Fed Chief: Mortgage Crisis to Continue

By
Mortgage and Lending with Cherry Creek Mortgage
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called Tuesday for additional action to prevent more distressed homeowners from falling into foreclosure.

"This situation calls for a vigorous response," Bernanke said in a speech to a banking group in Florida.

Even with some relief efforts under way by industry and government, foreclosures and late payments on home mortgages are likely to rise "for a while longer," Bernanke warned.

Rising foreclosures threaten to worsen the problems in the housing market and for the national economy, which many fear is on the verge of a recession or in one already.

"Reducing the rate of preventable foreclosures would promote economic stability for households, neighborhoods and the nation as a whole," Bernanke said. "Although lenders and servicers have scaled up their efforts and adopted a wider variety of loss-mitigation techniques, more can, and should be, done," the Fed chief said.

One of the suggestions Bernanke made was for mortgage and other financial companies to reduce the amount of the loan to provide relief to a struggling owner. "Principal reductions that restore some equity for the homeowner may be a relatively more effective means of avoiding delinquency and foreclosure," Bernanke said.

With low or negative equity in their home, a stressed borrower has less ability -- because there is no home equity to tap -- and less financial incentive to try to remain in the home, he said.

Bernanke acknowledged this idea might be a tough sell to lenders. Lenders, he said, are reluctant to write down principal. "They said that if they were to write down the principal and house prices were to fall further, they could feel pressured to write down principal again," Bernanke said.

Still, Bernanke suggested such longer-term permanent solutions may work better than shorter-term and temporary ones, where the distressed homeowner could find himself in trouble again. "When the mortgage is `under water' a reduction in principal may increase the expected payoff by reducing the risk of default and foreclosure," he said.

To date, permanent home mortgage modifications that have occurred have typically involved a reduction in the interest rate, while reductions of the principal balance of the loan have been quite rare, he said.

"Measures that lead to a sustainable outcome are to be preferred to temporary palliatives, which may only put off foreclosure and perhaps increase its ultimate costs," Bernanke said

Lenders last year were on pace to initiate roughly 1.5 million home foreclosure proceedings, up from an average of fewer than 1 million new foreclosures in the preceding two years, the Fed chief said. More than one half of the foreclosures started in 2007 were on subprime loans givens to borrowers with blemished credit histories or low incomes.

The housing collapse dragged down home values, especially clobbering these subprime borrowers. Many were left with mortgages that exceeded the value of their homes. They were further socked by low introductory rates on their adjustable mortgages resetting to higher rates, making their monthly payments difficult or impossible to afford. Problems in the credit markets have made refinancing a mortgage harder.

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Rainer
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Mike Eaton, Jr.
Meaton Cashflows - Cincinnati, OH
Home owners and buyers (harder to receive lending) are in desperate times as of late.  Not to mention sellers having to risk a lot of equity in dropping the sales price to make their home sell faster.  Those folks who are in the right situation may want to consider the possibility of seller financing.
Mar 04, 2008 01:02 AM #1
Ambassador
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Larry Bettag
Cherry Creek Mortgage Illinois Residential Mortgage License LMB #0005759 Cherry Creek Mortgage NMLS #: 3001 - Saint Charles, IL
Vice-President of National Production
I read his speech this morning.  He says so much and says so little sometimes.  Im amazed though at the stats especially those of the subprime market.  Interesting to see what the real remedies will be.  I'm not sure that his suggestions will be well taken, or even implemented for that matter.  There's so much ripple based upon these actions.  Nice post.
Mar 04, 2008 01:09 AM #2
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Rick Kellow

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