Archive for the ‘Cram Down’ Category

Bank of America Loan Modification

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Here’s one more example of a Bank pretending to do something positive about loans to defaulting Sub-Prime borrowers, while actually increasing their payments.

While 90% of mortgage lenders resist  handing out any type of loan modifications, despite being advised and even pressured by the government to do so, Bank of America claims it is now taking the lead. The initial B of A model seeks to conditionally (read: unlikely) cut up to 30% off the principal of 45,000 home mortgages nationally. Note: This is not the same as a reduced payment.

This program is very limited in breadth and scope. It applies only to those homeowners with negative amortizing ARM’s.  The principal reduction program will not be available to underwater homeowners with fixed rate mortgages or ARMs with amortized payment schedules. B of A claims their goal is to reduce homeowners’ monthly payments to an amount equal to 31% of their household income – the parameter set by the federal government two years ago, in 2008, based on long-standing fundamentals of mortgage lending.

In practise this program will apply only a few of the loans B of A inherited when it took over Countyrywide; specifically (negative amortization loans), where the Borrower is at least 60 days late!!

A more important problem is that the proposed modifications will usually result in a HIGHER MONTHLY PAYMENT for people already unable to make the current minimal payment.

For a delailed analysis of this Public Relations Excercise check http://blog.firsttuesdayjournal.com/2010/04/lenders-attempt-to-lock-homeowners-into-paying-underwater-homes/

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Praise Where It’s Due

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A small but very welcome glow of sanity from a historically well run Bank.

After acquiring $117.3 billion dollars worth of option adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) in its acquisition of Wachovia last year, banking giant Wells Fargo is now practicing a rare but effective loan modification strategy: the cramdown.

Through September of this year, Wells Fargo has forgiven an average of $46,000 on approximately 43,500 high-risk loans in its portfolio. The typical debt reduction is around 20% of the loan principal, though in rare cases Wells Fargo has cut as much as 30%. Reports put the six-month default rate of loans modified by Wells Fargo at 15-20%, less than half the current rate of 40% suffered by the rest of industry’s extend-and-pretend modifications.

Debt reduction is only one of many tools Wells Fargo is using to aid its distressed borrowers, and is currently not being used as a blanket fix for all underwater homeowners.

My Opinion: While this is a national story and certainly only a very small slice of the current problem pie, a mortgage lender taking into account the need for principal reduction is a big acknowledgement that the underwater state of many homeowners’ mortgages require this type of treatment. This is something other lenders and Congress need to understand when considering the mortgage quandary. Continuing to “kick the can down the road” with “extend and pretend” modifications will do nothing to solve the massive negative equity problem. The fact that the small glimmers of hope — in the form of cramdowns — are coming from a lender and not the regulators really speaks to the hands-tied, head-buried-in-the-sand mentality which must be overcome if we are to move ahead with a recovery.

Re: Wells Fargo Cuts as Much as 30 Percent in Principal from the Wall Street Journal