LOAN MODIFICATION, WASHINGTON
As the Federal Trade Commission has been cracking down, lenders are now under pressure to assure a loan modification for more homeowners unable to afford their mortgage loan payments, or those now "underwater." Will it help? Banks and lenders have shown over these last months that they are in no hurry to assure distressed homeowners a modification. It has been estimated that nearly 5 million Americans will lose their homes over the course of the next three years, even with the government modification effort.
So far the Obama Administration has rolled out its $75 billion plan in hopes of spurring lenders to help modify the mortgages of millions of distressed homeowners. Upon unveiling the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), the Obama administration said its original $50 billion plan would help 4 million borrowers, about 1 in 15 Americans with a mortgage, through its modification incentives. However, according to Treasury findings, only about 230,000 trial modifications are in process so far, representing only 9% of the 2.7 million mortgages that are at least 60 days past due and considered eligible. [Boston Globe, 8/05/2009]
On Tuesday August 5, the Treasury Department released the first monthly report on the performance of loan servicers in the Obama administration's home mortgage modification program. As reported, only 15 percent of eligible homeowners have been offered assistance under the Home Affordable Modification Program, and some loan servicers have yet to modify a single loan. The Treasury said that loan modification servicers' performances had been "uneven," and requested they ramp up efforts to reach 500,000 trial modifications by November. The Administration now hopes that threat of bankruptcy will motivate mortgage servicers to pursue more modifications. [Forbes, 8/04/09]
Under the Administration's program, if a borrower is in "imminent default," the lender and government will rework the mortgage by lowering interest rates, extending the term of payments, or lowering the principal to reduce the monthly payment to less than a third of the borrower's current gross income. If eligible, the borrower's payments would be lowered to 31 percent of their present gross income, allowing them to save their home and afford to stay in it. [Forbes, 8/6/2009]
Bank of America had the highest number of eligible borrowers due to its acquisition of subprime giant Countrywide, however only offered trial modifications to 176,000 borrowers, just 13% of those who qualified, and only 4% took the bank up on it.
While lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo have received billions in federal bailout money, and give the impression that they are willing to work with borrowers, it has become increasingly common over the past two years for lenders to deny the majority of modifications. Many lenders told borrowers to wait for details on a planned new government modification program, offering them hope that more help was soon to come, however none came.
A common problem faced by borrowers is that lenders such as Countrywide and Bank of America deny modifications for homeowners who are not behind in payments yet have experienced a drop in income. These lenders seem far less focused on working with borrowers and more willing to let these homes go to foreclosure.
So-called "non-profit" loan modification servicers are being paid incentives from the government programs in an attempt to increase the ability for mortgage mitigation. Under HAMP, servicers now receive $1,000 from the government for every borrower who is able to make their payments for three months straight, and up to $4,500 for three years of regular payments. Under the plan, borrowers must complete a three-month trial period making their newly lowered payments, coincidentally weeding out borrowers who will end up in re-default, unable to afford the lowered payments as well. [ABC News, 8/4/09]
Trying to get a home loan modification done yourself is often much more difficult, and frequently results in inappropriate modifications, unaffordable payments that can then result in future re-default and foreclosure, or even a worse situation than when they began the process. Borrowers seeking modifications from their lenders have repeatedly been asked to fax mortgage information and hardship letters only to wait for a call that never comes. While working and struggling to stay afloat, distressed homeowners are unable to call and keep up with the banks and lenders in order to get any help. Many homeowners call their lender numerous times trying to work out their situation, sometimes dozens of times over months of waiting, only to be told to call a different department or wait longer because the office doesn't have their paperwork yet.
By using a certified and reputable modification company, homeowners commonly have a much greater chance of acquiring a legitimate and successful mortgage mitigation. Modification companies are able to represent the borrower in a way they are unable to do themselves, and most homeowners find themselves getting lost in the shuffle of millions of modification requests. As a result, distressed homeowners are left without any communication on their case, placed in "cookie-cutter" plans that do not offer them the best options, or are simply denied automatically due to strict requirements, and often end up in a worse situation than they were before they began the process. With a free loan modification evaluation, homeowners can immediately see what savings and benefits they qualify for under new government programs, and begin the process of saving their home.
The Obama administration's "Making Home Affordable" plan now qualifies thousands of Washington homeowners for hundreds a month in savings with a home loan modification or mortgage refinance. Any homeowner now facing foreclosure, or about to be, should immediately begin exploring all the options available to them, including the new government programs designed to help you get a successful loan modification.