Why Loan Modifications Fail

According to the latest report by the Dept of Treasury, loan modifications are failing at an alarming rate. Consider: of the 728,000+ attempted loan modifications done so far through the government’s HAMP program, only slightly over 31,000 have been successful.  Stated differently, if you attempt a loan modification, you have a 23% chance of success. Why can’t people get loan modifications completed?  Let’s take a look.

According to reports from banks, homeowners are to blame because they don’t turn in the paperwork required, nor do they make trial payments.  Homeowners, on the other hand, say mods are failing because lenders are losing paperwork, foreclosing on “accident,” changing terms mid-stream, simply ignoring them, or denying them loan mods based on some mysterious formula.

 There are in fact many homeowners who can qualify for a modification who have decided they don’t want one.  These people who “failed to complete the process,” probably came to the conclusion (after months of emotional hell) that it’s best to ditch the home and start over.  Once these families have been through 6 months of fighting with their lenders about a modification, they start to realize a few things:

 a.)    their credit is already ruined

b.)    the “fix” is somewhat iffy, and temporary

c.)    there is a real chance they’ll be going through this again in 5 years

 These facts add up fast, and signing on the dotted line to temporarily modify an already shaky loan is the last thing these people want. 

 Homeowner accusations of lost paperwork, accidental foreclosures, and unfair dealing are all absolutely true, when viewed in a certain light.  The reasons that banks appear to be unfair in their dealings is probably for a different reason than many think, though. What many fail to realize is that getting three huge bureaucracies to agree, in writing, to give away free money, and coordinate this free money give away on a specified date is no small feat. It can actually feel a lot like trying to trick a gang of bullies into poking each other in the eye while you make a quiet escape.  That’s not to say it can’t be done, just that it’s . . . tricky.  It really helps to understand the bureaucracy part of the equation to understand why you can’t get help from your bank.

 The servicing lender you send your bill to every month? They don’t actually own the mortgage to your house. They’re just “servicing” that mortgage for an investor. So already, you’ve got one road-block. Your servicer can’t actually make a decision regarding modifying or short selling your loan.  Oh, and that lovely and gracious representative on the other end of the line you call for help? She’s about 20 people down the chain of command in this organization that can’t make a decision anyway.  Not only that, she’s likely a low paid “temp” with little incentive to be helpful or friendly. And to make matters worse, she knows absolutely nothing about the process, your file, your problem, or the bank she works for! She’s just reading from a screen that contains very little information. She couldn’t help you even if she did have the best customer service skills in the world. I could actually write an entire book on the process, and the steps that have to be followed, and the executives who need to sign off, and this book would leave a lot of questions unanswered. Imagine, if you will, that you would like the federal government to send you a detailed report of every dollar you’ve paid them in taxes and what they spent it on.  Yeah. It’s kind of like that.

 The housing crisis is an absolute mess. The processes in place for helping troubled homeowners are very confusing, very time intensive, and anything but guaranteed.  Lenders will continue to blame homeowners, and homeowners will blame lenders for lack of progress on the issue.  There is one certain fact that everyone knows, but we’re hiding from and delaying at all costs: there will be millions of families moving out of their homes and renting in the coming years.  The millions of the homes sold between 2000 and 2008 are the crumbling, decaying, “foundation” of all of our household wealth. It is and has been crumbling. Those who abandon ship now will suffer for a time, then thrive and grow again. Those who continue to “re-arrange the deck chairs” on this sinking ship will be floating on a life-raft for quite some time.

Next time, I’ll detail for you the governments new program to “streamline” this process. . .

Free Loan Counsel Available Now!

By Phone: (602) 499-4798

or by Email: therealtybutler@gmail.com

*Disclaimer: We DO provide loan counseling services to our clients, but we NEVER charge the homeowner money. Please also remember: I am NOT an attorney, and neither do I play one on TV or the Internet. None of these pontifications should be construed as specific legal advice. If you need specific legal advice regarding your personal situation, give us a call. We can help you ourselves, or provide a list of housing counselors that are free! 

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The Right Loan Modification Help

     Imagine for a moment that your wallet, purse, or handbag was stolen from your car. All of your personal and credit information was included in the “transfer” of ownership: your multiple IDs, social security card, home address, credit cards, spare house and car keys; everything. Now, you have some work to do. You need to cancel your credit and membership cards and get new ones, set up a credit monitoring or credit security service to lock credit activity, change the locks on your doors, go to the DMV and get a new license, dig through family photos for replacements, get a new cell phone and replace all your contacts, programs, music, etc. Getting your life back together is going to take awhile. You’ll be on hold for hours, talking with hapless bureaucrats, minimum-wage-earning call center human robots, jumping through hoops, providing documents to people who either don’t get them or lose them, and standing in line at the DMV.

     Processing a loan modification is a lot like this, only much worse. Whereas a dedicated and persistent person could recover from stolen personal effects in a few weeks at most, negotiating with a lender on a loan mod, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure routinely takes months, and can take over a year. Real estate attorneys, agents, and short sale processors who have experience in dealing with lenders and negotiations on behalf of homeowners are not surprised by this; they expect it. They spend their days on hold, taking copious notes, demanding to speak to supervisors, “expediting” the process, verifying paperwork, and pushing through to the ubiquitous “next level” in the process. This is their job, and in most cases, they are paid well for it.

     There are now hundreds of businesses and “servicers” clamoring for the distressed homeowner’s attention, offering “help” with their foreclosure troubles. I get many of them myself, and I’m not even “distressed,” at least not about real estate! Needless to say, there are many scams being perpetrated on homeowners, and care should be taken. Selecting the right company, attorney, or agent to help you can be daunting and anxiety producing. The following are some tips when shopping for loan mod help:

Be Wary of Paying Money Up Front

     If possible, look for an agreement that provides payment if, and only if, the loan modification is completed on a permanent basis. It should be understood however, that this is a very labor intensive process, and there is no real guarantee of success. The company that worked on your behalf for all those months will likely want compensation if, in spite of all their best efforts, your modification is denied. Remember, there is risk involved for both the homeowner and the processor, and that risk can and should be negotiated, or shared. Perhaps you could work out a deal where only half the fee is due up front? Be very cautious about paying in full up front, with a promise of “your money back,” if the loan mod fails. Some suggest that you insist on paying with a credit card, so that charges may later be disputed if something goes wrong.

Make Sure the Processing Charges Appear on the HUD-1

     When and if the lender agrees to a permanent modification, new loan documents will have to be generated and executed by the borrower, the lender, and the Trustee (in AZ). This will usually happen at a title company, where the documents will be notarized, filed with the county recorder, and distributed to all parties. A regular HUD-1 or “Closing Settlement Statement” will be issued for the transaction. The party who processed your loan modification should be listed on the HUD-1, along with their attendant processing fees. You would then bring that fee to the closing table to as your cost for “settlement charges”.

Make Sure the Processor Understands the Process, and Can Explain

     Make sure that whoever you choose has a plan or strategy in place for fully educating you on the process. Whether this means they meet with you in person or on the phone, or send you a flow chart, graph, or handbook, you should be aware of milestones, what is coming up next, and where you stand with the over-all process. Someone with a good “bedside manner” is what you’re looking for here, as you are in trouble, and you need to feel confident that the process is under control by a competent professional.

Make Sure Communication Lines Are Clear

     You will need to have open lines of communication with your processor. They will have questions for you, and will need you to deliver documents to them periodically. The best practice is email communication, as it is an excellent way to keep records of who said what when, and what documents were sent and when. If you have the ability to scan and email documents through email, you should also do this. The documents will be attached to their original emails, and saved in the system. This is record that you have complied with all pertinent information and data requests. If you have to, use a fax machine for documents, and keep the “Transmission Record” of your having sent it. Only hand-deliver or mail documents as a last resort, and only if they are certified (i.e., someone has to sign for them on the other end). Bottom line: keep neat records of communication and documentation sent.

     Your communication lines will also keep you up to date on the progress on your file. You should receive weekly updates, in writing. This should be a log of all activity on your file. Good processors keep notes on a “transaction” or “processing” form of some kind. Any time they have a conversation with your lender, send some document, or make a call to any third party, the conversation is recorded in this log. You want an updated copy of this log each week. The log should show that the processor is contacting your lender at least once per week, what your lender said, what your lender wants, what the hold up is, etc. Depending upon your level of comfort, you may ask for this document, along with a call to discuss it, on a designated day and time each week.

Make Sure You Check for Experience and References

     You should ask any potential processor what type, and how much, experience they have with loan modifications, how many of their loan mods have been successful versus unsuccessful, and whether they can provide a list of potential references for you to call. You might also visit your local BBB web site to look up the company’s history. Sometimes, a simple Google search with “[Company Name] Scam” is sufficient to root out trouble makers. If there are several Web sites, Blogs, or news stories connecting the word “scam” with the company or person you have selected, well. . . I’ll leave you to your own judgment.

Moving Forward

     If you decide to hire someone to help modify your mortgage, follow the above guidelines to minimize your exposure to scams and ensure the best professional selection. Also remember, there are no guarantees that your loan modification will be successful. If you would rather complete the process yourself, in our next installment we’ll provide guidance and best practices for going it alone.

Free Loan Counsel Available Now!
By Phone: (602) 499-4798
or by Email: therealtybutler@gmail.com

*Disclaimer: We DO provide loan counseling services to our clients, but we NEVER charge the homeowner money. Please also remember: I am NOT an attorney, and neither do I play one on TV or the Internet. None of these pontifications should be construed as specific legal advice. If you need specific legal advice regarding your personal situation, give us a call. We can help you ourselves, or provide a list of housing counselors that are free! 

Arizona Loan Modifications vs Negative Equity

TRANSCRIPT: PART II: Pre-foreclosure Options (Modification)

Hello again, and thank you for joining us today at the Butler Blog. As always, I am your host, Allen Butler, Managing Director of The Realty Butler LLC and agent of West USA Premier Properties.

Before we get started, let me remind our audience again regarding pre-foreclosure options: there are really only two; you can work it out so you can stay, or work it out so you can leave. Today, we’ll discuss your options for STAYING in the home, and there are two: either rectify the loan, or modify the loan.

Now, before we get too far ahead, I want to go back for just a moment here and pull the timeline of foreclosure, and review the “Action Zone” for homeowners. Remember, the quicker you call for help, the more options you’ll have. And, you’ll feel better knowing that a plan is in place for dealing with the problem.

Now, the reason for you loan “delinquency” is very important, because it determines your options in dealing with the foreclosure. There are two reasons for delinquency.

One reason is Hardship. This can be any number of things, from death to divorce to illness to military or job transfer. Notice that these “certifiable hardships” are something over which the homeowner has little or no control.

The other reason for delinquency is Strategic. This is where homeowners CAN pay their mortgage, but simply don’t want to because the house is too far “upside – down.” Whether fortunate or not, there is no help for people who have the money to pay, but choose not to.

Now, if you have a verifiable hardship, you have two options to STAY IN YOUR HOME:

1.) First, you can bring your balance current. If your hardship was temporary, or you have some way to come up with the money to clear the back payments and fees and continue the payments, you CAN get yourself our of foreclosure, right up until the home is sold at auction. Obviously, this will not be an option for many.

2.) Your only other option to stay in the home is to request a loan modification from your lender. Let’s examine these loan mods, and how they work.

Earlier this year, the US Treasury Dept issued the Home Affordable Modification Program or “HAMP” for short. The program has guidelines to determine eligibility for a loan mod, and it identifies four methods of doing loan mods. We’ll deal specifically with HAMP, as 85% of all mortgage servicers in the US use it, or a program like it, to modify loans.

Now, the primary goal of HAMP is to make loans more “affordable,” and it identifies an affordable mortgage as one that is not more than 31% of monthly net income.

It is important to note that all modifications are on a trial bases for 90 days, and if the payments are made in full and on time, and all requested documents are provided to the lender, the modification will be “locked in” for 5 years.

In order to be eligible for HAMP

1.) You have to either already be behind on payments, or in a position where your ability to make payments is about to stop.

2.) You must also have a certifiable hardship, as discussed previously.

3.) The loan must have been written BEFORE January 1st 2009

4.) Second mortgages and Home Equity Lines of Credit are NOT eligible for this program. The Dept of Treasury is currently working with investors and industry trade groups to develop ways to include second lien-holders into the program.

5.) Finally, your loan balance cannot be greater than $729,750

If you are eligible, your loan can be modified in up to 4 ways:

1.) Most loan modifications are done by lowering the interest rate. Rates can go as low as 2%. At the end of 5 years, the rate will go back to either your original rate, or the Freddie Mac 30 year fixed rate at the time of the modification, whichever is lower. If a rate adjustment is NOT sufficient to reach 31% of your monthly income, the lender can next adjust the term of your loan.

2.) HAMP says that lenders can extend and re-amortize loans for up to 40 years. However, many loans are sold in packages to loan servicers using “Pooling and Servicing Agreements”. These agreements usually will not allow servicers to extend the term of only one loan within the pool.

3.) Now, if lowering your mortgage rate and extending your term are not enough, lenders CAN do principle “forbearance.” This means that a portion of the mortgage will be “lopped off” and placed into an insulated “bubble”. You won’t pay any interest or principle on this portion for a while, but that amount is still attached to the mortgage, and the entire amount is still owed.
4.) The final modification is “principle forgiveness”. This means that a portion of your loan is again, lopped off, but this time, it’s entirely forgiven and “disappears”. Of the 1700+ permanent loan modifications made under HAMP so far, only 5 were achieved by principle reduction. In other words, the chances of this happening are SLIM.
Now, this highlights a problem.

Let’s talk about that for a minute.

I mentioned in our first installment that negative equity was a large part of the foreclosure crisis. Now, in comparing the problems of negative equity and unemployment against the programs in place to combat this foreclosure crisis, we see that these programs may simply delay the inevitable.

Let’s do a simple example for an Arizona family in trouble with their mortgage.

So, this family bought a home in 2005 for $250,000, and the monthly payment is $1,887 per month.

Now, hardship comes, the mortgage is modified, and the new payment is only $1025 per month. Now the family can afford their home. Remember, the family still owes $250,000 on the house. The fact of the matter is, right now, the home in question is really only worth $100,000 TOPS.

Now, let’s fast forward. In year 6, the loan interest rate goes back up. Is the family making more money now, so they can afford the re-adjusted payment? If not, they’re in the same boat they were in 5 years ago. But that’s only part of the problem.

Remember, the family still owes close to $250,000 on the home, and it was only really worth $100,000 at the time of the loan modification. If any life change forces a move, you’re in the same place you were in 2007; upside down, in a big way.

What will the real estate market look like in 2017? Who knows, but I’ll ask you, the viewer: how many years do YOU think it will be before home values in Arizona DOUBLE from what they are now, so these people can sell if they need to? My professional instincts say it’ll be PLENTY longer than 5 years. It’s already been 4, and the problem seems to just keep rolling along, impervious to efforts to stop it.

See, the bottom line is, loan modifications are a personal family decision regarding the home, and families should definitely proceed with caution. Also, be sure to keep an eye toward the future when planning your long term strategy. Remember:

1.) Your payment WILL go up again. IF you can afford to make the new adjusted payment, you’ll live happily forever after.

2.) You may be living in the home well, “forever after”. . .
Now, please listen, and listen carefully: I AM NOT advocating that Arizona homeowners should decide against a loan modification. What I AM saying is: do not jump in blindly, thinking that a loan modification will resolve the underlying issues. And remember that for the remaining 97% of the country where home prices have NOT crashed and burned, a loan modification may be exactly what those families need. They may have a very good expectation that they’ll be able to recover the equity they need to sell their homes again in 5-7 years.
Please, if you have questions or concerns about loan modifications, I encourage you to call our offices, or simply send an email. We are always here to help. Also, remember, these broadcasts are just my personal internet ramblings. The things I say should NEVER be construed as legal, credit, or tax advice. If you have questions regarding your specific set of circumstances, I strongly encouraged you to seek the appropriate professional counsel.

In our next installment, we’ll cover the SHORT SALE, what it is, who can do one, and why they would do one. Until then, if you have questions or concerns regarding your personal pre-foreclosure situation, I encourage you to contact me. My staff of highly trained and certified mortgage default specialists is always ready to take your calls or emails.

Until Next time, this is Allen Butler, Managing Director of The Realty Butler LLC, and agent of West USA Premier Properties, signing out.

Arizona Loan Modifications: Right for Arizona Families?

In our previous discussion of Arizona Loan Modifications, we discovered what a “loan mod” is, who can do one, and the process of doing one. This time, we’ll look at the pros and cons of actually doing one. Most of the clients who call our offices asking about loan modifications end up not seeking to do one. Why is that? If you can get an affordable new mortgage, and you can stay in your home, why wouldn’t you? Let’s take a look.

 The Case for Loan Modification

     A loan modification will be just right for many Americans, and can indeed save their homes from foreclosure, if “the price is right.”  The key consideration for these people is the level of price declines in their area or city. You see, only about 7 states have foreclosure “crises,” and of those 7, only 4 are causing most of the trouble (AZ, NV, CA, FL). If you live in any of the rest of the 96% of the country, the chances that a loan mod will work for you are pretty good. Let me explain.

    If you live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, your home has definitely decreased in value over the last 3-5 years, but the price declines were fairly mild, and in fact, home prices INCREASED 1.8% from 2007 to now. Therefore, if you have negative equity in your home, it is likely to be not quite as severe. For example, let us assume that you bought a home Cedar Rapids for $200,000 in 2005. Chances are good that your home is still worth about $175,000 to $185,000. Result: you’re not upside down by a “prohibitive” amount. The loan modification in this case will make your payments more affordable for 5 years. Because of the relatively shallow negative equity, you will likely not have a problem selling your home in 5 years when the loan begins adjusting upward again.

     So, what if you DO live in one of the 7 states where prices have declined up to 54%. Does this mean that you can’t do a loan modification because have too much “negative equity?” Absolutely not, as there are no negative equity restrictions to participation in the program. The question is not whether you CAN, but whether you SHOULD.

The Case Against Loan Modification?

     According to the Congressional Oversight Panel that regulates loan modification programs, loan modifications are probably NOT going to help families with tremendous amounts of negative equity, or families who default because of job loss. For obvious reasons, you can’t modify a loan if you lack sufficient income. But, what about negative equity? Why would this cause a problem for loan modification?

     Let’s use another example, and this time, we’ll apply greater negative equity. If you live in one of the handful of states with the most severe foreclosures, it is likely that your situation looks something like this:

a.)    Bought house for $400,000 (First mortgage balance of $387,000, possible second?)

b.)    Homes just like yours are now worth $197,000.

c.)    You now have approximately $182,600 in “negative equity”.

You now do a loan modification of your interest rate (as occurs in 97% of cases), and as a result:

                                       1.) Old Payment: $2575 p/month

                                      2.) New Payment: $1750 p/month

                                       2.) This modification is in force for five (5) years.

Sounds fabulous, right? Maybe, but this is where practical reality sets in as people contemplate the future:

The Facts:

I have a new, affordable mortgage payment.”

“I still owe my lender $387,000, plus some late charges, etc.”

“My house is still only worth about $200,000.”

“My loan is going to readjust in five years.”

 The Burning Question:

“Will my home double in value  in 5 years, so I can actually sell it if I have to?”

     This last is what causes many to decide NOT to do a loan modification. They are reasoning, and quite soundly unfortunately, that there is no way their home is going to almost double in value within 5 years. Not only are prices projected to fall for most of 2010, even if they stopped falling and began to rise again (using an optimistic rate of increase of 10% per year), it will still take almost 10 years before the negative equity is wiped out.

     You can see the problem: five years from now, there is a likelihood that you’ll be in exactly the same position you are in now. Your mortgage payments will start to increase again, while the situation at large hasn’t changed much, if at all. To make matters worse, your credit score has likely already taken a hit due to your current troubles. So, just when you’ve got your credit built back up, you’re faced with the negative equity problem again.

     Now, please understand, I am NOT advocating that you dismiss a loan modification as a possible solution to your mortgage troubles. You just need to be fully aware of what your true situation is, and what it needs to be in the future for a loan modification to actually solve your mortgage/housing problem. Many families, when they discover the real situation, decide that a loan modification is simply delaying the inevitable, and it is preferable to just “cut the losses now”. Cutting your losses now is becoming a strong mindset for many borrowers.  These homeowners reason that it is better to get rid of the ridiculously over-valued home (either through foreclosure, a deed in lieu of foreclosure, or a short sale), take a credit hit, and start life over. It’s like pressing the “reset” button.

     These “strategic foreclosures” are absolutely on the rise among many homeowners. Of course there is an ethical and moral consideration to this, but practical economic reality often overtakes the struggling homeowner. Provided that they do not actually go to foreclosure, and instead work with their lender to do a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale, they WILL be better off. Consider: our latest research shows that the average borrower who conducts a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure within 5 months of default will suffer a 175 – 225 pt drop in their credit score. These same people are reporting that they are qualified to purchase a home again within 2-3 years.

     The practical reality is that, if you move quickly to expedite the transfer of the home to someone else (the lender or another buyer), your credit damage is fairly manageable. Furthermore, this leads to the positive conclusion that homeowners are much better off dumping their over-priced homes and just buying another home later. Not only will they probably save lots of money on a rental each month, but their credit scores will rebound fairly quickly, enabling them to purchase a newer, cheaper home, WELL BEFORE their old home would have appreciated to the level of the old mortgage. This is hard to argue with, as it makes both economic and common sense. 

     When the Congressional Oversight Panel reviewed the efficacy of the government’s programs to save families from foreclosure, they were extremely concerned. Their skepticism is valid indeed. The foreclosure programs in place now DO NOT address the issue of job loss, or of homeowners who simply decide that staying in the home makes no economic sense. To the extent that these problems continue and increase, well. . .use your imagination. But only for a few minutes; it will lead to anxiety and depression ;>)

Free Loan Counselors Available Now!

By Phone: (602) 499-4798  or by Email: therealtybutler@gmail.com

*Disclaimer: Please always remember: I am NOT an attorney, and neither do I play one on TV or the Internet. None of these pontifications should be construed as specific legal advice. If you need specific legal advice regarding your personal situation, give us a call. We can help you ourselves, or provide a list of housing counselors that are free!

Arizona Loan Modifications: What Are They, and Who Can Do One?

*In this first part in the series, we’ll cover what a loan modification is, and who is eligible. Please keep in mind that if you have lost your job, or have extremely limited income, you probably will not qualify for a loan modification. You must have income in order to pay any loan, even a modified one. If you are in this category, help may be on the horizon. For now, please start with our Help with Arizona Short Sales and Foreclosure series. Next time, we’ll look at the pros and cons of doing a loan modification. 

Part II in this Series: Is a loan mod “right” for Arizona Families?

The Rise of “The Loan Mod”     

 Until just this last March, if you couldn’t afford your home, you had little choice but to allow the lender to foreclose, or try to do a short sale. In other words, you were moving; there were no options to stay in your home. Now, in an effort stop foreclosures and stabilize the economy, the federal government has created some programs to enable you to stay in your home and avoid foreclosure by modifying the terms of your current mortgage. 

     There are currently four federal programs to make mortgage modifications available to the public: HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program), HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) HOPE for Homeowners, and the FDIC’s Mortgage Modification Program for IndyMac.  Of these four programs, only HAMP has made any real progress in modifying mortgages. The other programs do not have broad lender participation, and the guidelines are too strict for many borrowers.

     The Congressional Oversight Panel (who oversees these programs) in their review released in October 2009,  reported that 85% of all servicing lenders are either participating in the HAMP program, or have programs of their own that are comparable. For this reason we will focus exclusively on HAMP, as this is how most people will modify mortgages. HAMP modifications are made on a 3 month trial basis first, and if you make the new payments and provide all documentation that your lender requests, your loan modification will become locked in for five years. After the five years, your loan will gradually revert to either your original loan interest rate, or the Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate at the time of your modification, whichever is less. (The Freddie Mac rate is currently around 5%.)

How Does A Loan Mod Work? 

     How is a mortgage modified to make it more affordable? First, we have to define “affordable.” For the purposes of this plan, the government has determined that a monthly mortgage payment that is 31% or less of your monthly income is affordable. If your monthly mortgage is more than 31% of your monthly income, it is not. In order to reach this 31% affordability level, lenders can make several changes to your mortgage. Before we get to the actual modifications that can be done, we must first advise of a few key points of the program.:

-Lower your interest rate to as low as 2% for a period of up to 5 years.

           *After 5 years, your loan rate goes up again. This is the method used in almost all modifications. The average modified loan rate goes from 7.58% to 2.92%.

-Extend the term of your loan, or re-amortize, for up to 40 years

          *Most lenders are not doing this for two reasons, 1.) an interest rate reduction will usually work to reach the desired 31%, and 2.)  most lender’s Pooling and Servicing Agreements (PSAs) will usually not allow them to modify  loan lengths.

-Principal Forbearance

     *A portion of your loan is “lopped off” and placed into a “bubble” that you don’t pay any interest or payments on. This portion of your loan is due “later”. This is very rare.

-Principle Forgiveness

     *A portion of your loan is again “lopped off,” but this time, it’s forgiven. It’s gone. This is not only rare, it’s an anomaly: of the 362,348 borrowers placed into HAMP loan mods, only 5 had principal forgiven.

   Who Can Participate in The Loan Mod Program?

   So, does anyone who can prove that their mortgage is more than 31% of their monthly income get a loan modification? How do the government and lenders determine who is eligible? The eligibility requirements for HAMP are fairly simple, but also prohibitive for some:

#1.) You must be in default or be in imminent danger of default.

     *Default is defined as “behind on payments,” and in order to be eligible, you must have either already stopped making payments, or demonstrate that your ability to make payments is about to end.

#2.) You must have a certifiable hardship

     * You must be able to explain why you now CAN’T pay your mortgage, whereas you COULD before. Did you lose a job? Get divorced? Get ill? These reasons and others like them are certifiable hardships.

#3.) Your loan has to have been issued prior to January 1st, 2009

#4.) Only 1st Mortgages are eligible under the program’s guidelines

     *2nd loans or home equity lines are not eligible (Treasury is working to include these.)

#5.) Mortgage balance cannot exceed $729,750

* If a review of your finances indicates that 55% or more of your income is servicing consumer debt (credit card, mortgage, etc), enrollment in a credit counseling program is mandatory for program participation.

 What’s To Come:

While mortgage modifications will be a ray of hope for some homeowners in distress, many more will either not qualify for a modification, or will choose not to do one. Why would an Arizona Homeowner NOT do a loan mod?

Part II in this Series: Is a loan mod “right” for Arizona Families?

Free Loan Counselors Available Now!

By Phone: (602) 499-4798, or 

By Email: therealtybutler@gmail.com

*I am not an attorney, and neither do I play one on TV or the Internet. This article  should NOT be construed to impart specific legal recommendations or advice to ANYONE. If you have questions regarding your specific set of circumstances, please call our office, or contact an attorney. (Our Office: 602-499-4798)