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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Modification Horror Stories

by Calculated Risk on 1/14/2010 11:33:00 AM

Update: Why are so many examples "mortgage brokers"? But the part about extensions not doing favors for homeowners is correct.

From Paul Kiel at ProPublica: Homeowners Say Banks Not Following Rules for Loan Modifications

A few excerpts:

Reynolds was a prime candidate for a loan adjustment and was among the earliest homeowners to receive a trial modification.

His mortgage brokerage business had followed the market downward, and as a result, he’d fallen three months behind on his interest-only mortgage. ...

Soon after the loan program was announced last February, Reynolds applied. He received an application in late April and was accepted, making his first payment of about $2,400 (down from $3,300) in May. He made six more payments. ... [In late November, he received an answer: He was denied a permanent loan modification.

The reason? A Chase employee explained to Reynolds that they’d determined his financial difficulties weren’t permanent. In his application, he’d written that he believed that the government’s rescue efforts would “save the U.S. housing market” and that his business “will once again be profitable.” The Chase employee told him that statement indicated his hardship was only temporary.
Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas told ProPublica that Reynolds had been denied "because the skill and ability is still there to earn the income." Since he’d "stated in his letter that business would be picking up," it was "not considered a permanent hardship," Holevas said.
emphasis added
Just an anecdote, but one of many. And on the length of the trial period:
[T]rial modifications routinely last more than six months, homeowners and housing advocates say.

There are a number of adverse consequences of a trial period’s dragging on, said the consumer law center’s Thompson. Because a homeowner is not making a full payment, the balance of the mortgage grows during the trial period. The servicer reports the shortfall to credit reporting agencies, so the homeowner’s credit score can drop. And most importantly, says Thompson, the homeowner isn’t saving money in case the modification fails and the home is foreclosed. "Keeping someone in a trial modification really does not do them a favor," she said.
The trial period was extended last year from 3 months to 5 months, probably because of the low conversion rate to permanent status, and then extended again in late December to at least the end of January. This isn't doing any favors for the homeowners that will eventually be rejected.

As I've noted before, HAMP is a fine modification program for the people that qualify and aren't deep underwater on their homes - AND actually get a permanent modification! (added) However the program was oversold - I doubt this program will "reach up to 3 to 4 million at-risk homeowners" as Treasury originally projected. So too many homeowners were allowed in the trial programs without sufficient pre-screening - and the program was started before servicers were really ready.