U.S. Banks WILL BE ‘Toast’ If Struggling Homeowners Keep Walking Away (VIDEO)

Huffington Post | Sherry Shen First Posted: 06- 2-10 05:11 PM | Updated: 06- 2-10 05:11 PM

Felix Salmon

click for video

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon believes that if more and more struggling homeowners continue walking away from their homes, U.S. banks could be “toast.”

As strategically defaults continue to rise, some homeowners are using their inability to pay their mortgage to live rent free — often for more than a year, the New York Times reported.

“Trying to renegotiate your mortgage is not a morally reprehensible thing to do,” Salmon said, pointing out that mainstream media organization’s like the New York Times magazine has been publishing columns about this trend and how it makes so much “financial sense.” Corporations walk away from commercial mortgages, Salmon said. “It’s not clear to me why an individual should behave any different,” Salmon said.

Wells Fargo is most exposed to the trend, affecting the bank’s livelihood. “Sand state” banks such as those in Florida and California are also far more exposed. Here’s more from Salmon:

“From the bank’s point of view, if this catches on, there’s a very large number of banks in this country who are just toast. And in hindsight they were just much better off dealing in a realistic way with these borrowers a year ago or two years ago when the problem first reeled its head instead of extending and pretending. Now they are in a pickle.”

“If this trend continues, then the banking system is probably insolvent,” he said.

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RUN DON’T WALK AWAY! THE BANKS ARE BEGINNING TO FEEL IT!

If they had listened to us from the very beginning they would not have this problem. The FACT is that they suck and they don’t give a whoots ass about it’s customers. So one has to stand up to them and tell them… We are sick entired of being sick entired!

Maybe this will make you think twice about approving short sales and modifications much faster in the future. Regardless people READ what they put in front of you and DO NOT sign away any waiver to sue!

BofA: Mortgage Walkaways Have Huge Incentive

Published: Wednesday, 2 Jun 2010 | 1:14 PM ET

By: Diana Olick
CNBC Real Estate Reporter

This morning executives at Bank of America [BAC  15.90   0.46  (+2.98%)   ] rolled out their new “Principal Reduction Enhancement” program, which is an earned principal forgiveness plan for borrowers behind on their mortgages and whose loans are at least 20 percent underwater in value.

The plan is in conjunction with the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, but the government’s principal reduction plan isn’t in place yet.

What makes BofA’s plan so proactive is that it employs, “a principal reduction as the first step toward reaching HAMP’s affordable payment target of 31 percent of household income when modifying certain NHRP-eligible mortgages — ahead of lowering the interest rate and extending the term.”

Why are they getting more aggressive on modifications?

Because more borrowers are walking away. Yes, I know we’ve talked about this forever on this blog and on CNBC, and the New York Times did a piece yesterday on it, and 60 Minutes did a piece on it a few weeks ago. The fact of the matter is it’s getting worse, and B of A execs are acknowledging that openly.

On the conference call to announce the program this morning, BofA’s credit loss mitigation executive, Jack Schakett, said the amount of strategic defaulters (those who can pay their loans but opt not to) are “more than we have ever experienced before.” He went on to say, “there is a huge incentive for customers to walk away because getting free rent and waiting out foreclosure can be very appealing to customers.”

Schakett says the foreclosure process is still taking 13 to 14 months (and by my estimates that’s an optimistic assessment), and so there’s over a year of free rent. While the banks are trying to improve the time, they’re just not there yet. DinSFLA: Perhaps because the longer it takes, the more the servicer makes! Even longer to have had a short sale approved.

31 percent of foreclosures in March were deemed to be “strategic default” by researchers at University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

That’s up from 22 percent in March of 2009.

We already know that mortgage walkaways are more prevalent among borrowers whose neighbors or friends have done the same thing.

We also learn from those same researchers that the likelihood of walking away increases by 23 percent when homeowners learn that a neighbor got some principal forgiveness.

I’ll let you all argue that one.

© 2010 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Housing Market Update: When Will House Prices Recover?

Since they all seem to be talking out of their asses…let me be frank and speaketh Le Face! Not in 5 yrs…not in 10 years…maybe in 20 years from now!

Seeing the inventory of shadow “hidden” reo’s there is no near in sight!

Now why give any loans today? The housing market is going down, these homes will continue to head under water? Buy today…Loose Tomorrow mentality? Especially the FHA loans??

5465.0

Description: A sign advertising new homes for sale is seen on March 24 in Davie, Florida. (Getty Images)

May 27, 2010 | From theTrumpet.com
Not any time soon.

Remember when all those government economists and National Association of Realtors analysts were saying that housing prices wouldn’t recover until the first half of 2009? Then it was by 2010? Now the truth is coming out. No one knows when housing prices will recover—if ever.

According to mortgage-bond legend Lewis Ranieri, don’t expect a meaningful rebound in house prices for at least three to five years: “There is another big leg down and the question is how long does it stay.”

Don’t be quick to dismiss what Ranieri says, because he is possibly the one individual who is arguably just as responsible for America’s great housing bubble as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (who lowered interest rates to record lows to try to get us to spend our way out of a recession), the politicians (who forced banks to lend to unqualified individuals) and the investment ratings agencies (that rated subprime mortgages as triple-A safe).

Ranieri was the high-flying Salomon Brothers trader who first packaged mortgages into bundles that could be sold and traded as securities on a national and international level. He was the man who institutionalized mass mortgage investing. His innovations back in the 1980s helped reduce the cost of mortgages for millions of people. But they also paved the way for the junk subprime lending that helped fuel the housing bubble.

Now Ranieri is saying to get set for more trouble ahead. Over the next 18 months, at least 3 million more properties will join the 5 million already in some stage of distress. “It’s an immense problem” that risks “flooding the market,” he said.

The market for mortgage-backed securities has virtually dried up since 2008. With so many people falling behind on their payments, investors have not been able to rely on the steady streams of income that mortgage bonds historically produce. Plus, with house prices plummeting, investors don’t even have the protection of collateral.

With such adverse conditions, investors don’t want to touch American mortgages with a 10-foot pole.

Normally this lack of investment demand would drive up mortgage rates and weed out weaker borrowers—thus allowing the housing market to return to investable conditions.

However, due to government intervention to prop up the housing market, there has been an unforeseen side effect. America’s pool of mortgages has actually become riskier for investors.

In an effort to prop up house prices in America and thus keep the big banks solvent, the government began massively encouraging more people to invest in homes: It changed tax laws, it used taxpayer money to modify loans for people who had borrowed too much, it offered first-time home buyers credits, and then extended the buyers’ credits again once they expired.

It even used taxpayer dollars to ramp up subprime lending—the same kind of risky lending that got the banks into trouble in the first place.

It was one massive taxpayer-backed effort to increase the pool of home buyers and thus demand for houses and house prices.

But the scheme largely backfired.

The government subsidies and handouts did encourage more people to buy homes—but mostly people who couldn’t normally afford homes on their own.

Look at the numbers. About 95 percent of the money used to buy homes in America today comes from the government. And guess which government organization issues the most loans. Is it Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government mortgage giants notorious for their low lending standards? No, it is a new government agency with even lower standards.

Meet the Federal Housing Authority (fha). You can get an fha-backed loan for a house with as little as 3.5 percent down. This is the most common loan in America today. If you include the government’s $8,000 first-time buyer’s credit (that just expired), the government was actually paying people to borrow taxpayer dollars to purchase homes.

“This is a market purely on life support, sustained by the federal government,” admits fha president David Stevens. “Having fha do this much volume is a sign of a very sick system.”

The fha backed more loans during the first quarter of this year than the $6 trillion Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants did! Those were your dollars being given to subprime borrowers.

If you were an investor, would you want to lend money to someone who could not save up a down payment? Would you lend to a family that required two incomes to afford the loan and still couldn’t save up a down payment?

Thus, the government is stuck with all the mortgages. It can’t stop giving money for loans, or the market will collapse, the economy will head down again and politicians will look incompetent. Yet at the same time, how long can the government afford to provide money for 95 percent of all home-buying activity in the country?

With America’s ballooning budget deficits, the days of government handouts may soon come to an end. When they do, don’t be surprised if house prices fall a whole lot further.

So when will a recovery come? No one knows for sure, but even Lewis Ranieri will likely be proved an optimist.

For the real reason America’s housing market exploded, and how to fix it, read “The Cause of the Crisis People Won’t Face.” •

Memo to the bank: Take this money-sucking, underwater house and shove it! Go ahead and wreck my credit for years to come. I’m walking away, no matter what.

Anger at the root of mortgage default problem, study finds

By Kenneth R. Harney The Washington Post
Saturday, May 22, 2010

Memo to the bank: Take this money-sucking, underwater house and shove it! Go ahead and wreck my credit for years to come. I’m walking away, no matter what.

Why?

That’s the question posed by Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law professor whose academic paper last year on the fast-spreading “strategic default” phenomenon drew sharp criticism from lenders and Wall Street, who viewed him as the Pied Piper of the walk-away movement.

Now White has published a paper based on the personal accounts of 356 strategic defaulters and homeowners on the verge of doing the same. His finding: People who intentionally default on their loans are not as economically rational or calculating in their decision-making as widely thought.

In fact, he said, their decisions to pull the plug “may not turn out to be economically rational.” But they walk anyway, in large part because they are at the end of their emotional rope. They have transitioned from feelings of anxiety and hopelessness to outright anger at their lenders, the government and a financial system they consider unfair.

White published his latest paper in Arizona Legal Studies, the university law school’s journal. After a study he did last year, which argued that far larger numbers of underwater borrowers should stick it to their lenders, White says he was inundated with e-mails and calls from homeowners saddled with negative equity. Many provided him with extensive details of their financial situations and difficulties dealing with their lenders.

According to CoreLogic, a real estate analytics firm, negative equity continues to be a massive and corrosive problem. During the first quarter, 11.2 million homeowners across the country owed more on their mortgages than the market value of their properties.

In Las Vegas, 75 percent of mortgaged homes and condos are underwater. In Phoenix, 550,000 homeowners have negative equity — 58 percent of houses with loans. Florida’s rate of negative equity is 48 percent, followed by Michigan at 39 percent and California at 34 percent. Nationwide, nearly one out of four mortgaged houses is in a negative equity position, according to CoreLogic.

White and other academic researchers say that severe negative equity is the essential spark that prompts owners to consider walking away — even those who think it’s morally wrong to default.

Based on the personal accounts shared by strategic defaulters, White said, they often have high credit scores, sterling payment histories and solid incomes. As one underwater homeowner said in an e-mail to White, “There isn’t a lender out there who wouldn’t give us a loan,” based on credit performance.

But staring at hundreds of thousands of dollars of negative equity, owners become anxious, then pessimistic, about their financial futures. Older owners with severe negative equity worry about their ability to stay afloat in their retirement years if they keep paying their mortgage.

Lenders and loan servicers often play crucial — if inadvertent — roles in motivating owners to walk away, White said. Of the 356 homeowners’ situations he analyzed, 100 percent reported contacting their lenders to work out a solution before they defaulted.

Many say they were rebuffed by servicers who refused to discuss modifications with anyone current on loan payments. White quoted one deeply underwater homeowner: “So many times I have called my mortgage company to say that I have been a good-paying customer, who despite the difficult economic times, [has] continued to pay on time. I am told over and over again that they cannot do anything for me.”

Other owners told White that they tried to qualify for one of the Obama administration’s foreclosure-prevention programs but either got snagged by rigid income-to-payment rules or non-responsive servicers, or were told they were too deeply underwater to obtain assistance of any sort.

In the end, anger pushes even the most reluctant defaulters over the line.

Some of the anger is directed at the federal government. One couple told White: “Frankly we are tired of getting the short end of the stick, while the government seems to rescue everyone but us.”

White says there can be no effective answer to the walk-away trend as long as lenders and the government fail to intervene early and address underwater borrowers’ needs and emotions.

One possibility: much deeper principal-reduction efforts for owners who have severe negative equity and see no way out. Another option offered by White: Create a “rent-based loan program” that would allow underwater owners the option of refinancing their balances to an interest rate that would bring their monthly payments in line with the rental cost for a comparable house.