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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Homeowner-Aid: When Interests Collide

by Calculated Risk on 4/02/2009 07:34:00 PM

From Ruth Simon and Michael Phillips at the WSJ: Homeowner-Aid Plan Caught in Second-Loan Spat

The Obama administration's $75 billion effort to help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure has hit a stumbling block: a fight over how to aid borrowers who have more than one home loan.
One problem is that first and second mortgages are often owned by different parties and may be handled by different mortgage servicers, the companies that collect checks from the borrowers.
This refers to Part II of the Obama plan - under Part II the lender must bring the total monthly payments on mortgages to 38% of the borrowers gross income, and then the U.S. will match dollar for dollar from 38% down to 31% debt-to-income ratio for the borrower. But it was never clear what happens if the borrower had a 2nd mortgage. The only references in Part II to 2nd liens was in the Home Affordable Modification Program Housing Counselor Q&As:
What if the borrower has a second mortgage and would like to apply for a Home Affordable Modification?

Under the Home Affordable Modification program, junior lien holders will be required to subordinate to the modified loan. However, through the Home Affordable Modification an incentive payment of up to $1,000 is available to pay off junior lien holders. Servicers are eligible to receive an additional $500 incentive payment for efforts made to extinguish second liens on loans modified under this program.
That definitely isn't very clear, and most 2nd lien holders wouldn't want to take $1,000. As the WSJ notes:
Banks and other financial institutions own as much as 90% of the $1.08 trillion in home-equity loans and lines of credit in the marketplace ... Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. have the largest home-equity portfolios, SMR said.
"We are going to have to take a haircut on the second" lien, said one bank executive. "But we don't think we should get wiped out."
And here is one possibility being discussed:
One proposal would require lenders to cap monthly payments on second loans at a set percentage of the borrower's gross income. The lender would be expected to "eat the vast majority" of the cost, with the government subsidizing a small portion ...
Conflicting interests ... what a surprise.