According to numbers released on Monday by the Treasury Department, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) continues to be an ineffective tool for homeowners.  Loan servicers completed just 28,000 modifications during September, down 16% from August.

The goal of the program was to help 3-4 million borrowers keep their homes by modifying their existing loan to an affordable level.  To date, 1,369,414 modifications have been initiated through the program, but there are only 466,708 active permanent modifications.  Through September, 699,924 trial modifications and 21,190 permanent modifications have been canceled.  That’s a failure rate of over 50%, certainly not a good track record for any program.

So why has this program failed so miserably?  According to Edward Pinto, a prominent housing consultant who recently testified before the House Oversight Committee, HAMP requirements are so confusing that servicers have difficulty complying.  In his words, “There are only two words to describe HAMP’s guidelines:  Numbing complexity.”

So from the banks perspective, the program is difficult to implement and lacks financial incentives, but what do the people most affected think? I asked several clients who tried to get loan modifications about their experience and they cited many problems with the program: 

  • The interaction with lenders was very frustrating.  They were never able to actually speak with anyone who was making a decision about their loan and could only speak with a customer service representative who had limited information and was often from an outsourced international location.
  • They were required to fax reams of documentation, over and over as it apparently was lost and never made it into their file.
  • The time period for review was way too long.  Several clients were in forbearance agreements during the process, couldn’t afford to continue to make the payments and simply gave up.
  • Even after modification, the payments were still too high.  For many borrowers going from an interest only loan to a fixed rate, their payments were actually higher after the modification.
  • The issue of value is not addressed.  Even with modification, paying on negative equity is a difficult pill for many borrowers to swallow.

My prediction?  There will be fewer borrowers even attempting a loan modification and an increase in short sales as more underwater homeowners seek a viable solution.

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