Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fannie, Freddie and the Struggles of HAMP

by Bill McBride on 12/26/2009 01:08:00 PM

Note: As I noted, this was just speculation ...

It is possible that the Treasury directive on Wednesday to extend the review period for all active HAMP trial modifications until at least Jan 31, 2010, and the announcement on Thursday to uncap the potential losses for Fannie and Freddie are somewhat related.

There is a possibility that the Treasury is planning on introducing a principal reduction component to HAMP in January, and this could lead to significantly larger losses for Fannie and Freddie (just speculation on my part). There has been no announcement yet, and even if this is proposed it might only apply to Fannie and Freddie related loans, and not private MBS (the number of Fannie/Freddie loans compared to private MBS varies significantly by servicer).

In general HAMP is a fine modification program, but its reach is limited. As I noted in February when the program was announced:

[A] problem with Part 2 is that this lowers the interest rate for borrowers far underwater, but other than the $1,000 per year principal reduction and normal amortization, there is no reduction in the principal. This probably leaves the homeowner far underwater (owing more than their home is worth). When these homeowners eventually try to sell, they will probably still face foreclosure - prolonging the housing slump. These are really not homeowners, they are debtowners / renters.
Of course Treasury initially oversold the HAMP program claiming the initiative would "reach up to 3 to 4 million at-risk homeowners". Now they are defining "reach" as being "offered to".

The key problem for the Treasury is they are concerned house prices will become unglued again if another flood of foreclosures hit the market. And this in turn could lead to further losses for the banks.

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