Tag Archives: robo-signing

BofA Tests an Option to Foreclosure

Bank of America Corp.is launching a pilot program that will allow homeowners at risk of foreclosure to hand over deeds to their houses and sign leases that will let them rent the houses back from the bank at a market rate.

While the initial scope of the “Mortgage to Lease” program is small—the bank began sending letters Thursday offering leases to 1,000 homeowners in Arizona, Nevada and New York—it represents a big change in the way banks deal with borrowers who can’t afford their mortgages.

Until now, banks have focused the bulk of their borrower outreach on modifying mortgages, usually by reducing the monthly payments. When that doesn’t work, most foreclosure alternatives require homeowners to leave their house, typically through a short sale, in which the bank approves the sale for less than the amount owed. Banks often insert clauses forbidding the new owner from renting the property back to the former owner.

The new approach is unlikely to be expanded unless banks conclude that avoiding eviction reduces costs associated with taking back, maintaining and reselling properties. If a significant number of borrowers are willing and able to rent the homes, Bank of America could ultimately sell the properties to investors that agree to keep them as rentals.

Already, in a growing number of housing markets, investors are buying foreclosures and converting them into rentals, often filling them with families that have gone through foreclosure.

Executives last year began to ask themselves “isn’t there a way to sort of combine that whole process and

keep the borrower in the property? It’s just better for the market,” said Ron Sturzenegger, the Bank of America executive who last summer was put in charge of the unit that handles troubled mortgages.

[BANKRENT]

Bank of America became the nation’s largest mortgage originator after its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp., but over the past year it has retreated from the mortgage market. The initial pilot is limited to loans that Bank of America holds on its books. Homeowners can’t apply for the program—only those who receive letters from the bank can participate.

Borrowers would agree to a what is known as a “deed-in-lieu” of foreclosure, where they essentially sign over ownership of the property to the lender. This is less costly to the bank and also does less damage to a borrower’s credit than a foreclosure.

Borrowers selected for the program must be at least two months past due on their mortgage and face considerable risk of foreclosure.

In exchange…

Read the rest of this article by the Wall Street Journal here: “Alternative to Foreclosure Tested“.

Foreclosure backlogs persist

The improving job market and economy is helping push mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure starts down, but the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process remains stubbornly high, especially in states most affected by robo-signing issues, according to a quarterly survey of lenders by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Since peaking at 10.1 percent in March 2010, the percentage of borrowers behind on their house payments has fallen to a seasonally adjusted 7.6 percent at the end of 2011 — about halfway to the pre-recession average of roughly 5 percent, said MBA Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann.

The percentage of loans entering the foreclosure process — which before the downturn averaged just under 0.5 percent — has also declined, from a peak of 1.4 percent at the end of third-quarter 2009 to 1 percent at the end of fourth-quarter 2011.

But at 4.4 percent, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of 2011 was not far off the all-time high of 4.6 percent seen at the end of 2010. That compares to the long-term norm of roughly 1.2 percent.

Robo-signing issues — which lenders hope to put behind them this year as they implement recently announced settlement with state attorneys general — have created foreclosure backlogs.

While foreclosure starts are falling, it’s taking loan servicers longer to auction off or repossess homes once they enter the foreclosure process, particularly in states where courts oversee the process.

In “judicial foreclosure” states where courts handle most foreclosures, 6.8 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure at the end of 2011. In “nonjudicial” foreclosure states where most foreclosures are processed outside of the court system, loan servicers are clearing the backlog more quickly, and 2.8 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure.

The MBA survey covers 42.9 million loans on one- to four-unit residential properties, or about 88 percent of all first-lien mortgages. Extrapolating the survey’s results suggests that of the 48.75 million mortgages outstanding at the end of 2011, 2.13 million were in the foreclosure process.

Five states accounted for more than half of all loans in foreclosure — Florida, California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey. All but California are judicial foreclosure states.

The 10 states with the greatest percentage of mortgages in foreclosure were: Florida (14.27 percent), New Jersey (8.21 percent), Illinois (7.41 percent), Nevada (7.03 percent), Maine (5.92 percent), New York (5.88 percent), Connecticut (5.05 percent), Hawaii (4.97 percent), Ohio (4.94 percent), and Indiana (4.94 percent). All but Nevada are judicial foreclosure states.

The states with the lowest foreclosure rates were: Wyoming (1.03 percent), North Dakota (1.05 percent), Alaska (1.06 percent), Nebraska (1.55 percent), South Dakota (1.75 percent), Montana (1.76 percent), Texas (1.78 percent), Virginia (1.84 percent), Alabama (1.94 percent), and Arkansas (1.97 percent). Among those states, only North Dakota handles foreclosures judicially.

Mortgage Modifications are a Mess

You have probably heard about the robo-signing fiasco and the fact that mortgage modifications are grinding to a standstill. We’re also seeing foreclosures occur after a modification has been approved–even occasionally when borrowers have the ability to make the payments. The whole process is a mess, and according to a top federal regulator, major U.S. banks are about to be penalized for “critical deficiencies” and shortcomings in their handlings of foreclosures.

One of the problems is that it is in loan servicers’ best interest to stall a foreclosure or modification.  This is because they can continue to charge fees while they’re servicing the loans. They charge fees for paying taxes, sending payments to the investors after receipt from borrower, maintaining records, etc.–and those “nickels and dimes” add up.

Having gone through the modification process firsthand, I can confirm that the process is daunting at best. The most painful part was when I had to pay 11% interest on my $400,000-first mortgage when the loan was adjusting at one point; only to have the bank tell me (on multiple occasions over a three-year period) that I either made too much money…or not enough. I went to court to stop a threatened foreclosure, but I still had to pay the ridiculous interest until my modification was approved.

While I won the victory of a modification, every situation is different. Like probably many of you, I’m still upside-down on the property, but at least I’ve lowered my payments while I await the market’s recovery.

In the interim, the Controller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has put sanctions on the banks, as I mentioned above, but the sanctions barely amount to a slap on the wrist. The reality is that the regulating agencies have a history of negatively impacting borrower’s rights rather than protecting them. So where does this leave you if you are fighting to keep your homes?

My personal experience has inspired me to grow my expertise in this area so that I can help others. No American should be subject to the whims of the system, and no American family should lose their home because of the negligent practices of a third party. If you need help fighting through the process, give me a call. I’ll stand by your side.

John A Silva
www.johnasilva.com
619-890-3648