loan modification


SHORT SALE BUTTON

There are many factors that go into determining if a short sale is right for you. A short sale occurs when your lender agrees to; 1) allow you to sell your home for less than what is owed and 2) accept that reduced amount as pay-off on your loan, releasing you from any further obligation.

So here are some questions to consider if you are thinking about a short sale:

Are you upside down? Do you owe more than your house is worth?
Despite the fact that there have been significant increases in home values throughout much of the country over the last year, most people who purchased a home between 2005 and mid 2007 have yet to regain the equity they thought they had acquired. To determine fair market value of your home, consult a Realtor. Do not rely on online value estimators as they can be terribly inaccurate.

Are you struggling to make your payments? If keeping your home is creating a financial hardship, and the market in your area is relatively soft, continuing to make payments on negative equity may not be a sound financial decision.

Have you been unable to obtain a loan modification? While most lenders are reluctant to reduce the principal amount that you owe, a loan modification is an option you should explore with your lender before considering a short sale.

Will you qualify? Increasingly, lenders are allowing short sales due to negative equity, but for the most part, borrowers must demonstrate a financial hardship and an inability to continue to make payments.

What are your housing plans for the future? If you are hoping to buy again, a short sale is far less damaging to your credit than a foreclosure. Many lenders will now approve a loan in as little as 1 – 2 years following a short sale.

There are some additional benefits to a short sale including the fact that the lender will generally pay all commissions and closing costs, and unlike a foreclosure, a short sale does not have as negative an impact on your credit score. Before considering whether a short sale is right for you, it is advisable to consult an attorney and your accountant.

For a confidential consultation, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I have successfully closed many short sales throughout San Diego County and would be happy to provide references.

Ever wonder why it was so difficult for people to get permanent loan modifications a couple of years ago? Maybe it’s because some employees were allegedly paid to make sure they were denied, at least at one bank.

According to a June 14 Bloomberg.com article, Bank of America provided employees with incentives including cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas linked to sending homes into foreclosure. The allegations were revealed by past employees as part of a lawsuit filed against the banking giant earlier this month by homeowners who were denied modifications. Many who were denied loan modifications eventually lost their homes to foreclosure.

Apparently employees in the loss mitigation department were instructed to delay review, ask homeowners for items they already had in the file, and do whatever was necessary to deny permanent loan modifications. Former B of A loan servicing specialist Theresa Terrlonge said that they received restaurant gift cards and cash rewards for denying loan modifications. “I witnessed employees and managers falsify information in the systems of record, and remove documents from the homeowners’ files to make the account appear ineligible for loan modification,” said Terrelonge.

But the big rewards came for actually pushing a borrower into foreclosure. According to Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation representative who left the company in 2012, specialists who put 10 borrowers into foreclosure, including those in a trial modification, received a $500 bonus. Bank of America insists that the allegations are inaccurate and will file an opposition to the motion to make this a class action case.

Unfortunately, I’m not terribly surprised by these allegations and find it difficult to believe that B of A was the only bank involved in this type of behavior. It’s no wonder that there have been so few successful loan modifications; the very people charged with creating positive outcomes were apparently paid to do otherwise.

 

For most of the 22 million homeowners who owe an average of $40,000 – $65,000 more than their home is worth, the recent $25 billion dollar settlement with the banks will bring no relief. According to Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate’s housing subcommittee, “When you owe more than your house is worth, relief can be hard to come by.”   Among borrowers whose homes have dropped in value through no fault of their own, many choose to simply walk away, which according to Menendez, “Only exacerbates the problem.”

Menendez has introduced a bill that provides an interesting twist on the idea of principal reduction.  The Preserving American Homeownership Act would encourage lenders to write down principal balances by allowing them to share in the home’s appreciation at a later date.  The principal balance would be written down in increments over a three year period to 95% of the current value, so long as the homeowner remains current on their payments.

In exchange for the write-down, the lender would receive a fixed percentage of any future appreciation when the home is either sold or re-financed.  That share could not exceed 50%.  So if a principal balance was reduced by 25%, the bank would receive 25% of any future appreciation.

The Act would apply to primary residences only, but any homeowner could apply.  Borrowers who are in default or even in foreclosure could qualify, but would be required to make their reduced mortgage payment on time in order to remain in the program.

The article in DSNews where I read about the bill did not indicate if the Act would apply to all types of loans or whether or not the modified loans would be re-written at today’s lower interest rates. Presuming so, this Act could provide enough incentive to many underwater homeowners to persuade them to stay in their home versus initiating a strategic default.

As a fan of principal reduction, I like this idea as it seems to be a win-win situation for both homeowners and the banks.  Banks don’t take as big a hit as they would with a short sale or foreclosure, and the write-down is taken over a three year period, AND homeowners get to keep their homes with reduced payments and principal.  Even the opponents of principal reduction might find something to like about this plan!

If you owe more than your home is worth, and are having difficulty making your payments, you may be a good candidate for a loan modification or a short sale.  The important thing to realize is that this problem won’t go away on its own and the sooner you attempt to deal with it, the better your opportunity for a positive outcome.

However, before you pick-up the phone to call your lender, be prepared!  The person on the other end of the call is going to do a phone interview during which they will ask very detailed questions about your income and expenses.   In order to be ready you will need the following items:

  • A completed financial worksheet which outlines ALL of your income and monthly expenses. Make sure that the income you state matches the deposits to your bank accounts!
  • Last 2 months pay stubs or year-to-date profit and loss statement if self-employed.
  • 2 most recent bank statements for all accounts
  • Hardship letter
  • Last 2 years federal tax returns

This initial interview is a sort of triage, where they try to determine, what program, (if any), might work for your situation.  The more information you have available, the quicker you will be able to move to the next step.  Even if the interview doesn’t include questions related to your tax returns, these are the items they will want you to send to them so it’s best to gather everything before you get started.  When you do send or fax, make sure that your name, phone number, email and loan number are on a cover sheet with a list of the items included.  For the initial packet of information it may be best to send with a delivery confirmation so that you have proof of mailing and delivery.

Your hardship letter should clearly explain why you can no longer afford your mortgage payments.  You obviously could afford them at the time the loan was originated, what happened to change that?  Job loss?  Death of a spouse? Divorce?  This should be a heart-felt letter addressed To Whom It May Concern and be no longer than a couple of paragraphs.  Just state the facts.  It is helpful to write the letter before you call so that you have an answer ready when the interviewer asks.

On this initial interview, and all subsequent phone conversations keep a log, noting the date, time, who you spoke with and the key points of your conversation.  Always ask about the time frame for the next steps and be prepared to follow-up!  Never assume that something is happening….chances are good that your paperwork may become lost, so be ready to re-send it.  And if you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, ask to speak to a supervisor.  But remember that the folks working in the loan workout department are probably over-worked, and a nice comment and a polite “thank you” will make the process less stressful for everyone involved. 

Best of luck! Don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions. I also have a great Excel Financial Worksheet that I’m happy to share.  Just send me a request to marti@kilby.com.

 

It was just announced that the Obama Administration is making some significant changes to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). I noted 3 key points:

1. Homeowners who are struggling financially will be eligible for a 2nd evaluation with a less stringent debt-to-income ratio.
2. The program will be extended to include investor owned properties that are used as rentals.

And ….(drum roll)…

3. The  Administration will triple incentives for lenders who write down principal balances for underwater homeowners, AND they are extending this principal reduction incentive to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac!

It’s this last item that has me excited as I’ve been a proponent of principal reduction for a long time, as noted in my blog post back in 2010. What impact all of this will have of course depends on how quickly the new rules can be put into effect and how well all participating lenders adhere to the new guidelines.

All that being said, I’ll take any good loan modification news that we can get!

What is a Loan Modification?

Watch this short video to learn the truth about mortgage loan modifications.

Thanks to my wonderful and talented video producer husband, I’ve just launched the first in a series of short videos designed to help educate consumers on a variety of real estate topics.

The first in the series discusses your 8 options if you can’t pay your mortgage. Would love to hear your comments!

And please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free, confidential consultation. 619-846-9249.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m no Economics genius. So I was pleasantly surprised to read the October 12th NY Times article by Martin S Feldstein, a Harvard professor of Economics and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. It appears that Professor Feldstein and I agree that the only way to stop the drop in home values is by principal reduction.

The professor points out that for most Americans, their homes are their primary source of wealth. Since the housing bubble burst in 2006, Americans have lost $9 trillion or 40% of their wealth. This sharp decline in wealth means less consumer spending, fewer jobs and a stalled economic recovery.

Today, nearly 15 million homeowners owe more than their homes are worth and of this group about half of the mortgages exceed the value by more than 30%. The professor maintains that housing prices continue to fall because millions of homeowners are defaulting on their mortgages and the sale of the foreclosed properties drive down prices. Because most mortgages are non recourse loans, underwater borrowers have a strong incentive to simply walk away.

Professor Feldstein suggests that instead of throwing tax dollars at ineffective programs aimed at reducing interest rates, the government should address the real problem which is that the amount of the mortgage debt exceeds the value of the home.

Here is a summary of his idea: The government would reduce mortgage principal to 110% of the home value. The cost for doing this would be split between the government and the banks. This would help about 11 million of the 15 million underwater homes at a cost of under $350 billion. Considering the millions of mortgages held by Fannie and Freddie, the government would in essence be paying itself.

This would of course be a voluntary program. In exchange for the principal write-down, the borrower would agree that the new mortgage was a full recourse loan and the government could go after other assets if he defaulted on the loan.

I think it sounds fair, as everyone makes a sacrifice and we put the brakes on strategic default. It is a huge one-time cost, but continuing to allow housing prices to fall could risk another, even more costly recession. And speaking for my short sale clients, I know that most would have gladly signed up for a principal reduction if it meant saving their home.

What do you think?

If I’ve sounded a bit like a broken record over the last 10 months, it’s because I strongly believe that principal reductions are an import key to ending the housing crisis.  People who are struggling to make payments on an upside down mortgage are more likely to avoid default if they are paying on a mortgage based on 2011 home values.  Fewer defaults mean more stable values and ultimately an end to the real estate crash.  And apparently some of the banks now agree.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Bank of America is finally bringing principal reduction modifications to the bargaining table.  For months now, B of A and the nation’s other four largest servicers have been in discussion with state and federal officials in an attempt to settle charges of inappropriate activities in connection with foreclosure proceedings.  Investigations last September revealed that several servicers used illegal affidavits and faulty paperwork in their foreclosure practices, and the banks are now hoping to settle and avoid any further liability.

The state attorneys general have pushed for principal reduction as part of the settlement, but until recently the banks have refused.  The private negotiations have been going on for months, and the June 15th target for resolution has come and gone.  As a means of kicking the discussion into high gear, B of A has now offered principal reductions as a bargaining chip, and the other banks are expected to follow.

Of course, Bank of America is not offering principal reductions because they actually care about keeping people in their homes, but rather because they hope to make the problems caused by sloppy and illegal foreclosure practices go away.  But in any case, the end result could be the answer to the prayers of many homeowners facing default.

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For those of us in the industry, it hardly comes as any surprise that Bank of America has failed to help thousands of Americans receive a permanent loan modification through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  And it now looks like they might have some explaining to do:  A judge has denied the bank’s request to dismiss a case involving tens of thousands of homeowners who claim they were refused help through the HAMP program.

As you remember, HAMP uses federal funds to help struggling homeowners.   Under the program, Bank of America is required to provide foreclosure alternatives and permanent loan modifications to eligible homeowners.

However, according to Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, the firm representing the homeowners. Bank of America has refused to permanently modify the loans of thousands of borrowers, even after successfully completing a Trial Period Plan (TPP).  “The vast majority tell us the same thing: Bank of America claims to have lost their paperwork, failed to return phone calls, made false claims about the status of their loan and even taken actions toward foreclosure without informing homeowners of their options,”  said Berman.

In the lawsuit, Berman seeks to prove that Bank of America “intentionally postpones homeowners’ requests to modify mortgages, depriving borrowers of federal bailout funds that could save them from foreclosure.”

“The bank ends up reaping the financial benefits provided by taxpayer dollars financing TARP-funds and also collects higher fees and interest rates associated with stressed home loans,” Berman added.

The case will be limited to homeowners who entered a TPP, but were denied a permanent modification.  Judge Rya Zobel also ruled that homeowners in nine state, including California could pursue claims in their states where consumer protection laws are stronger. 

So if you’re a homeowner in the middle of trying to get a HAMPmodification form B of A, the outlook is not encouraging.  The federal government has cut-off HAMPfunds to Bank of America until they make improvements in how they administer the program, which could mean more foreclosures and short sales on the horizon for Bank of America borrowers.

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