Saturday, July 11, 2009

July's Loan Mod Meeting

So we now that the new housing plan is working about as good as the old housing plan (Hope Now) which means that it is not working. So a meeting will be convened on July 28 where Treasurer Geithner and HUD secretary Donovan will discuss (read force) the top 25 mortgage lenders to adopt modify mortgages. This article from the New York Times titled From Treasury To Banks, an Ultimatum on Mortgage Relief discusses some of the details. Let's take a look -

... Thursday night when I was shown a letter that the administration had just sent out calling for yet another big meeting at Treasury with yet another sector of the financial industry. Signed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Shaun Donovan, the housing and urban development secretary, the letter demanded that representatives from the top 25 mortgage servicers assemble in Washington on July 28. It is likely to be every bit as painful for them as that Paulson meeting last October was for the bank C.E.O.’s.

The subject of the meeting is going to be loan modifications. Specifically, the government is going to be asking — in none-too-friendly fashion — why the nation’s big servicers aren’t doing more to modify loans for homeowners who are in danger of defaulting on their mortgages. Back in the spring, after all, they all signed onto the administration’s new Making Home Affordable program, which uses a series of incentives — not the least of which is $1,000 to the servicers for every mortgage they modify — to help keep people in their homes and prevent foreclosures.


So far, however, the results have been disheartening. As of July 6, according to some internal Treasury data I was given a peek at, a total of 131,030 mortgages had been modified under the program, on a three-month trial basis (the Obama program calls for three-month trials before the new loan terms are locked in). That may sound good — but it’s a drop in the bucket compared with those 3.5 million potential foreclosures this year.


Many institutions also are reluctant to do large-scale mortgage modifications because they will hurt the balance sheets. After all, if a loan is modified, the bank has to take a write-down on the portion of the loan it is swallowing. If lots of loans are modified, that means a lot of write-downs.


Sure, foreclosure ultimately costs the bank more money than a modification would. But foreclosures these days take a long time — as much as 18 months in some states. And all that time the banks can keep the loans on their books at inflated values. Daniel Alpert, the managing partner of Westwood Capital, calls this practice “extend and pretend.” In fact, he said, he has been hearing that banks aren’t even willing to conduct so-called short sales anymore. Those are sales where the borrower asks the bank to sell the house for whatever it can get, and the bank in turn lets the borrower walk away from the loss that results from the sale.

Will anything really change? Or will foreclosure keep rising or will lenders try to re-write the loans. We can not see many ways the government can force this onto the lenders. So it is really just a wait and see...

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