DO YOU HAVE A FANNIE MAE LOAN?

Fannie Mae Announces its Own Foreclosure Prevention Plan Under HAFA

by AUSTIN KILGORE HousingWire

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010, 5:07 pm

[Update 1: Corrects current cash incentives for Treasury HAFA]

Fannie Mae (FNM: 0.94 -2.08%) announced its version of the Making Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program Tuesday, implementing the program for all conventional mortgages that are held in Fannie’s portfolio, that are part of an mortgage-backed security (MBS) pool with a special servicing option, or that are part of a shared-risk MBS pool for which Fannie Mae markets the acquired property.

The Fannie Mae program takes effect August 1, 2010 and is designed to mitigate the impact of foreclosures on borrowers who are eligible for a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but were unsuccessful in obtaining one, Fannie said. Like the Treasury Department‘s HAFA program, servicers cannot consider a borrower for HAFA until the borrower is evaluated and eliminated from eligibility for a Making Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) workout plan.

Also like the Treasury program, Fannie Mae will offer servicers cash incentives for completed HAFA transactions, $2,200 for short sales and $1,200 for deed-in-lieu of foreclosure agreements. Borrowers are also eligible for $3,000 in incentives.

That’s more than in the Treasury’s HAFA program, where servicers are eligible for $1,500. Under the Treasury program, borrowers receive $3,000. In addition, the investor is also eligible for a maximum of $2,000 incentive.

Participating servicers will be required to report on their Fannie Mae HAFA activities to both Fannie and the Treasury and the program sunsets on December 31, 2012.

After announcing the program in October 2009, Treasury’s HAFA program began in April. The Fannie Mae HAFA program is the latest in a string of programs designed to help borrowers avoid foreclosure. In addition to HAFA and HAMP workouts, Fannie Mae is letting some distressed borrowers stay in their homes as renters, under the deed for lease (D4L) program.

Under D4L, the homeowner-turned-renter is required to pay fair market rent to stay in their home for up to 12 months. The renter must have enough income to sustain a 31% income-to-rent ratio and rental payments are not subsidized by Fannie Mae, but could include renters eligible for Section 8 payments.

Also, in March 2010, Fannie Mae instructed its servicers to consider an “alternative modifications” for all mortgages that did not qualify for a permanent conversion under HAMP. That “Alt Mod” program, which sunsets on August 31, 2010, is similar to HAFA.

Write to Austin Kilgore.

The author held no relevant investments.

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Mandelman on LPS, DJSP Ent. & Altisource – Nina Easton’s HOT Stocks for Homeowners Losing Homes

Via: Mandelman Matters

(Only in America… Nina Easton.  More on that in a moment.)

The New York Post is reporting that a new gold rush is sweeping the country and it’s all about… are you ready for this… “people looking to get fat off of the $4 billion home foreclosure industry”.

Apparently, in the last two years four companies have either gone public or are about to go public, and each is looking to raise the cash they need to become a “national powerhouse” in the business of providing “streamlined and low-cost methods” for kicking people out of their homes.

According to the Post, “there are currently 6 million homeowners 60 days or more delinquent on their mortgage,” which makes these companies very attractive to investors.

These companies, DJSP Enterprises, whose revenues have increased by 31% over the last year, Altisource Portfolio Solutions, with its 182 percent increase in profits last year, and of course, Lender Processing Services, a company with $2.4 billion in revenue up 29 percent last year — all offer technology linking lenders with law firms in order to reduce the cost and streamline the process of foreclosing on homes and evicting their ex-owners.

Oh, and let’s not forget Prommis Solutions, which turned a $7.9 million profit in 2009 and has filed to go public.

Now, Lender Processing Services is the parent company of DocX, a company that one of the companies under investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s office for being in the business of creating fraudulent documents used in foreclosure proceedings when the servicer doesn’t have any paperwork showing that the trust actually holds the mortgage.

But, LPS doesn’t seem terribly concerned about that investigation, or any of the others that threaten to expose this company for wrongdoing.  They say it’s all just a mix-up… funny story, that sort of thing.  Here’s the company’s CEO on May 20th:

LPS’ CEO Jeffrey Carbiener said “our earnings are quality earnings. They translate into cash flow.  LPS generated $349 million in cash last year.”

LPS provides all levels of mortgage default services services for when a loan goes bad.  “Because we have a strong business model, we’re able to weather economic challenges,” Carbiener said.  LPS’s growth is continuing into 2010, with first-quarter revenue up 11.8 percent and adjusted earnings up 26.5 percent.

“We’ve had good success and we expect that success to continue into the future,” Carbiener said.

These types of companies get fees from the lenders on each property, and from the law firms that file the foreclosure actions. So, their prospectuses warn investors:

“A turnaround in the housing market or additional mortgage-modification plans from Washington may negatively impact our profits.”

Well, there’s not much to worry about in either of those regards, at this point anyway.  But, I suppose there is always the risk that there could be an outbreak of competence in Washington.  Still… I’d probably go long at this point.

As long as our economy continues to sink into an abyss, any of these companies is poised to become the next Microsoft, but God forbid our elected representatives actually figure something out and we start to see stabilization in the housing market, leading to a real recovery, well… better sell these stocks short and fast, ‘cause the better things get the worse they’ll do.

The whole thing got me to thinking… this must be awfully confusing to John Paulsen and the guys at Goldman.  They want to short the housing market in every possible way, but to do that in this case, they have to go long.  I’ll bet some traders have become dizzy and maybe even passed out just thinking about that.

A Goldman Trader: “What do I do again?  I need 3.5 million shares short… no, long… no, short… no, damnit!”

So, if you’re a homeowner at risk of losing your home to foreclosure, or even if you’re not looking at foreclosure, but just can’t stand the thought of watching another hundred grand in equity go up in smoke, I have some important investment advice for 2010 and 2011 that you’ll want to hear.

Why not consider strategically defaulting on your underwater mortgage in order to start dollar cost averaging into this brand new and exciting offering:

Nina Easton’s

Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund

To learn more about Nina’s role in the foreclosure crisis, click where her name appears in orange above.

The fund’s objective is to acquire significant positions in bonds issued by growth companies that are positioned to capitalize on the emerging and exciting multi-billion dollar foreclosure industry.  The fund’s investment strategy focuses on:

  • Technologies that enable faster, high-quality document forgeries.
  • Property preservation companies that throw people out first time, every time.
  • Title insurance companies that don’t care who owns the property.
  • Lock-Box and REO-FOR-SALE sign manufacturers.
  • Home auction companies.
  • Firms that lobby on behalf of the banking industry.
  • And, of course, the makers of Xanax and Ativan.

People, this is a once in a lifetime investment opportunity to place a bet on our growing foreclosure industry, supported by the total and ongoing incompetence of our government!  And that’s not all…

In order to hedge your position in Nina’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, or for those of you who think the administration and other branches government may at some point actually start getting something right, I’m also working on getting the Obama Administration to agree to be a counterparty in credit default swaps related to certificate holders in Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund.

Nothing is definite at this point, but I think it’s important that dumb money be able to short our multi-billion dollar foreclosure industry, so for those that think the foreclosure crisis will be ending soon, stand by because my soon to be available Obama Competence Credit Default Swaps should be available soon.  That’s right, you can sell the foreclosure industry short when you invest in Obama Competence Credit Default Swaps.

Plenty of Upside Remaining…

Some have said…

“But Nina… we’ve already lost 7 million homes to foreclosure.  Haven’t I already missed out on my chance to profit from this exciting opportunity?”

No, no… silly human… there’s plenty of upside remaining in the foreclosure market.  Housing prices are still in a free fall, foreclosures are still coming in at over 300,000 a month, and we’re on the fifteenth straight month at those levels.

There are 6 million people more than 60 days delinquent on their mortgages right now, and Goldman Sachs forecasts 14 million more foreclosures in the next five years!  And don’t forget… the good news is that the ALT-A and Option ARM loans that haven’t even started adjusting yet!

Unemployment?  Fuggetaboutit!  I mean, no one is even trying to fix that anymore!  We’ve got more people unemployed for more than 30 weeks than since before I was born, and at this point our only strategy is to report made up numbers generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s all downhill from here!

So, worry not.  It’s not at all too late for you to get involved and make your fortune in the fast-paced and exciting foreclosure industry, because there’s plenty of upside left in the American foreclosure market.  Let’s see the Chinese beat us at this!  No chance… they won’t even try.

And the people trying to stop this foreclosure thing… please.  Here’s what Nina Easton wrote in her blog about a demonstration near her home:

Now this event would accurately be called a “protest”; if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be ‘mob.’

You tell ‘em Nina!

Others ask…

“Nina, I heard HAMP was doing better at modifying loans lately.  Is this something I should be concerned about?”

I wouldn’t be the least bit concerned, and here’s why…

First of all, you’d have to believe that the government’s program will actually continue to show improvement, and at this point, there’s very little evidence upon which to base that sort of assumption.

As of right now, there have been about the same number of homeowners kicked out of HAMP as have received permanent modifications, and don’t forget there are still more than 600,000 homeowners stuck in the purgatory that the government refers to as a “trial modification,” so look for at least a few hundred thousand more foreclosures there, for sure!

It really is an exciting time to be investing in the foreclosure industry in this country, and there’s no better way than through Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund.

Now, it is true that HAMP, as of June 1st, will start requiring homeowners to verify their incomes prior to being placed into a trial modification, and the early indications are that a much higher percentage of homeowners will ultimately be granted permanent modifications in future months as a result of this new requirement.

Big deal… The numbers of homeowners entering the program declined dramatically as soon as the servicers started asking for proof of income in advance of being granted a trial modification, so even if this does make HAMP incrementally better, it won’t come close to touching the more than 300,000 new foreclosures occurring each month in this country!  How could you ask for better fundamentals than that?

And the best part is… you can still rely on the fact that HAMP is “VOLUNTARY” as far as the banks and servicers are concerned!

So, relax… you don’t think the banks and servicers are going to do anything to stop foreclosures, do you?  Of course not!  And it’s still… ALL UP TO THEM!

If there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s that the banks and servicers will continue to fuel the foreclosure industry’s growth, so with the government allowing the banks total discretion on all foreclosure decisions, investing in Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund is a safe bet and a sure winner.  It’s like we’ve got Colonel Sanders guarding the chickens, if you know what I mean.

Barring some totally unforeseen change in the administration, like Paul Volker being taken seriously, Bernanke allowing us to audit the Fed, Tim Geithner turning on his banking buddies on Wall Street, or Liz Warren being given teeth, there’s no way Obama’s Making Home Affordable program is going to address the millions more homes that will be lost as a result of the foreclosure crisis.

And come on… I understand that past performance is no assurance of future results, but Volker taken seriously?  Geithner turning on Wall Street?  Liz Warren being given teeth?  Bernanke letting anyone inside the Fed?  HAHAHAHAHA… I know… anything can happen, but come on… it’s like thinking that maybe the banksters are going to wake up one morning afraid of Obama.  Come on… you’re killing me… not in this lifetime, baby!

No, folks… the good news for our emerging foreclosure industry, and for Nina Easton’s new Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, is that our government has failed at every single turn in trying to stem the tide of foreclosures in this country, and there’s no reason to believe they’re going to be any more competent in the future!

Some say that America has lost its leadership position in the world, but I don’t believe that for a second, and I think we’re already proving it with our clear dominance in the foreclosure industry.  There’s no other country on the globe that has anywhere near as vibrant a foreclosure industry as we do here in the good old U.S.A.

We’re the dominant world leader in foreclosure production, and with nothing in place to stimulate economic growth, nothing even on the drawing board to reverse the trends in unemployment, and all of our money and then some going to prop up failed financial institutions that remain insolvent, how can anyone not think that we will maintain our leadership position as the foreclosure capital of the free world?

And don’t worry about all these pesky demonstrations by homeowners.  Like Nina wrote in her blog last week about the unwashed masses that were demonstrating in front of her house, just because her neighbor works for some bank:

Waving signs denouncing bank ‘greed,’ hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses,” childishly putting “greed” in quotes as if referring to unicorns, hobbits, or some other imaginary entity.

Ooooh, snap!  We love you Nina!

So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to go long on the promise of our government’s ongoing incompetence by investing in Nina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund today!

Disclaimer: Past incompetence is no assurance of continued ineptitude, or future ineffectiveness.

Don’t worry about not having any money left in your IRA or 401(k), many of our investors simply stop making mortgage payments and then invest those amounts in the fund each month.  We even offer direct deposit, so you can just call your bank where your mortgage payments are automatically going now, and have them redirected toNina Easton’s Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund!

It’s that simple!  Why not start rooting for more foreclosures today?

Isn’t it time to get on the right side of this foreclosure crisis thing, by investing on the winning side!  Sure you may lose a house or two, but so what?  You’re so far underwater that the only difference between you and a renter is that a renter has more rights and can’t be evicted as quickly.

Besides with the money you’ll make investing in my new Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, soon you’ll not only be able to buy the home across the street for half the price, you’ll be able to pay  cash!

For more information, call:

1-800-4-EMPTY-HOMES

Or send email to:

invest@throwthemouttoday.com

Operators are standing by to take your call.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:

The Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund is not registered with FINRA or the SIPC, but so what, neither are trillions in derivatives.

Although current personnel working for the administration can be counted on as entirely lacking in ability or skill, theEmpty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund makes no assurances pertaining to the stupidity or utter uselessness of those who may work for the administration in the future.

In the event of an outbreak of competence in Washington D.C. investors should recognize that they could lose their investment in the Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund, although at this point, the FUND’s management believes that statistically this risk falls somewhere between the risk of shark attack in Indiana, and being killed by falling airplane parts while shopping at an indoor mall.

Nina Easton’s

Empty Homes Hi-Yield Bond Fund

Your Ticket to Winning Our Nation’s Race to the Bottom

Fictional Securities Not Offered by Mandelman Matters.  This, of course, was a joke.  Except for the stuff at the top about the companies like Lender Processing Services… that stuff is real, and should make you want to throw up.  Oh, and the stuff about Nina Easton was real too, and I can’t decide whether to ignore her, or write something about her every single day for the rest of my life.

Things to Consider in a Loan Modification

Exactly Who Is Doing The Modifying?

  1. The borrowers will think they are modifying their current loan when in fact they are starting all over again.
  2. The Foreclosing entity which lacks standing to bring lawsuit, is not authorized to modify anything since they are not the owner of the loan in question.
  3. Since the real parties in interest are nowhere to be found, they are taking it upon themselves with the help of their lawyers to steal your property.
  4. The borrower is actually getting a new loan which may enjoin borrower from rescinding new transaction.
  5. The foreclosing entity is STILL not using their own funds to modify (new loan) loan. They are getting funds to lend borrowers through Federal bail outs, insurance proceeds and believe it or not Investors. [same process]
  6. Their lawyers are not acting in a lawyer’s capacity but as BROKERS; [middlemen] they are getting paid commission on every new loan they help brokered.
  7. What Does Loan Modification Mean?
    A modification to an existing loan made by a lender in response to a borrower’s long-term inability to repay the loan. Loan modifications typically involve a reduction in the interest rate on the loan, an extension of the length of the term of the loan, a different type of loan or any combination of the three. A lender might be open to modifying a loan because the cost of doing so is less than the cost of default.
  8. Why would they need to re-qualify if they claim they would make the borrowers payments and rates to be less?
  9. The borrower took the loan out with lender “A” but an unknown lender “B” is trying to modify it.
  10. When the modification is said and done, the borrower will have lender “B” as the lender. What happened to lender “A”????
  11. Exactly what is in the waiver they ask you to sign if any?

Homes can be lost by mistake when banks miscommunicate: USAtoday

By Paul Kiel, ProPublica

Last November, Michael Hill of Lexington, S.C., finally got the call he’d been waiting for. Congratulations, a rep from JPMorgan Chase told him, your trial mortgage modification is approved. Hill’s monthly payment, around $900, would be nearly halved. Except there was a problem. Chase had foreclosed on Hill’s home a month earlier, and his family was just days away from eviction.

“I listened to her and then I just said, ‘Well, that sounds good,’ ” Hill recalled. ” ‘Tell me how we’re going to do this, seeing as how you sold the house?’ ” That, he found out, was news to Chase.

 CHARTS: Tracking the U.S. housing market’s rise, fall and rebound

Millions of homeowners face losing their homes in the continuing foreclosure crisis, but homeowners often have more than the struggling economy and slumping house prices to worry about: Disorganization within the big banks that service mortgages has made a bad problem worse.

Hill was able to avoid eviction — for now. Chase reversed the sale by paying the man who’d bought the home an extra $19,500 on top of the $86,000 he’d paid at the auction. But other homeowners say they lost their homes because the communication breakdown within the banks was so complete that it led to premature or mistaken foreclosures.

“We believe in many cases people are losing their homes when they should not have,” said Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, which counts dozens of non-profits that work with homeowners among its members.

In the worst breakdowns, such as Hill’s, banks — and other companies that service loans — actually work at cross-purposes, with one arm of the company foreclosing on the home while the other offers help. Servicers say such mistakes are rare and result from the high volume of defaults and foreclosures.

The problems happen even among servicers participating in the administration’s $75 billion foreclosure-prevention program. Servicers operating under the year-old program are forbidden from auctioning someone’s home while a modification decision is pending.

It happens anyway.

Consumer advocates say the lapses continue because they go unpunished. “We’ve had too much of the carrot, and we need a stick,” Stein says. The Treasury Department has yet to penalize a servicer for breaking the program’s rules. The program provides federal subsidies to encourage modifications.

Treasury officials overseeing the program say they’re aware of the problems and have moved to fix them. Some states are going further to protect homeowners, however, with recent rules that stop the foreclosure process if the homeowner requests a modification.

Many homeowners, seeing no other option, have gone to court to reclaim their homes. At least 50 homeowners have recently filed lawsuits alleging the servicer foreclosed with a loan mod request pending or even while they were on a payment plan.

 Long waits for help

 In good times, banks and other servicers —Bank of America is the biggest, followed by Chase and Wells Fargo— were known mainly to homeowners simply as where they sent their monthly mortgage payment. But the companies have been deluged over the past couple years by requests for help from millions of struggling homeowners.

 Homeowners commonly wait six months for an answer on a loan mod application. The federal program for encouraging loan mods includes a three-month trial period, after which servicers are supposed to decide whether to make the modifications permanent. But some homeowners have waited as long as 10 months for a final answer.

The experience of Hill, married with two children, typifies the delays and confusion. After the mistaken foreclosure, he began the trial modification last December. He made those payments, but two months after his trial period was supposed to end, Hill is still waiting for a final answer from Chase.

The miscommunications have continued. He received a letter in January saying that he’d been approved for a permanent modification, but he was then told he’d received it in error.

His family remains partially packed, ready to move should the modification not go through. “I’m on pins and needles every time someone’s knocking on the door or calling,” he said.

Christine Holevas, a Chase spokeswoman, said that Chase had “agreed with Hill’s request to rescind the foreclosure” and was “now reviewing his loan for permanent modification.” She said Chase services “more than 10 million mortgages — the vast majority without a hitch.”

Communication breakdowns occur because of the way the servicers are structured. One division typically deals with modifications and another with foreclosures. Servicers also hire a local trustee or attorney to actually pursue foreclosure.

 “Often they just simply don’t communicate with each other,” said Laurie Maggiano, the Treasury official in charge of setting policy for the modification program. Such problems were particularly bad last summer, in the first few months of the program, she said. “Basically, you have the right hand at the mortgage company not knowing what the left hand is doing,” said Mark Pearce, North Carolina’s deputy commissioner of banks. Communication glitches and mistakes are “systemic, more than anecdotal” among mortgage servicers, he said.

 “We’ve had cases where we’ve informed the mortgage company that they’re about to foreclose on someone.” The experience for the homeowner, he said, can be “Kafkaesque.”

 “We’re all human, and the servicers are overworked and trying their best,” said Vicki Vidal, of the Mortgage Bankers Association. She said foreclosure errors are rare, particularly if struggling homeowners are prompt in contacting their servicer.

 Frances Gomez, of Tempe, Ariz., lived in her house for over 30 years. Three years ago, she refinanced it with Countrywide, now part of Bank of America, for nearly $300,000. The home’s value has declined dramatically, said Gomez, who put some of the money from the refinancing into her hair salon.

Last year, the recession forced her to close her shop. Gomez fell behind on her mortgage, and after striking out with a company that promised to work with Bank of America to get her a loan mod, she learned in December that her home was scheduled for foreclosure.

So Gomez applied herself. She twice succeeded in getting Bank of America to postpone the sale date, and she said she was assured it would not happen until her application was reviewed. Gomez had opened a smaller salon and understood there was a good chance she would qualify for a modification.

She was still waiting in March when a Realtor, representing the new owner of her home, showed up. Her house had sold at auction — for less than half of what Gomez owed. “They don’t give you an opportunity,” she said. “They just go and do it with no warning.”

It’s not supposed to work that way.

Under the federal program, which requires servicers to follow a set of guidelines for modifications, servicers must give borrowers a written denial before foreclosing. When Gomez called Bank of America about the sale, she said, she was told there was a mistake but nothing could be done. She did get a denial notice — some three weeks after the house was sold and just days before she was evicted.

“I just want people to know what they’re doing,” Gomez, now living with family members, said.

After being contacted by ProPublica, Bank of America reviewed Gomez’s case. Bank spokesman Rick Simon acknowledged that Gomez might not have been told her house would be sold and that the bank made a mistake in denying Gomez, because it did not take into account the income from her new salon business. Simon said a Bank of America representative would seek to negotiate with the new owner of Gomez’s house to see if the sale could be unwound.

Simon said the bank regrets when such mistakes happen due to the “very high volume” of cases and that any errors in Gomez’s case were “inadvertent.”

Even avoiding a mistaken sale can also be a stressful process.

One day in February, a man approached Ron Bermudez of Emeryville, Calif., in front of his house and told him his home would be sold in a few hours. This came as a shock to Bermudez; Bank of America had told him weeks earlier that he’d been approved for a trial modification and that the papers would soon arrive. He made a panicked phone call to an attorney, who was able to make sure there was no auction.

To contest a foreclosure under the federal program, Maggiano, the Treasury official, said a homeowner should call the HOPE Hotline, 888-995-HOPE, a Treasury Department-endorsed hotline staffed by housing counselors. Those counselors can escalate the case if the servicer still won’t correct the problem, she said.

That escalation process has saved “a number” of homeowners from being wrongfully booted out of their homes, Maggiano said. Hill, the South Carolina homeowner, is an example of someone helped by the HOPE Hotline.

Of course, the homeowner must know about the hotline to call it. Gomez, the Arizona homeowner who lost her home to foreclosure, said she’d never heard of it.

Many homeowner advocates say the government’s effort has been largely ineffective at resolving problems with servicers.

“I uniformly hear from attorneys and counseling advocates on the ground that the HOPE Hotline simply parrots back what the servicers have said,” said Alys Cohen, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. Cohen said she’d voiced her concerns with Treasury officials, who indicated they’d make improvements.

Offering more protection

Under the current rules for the federal program, servicers have been barred from conducting a foreclosure sale if the homeowner requested a modification but are allowed to push along the process, even set a sale date. That allows them to foreclose more quickly if they determine the homeowner doesn’t qualify for a modification.

As a result, a homeowner might get a modification offer one day and a foreclosure notice the next. As of March, servicers were pursuing foreclosure on 1.8 million residences, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

Maggiano, the Treasury official, said that’s been confusing for homeowners. Some “just got discouraged and gave up.”

New rules issued by the Treasury in March say the servicer must first give the homeowner a shot at a modification before beginning the process that leads to foreclosure.

They also require the servicers to adopt new policies to prevent mishaps. For instance, the servicer will be required to provide a written certification to its attorney or trustee that the homeowner does not qualify for the federal program before the house can be sold.

Maggiano said the changes resulted from visits to the servicers’ offices last December that allowed Treasury officials to “much better understand (their) inner workings.”

The rules, however, don’t take effect until June. Nor do they apply to hundreds of thousands of homeowners seeking a modification for whom the process leading to foreclosure has already begun. And Treasury has yet to set any penalties for servicers who don’t follow the rules.

Maggiano said Treasury’s new rule struck a balance to help homeowners who were responsive to servicer communications to stay out of foreclosure while not introducing unnecessary delays for servicers. Some borrowers don’t respond at all to offers of help from the servicer until they’re faced with foreclosure, she said.

Some states, such as North Carolina, have recently gone further to delay moving toward foreclosure if a homeowner requests a modification. State regulators there recently passed a law that requires a servicer to halt the process if a homeowner requests a modification.

Pearce, the North Carolina official, said the rule was prompted by the delays homeowners have been facing and puts the burden on the servicer to expeditiously review the request. “They’re in total control.”

Stopping the process not only removes the possibility of a sudden foreclosure, he said, but also stops the accumulation of fees, which build up and can add thousands to the homeowner’s debt as the servicer moves toward foreclosure.

In California, state Sen. Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco, is pushing a bill that would do something similar. The servicers “should be working a lot harder to keep homeowners in their home,” he said.

 Kiel is a reporter for ProPublica, an independent non-profit newsroom based in New York. USA TODAY editors worked with him in preparing this story for publication.

 SHARE YOUR STORY
Are you a homeowner seeking a loan modification through the government program?Click here to share your story with ProPublica.
 HELP FOR BORROWERS

What should you do if you’re foreclosed on while you’re waiting for an answer on your loan modification application?

Treasury officials say you should call the HOPE Hotline, 888-995-HOPE. It’s staffed by housing counselors, who will contact the servicer to try to resolve the situation.

If the counselors can’t resolve the problem, they can bring the issue to a “solution center” staffed by Fannie Mae, with which Treasury contracted to administer the modification program.

Those employees can intervene on behalf of the Treasury if the servicer is breaking the program’s rules, they said.

 HOW MICHAEL HILL ALMOST LOST HIS HOME
A chronology of one borrower’s experience with a mistaken foreclosure. 

  • Early 2009: After falling behind on his mortgage, Hill has many phone calls with JPMorgan Chase but is not offered a modification.
  • April 2: Chase files to pursue foreclosure on Hill’s house.
  • Aug. 6: Chase refers Hill to a housing counselor. With her help, he applies again for a modification.
  • Oct. 5: Chase sells Hill’s home at a foreclosure auction for $86,000.
  • Nov. 5: The sheriff issues Hill a notice saying he’ll be evicted in one week.
  • Nov. 11: Chase calls to tell Hill that he’s been approved for a trial modification.
  • Nov. 18: Chase buys the home back for $19,521 above the auction price.
  • Dec. 9: Hill begins the trial modification.
    Source: ProPublica interviews with Michael Hill and Hill’s records.
 HOMEOWNER LOSES HOME
More than 50 homeowners have filed lawsuits in the past year, alleging a communication breakdown led to foreclosure.In one of those suits, David Peterson of Grain Valley, Mo. says Chase Home Finance, part of JPMorgan Chase, assured him in December 2008,  that he qualified for a loan modification and would soon receive the papers in the mail. The offer was not under the government program, which didn’t launch until April 2009.

When the papers had still not arrived a month later, he says he called to ask whether he should send in a payment. He was told to wait, the suit says, and was assured he would not be foreclosed on.

Nevertheless, Chase sold his home. More than three weeks later, Peterson says he received the modification papers in the mail. They were dated one day after the foreclosure had occurred.

Chase refused to reverse the sale, according to the suit, which was filed last month. Chase declined to comment on pending litigation.

– By Paul Kiel, ProPublica

Our view on foreclosures: Get out of the business of mortgage modifications

On an emotional level, many Americans have never come to terms with the $700 billion bank bailout that passed in the waning days of the Bush administration. Though it garnered bipartisan support, and the overwhelming view of economists and businesses leaders was that it averted calamity, the idea of propping the very institutions that caused the crisis seemed like a bad use of taxpayer money. How could it be otherwise? So in response, President Obama decided early in his administration to take $50 billion from the bailout funds and redirect it to homeowners. The goal was to induce banks to modify the terms of millions of loans that were in danger of default because of declining home prices. It was always a dubious idea. Bailing out people who, in many cases, bought houses they couldn’t afford isn’t much more appealing than bailing out bankers. And besides, this is bailing out bankers because it’s impossible to help borrowers without helping lenders as well.

Roughly a year after the program was created, and a week after some changes were announced, what is becoming increasingly clear is this: The main part of the bailout is shaping up less as a bailout than a shrewd investment, while the loan modification program looks like an embarrassing failure.

Now that the threat of a second Great Depression is gone, the justification for bailouts of any kind is even more tenuous. And despite improvements, the mortgage program still looks like a sweetheart deal for banks, as well as select homeowners.

Consider this contrast. The main part of the bailout — consisting of direct investments in financial institutions — is quickly being paid back, in some cases at a nice profit. A $25 billion investment in Citigroup, for instance, is worth between $31 billion and $32 billion at Wednesday’s share prices.

The loan modification program, on the other hand, is the only part of the bailout that can’t be described as an investment. Even in the case of the auto bailout, taxpayers will get something back. Not so with this.

The program is actually a mosaic of different parts. It includes money to induce servicers to refinance borrowers into government-backed loans, and in some cases reduce the principle owed on some mortgages. It has a requirement that they reduce the loan payments for three to six months if the borrower loses a job. And it encourages holders of second liens to settle up.

Economically, this makes some sense. The troubled housing market is a major barrier to recovery. And the expansion announced last week could at least put some life into a program that has fallen far short of expectations, with fewer than 200,000 modifications so far.

But from a perspective of fairness and what is best for the economy in the long run, it is hard to defend. Lenders made fortunes putting people in inappropriate loans by reselling them at a profit and collecting fees as a loan servicer. Now they are getting paid to behave as they should have all along.

Giving special deals to certain homeowners is troublesome as well. What about the people who opted against buying at the top of the market? Or those who narrowly missed qualifying for this program? Certainly, they must find the concept unfair.

Given how generous, and narrow, this program is, it’s hard not to agree with them.

 To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to letters@usatoday.com. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.

OneWest Bank / IndyMac Horror Story: Lender Approves Loan Modification For Couple Several Months After Foreclosing & Giving Them The Boot

Family Approved for Loan Modification After Eviction

Posted: Mar 16, 2010 6:43 PM EDT Updated: Mar 17, 2010 3:45 PM EDT

LAS VEGAS — Gary and Paulette Stelton look through the mortgage paperwork of their old North Las Vegas home.

Last year, Paulette fell ill. Medical expenses swamped them. They tried to renegotiate their home loan with IndyMac Mortgage Services. Instead, IndyMac began foreclosure.

The Steltons now rent a home.

What they didn’t expect was a call from IndyMac this week congratulating them on being approved for a loan modification several months after IndyMac changed the locks.

“I wish the guy would have been here. I would have beat the living hell out of him — I’m sorry. They played games with us each and every month,” said Gary Stelton.

Ian Hirsch, with Fortress Credit Services, says IndyMac is one of the worst banks doing business in Nevada.

“Specifically with IndyMac Bank, I tell people that they have a loan with the devil,” he said.

IndyMac’s parent company says they never evicted the Steltons. They changed the locks after the Stelton’s refused to talk to the bank anymore. After repeated calls by 8 News Now, IndyMac Bank says they will look further into how they can help the Steltons keep their home.

IndyMac’s parent company OneWest Bank also calls the comments from Hirsch “inflammatory” and “confused.”