12/21/2010

Are You Having Trouble With a Loan Modification?

It's probably no surprise to many mortgage borrowers by now in this Christmas season to realize that they've had a tough time getting their loan modified this year. If they do not qualify for the Home Affordable Loan Program (HAMP), they try their bank's program. Often this application process goes on for months, while the homeowner may grow short on funds and cannot continue the monthly payment, and then they begin the process for a short sale, or worse, foreclosure. This story has been repeated over and over by many borrowers. If a loan modificaton is approved by the lender, often times the delinquent payments and refinance fees are added to the principal, making the new higher payment very unattractive, so the borrower rejects it.
One issue is that lenders have very little incentive to modify loans, as the cost of doing so cannot be billed back to the investor, and the work involved is very labor intensive and is not easily automated. Many banks have not invested in qualified staffing to take care of the high volume of distressed owners. And their agreements with investors on securitized mortgages may not actually cover the details of completing loan modifications, but do address foreclosure, so they believe they are in a risky situation with fulfillment of their contract terms.
In a 31-page study by the Federal Reserve, based on data from over 105,000 loans from 94 loans servicers dating from 2005 from California, Oregon and Washington, to determine who receives a loan modification (no discernible differences according to race and income differentials were found, "In fact, we find that Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Asians are slightly more likely to receive a loan modification, and that these loan modifications have slightly larger reductions in their interest rate than those of similarly situated white borrowers"), it was still unclear after its research into the behavior of various financial institutions as to why the number of loan modifications was still falling well short of the number of foreclosures, even though the HAMP program has been declared effective with borrowers who received one, a group with a low re-default rate, despite literature published to the contrary.  Here is the complete Federal Reserve study. 

Another very clear problem is that some banks do reach out to their customers, but many borrowers fail to make contact with their banks, even after being contacted by them. And the longer a delinquent borrower spends in delinquency without contacting their bank, the more likely the home will be lost to foreclosure.

If you are interested in a loan modification, you might be successful, and you should contact your loan servicer.  But it's important to understand that possibly no matter how much information you submit to your bank, for a variety of reasons you may not get one, or you may have to struggle for up to a year or more with them. Banks are not equal in this situation--one of the factors may be if your loan is a portfolio loan or one securitized with investors. The study mentions the "lack of transparency" because data is issued in the aggregate, and information directly linked to borrowers is still difficult to track. Also, according to this study, 52% of foreclosure sales lack "reciprocal servicer contact" (does that mean the bank didn't return the borrower's initial contact)?

Overall, banks recoup a little more money if a property is sold in a short sale, rather than going into foreclosure and coming back on the market as an REO. This usually costs banks more money, and their "loss severity" rates are looked at closely when making their decisions.

The bottom line is: If you are having trouble making payments, contact your bank now. If you have to keep submitting your information over and over again for periods of 30-60-90 days, then you should obtain assistance through a Realtor who is familiar with short sales, or an attorney who specializes in loan modifications, not just any attorney, for further help. Don't wait too long.

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1 comment:

REO properties buyers and sellers said...

This is a good advice for my sister who's having difficulty with loan modification. I'll bookmark this one and share it with her. Keep it up and thanks for the info!

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