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Homeowners fight for loan modifications from swamped mortgage servicers
By Pamela Yip
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)
DALLAS - After losing his job in January, Stuart Miller has fought hard to keep his home out of foreclosure.
At the end of May, the 55-year-old Plano, Texas, man began trying to get Wells Fargo & Co. to review his application for a loan modification.
After making repeated calls, he finally was told that the company would place a three-month moratorium on his mortgage payments.
"They're going to give me July, August and September, but I haven't paid June yet, " said Miller, a former trainer for a franchise company.
He's among many struggling homeowners who say their attempts to get a loan modification have been met with either long waits to get their case reviewed, no response at all or a runaround.
The Obama administration is leaning on mortgage servicers - the companies that collect and process mortgage payments - to step up modifications.
A report released last week by the Treasury Department showed wide variations in how quickly mortgage companies are helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures.
It also found the government's program is helping only a tiny fraction of struggling homeowners. As of July, only 9 percent of eligible borrowers had seen their mortgage payments reduced with modified loans, the report said.
"Much more progress is needed, " Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Shaun Donovan, secretary for Housing and Urban Development, wrote in a letter to mortgage companies. "There appears to be substantial variation among servicers in performance and borrower experience, as well as inconsistent results in converting trial modification offers into actual trial modifications."
Mortgage servicers said they're committed to working out more loan modifications, but they're overwhelmed by the number of homeowners all wanting help at the same time.
"It's a new ballgame, " said John Dalton, president of the Financial Services Roundtable's Housing Policy Council. "The delay is the fact that we've got 3 million people today who are 60 days past due on their loans. These servicers have not been accustomed to and were not geared up to deal with that many incoming calls with people having difficulty."
The industry also is reinventing itself to add loan modifications to its traditional role as the collector and processor of mortgage payments, he said.
"Loan modifications are a relatively new thing, " Dalton said.
A loan modification is different from a traditional mortgage refinancing. When you refinance, you sign a new contract for a new loan. A loan modification involves changing the existing loan by lengthening its term or lowering the interest rate so that you can continue to afford your mortgage payment.
Homeowners may be eligible for a loan modification if they have a mortgage payment greater than 31 percent of their monthly gross income and can document that a financial hardship has made the payment unaffordable.
Miller, the Plano homeowner, hopes he will soon receive a confirmation letter from Wells Fargo with the details of his loan modification. He said the process he underwent to get to this point was frustrating.
"My frustration is the time that it takes, " Miller said. "They have control of my financial life, and I can't talk to a decision-maker. They literally get to say whether I get to live in my house or my life gets completely turned upside-down, and I am literally at their mercy."
Wells Fargo officials said they're reviewing his situation.
"While the majority of our customers who request help are getting through to us and receiving the help they need, we know we've fallen short of our customer service goals in some cases, " Mike Heid, co-president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said this week. "We've recently undertaken new steps that will soon enable us to qualify most borrowers (for a modification)."
After I called a Wells Fargo spokesman for a response to Miller's situation, a company representative contacted him and told him that the financial institution would not report his delinquency to credit bureaus until his situation's resolved.
"I feel better now that I have a name of a person to talk to, " Miller said.
Bonnie Mathias of Dallas hopes for a similar outcome. She has applied for a loan modification with her servicer, CitiMortgage.
"It's been a nightmare, " said Mathias, a customer service representative at AT&T Advertising Solutions.
Her husband's company, which sold commercial exercise equipment, went out of business last September. He found another job, but his income is lower now.
Mathias applied for a loan modification in February.
"I'm having a difficult time getting my counselor from CitiMortgage to contact me, " said Mathias, a chapter leader at ACORN, the community organization that has been putting pressure on mortgage companies to help struggling homeowners. "This is my second counselor, and I have yet to talk to either one of them."
Mathias received a letter last month from a Citi representative saying she had been trying to reach Mathias.
"I have left four messages on her voice mail, " she said.
Despite the difficulty, Mathias doesn't plan to give up and advises others to do the same.
"Persistence absolutely is the key, " she said. "Do not give up."
When you apply, have at the ready the necessary documents, such as tax returns, pay stubs and a letter describing why your mortgage is unaffordable, and what caused your income to fall or expenses to rise. Not having the necessary documents will gum up the process of getting a loan modification.
And if anyone says you have to be behind on your mortgage payment to be eligible, don't believe them.
Homeowners are eligible if they are "at risk of imminent default."
Unfortunately, many responsible homeowners have been thrown into financial chaos by the sour economy and are now at risk of default.
They're making desperate, good-faith attempts to save their homes. It behooves mortgage servicers to move much faster to help those people.
RESOURCES FOR HOMEOWNERS
- www.makinghomeaffordable.gov - The Obama administration's program to help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure.
- www.hopenow.com - A group of counselors, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage market participants formed to help distressed homeowners. Call toll-free 1-888-995-4673 to reach credit counselors to who can help you with options.
- ACORN Housing - Call 214-823-4580 to find a housing counselor for free help.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research
(c) 2009, The Dallas Morning News.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Loan Modificaiton Fraud - SCAM - ATTORNEY GENERAL
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Madison Heights, Michigan
Best Loan Modification Companies - How to Stop Foreclosure
Countrywide consumers have many question right now concerning Loan Modification Companies and the legitimacy of loan modification programs. However, it has been proven that Loan Modifications are a reality and that it is possible to stop foreclosure proceedings through them.
According to Hector Milla editor of the “Best Loan Modification Companies” website -- www.BestLoanModificationCompanies.com -- through a loan mod those facing a foreclose proceeding are able to;
“… lower their payments, secondly they can get a lower interest rate and they can lower their overall principal, finally they are able to stop foreclosure immediately once they get the loan modified …
But that is not all, the value of homes has decreased and it is very likely that the value of houses close to be foreclosed has been decreased too, then it is possible to save in taxes, a visit to the county tax assessor is highly suggested, see the home values in the area and get information about the way to lower taxes based on the decrease. It is very likely that, if a reduction in taxes is granted that value will be maintained for some time.
H. Milla added “several people are trying to get their loan modified by themselves, that it is not recommendable if you don’t have some type of real estate background, the paper work can be tricky sometimes, trying to save some money can produce devastating effects in the future by misinterpreting the paperwork involved. The best and smart move is research in order to find a reputable company to handle your loan modification…”
The number of people desperate to save their homes is enormous nowadays, so lenders are more than willing to help borrowers to resolve foreclosure problems, those that do not know how to stop foreclosure should get --once again-- help from one of the best debt consolidation companies in the market. A home is a dream, use all possible alternatives to keep that dream alive.
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5 ways to stop foreclosure: How loan modification works
The housing market is showing signs of recovering, but a lot of homeowners are still looking for solutions to devalued homes, or adjustable rate mortgages.
If you are in trouble with your home, and think you have exhausted all your options, there still may be hope.
According to Dawn Aguilar, owner and founder of The Foreclosure Group, there are new programs coming into play all the time.
Aguilar created The Foreclosure Group in March of 2008, out of necessity.
"As a Senior Loan Specialist for many years, I began getting calls from so many former clients asking me to help them with their loan modifications, " said Aguilar. "When the economic downturn began and the bottom fell out of the mortgage industry, I quickly understood that most homeowners have no idea how to get their loans modified. My business focus came about out of need, out of understanding and, most of all, out of the desire to help homeowners in a compassionate manner stay in the homes that they love."
While each situation is different, and there is no one solution that works for everyone, here are some of Aguilar’s tips to dealing with a troubling housing situation.
Five ways to stop foreclosure:
1. Loan modification (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, traditional)
2. Short sale: If your home is worth less than the amount you owe, Aguilar suggests you find out if the lender will cooperate on the short sale. Aguilar says this will affect your credit, but not as badly as foreclosure.
3. Deed-in lieu of foreclosure: Aguilar says this is when you deed the house back to the lender. This process will affect credit the same as a foreclosure.
4. Repayment plan (forbearance): This is where the lender will make arrangements to pay back missed payments before taking legal action.
5. Sell your home
Six criteria for loan modification:
1. Job loss/unexpected unemployment
2. Sudden illness or medical emergency
3. Divorce/loss of second income
4. Job demotion or promotion denials
5. Inability to pay an adjustable interest rate/with no option to refinance
6. Excessive debt obligations
Five things to watch out for when hiring a loan modification company
1. Guarantees, there are NO guarantees ever. Aguilar says beware of a loan modification officer who guarantees they can get you a home loan modification
2. Offer to buy your house for cash at a price that is below market.
3. Someone who tells you to make your house mortgage payment directly to them
4. Advising you to transfer your property deed or title.
5. Makes a plan to pay your mortgage and then they will lease it back to you.
How Can I Get a Loan Modification and Eliminate My Second Mortgage?
One of the trickier aspects of loan modification involves second mortgages. Before the market plummeted, many lenders offered 100% financing programs, through the 80/20 program. A first mortgage would be given for 80% of the sales price and a second mortgage would be given for the additional 20%. When lenders started foreclosure proceedings, the second mortgages were often written off as losses since property values declined so quickly.
In an effort to stall foreclosures, many homeowners would file bankruptcy prior to the sale date, which in essence held up the foreclosure for a few months.
Bankruptcy laws allow judges to approve certain loan modifications and even give them authority to remove or "strip" the second mortgage lien. This process is only approved under certain circumstances. It is available to those trying to reorganize their debts under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
A Chapter 13 allows the court to reorganize a persons debt, but they cannot change a homestead mortgage. There are certain sections of bankruptcy laws that clearly state that a debt or lien is only secure to the extent of the asset's value. If there is a second mortgage that exceeds the value of the property, than that debt technically is unsecured.
If you purchased with a 100% financing program, or if you obtained a second mortgage prior to the market crash, you have a fair chance of getting if removed. The court will probably require an appraisal to determine the current property value and it is possible that your second mortgage company might file a motion opposing it. It's not the norm, but it can happen. Once you have the court's approval and have made your payment plans you can get a discharge from the court which in essence extinguishes the second mortgage.
Many laws vary from state to state. Before filing any sort of bankruptcy, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney specializing in bankruptcy. Everyone's situation is different and there is no one size fits all plan when modifying.
Litton Loan Complaints Continue Following Settlement
Distressed homeowners target Goldman Sachs subsidiary
By Jon Hood
August 19, 2009
• Litton Loan Complaints Continue Following Settlement
• Consumer Complaints about Litton
Four months after Litton Loan Services settled a class action accusing the company of imposing bogus late fees, complaints about Litton continue to roll into ConsumerAffairs.com. Some consumers allege that Litton failed to timely post payments to their accounts, the main issue in the class action. Still others get the run-around from the mortgage servicing company on the possibility of receiving a loan adjustment, leading to confusion and, in many cases, the threat of foreclosure.
As a “loan servicer, ” Litton -- owned by Goldman Sachs -- handles the operational aspects of consumer loans: sending out statements, receiving and tracking payments, notifying consumers of overdue payments, and initiating foreclosure proceedings.
In April, Litton settled a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company failed to credit borrowers' mortgage payments in a timely fashion, then turned around and charged late fees for the purportedly tardy payments. In some cases, consumers' accounts were put into default. The suit covered all homeowners whose mortgage transaction was transferred or sold to Litton between October 2002 and February 2009, and who were charged erroneous late fees within 60 days of the transfer.
Litton tracks consumer payment records using a complex automated servicing platform. Known as “Risk Assessment Default Analytic and Reporting” (or “RADAR”), the system transfers information from primary lenders to Litton for processing. This procedure is known as the “boarding process.” According to the suit, RADAR glitches were the main cause of payments being wrongly flagged as late.
In court papers, former Litton employee Debra Murray said that “[I]t was … common that information regarding loan histories was improperly transferred from the prior lender during the loan boarding process.” Murray further said that 95% of consumer complaints “were caused by Litton's mistakes in servicing the borrowers' loans and were resolved in favor of the borrower.” The bulk of these complaints alleged that Litton failed to credit consumers for payments they had already made.
Murray also said that Litton was becoming overwhelmed by the number of accounts it handled, and became increasingly careless and negligent as a result.
For example, Murray said that when a payment couldn't be matched to an account, it was placed in a catch-all “payment clearing account, ” where it sat for months or even years. Meanwhile, the account of the consumer who sent in the payment went into default, collecting late fees and sometimes ending up in foreclosure. Murray also said that, when she found a missing payment, she was instructed to apply it as of the day it was discovered, rather than the date it was received. This, too, caused customers who sent their payments in on time to be assessed a late fee.
In July 2007, a federal judge in California certified a class of plaintiffs alleging claims under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA. The case was settled in April; as part of the agreement, Litton agreed to create a settlement fund containing $537, 500, from which plaintiffs can draw up to $60 each. The narrow definition of the class and relatively small settlement amount likely left some consumers disappointed, but it at least signaled that Litton was willing to put the issue to rest.
Four months after approval of the settlement, ConsumerAffairs.com continues to be bombarded with Litton complaints. An overwhelming number of homeowners report that they were promised a loan modification, only to be told months later that they did not qualify. In some cases, Litton dragged the process out by claiming they haven't received necessary paperwork or that the evaluation is taking longer than expected; in many cases the delay is so great that consumers come dangerously close to foreclosure.
In fact, it wasn't until earlier this month that Litton began officially participating in the federal government's mortgage modification program, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
Low-income advocacy group ACORN labeled mortgage servicers that don't participate in the program as "homewreckers, " but Litton and HomEq, the only other lender that had failed to participate in the program, have since announced they'll start doing so.
Litton said it has offered more than 35, 000 trial modifications using terms "consistent with the Treasury program" since it was announced. Litton modified another 44, 000 loans, the company said, in the 12 months before the start of the program.
"Our company has used modifications as the primary method of helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. In the 12 months prior to the announcement of the Home Affordable Modification program, we modified more than 44, 000 loans, representing about 10% of our loan portfolio. As the details of the federal program emerged, we continued to modify loans, and by adopting this program, we will continue to make every effort to keep homeowners in their homes, ” said Larry B. Litton, Jr., Litton’s president and CEO.
Litton said customers who are having difficulty making their mortgage payments are encouraged to call (800) 247-9727 or visit www.littonloan.com to determine if they are eligible for a modification or other loan workout solution.
Homeowners beg to differ
But homeowners who have sought assistance from Litton say the process isn't as easy as the company claims.
Al of Empire, MI writes:
I applied for a loan modification March 4, 2009. Since that time I have sent all requested documents and forms including tax forms, proof of pension and SS income. These documents were claimed via phone conversation as "haven't been received" or "in review" or "I can't tell you" or "we'll let you know in writing. They would never commit to a process or approximate date. Now as of July 28, 2009, nothing.
Delianes of Miami, FL had a similar experience:
In December 2008 I had requested a loan modification to Litton Loan Services. I was paying my monthly payments on time but struggling in order to keep my loan current. They told me that it takes aprox 90 days. A month after I called them and they said that they never received any documents, even though I had the fax confirmation, I faxed all the documents again. A month later they sent me a letter that my request was denied because we had insufficient income.
Barbara of Bowie, MD has waited over two months for a response. Barbara writes:
I contacted Litton to receive a loan modification and sent them all the paper work. They stated they will do a worked out a plan to decrease my paments. In April 2009, I spoke with a Litton representative regarding my loan modification. It is now June 2009 and … I have not heard from Litton Loan Servicing Company. I don't know if Litton really modifies loans. According to there website they help people to stay out of foreclosure.
More disturbingly, some consumers also complain that Litton is still holding mortgage payments they sent in long ago. Missy of Northlewisburg, OH writes:
They held mortgage payments we did make for reasons I don't know. Some are still being held today. So it looks like we are behind on payments.
Mary of Vista, CA says that Litton failed to apply payments to her escrow account:
Loan modification since Oct 2008. I have had nothing but problems with this company. Paid 1, 500 towards the escrow account yet they did not apply it towards the account. Now they say I owe 3, 500 toward escrow account. I recently paid 900 towards escrow account they are not showing that paid.
If Litton is again applying payments late, they are putting themselves at risk of incurring a second class action, or at least a number of individual lawsuits. While consumers covered by the first settlement agreement are unable to pursue further claims, the same is not true of homeowners who fall outside the class definition. The Supreme Court has held that class actions only bar subsequent actions if they could have been litigated during the original suit.
Litton's practices with regard to loan modification could also put it on shaky legal ground, given the strict disclosure requirements imposed by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and other federal legislation.
Read more: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/08/litton.html#ixzz0OjIRqxWg
Why Mortgage Loan Modification Is Not Catching On
Posted by: NuWire Investor @ 5:59 AM
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The government has invested a lot of political capital, in addition to actual capital, to help struggling homeowners stay in their homes through mortgage modification. However the government is finding little success with this program for a variety of reasons. The following post from Blown Mortgage explains some of the reasons for this.
Home loan modifications have been presented as the silver bullet that will kill the evil wolf scaring the living daylights out of investors and homeowners. The government does seem to be willing to place its money (or own money) where their collective mouth is. The White House has invested $75 billion of our hard earned bucks into the Making Homes Affordable with the hope that it will prevent 3 to 4 million Americans from losing their home to a bank foreclosure.
Unfortunately the plan is not exactly burning rubber and is off to a slow start. At the moment only 9% of eligible homeowners are taking advantage of the loan mod plan and have modified their loan terms. The government is not happy with these figures and have begun to pressure and arm-twist banks and lending institutions to get their finger out and start modifying. In a recent report the government named and shamed banks that were not pulling their corporate weight behind the mortgage modification program and are not facilitating the modifications borrowers need.
Why is this the case? Why are banks so slow to act?
There are various reasons, most of which we have already discussed in articles here at blownmortgage.com. These include:
1) Banks are not currently set up for loan modifications. They are set to sell loans and then collect the payments not reduce principals and reduce interest.
2) The large volume of loan mod applications in such a short period of time.
3) Lack of information and understanding about the program and how it works.
4) Mortgage backed securities.
Why mortgage backed securities?
Mortgage backed securities are products like futures and stocks companies can buy or sell. Obviously just like with the purchase of the stocks of a company the purchase of mortgage backed securities provides the owner with a say on how the mortgages are managed.
This is well illustrated by the story of many homeowners that cannot modify their loans because the company that has bought a security backed by their mortgage will not allow them. For instance Wells Fargo may say no to a loan modification you request even though they don’t own your mortgage.
This is caused by ambiguous rules and a rather shady web of interests and ownership. This is rather sad because it means that the group that is more likely to need help, those whose mortgages were sold or used as a security cannot receive the loan modification they need to stabilize their situation.
This article has been republished from Blown Mortgage, a mortgage news and analysis site.
Labels: loan modification
Why Mortgage Loan Modification Is Not Catching On
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Frustration rises over mortgage relief program
Government's latest effort to stem rising tide is mired in problems
After months of dead ends, rejections and runarounds from bank representatives, Dan Binder is still in loan modification limbo.
When Binder lost his job as a media researcher, he and his wife left their southern California home in July 2008 and relocated to North Carolina where he found a new job in the media business.
Since then, he’s never missed a payment on the three-bedroom home in Riverside County, Calif., he said, though it's lost about half its value since he bought it in 2005 for $418, 000. When his wife lost her job after the move, he called his lender, Wells Fargo, to see if the bank could rewrite the loan to lower the monthly payments.
Since then, he said, he’s gotten conflicting responses from multiple bank representatives, one of whom said he was days away from a new loan that was subsequently rejected.
At one point, after assurances that he submitted all the appropriate paperwork, he was told a form was missing. When he provided it, he was told the remaining paperwork was more than 30 days old and he would have to update and resubmit each document. At another point, he said, he was told his file showed a sizable credit card debt he didn’t owe.
After his latest rejection he asked for an explanation.
“They said the notes from the investors (holding the mortgage) said, ‘You spend too much on food, ’ ” he said.
If all this sounds familiar, it's because homeowners around the country have been jumping through similar hoops with the same fruitless results.
Nearly two years after the federal government’s first program to slow the relentless rise in the pace of home foreclosures, the latest attempt, known as Making Home Affordable, is turning out to be another painful disappointment for millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes.
Dozens of e-mails from msnbc.com readers report months of futile effort to modify their loans. The list of problems includes misdirected calls, lost paperwork and conflicting advice from multiple representatives for the same lender.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the company can't comment on individual customer's loans due to privacy restrictions. But she said the company is "working with all of its customers who experience hardships and need assistance with their mortgage payments up the point of actual foreclosure sale.”
“As the government guidelines have changed and as we have gotten more options to help people, there has been some communication confusion that we are working to absolutely get on top of and correct for customers, ” she said.
HUD-approved housing counselors — the frontline professionals trying to help borrowers modify mortgages — have expressed frustrations with a variety of roadblocks, bureaucratic snafus and ongoing confusion about the program.
“Even if (the homeowner) gets hold of somebody, that person might not necessarily understand the complexity of (the program), ” said Helene Raynaud, an executive at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, an umbrella group that certifies and sets standards for housing counselors. “Counselors end up talking to different people as well, which makes it very difficult. Depending on who they talk to, and the level of seniority and the level of training and the different servicers (they deal with), they get completely different outcomes."
Despite recent signs of a bottom in the housing market, the pace of foreclosures shows no signs of slowing.
More than 13 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are either behind on their payments or in foreclosure, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. As of June, more than 4 percent of all borrowers were in foreclosure and about 9 percent had missed at least one payment. A separate report found that more than 272, 000 borrowers were at some stage of foreclosure in July, up 8 percent from June and 55 percent from July 2007, according to RealtyTrac, which maintains a national database of foreclosure filings.
The continuing rise in foreclosures delays any meaningful recovery in the U.S. economy, in part because housing typically leads the economy out of recession. Although there have been recent signs of life in home construction and housing sales, they have been weak and from extremely depressed levels. Every new foreclosed home increases the unsold inventory on the market and cuts into demand for new construction.
Foreclosed homes sold in distressed sales or auctions also push nearby home prices lower. Unless the pace of foreclosures can be slowed or stopped, millions more homeowners who are current on their loans will be forced "under water" — owing more than their house is worth. Those homeowners become new candidates for default. One recent research report from Deutsche Bank estimates that roughly half of all U.S. homeowners will be under water by 2011.
Falling home prices also destroy billions of dollars of consumer wealth as homeowners watch their home equity evaporate. That loss of consumer spending power creates another major headwind to any economic recovery.
The collapse of home prices in high foreclosure neighborhoods also slows economic activity by forcing owners to make tough choices when they sell their house. Readers in high-foreclosure areas report that they're unable to relocate for a new job, buy a bigger house for an expanding family or downsize for a planned retirement because they can’t afford to sell their home at a loss.
When Carol Hardee’s daughter Laura died last year, she faced an uphill battle selling the daughter's Atlanta home, which was purchased in 2000 for $150, 000. In February Hardee got an offer for $140, 000. But with so many foreclosed properties in the neighborhood, the appraisal came back at just $75, 000, and the deal fell through
“There was a house just around the corner from her — it was like a three- or four- bedroom house — that sold for $25, 000, ” she said.
Hardee said she was unable to work out a loan modification with her lender, and the house eventually sold at a foreclosure auction for $100, 000, which still left her with some equity to settle her daughter’s estate.
“I had no choice, ” she said. “I had to sell the house. There were bills to pay with it.”
Frustration with mortgage relief efforts also has led desperate homeowners to fall victim to a variety of foreclosure "rescue" scams. Since April, the Federal Trade Commission has brought 14 cases over these schemes, while 23 state attorneys general and other agencies have taken action against 178 companies. Last year, reported incidents of all forms of mortgage fraud hit an all-time high — up 26 percent from 2007, according to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute.
Making Home Affordable is supposed to offer troubled borrowers two possible solutions. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is designed to lower payments on existing loans by cutting the interest rate and stretching out the term. The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) gives borrowers who are current on their payments but “under water” a chance to refinance into a new loan for the same amount, with lower payments.
The program pays incentives of several thousand dollars for each modified loan to mortgage servicers, which often are not the same as the lenders who hold the mortgage.
Lenders and servicers report their own frustrations with the MHA program, which was unveiled by the Obama administration in March with no advance notice to allow these companies to gear up and train workers. As recently as last month, key components of the program were still not in place, and some of the initial guidelines limit the program’s "potential to help homeowners, " according to a July report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The report also found that "a number of HAMP programs remain largely undefined."
Though many servicers had already increased staff to work on troubled loans, they've been overwhelmed by the volume of applications for affordable loans.
“The number of calls coming in is staggering, ” said a representative from one of the 10 largest servicers, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak publicly. “You’re talking about call after call after call after call after call of people in bad economic circumstances needing attention for their loan.”
Servicers say they also have been frustrated by the tepid response to their efforts to reach out to homeowners at risk of default. The servicer representative who asked not to be identified said her company sent out one round of 45, 000 packages to homeowners believed to be at risk; only 15 percent of them responded.
Staffing is also an issue at the Treasury’s Homeownership Preservation Office, which was set up in November to address the sharp rise in foreclosures. As of mid-July, the office still had no permanent executive in charge, according to the GAO. Eleven positions had been filled with permanent employees and three with temporary workers borrowed from other agencies while 17 positions remained vacant, the GAO said.
The Making Home Affordable program was proposed by the Obama administration and enacted by Congress after two previous government-sponsored efforts, the Hope Now Alliance and the Hope for Homeowners program, failed to make a significant dent in the foreclosure rate. Hope Now, launched in October 2007, has modified several hundred thousand mortgages, although the “redefault” rate from this first round of modifications ran as high as 50 percent.
The Hope for Homeowners program, launched in July 2008, was expected to reach 400, 000 distressed mortgage holders. At first the program was hampered by cumbersome terms and red tape, and only one homeowner got help. Terms were loosened in November without any meaningful impact. This month, the government announced it is rewriting the program again.
The unchecked rise in foreclosures also is destroying the value of assets backed by mortgages that are held by banks and private investors. So far, most investors have refused to take that loss upfront and reduce the loan amounts for homeowners who owe more than their house is worth. Though most major lenders and servicers have signed on to the MHA program, the decision to make a loan more affordable or forgive some of the principal amount is entirely voluntary.
“(Investors) have already suffered this loss: They’ve suffered it on paper, ” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “They’re waiting for this loss to begin to dissipate as the housing market recovers. What it’s doing, though, is continuing to exacerbate the foreclosure problems and drag down the economy.”
That deep recession has amplified the pace of foreclosures. When the mortgage market began melting down in late 2006, many of those in default were subprime borrowers and others who were sold adjustable loans that “reset” to unaffordable payments. Now, with 7 million jobs destroyed by the housing-led recession, lost paychecks have become a much thornier problem for groups working to slow the pace of foreclosures.
“The (MHA) program is still not fitted to people who have experienced a severe reduction in income, ” said Raynaud of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling,
That has cast doubt on just how many homeowners may ultimately get help. The White House has estimated that as many as 40 percent of the more than 10 million homeowners who are likely at risk of default and foreclosure could be helped. But the GAO, in its July report, found that estimate “problematic.”
The servicer representative who asked not to be identified estimated that only 20 percent of the loans serviced by her company were good candidates for modification or refinance. Under current guidelines, borrowers must show they can devote 31 percent of their income to the new monthly mortgage payment. Some servicers say that’s too high, and have suggested to the Treasury that the threshold be lowered to 25 percent to qualify more homeowners.
For whatever reason, voluntary efforts to modify loans have proceeded at a snail's pace. As of the end of July, only 9 percent of an eligible 2.7 million borrowers had seen their mortgages modified under the new program, according to the latest Treasury data. Bank of America, for example, one of the largest holders of home mortgages, had modified only 4 percent of eligible borrowers as of last month. Some lenders had not modified a single loan.
That has raised question about the need for tougher measures to determine how aggressively servicers are working to modify loans.
“What was the lever to mandate and hold them accountable?” said Taylor. “I just don’t see that. It keeps returning to what is the fundamental flaw in (former Treasury Secretary Henry) Paulson’s plan and now in (Treasury Secretary Timothy) Geithner’s: that it’s voluntary by nature.”
In its July report, the GAO agreed.
“No comprehensive processes have yet been established to assure that all borrowers at risk of default in participating servicers’ (mortgage) portfolios are reached, ” the report said.
The government's "carrot" approach to stopping foreclosures — offering $50 billion in incentives to servicers to modify loans — was adopted after the financial services industry successfully fought back a powerful "stick" that would have granted bankruptcy judges authority to modify the terms of a mortgage loan from the bench. Judges can do that with any other form of consumer debt in a bankruptcy proceeding but not mortgages.
Congress proposed the so-called “cramdown” provision several times in the past two years, including separate bills introduced in the House and Senate in January. But for now, there are no proposals to revive the bankruptcy provision or adopt other measures to force lenders to modify mortgages.
“At some point we have to realize is that the voluntary efforts haven’t worked, ” said Kathleen Keest, a senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “It’s time to make it mandatory, but that can’t happen without Congress acting.”
HAMP – The Home Affordable Modification Program is NOT working. To date, only 235, 000 loans have been modified under this program, while funds have been set aside to modify up to 4 million loans. To find out if you technically qualify for a modification based on HAMP guidelines, click here to access the 5 question quiz on the government website.
The banks have all kinds of excuses why borrowers do not qualify for this program. But the number 1 excuse banks are using is that the guidelines are too rigid. For instance, your mortgage payment cannot exceed 31% of your gross income. First of all, loans were not originally underwritten with this 31% number, so technically this makes almost all borrowers eligible for HAMP. But loan servicers are saying the formula is too narrow and does not take into account all the other debt borrowers have or are piling up during the economic slowdown. CitiMortgage, which services one out of every ten mortgages in the U.S., says the formula is the #1 reason why borrowers are being excluded from the program.
Some banks are using the excuse that they do not actually own the loan, but only service it, so they cannot modify a loan they do not own. This is a tired excuse that most of the major news networks have already covered. Servicers CAN modify loans, regardless of this excuse they are throwing around.
Some servicers are coming up with their own plans for modifying loans. From what I am hearing from my readers, and from other media reports, most of these “plans” are a joke, intended to benefit the lenders, not the borrowers. Here's an example of one such "plan. This lender, Carrington Mortgage is switching people out of fixed rate mortgages into variable rate mortgages, and while deferring delinquent payments, and adding them to the principal, (AND still reporting the borrower delinquent to the credit bureaus), they are putting this borrower at the mercy of the market. This is a stop gap measure at best, and another money maker for the lender in the long run.
Other lenders are allowing borrowers to stay in their homes as renters, while following through on the foreclosure process. This sounds to me like the banks protecting only themselves, while borrowers are really taking it on the chin. Sure, you stay in your house, but the bank owns it, literally can throw you out at their whim. In the meantime, the bank does not have to put the house back on the market during this depressed valuation cycle, or leave it vacant, because they have a renter in there to maintain the property, and carry the debt.
Still other lenders are putting people into modifications on a “trial basis.” While we don’t have details on these “trials, ” what we do know is that as long as the bank “modifies” the loan, the collect government incentives, unless the house is sold. This explains allowing the now non-owner of the house to remain in the property. Technically the house has not been sold? But it has – the bank owns it now, not the borrower.
What is clear is that the guidelines for the HAMP program require drastic revision, or it will never work. I am not advocating that all delinquent borrowers should get a 2% modified rate for the life of the loan.
Perhaps dropping the rate to what is truly affordable, given all a borrowers current debt, and current income, for a period of time, perhaps 2 years, and then gradually increasing the payments to a reasonable market level of 5% perhaps for the remainder of the loan, makes more sense than the “innovation” that banks are using now.
In any event, the push is on to get banks to modify loans, so the government is again handing out money to banks to make this happen. The banks slated to receive the largest sums of money for this program right now are Countrywide (now owned by B of A), Chase, Wells Fargo, and Lehmans. I’m sorry, but aren’t most of these the very same banks that just reported hundreds of billions of dollars in profits last quarter? When do we stop rewarding banks for their failures and poor management, and start taking care of the people in this country?
Today is September 1. Congress is back in session, and there is word that HAMP will be addressed again. Maybe they will come up with a plan that will actually work this time?
CNBC reported this morning that banks are easing up on "short sale" approvals to try to assist homeowners facing foreclosures.
I am So sorry to hear what happened that’s why I entrusted in a law firm to get my Modification done. I recently did a loan Modification with the Sherman and nathanson Law Group. They walked me through every step of the process from start to finish, I was very fortunate to find such a wonderful company to work with. If I may recommend any company to do your loan modification I would give them a call, they did my entire loan modification in exactly 47 days and anytime I had a question they were very responsive in getting right back to me. Its unfortunate there are so many bad company's out there, If anyone comes across any other bad companies please post because no one deserves to get there house taken from them. You can contact them at 424-205-1810 the gentlemen I worked with name was Bret hope this was helpful.