CALIFORNIA: NEW BILL SB 1275 May allow homeowners to REVERSE FORECLOSURE SALES due to SERVICER’S ERRORS

Carrie Bay 6/4/2010 DSNEWS

The California Senate approved a new foreclosure bill on Thursday with a 21 to 12 vote and sent it on to the Assembly for review. The legislation lays out two major provisions intended to deter lax behavior on the part of servicers and prevent avoidable foreclosures in the state, which continues to post one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates.

The bill would provide a means of recourse to homeowners whose homes were lost to foreclosure due to serious servicer errors, and it would prohibit servicers from starting the foreclosure process until a homeowner has received a final decision on their modification.

According to a statement from the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), confusion and errors that cost Californians their homes, are devastating to the state’s housing market, but are avoidable.

If a borrower’s home is sold in foreclosure due to servicer error, there is currently no means by which to seek recourse. The bill, SB 1275, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), seeks to change this by providing recourse through what is known as a private right of action.

This would allow eligible homeowners to seek limited damages which are directly related to the severity of the servicer’s errors, or, in some cases, would allow the homeowner to reverse the foreclosure sale.

During earlier committee hearings for SB 1275, servicers acknowledged that confusion and errors are commonplace. According to CRL, Bank of America executive Jack Schackett even admitted during a conference call that they “have not handled [their] customers to the standards Bank of America is accustomed to.”

“It’s unacceptable that when servicers lose faxes and lose payments, some Californians lose their homes,” said Caryn Becker, policy counsel with the CRL California office. “At nearly 1 million foreclosures and counting, we need to prevent every unnecessary foreclosure we can.”

Speaking in support of the bill’s passage, CRL said homeowners who have been wronged deserve the opportunity to make it right, but the organization says the legislation continues to face some opposition from Assembly members who oppose allowing California homeowners to pursue claims against their lenders and servicers.

SB 1275 would also prohibit servicers from foreclosing on homeowners who have requested modifications until a decision has been made, and the homeowner has been notified.

CRL says currently, servicers are initiating the foreclosure process even when borrowers are working to reach a resolution, including when homeowners are following all the rules to seek a loan modification, or are already making payments on a trial modification.

“Simple fairness dictates that no one should lose their home while they are in the middle of trying to save it,” said Paul Leonard, director of the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending. “A foreclosure that starts because a servicer’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing is the most preventable foreclosure of all.”

SB 1275 will be heard by the Assembly Banking Committee before it goes to the full Assembly for a vote. Assembly members are currently considering a separate bill, AB 1639, that would mandate foreclosure mediation through a new Facilitated Mortgage Workout (FMW) program, which would require lenders to meet with delinquent borrowers to try and devise an alternative plan of action before proceeding with foreclosure.

U.S. Banks’ Foreclosure Holdings Increased 12.5% in Q1: Report

BY: CARRIE BAY 6/4/2010 DSNEWS

Foreclosed property held by U.S. banks increased 12.5 percent to $41.5 billion during the first quarter of this year, according to a recent analysis by SNL Financial, a financial market research firm out of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The company says banks’ aggregate foreclosed inventory is up from $36.9 billion at year-end 2009, and $11.7 billion in the first quarter of 2008.

SNL data shows that other real estate owned, or OREO(which essentially means the same as REO and is defined as real property owned by a banking institution, most frequently the result of a borrower’s default and foreclosure), represented 0.3 percent of banks’ assets in the first quarter of 2010, up from 0.1 percent in the comparable period of 2008.

According to SNL analyst Andrew Schukman, during the first three months of this year, one-to-four unit family properties in the process of foreclosure but not yet to OREO, or REO, status increased 9.1 percent to $78.6 billion. With these repossessions coming down the pipeline, Schukman says OREO as a percentage of banks’ assets will likely continue to grow as additional properties complete foreclosure.

While properties continue to grow on banks’ balance sheets, the type of real estate being reclaimed has changed. According to SNL data, construction and land development properties represented nearly 40 percent of total OREO in the United States as of March 31, up from 24.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

Meanwhile, one-to-four family OREO fell to 28.4 percent of total OREO as of March 31, compared to 44.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

Other types of OREO include commercial real estate, which made up 18 percent of OREO in the first quarter; foreclosed Ginnie Mae property, which comprised 6.4 percent; multifamily, making up 6.1 percent; and farmland and foreign office, each comprising less than 1.0 percent.

Banks Have Recognized 60% of Expected Loan Charge-Offs: Moody’s

Gee, and here I thought that the Federal Reserve bought $1.4-$2 *trillion* of them! Let alone Lehman and its 50 billion in subprime mortgages that it “hid” (and what about all the other TARP/Federal Reserve member banks??)

BY: CARRIE BAY 6/3/2010 DSNEWS

n its latest quarterly report on credit conditions of the U.S. banking system, Moody’s Investors Service says banks’ asset quality issues are “past the peak” butcharge-offs and non-performers continue to eat away at profitability and sheer fundamentals.

Based on Moody’s market data, banks’ non-performing loans stood at 5.0 percent of total loan assets at March 31, 2010.

Moody’s says U.S. rated banks have already charged off or written-down $436 billion of loans in 2008, 2009, and the first quarter of 2010. That leaves another $307 billion to reach the rating agency’s full estimate of $744 billion of loan charge-offs from 2008 through 2011.

In aggregate, the banks have recognized 60 percent of Moody’s estimated total charge-offs and 65 percent of estimated residential mortgage losses, but only 45 percent of projected commercial real estate losses.

In the first quarter of this year, the banking industry’s collective annualized net charge-offs came to 3.3 percent of loans, versus 3.6 percent of loans in the fourth quarter

of 2009, Moody’s said. Despite two consecutive quarters of improvement in charge-offs, the ratings agency notes that the figures still remain near historic highs, dating back to the Great Depression.

According to Moody’s analysts, the decline in aggregate charge-offs was driven by commercial real estate improvement, which “we believe is likely to reverse in coming quarters,” they said in the report. A similar commercial real estate decline was experienced in the first quarter of 2009 before charge-offs accelerated through the rest of the year.

“The return to ‘normal’ levels of asset quality will be slow and uneven over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Moody’sSVP Craig Emrick.

But Emrick added that “Although remaining losses are sizable, they are beginning to look manageable in relation to bank’s loan loss allowances and tangible common equity.”

U.S. banks’ allowances for loan losses stood at $221 billion as of March 31, 2010, which is equal to 4.1 percent of loans, Moody’s reported. Although this can be used to offset a sizable portion of remaining charge-offs, banks will still require substantial provisions in 2010, the agency said.

Moody’s says its negative outlook for the U.S. banking system is driven by asset quality concerns and effects on profitability and capital. The agency’s ratings outlook is also influenced by the potential for a worse-than-expected macroeconomic environment, Moody’s said.

“More severe macroeconomic developments, the probability of which we place at 10 percent to 20 percent, would significantly strain U.S. bank fundamental credit quality,” Moody’s analysts wrote in their report.

More than Half of Foreclosures Triggered by Job Loss: NeighborWorks

BY: CARRIE BAY 5/28/2010 DSNEWS

According to a study released Friday by NeighborWorks America, 58 percent of homeowners who’ve received assistance through its national foreclosure counseling program reported the primary reason they were facing foreclosure was reduced or lost income.

NeighborWorks was created by Congress in 1991 as a nonprofit organization to support local communities in providing its citizens with access to homeownership and affordable rental housing. In January 2008, with the foreclosure crisis raging, Congress implemented theNational Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program and made NeighborWorks the administrator.

The organization says that over the course of the NFMCprogram, the percentage of homeowners who’ve cited wage cuts or unemployment as the primary reason they were facing foreclosure has steadily increased.

In November 2009, 54 percent of NFMC-counseled borrowers reported reduced or lost income as the main reason for default. Six months earlier in June 2009, it was 49 percent; in February 2009, 45 percent; and in October 2008, 41 percent.

These steady increases parallel the nation’s unemployment rate, which until the November 2009 employment report, had marched upward since October 2008.

“With unemployment numbers not likely to dip below nine percent in 2010, our report proves what many already believed to be true. Unemployment and reduced income are having a devastating effect on our nation’s homeowners,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.

The administration recently announced changes to its Making Home Affordable program to provide assistance to unemployed homeowners by temporarily reducing or suspending mortgage payments for a minimum of three months. The initiative becomes effective July 1, 2010.

The federal government has also awarded additional funding to states where unemployment is high to support localized mortgage relief programs for homeowners who are out of work.

Lawmakers too are on a push to help homeowners who’ve lost their jobs. Congress’ financial reform package includes a measure that uses $3 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) fund to make loans of up to $50,000 to unemployed homeowners to be used to make their mortgage payments for up to 24 months while they are looking for a new job.

Wade said, “While Congress and state governments have stepped up and extended unemployment benefits to help families survive this tough economic climate, it’s time for mortgage servicers and investors to make meaningful accommodations for homeowners facing foreclosure. If they don’t, we’ll see even more empty houses and devastated neighborhoods in our communities.”

NeighborWorks also noted in its report that 62 percent of all NFMC clients held a fixed-rate mortgage, and 49 percent were paying on a fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate below 8 percent.

Nearly one million families have received foreclosure counseling as a result of NFMC Program funding. According to NeighborWorks, NFMC clients are 60 percent more likely to avoid foreclosure than homeowners who do not receive foreclosure counseling.

State Group Estimates 37% of California Foreclosures Involved Renters

If Dorthy was here today and reading this…

She would definitely click her heels and say there’s no place like NO home!

BY: CARRIE BAY DSNEWS.com

The foreclosure crisis in California has taken a toll on not only homeowners, but a large number of tenants in the state.

According to a new study from Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, at least 37 percent of residential units in foreclosure in the Golden State last year were rentals, directly affecting over 200,000 tenants – most of whom were displaced.

Tenant Together’s research is based on California property records for every foreclosure in 2009, and the organization says its estimates are “conservative.”

The report – California Tenants in the Foreclosure Crisis Report- California Renters in the Foreclosure Crisis- final.pdf – concludes that while the largest percentage of renter-occupied foreclosed properties were single-family homes, the percentage of renter-occupied, multi-unit buildings is growing at a faster pace.

The organization says this trend is likely to increase as more loan modification programs target owner-occupied properties, which are primarily single-family homes and condominiums, while multi-unit rental properties continue to fall by the wayside and into foreclosure.

Since Tenants Together’s previous annual report was issued, the most significant develop for renters in foreclosure situations has been the enactment of the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act.

The new federal law increased the eviction notice period for tenants to 90 days, assured that existing leases survive foreclosure, and clarified that banks and other post-foreclosure owners of property step into the shoes of the pre-foreclosure owner and have the obligations of landlords.

Tenants Together says that while the new federal law is a step in the right direction, it comes short of providing long-term security for tenants and has been mired by implementation problems arising from banks’ non-compliance with the new law.

According to Gabe Treves, program coordinator at Tenants Together and author of the group’s latest report, “Tenants are innocent and hidden victims of a foreclosure crisis they did nothing to create. As this report shows, the unfair and unnecessary displacement at tenants at the hands of banks is affecting communities across the state at a devastating scale.”

Tenants Together concludes its annual report with a checklist of recommended actions to mitigate the impact of the foreclosure crisis on renters. Among the various proposals, the report notes that ‘just cause for eviction’ laws are a particularly effective and cost-free way to stop the displacement of tenants whose lenders have been foreclosed on and provide greater stability to California communities.

Poor Risk Management, Unrealistic Optimism Collapsed Housing: MBA

The originators/warehouse lenders knew *exactly* what they were doing.  That’s why they were immediately assigned!

And look at the bonuses the instigators received as *rewards* for their actions.

And then they lied about AAA ratings to sucker in US and foreign investors, including municipalities and state governments that are now in critical economic positions, as well.

BY: CARRIE BAY DsNEWS.com

It’s hard to pinpoint just what brought the nation’s thriving residential real estate market to its knees. Everyone’s got an opinion, but trying to nail down the exact trigger in order to prevent a sequel is a difficult task. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is attempting to do just that.

According to a study released Wednesday by the trade group, poor risk management habits, including insufficient data and incomplete performance metrics, coupled with a short-term focus and unrealistic optimism among senior business managers were all factors that contributed to the collapse of the U.S. housing and mortgage markets.

The study entitled, Anatomy of Risk Management Practices in the Mortgage Industry was conducted by Professor Cliff Rossi of the University of Maryland and sponsored by MBA’s Research Institute for Housing America (RIHA). It analyzes the risk management processes employed by mortgage lenders leading up to the housing crisis and discusses lessons learned for future risk managers.

Professor Rossi, who has more than 20 years’ experience within the mortgage industry and at regulatory agencies, says that as home prices increased, lenders were pressured to offer innovative products that could help borrowers afford a home. He found that the increase and expansion of risk layering that resulted, along with changes in borrower behaviors, left risk managers unable to offer reliable risk estimates.

“According to some empirical analysis, when market conditions changed, mortgage performance models proved unstable, with loans originated in 2006 defaulting at four times the rate of what a model prior to 2004 would have predicted,” Rossi explained. “Moving forward, it will be essential for the industry to develop early warning measures of the level of risk in new originations and less reliance on imprecise historical performance of new loan products.”

Rossi says that in addition to limited information available for proper risk assessment, corporate culture and cognitive biases also strongly influenced decision-making during the boom. He argues that one of the biggest black eyes to come out of the prosperous years leading up to the bust was the decline in senior management’s loss aversion, thanks to a lengthy period of strong home prices and low defaults, which in turn led to relaxed underwriting and again, higher levels of risk layering.

“The combination of informational limitations on risk managers and a governance structure and culture that may have tipped decisions in favor of business-driven strategies is central to explaining the increase in risk-taking that took place throughout the industry,” Rossi said. “As the industry is now compensating for the resulting losses through tighter underwriting standards and a lower appetite for risk, it will be vital for executive management to instill a culture where all employees are on guard for risks that exceed the risk appetite of the company.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • Subprime loan underwriting criteria along several risk attributes expanded between 1999 and 2006. In particular, combined loan-to-value ratios (LTVs) increased over time as the percentage of loans with silent second liens attached to the property also increased. At the same time, the percentage of loans with full documentation declined.
  • The relative lack of geographic and product diversification by a number of the largest mortgage lenders was rationalized by investment opportunity costs and relative value.
  • A false sense of security with new products originated prior to 2007 occurred as a result of better than average economic conditions coupled with a lack of information regarding subtle but real changes in borrower and counterparty behavior.
  • Cognitive bias toward risk management may have combined with management views on loss-taking to view risk managers as overly conservative and inefficient, which would explain senior management’s actions that ultimately placed their firms at risk.

Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s VP of research and economics, commented, “Today’s mortgage industry is operating under vastly different guidelines than just a few years ago and the survivors in the industry today are clearly the companies that did things right. There is room for debate on how best to proceed, but certainly building a stronger risk management framework around the mortgage industry will be critical.”

Lenders Repurchase $3 Billion in Mortgages from GSEs in Q1: DSNEWS

BY: CARRIE BAY DSNEWS.com

With home loans going bad at a still-staggering pace and losses mounting for the GSEs, the nation’s two largest mortgage financiers are pursuing several avenues to recover money, including returning poorly underwritten loans to lenders. During the first three months of this year,Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae required lenders to buy back $3.1 billion in mortgages they’d sold to the two firms.

Lenders repurchased approximately $1.8 billion in loans from Fannie in Q1, measured by unpaid principal balance, according to a recent filing by the GSE with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). During the same period last year, Fannie forced lenders to buy back $1.1 billion in bad loans.

“We conduct reviews of delinquent loans and, when we discover loans that do not meet our underwriting and eligibility requirements, we make demands for lenders to repurchase these loans or compensate us for losses sustained on the loans, as well as requests for repurchase or compensation for loans for which the mortgage insurer rescinds coverage,” Fannie wrote in the regulatory filing.

Freddie Mac sent $1.3 billion in faulty home mortgages back to the loan sellers during the January to March period, the GSE said in its Q1 SEC filing. That compares to repurchases of $789 million during the first quarter of 2009.

“We are exposed to institutional credit risk arising from the potential insolvency or non-performance by our mortgage seller/servicers, including non-performance of their repurchase obligations arising from breaches of the representations and warranties made to us for loans they underwrote and sold to us,” Freddie Mac explained in the regulatory document.

Freddie says some of its seller/servicers failed to perform their repurchase obligations due to lack of financial capacity, and many of the larger seller/servicers have not completed their buybacks “in a timely manner.”

“As of March 31, 2010 and December 31, 2009, we had outstanding repurchase requests to our seller/servicers with respect to loans with an unpaid principal balance of approximately $4.8 billion and $3.8 billion, respectively,” the GSE said.

As of the end of March, approximately 34 percent of Freddie’s outstanding purchase requests were more than 90 days past due.

“Our credit losses may increase to the extent our seller/servicers do not fully perform their repurchase obligations,” Freddie Mac wrote in the filing. “Enforcing repurchase obligations with lender customers who have the financial capacity to perform those obligations could also negatively impact our relationships with such customers and ability to retain market share.”

According to regulatory filings made by the GSEs earlier in the year, the two companies are expecting to return as much as $21 billion in home mortgages to banks in 2010. The nation’s four largest lenders – Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase – are the largest sellers of home loans to Fannie and Freddie and will likely take the biggest hits.

A recent report from Bloomberg noted that these banks sell mortgages to the GSEs at full value, which means they must buy them back at full value. But the news agency says at least one bank, JPMorgan Chase, says most of the loans repurchased must be immediately written down, sometimes by as much as 50 percent.