by litigation to treat their borrowers like human beings. Makes you wonder what else we could get the banks to cough up if the federal government would just hold their feet to the fire just a teensy, weensy bit?

Eric Schneiderman Is My Hero!

Attorneys General of 50 States Sue The Big Banks

As mentioned in a previous post back in March, for months now the Attorneys General of  all  50 states of the union have together been suing the big banks over violations of real estate law. Banks transferred their mortgages repeatedly in order to create the infamous mortgage-backed-securities [MSB] filled with non-performing loans and sold all over the world. But, the banks never paid the taxes and fees due on the transfers and so have opened themselves up to lawsuit from every state.

We all know how strapped the states are for cash, so it’s no surprise that the Attorneys General would make every effort to collect.  In the meantime, though, the Obama Administration has also gotten involved and, as per usual, the Big Banks have been frantically lobbying to limit their liability-drastically limit their liability.

 

In fact, a number like $20 billion has been bandied about, leaked to the press, while yet the banks object vociferously to this number which, large though it is, is paltry in comparison to the hundreds of billions, not to mention trillions, they raked in during the “bubble” years when they were making these horrible loans to almost anyone with a pulse. Considering, too, that the final settlement amount must be shared among 50 states, that $20 billion is really small potatoes.

Banks Want To Escape Liability-Totally

The banks’ behavior, though, is far more troubling than merely limiting the dollar amounts they must pay the states. No, you see the banks want to limit their total liability to all those who lost their homes, legally or illegally. As mentioned in a previous post, foreclosure fraud via cooked-up loan documents is still going on, as was recently discovered. This plan would also limit banks’ liability to those investors, both at home and abroad, who bought the toxic investments which the banks knew were substantially worthless as they off-loaded them to the unsuspecting. The dive the pension funds took? Not their responsibility, either.

Helping the banks contain this damage into one neat little package and, as Matt Taibbi of RollingStone has it, shooting it off into deep space, are many of the AGs and the Obama Administration. It seems it would serve government’s goals as well if this whole thing would just go away.  Put into a neat, little [and cheap for the banks] package and allow the banks to then go their merry way. Never mind the millions of former homeowners who lost their homes, whose lives were ruined, whose livelihoods were destroyed by the easy money provided by the banks which fueled the bubble and made them billions of dollars.

My Hero Eric Schneiderman

 

Enter my hero, Eric Schneiderman, Attorney General of New York [my home state]. Schneiderman has refused to go along. Schneiderman actually wants to investigate the activities of these banks. Earlier this year he launched an investigation into the securitization practices of Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and other companies. Further, Schneiderman is also blocking an individual $8.5 billion settlement for Countrywide investors. He has sued to stop that deal, claiming it could “compromise investors’ claims in exchange for a payment representing a fraction of the losses.”

Schneiderman is seriously compromising the Big Banks’, other Attorneys’ General and the Obama Administration’s efforts to shovel this huge pile of doo-doo under the rug of a tiny settlement.  He is under tremendous pressure to cave and has been summarily kicked off the negotiating team.

Banks are spouting a revisionist line: their crime is faulty paperwork, not massive corruption and fraud which, for those of us who can remember what life was like 5 years ago, a dwindling group, it appears, was their real crime. Banks knew their loans were bad. That is why they “sliced and diced” them and stuffed them into MBSs in the first place. They behaved with no regard for the effect on others; they operated solely for their own benefit. And, benefit they did, let us remember, to the tune of billions of dollars. And, when their crimes started to catch up to them, they cried “Bailout” to the federal government and the very same evil-doers got billions in tax-payers money.

Why is Eric Schneiderman the only one who remembers this? Why is he the only one who understands that he is the defender of the millions of helpless homeowners who lost their homes, often illegally, after they had already been victimized with fraudulent loans and offered no loan mods or trifling mods by these very same banks?

Eric Schneiderman is my hero. I truly hope he can hold out against the combined pressure of the Obama Administration and most of the other AGs. Please, Eric, hold fast.

After December, The Avalanche?

Louis XIV of France, styled the Sun King, famously opined, “Apres moi, le deluge.”  After me, the flood. He was right, of course, for his excesses so infuriated the people that his successor was guillotined and his monarchy overthrown in the French Revolution.

SoCal Plunge In Foreclosure Filings

Something similar seems to be brewing in Southern California and maybe even nationwide as lenders ratchet up their foreclosure filings after the “robo-signing” lull. Though foreclosures dropped dramatically in SoCal this fall, so, too, did all home sales. The reasons seem to be many: the end of the home buyer tax credit, stubbornly high unemployment and the generally still-moribund economy. In fact, sales are down a full 16% from November of 2009. This at the same time foreclosure filings fell 14% from the previous November after a 22% decline in October for a two-month total 36% decline. Nationwide, the filings fell 21%.

December is traditionally a slow month in real estate as consumers focus on retail buying, parties and holiday travel plans. Typically, though, also in December  smart investors are out there snapping up last-minute bargains of the now-extremely motivated sellers still on the market. Competition is almost always much less, to put it mildly, and sellers are determined to close out their books for year’s end.  This year seems to be different as even investors are holding back.

That may be because the huge drop in  foreclosure filings this fall has ominous repercussions for home prices in the new year. With the foreclosure freeze over, informed observers now expect to see the banks ratchet up their foreclosures with a vengeance, restarting filings begun in October and November and barreling ahead with new ones in January. Executives from RealtyTrac, a real estate data collection firm, speculate that the housing recovery could be set back three months, if not more, as the foreclosures pile up. In fact, we can expect ” an avalanche” of foreclosures shortly.

SoCal Home Prices

The most immediate effect of an avalanche of foreclosed properties on the market will be to further depress prices in Southern California which had started a slight upward movement. Los Angeles County home prices had dropped 1.2% over November 2009 to a median of $325,000. Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, the hardest hit by the bursting of the real estate bubble, lost 2.5% and 5.0% respectively to medians of $195,000 and $152,000. But, that is a huge improvement over the 30% and 40% drops of previous years. Other SoCal counties actually gained in value. Orange County eked out a .6% improvement for a $435,000 median home price. San Diego topped the charts with a 3.1% improvement over last year to a median of  $335,000 with Ventura County just behind at 2.7% uptick to a median of $375,000.

Future: More Underwater Homes

These hard-earned gains will soon be lost as the promised avalanche of foreclosures hits the market. Perhaps sales will pick up as buyers and investors are lured back into the game. But, bargain-hunting fun aside,  another price drop for already distressed homeowners will plunge yet more homeowners underwater.  That, in turn, spirals down into more foreclosures and more equity loss in future.

Like Louis XIV, banks see this as well as anyone, yet still refuse to modify loans in any serious way. Like Louis, they see, but, obviously, don’t give a damn as long as they get their bonuses. Short-term is the only term.

New Rules: Short Sales on Steroids

The new federal guidelines for short sales, called HAFA [Home Affordable Mortgage Alternative] came into being November, 2009 and just recently became operational. Most loan servicers and banks are now using HAFA.

What’s So Great About HAFA?

Really,  what’s the big deal? Everybody knows short sales are tedious, take forever and are a last resort for the homeowner, right? Not exactly–HAFA does streamline the process, shorten the time periods and provide significant incentive s for both short sellers and their banks. In short, it’s a win-win for all parties.

If you’re a homeowner considering a short sale, then,  it’s a fairly big deal, assuming that it works out as envisaged by the federal government.  Home sellers can get up to $3000 in relocation money from the transaction. That’s very helpful to distressed homeowners who may want to rent and need to pay a deposit. And, another very big deal is that homeowners would be guaranteed from their banks to have no deficiency judgments. Coupled with the 2007 law foregoing any tax on defaulted income, that leaves short sellers really free and clear once they close escrow on their underwater properties.

What Do the Banks Get Out of HAFA?

We have to ask why would the banks want to do this? What’s in it for them? Here, too, are some very positive reasons. Banks prefer short sales over foreclosures because banks save about 20% on average by doing the short sale. This program simplifies the process, streamlines it, and allows the mortgage servicers $1500 to cover administrative costs with an additional  $2000 to the investor who actually owns the loan.  Banks do better with this program. Altogether, sellers, servicers and investors are collecting $6000 on each HAFA transaction. Not too shabby.

Now the Big One: Who is Eligible?

If your principal residence qualified for a loan mod under HAMP [Home Affordable Modification Program]  and you can’t pay or have fallen behind you are eligible. If this is an investment property or rental, you are not eligible.  If your loan is FHA or VA, you are not eligible. Both FHA and VA have their own short sale programs with different rules.

Having applied for the HAMP program is crucial. If you applied and were rejected, you are eligible. If you entered a trial period and fell by the wayside, you are eligible. If you received a permanent loan mod under HAMP and have missed at least two payments, you are eligible.

Let’s say, you discover you probably are not eligible for HAMP or HAFA, what should you do? Don’t worry. The servicer will still do a short sale; it will simply not be using the HAFA guidelines. We’ve been doing what seems like zillions of short sales for the past three years, so the process there has become more streamlined as well. If you need help or want to do a short sale, make sure to call me at 626-641-0346. I can even help if you are outside of California.

Oh-one last thing-if you are an investor who would like to purchase a HAFA short sale then flip it, you must wait for 90 days.

Here’s the National Association of Realtors’ video on the topic

NAR on HAFA

Loan Mods: What’s the Situation Now?

It’s been about a year now since the Obama administration introduced its loan mod program, HAMP, so what’s happened?
What have American homeowners been getting for our government’s $7 billion?

Loan Mods One Year Later

Aw, come on, you know the answer–not much. As usual, the big banks don’t want to play. Always ready for a handout, they pretend to go along, but never really deliver. At this point, one year later, we now have about 299,000 permanent loan mods as of April 2010, according to the US Treasury. That’s about 25 percent of the 1.2 million who started the program since its March 2009 launch. They are paying, on average, $516 less each month.

Terrible Loan Mod Results Compared to the Problem

Placed in its proper context and you will see how measly that is. We’ve already had more than 3 million foreclosures. Estimates are that about 7.5 million mortgages are in the 90-day-late situation, meaning they are most likely heading into foreclosure. So, that 299,000 doesn’t seem like much, does it, for a whole year?
But wait, it gets worse. The number of people who failed to get loan mods rose dramatically in April, up 79%, in fact. About 270,000 or 23% dropped out at some phase of the process.

Why would this be happening?

I’m sure that banks would like to point the finger at deadbeat homeowners, but that would be a lie, a big, fat lie. Having been involved in a few of these mods and receiving many calls from anxious homeowners, I can say categorically it is not the fault of homeowners. It is the fault of the big banks who make the task so tedious and so long and drawn out that anybody would get frustrated and quit.
Here are just a few of the comments I’ve heard lately..One that particularly galls me is Maria who cannot get CitiBank to give her the time of day. Why would that be? Why, she’s current in her payments, so unless there’s already a fire, this company has no interest in preventative maintenance. Then, there’s Monica who owns several investment single-family homes she was hoping would help provide her retirement. They’re all upside down now and the bank will not even talk to her because she’s also current.

Only Solution Now: Short Sale

Talk to Mike. AMHSI told him point-blank it had no interest in doing loan mods. So, he stopped making his payments and put it on the market as a short sale. Is that a better solution? Folks, that’s about the only solution left. We can all stop dreaming now that the banks will actually do these “workouts” whether they have support from the government or not. They will pretend to do them, but make the process as onerous as possible. Then, too, many who actually produce all the paperwork and wait the 3 to 6 months of processing time are refused a loan mod anyway. Why? Well, if you’re unemployed and really need one, you can’t get one because there’s no income to pay it. If you’re employed, you, like Goldilocks, need to make just the right amount of money or you’ll make either too much or too little and you won’t qualify…

I don’t think I want to write about loan mods anymore. They are a complete crock.

B of A’s Principal Reduction Plan: PR Phony Baloney

Maybe you’ve heard by now that B of A came out with a new plan to help distressed homeowners by reducing their mortgage principal. Wow, that’s sounds so great. Really, that’s what everybody thought the banks would do with loan mods. In fact, true to form, the big banks refused to drop the principal 98% of the time, preferring to add 10 years to the loan [40 year loans, enslaved for life] or to forebear collecting on part of the principal for 3 to 5 years, but never actually lowering the principal–no way, Jose!

So now, Big Bad B of A is going to be the first to do this? Yeah, right. Check the fine print and you will see that it’s mostly smoke and mirrors. B of A has gotten such rotten press in the past couple of years that they are apparently desperate for some positive commentary in the news media. And, this move has gotten some very good press.


What is B of A Principal Reduction Plan?

Simply put this plan would reduce the principal for homeowners who are at least 20% underwater on their loans. If you owe, say, $300K but your home is now worth $200K, the bank would reduce the principal to $240K and call it good. That’s what a cursory reading of the “pilot plan” would have us believe.
That’s fantastic, right? I have a B of A loan, you might be saying to yourself, how do I get in on this great deal? This is what I’ve been waiting for.
Hold your horses there, cowboy. Take a look at the fine print. First, this is a pilot program of 45,000 borrowers who have adjustable mortgages originally underwritten by Countrywide, purchased by B of A in 2008. Second, these few loans are being written down to 31% of household income or possibly to a very low interest rate such as 2% with a 40-year term.
And, borrowers would have 20% of the forgiven debt applied per year for 5 years when the lower amount becomes permanent unless the home value at that point is higher.
Are you with me so far? It’s a complicated plan, as is everything B of A does, and it would surprise me very much if it took less than 6 months to activate even one principal reduction.

What’s Not to Like About B of A’s Principal Reduction Plan?

As indicated, right now it’s merely a pilot program announced with a big fanfare–front page on the L.A. Times–geared to garner the most good PR for the worst of the big banks. Here are just a few of the many issues involved in the effort to lower principal.
Mainly, I would say this bank is trying to protect itself from the barrage of forensic loan audits now in the pipeline which show these types of loans—stated income, adjustable, negative amortization, etc—were actually fraudulent. To avoid lawsuits, if the bank can change the terms of the loans, it becomes lawsuit-proof.
Another major issue concerns secondary liens. What are the second lien holders going to say about principal reduction which essentially wipes out their stake in the property?During the heyday of these loans [about 2002-2007] most of the adjustable loans were 0% down, a first loan of 80% of the purchase price and then at a higher interest rate a second loan at 20%. That eliminated the dreaded PMI [private mortgage insurance] on the 20% value and also set us on our way into the present loan morass. Most of the seconds around Southern California done in this way are already essentially wiped out as home values have dropped 30% to 50% almost everywhere. But, in a short sale, for instance, the second loan holder typically gets something. Now, B of A would just tell them—“Sorry, you’re out of luck. We’re reducing the loan and wiping you out”?
To add to the mess, most of the second loans and many of the first loans were sold in pieces through the so-called mortgage-backed securities bundled up by the big Wall Street firms and flogged all over the world. It’s difficult to see how simply wiping out this debt obligation would be acceptable.
Have a B of A loan and hope is surging? Don’t hold your breath.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

CA’s New Loan Mod Law: S.B. 94

Loan mods have been in the news  lately, mainly because so few have been done. Since March when Obama announced the HAMP program,  fewer than 600,000 have been partially completed. That’s an abysmal record because the number who need loan mods is closer to 15 million across the country. Some 24% of all CA mortgage loans are now under water and so in dire need of loan modification.  After a brief respite, thousands of adjustable mortgages are now due to reset–upwards, of course.

So, who’s to help beleagured homeowners get loan mods? Attorneys, real estate agents, so-called foreclosure consultants? Don’t count on any of the above now. In response to the many scammers in the loan mod field which requires no l icense or any other kind of regulation, the California legislature has made it illegal for anyone, even attorneys, to require up-front fees to help homeowners do loan mods.

To make it crystal clear: anyone who requires money up-front to help you do a loan mod is in violation of the law and is most likely a scammer and not going to help you. All legitimate avenues of help–attorneys and real estate agents–know about this law and have stopped demanding money up-front.

Of course, they have also stopped helping homeowners apply for loan mods, leaving them to government-run programs, such as HUD’s,  which do help with the paperwork free of charge, but do not make the follow-up calls or provide and help in how to fill out the forms to best advantage. So far, the loan mod process is like walking through tar–hot and slow. It can and does take up to a year to get into a trial period loan mod with the lenders demanding reams of paperwork. Very few loan mods have emerged from the trial period which is supposed to last only 3 months. Good luck to you if you have more than one loan…Banks should be happy with this new law as now they can deal with naive homeowners directly or what seems to me their decided preference–not at all.

Some have said agents and attorneys don’t get paid until the end of their regular transactions anyway so what’s the difference? Won’t they continue to do loan mods in any case?  Here’s the difference–these professionals are paid out of escrow. They do not have to go after a credit-challenged clients personally. What this law means is that these professionals will no longer do loan mods.

Are the scammers still out there? It’s very possible. I don’t think the general public is aware of this new law which went into effect in October of this year. So the scammers are still running wild. Just remember–any0ne asking for upfront money to do a loan mod is most likely a scammer and is definitely breaking the law.