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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Refinancing with Negative Equity

by Calculated Risk on 12/12/2009 03:37:00 PM

From David Streitfeld in the NY Times: Rates Are Low, but Banks Balk at Refinancing (ht Dave)

On refinancing with negative equity:

Mark Belvedere bought a condominium in a San Francisco suburb in early 2004 and refinanced it in 2005. He now owes $235,000 on a property that would sell for barely half that today.

Mr. Belvedere said he would be willing to live with all that lost equity if he could refinance his loan from a variable rate, which could eventually go as high as 12 percent, into a 30-year fixed term.

His lender said no, citing the diminished value of the property. “It makes no sense and is so frustrating,” Mr. Belvedere said. “I’m ready and willing to pay the mortgage for the next 30 years, but they act like they’d rather have me walk away.”
Unfortunately David Streitfeld doesn't provide any further information on Belvedere's loan. If the loan was held by a bank, then it might make sense for the bank to refinance the loan (this lowers the bank's risk of default). However Belvedere's "lender" might be a servicing company and the loan may have been securitized. Then it is impossible to refinance because the current holders of the note would be paid off, and no new lender would make a loan greater than the value of the collateral.

As Streitfeld notes, the GSEs have a program called Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) that will allow lenders to refinance loans upto 125% of the property value. But this is only for loans the GSEs already holds or insures (and because refinancing lowers the risk of default). This wouldn't help Belvedere because he owes almost twice what his property is worth.