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Friday, December 27, 2013



With the release of the US Bank admissions per our post of November 6, 2013; the issuance of the opinions from the Supreme Courts of Oregon and Montana holding that MERS is not the “beneficiary”; and recent opinions from various jurisdictions which are now, finally, holding that securitization-related issues are relevant in a foreclosure, a host of new legal issues are about to be litigated in the trial and appellate courts throughout the country. It has taken six (6) years and coast-to-coast work to get courts to realize that securitization of a mortgage loan raises issues as to standing, real party in interest, and the alleged authority to foreclose, and that the simplistic mantra of the “banks” and servicers of “we have the note, thus we win” is no longer to be blindly accepted.
One issue which we and others are litigating relates to mortgage loans originated by Option One, which changed its name to Sand Canyon Corporation and thereafter ceased all mortgage loan operations. Pursuant to the sworn testimony of the former President of Sand Canyon, it stopped owning mortgage loans as of 2008. However, even after this cessation of any involvement with servicing or ownership of mortgage loans, we see “Assignments” from Option One or Sand Canyon to a securitization trustee bank or other third party long after 2008.
The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire concluded, with the admission of the President of Sand Canyon, that the homeowner’s challenge to the foreclosure based on a 2011 alleged transfer from Sand Canyon to Wells Fargo was not an “attack on the assignment” which certain jurisdictions have precluded on the alleged basis that the borrower is not a party to the assignment, but is a situation where no assignment occurred because it could not have as a matter of admitted fact, as Sand Canyon could not assign something it did not have. The case is Drouin v. American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc. and Wells Fargo, etc., No. 11-cv-596-JL.
The Option One/Sand Canyon situation is not unique: there are many originating “lenders” which allegedly “assigned” mortgages or Deeds of Trust long after they went out of business or filed for Bankruptcy, with no evidence of post-closing assignment authority or that the Bankruptcy court having jurisdiction over a bankrupt lender ever granted permission for the alleged transfer of the loan (which is an asset of the Bankruptcy estate) out of the estate. Such a transfer without proof of authority to do so implicates bankruptcy fraud (which is a serious crime punishable under United States criminal statutes), and fraud on the court in a foreclosure case where such an alleged assignment is relied upon by the foreclosing party.
As we stated in our post of November 6, the admission of US Bank that a borrower is a party to any MBS transaction and that the loan is governed by the trust documents means that the borrower is, in fact, a party to any assignment of that borrower’s loan, and should thus be permitted to seek discovery as to any alleged assignment and all issues related to the securitization of the loan. We have put this issue out in many of our cases, and will be arguing this position at both the trial and appellate levels beginning early 2014.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013



We have been provided with a copy of U.S. Bank Global Corporate Trust Services’ “Role of the Corporate Trustee” brochure which makes certain incredible admissions, several of which squarely disprove and nullify the holdings of various courts around the country which have taken the position that the borrower “is not a party to” the securitization and is thus not entitled to discovery or challenges to the mortgage loan transfer process. The brochure accompanied a letter from US Bank to one of our clients which states: “Your account is governed by your loan documents and the Trust’s governing documents”, which admission clearly demonstrates that the borrower’s loan is directly related to documents governing whatever securitized mortgage loan trust the loan has allegedly been transferred to. This brochure proves that Courts which have held to the contrary are wrong on the facts.
The first heading of the brochure is styled “Distinct Party Roles”. The first sentence of this heading states: “Parties involved in a MBS transaction include the borrower, the originator, the servicer and the trustee, each with their own distinct roles, responsibilities and limitations.” MBS is defined at the beginning of the brochure as the sale of “Mortgage Backed Securities in the capital markets”. The fourth page of the brochure also identifies the “Parties to a Mortgage Backed Securities Transaction”, with the first being the “Borrower”, followed by the Investment Bank/Sponsor, the Investor, the Originator, the Servicer, the Trust (referred to “generally as a special purpose entity, such as a Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (REMIC)”), and the Trustee (stating that “the trustee does not have an economic or beneficial interest in the loans”).
The second page sets forth that U.S. Bank, as Trustee, “does not have any discretion or authority in the foreclosure process.” If this is true, how can U.S. Bank as Trustee be the Plaintiff in judicial foreclosures or the foreclosing party in non-judicial foreclosures if it has “no authority in the foreclosure process”?
The second page also states: “All trustees for MBS transactions, including U.S. Bank, have no advance knowledge of when a mortgage loan has defaulted.” Really? So when, for example, MERS assigns, in 2011, a loan to a 2004 Trust where the loan has been in default since 2008, no MBS “trustee” bank (and note that it says “All” trustees) do not know that a loan coming into the trust is in default? The trust just blindly accepts loans which may or may not be in default without any advanced due diligence? Right. Sure. Of course. LOL.
However, that may be true, because the trustee banks do not want to know, for then they can take advantage of the numerous insurances, credit default swaps, reserve pools, etc. set up to pay the trust when loans are in default, as discussed below.
The same page states that “Any action taken by the servicer must maximize the return on the investment made by the ‘beneficial owners of the trust’ — the investors.” The fourth page of the brochure states that the investors are “the true beneficial owners of the mortgages”, and the third page of the brochure states “Whether the servicer pursues a foreclosure or considers a modification of the loan, the goal is still to maximize the return to investors” (who, again, are the true beneficial owners of the mortgage loans).
This is a critical admission in terms of what happens when a loan is securitized. The borrower initiated a mortgage loan with a regulated mortgage banking institution, which is subject to mortgage banking rules, regulations, and conditions, with the obligation evidenced by the loan documents being one of simple loaning of money and repayment, period. Once a loan is sold off into a securitization, the homeowner is no longer dealing with a regulated mortgage banking institution, but with an unregulated private equity investor which is under no obligation to act in the best interest to maintain the loan relationship, but to “maximize the return”. This, as we know, almost always involves foreclosure and denial of a loan mod, as a foreclosure (a) results in the acquisition of a tangible asset (the property); and (b) permits the trust to take advantage of reserve pools, credit default swaps, first loss reserves, and other insurances to reap even more monies in connection with the claimed “default” (with no right of setoff as to the value of the property against any such insurance claims), and in a situation where the same risk was permitted to be underwritten many times over, as there was no corresponding legislation or regulation which precluded a MBS insurer (such as AIG, MGIC, etc.) from writing a policy on the same risk more than once.
As those of you know who have had Bloomberg reports done on securitized loans, the screens show loans which have been placed into many tranches (we saw one where the same loan was collateralized in 41 separate tranches, each of which corresponded to a different class of MBS), and with each class of MBS having its own insurance, the “trust” could make 41 separate insurance claims AND foreclose on the house as well! Talk about “maximizing return for the investor”! What has happened is that the securitization parties have unilaterally changed the entire nature of the mortgage loan contract without any prior notice to or approval from the borrower.
There is no language in any Note or Mortgage document (DOT, Security Deed, or Mortgage) by which the borrower is put on notice that the entire nature of the mortgage loan contract and the other contracting party may be unilaterally changed from a loan with a regulated mortgage lender to an “investment” contract with a private equity investor. This, in our business, is called “fraud by omission” for purposes of inducing someone to sign a contract, with material nondisclosure of matters which the borrower had to have to make the proper decision as to whether to sign the contract or not.
U.S. Bank has now confirmed, in writing from its own corporate offices in St. Paul, Minnesota, so much of what we have been arguing for years. This brochure should be filed in every securitization case for discovery purposes and opposing summary judgments or motions to dismiss where the securitized trustee “bank” takes the position that “the borrower is not part of the securitization and thus has no standing to question it.” U. S. Bank has confirmed that the borrower is in fact a party to an MBS transaction, period, and that the mortgage loan is in fact governed, in part, by “the Trust’s governing documents”, which are thus absolutely relevant for discovery purposes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013



Several of our clients have recently received letters from Ocwen Loan Servicing in response to inquiries as to who owns the homeowner’s loan. The response from Ocwen is a form letter, which states: “There is no single investor of the loan. The loan is one of many in a securitized investment trust (with name of the trust). Ocwen is the servicer of the loan, and not necessarily the owner of the loan. Although the ownership of the loan may change, the ownership has no bearing on the servicing of the loan.”
Look at that series of admissions very carefully. We know that Ocwen is a servicer, and is never an “owner” of a loan. A servicer is (allegedly) working to service the loan on behalf of some owner. Who is that owner? Ocwen does not know, and admits that the ownership may change.
Servicing rights are conveyed by a servicing contract. Who is Ocwen working for? It does not say. What rights have been conferred upon Ocwen by whoever owns the loan? Ocwen does not say. What amount is the owner claiming is owed and under what facts? Ocwen does not say.
Ocwen does admit that the loan was securitized. This admission implicates all of the securitization issues, including authority of the servicer, whether the loan was properly transferred to the trust, whether there were any paydowns or payoffs of the note through insurances, credit default swaps, reserve pools, etc. depending on the current state of the law in whatever jurisdiction a foreclosure is pending. As you know, some states have case law which permits inquiry into the issues; some do not; and some are undecided.
This letter alone warrants intensive discovery in any foreclosure case in view of the admissions of Ocwen, which admissions generate a wealth of issues of fact for discovery and trial as well.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rhode Island foreclosure cases

Rhode Island foreclosure cases face additional uncertainty after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit overturned a trial judge’s decision halting foreclosures while the parties attempted to find a resolution through mediation.  The appellate court, with retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter writing the decision, concluded that banks should have been given a hearing on the likelihood of success before the court effectively granted an injunction and that the amount of time and money spent on mediation should have been capped.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Banks stick to short sales in $25B settlement relief

Banks stick to short sales in $25B settlement relief

When 49 state attorneys and the five banks -- JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Ally/GMAC, Wells Fargo and Citibank -- settled their dispute in February of 2012, the banks agreed to stop improper foreclosure practices and provide $25 billion in relief for homeowners in the form of principal reductions, refinances and short sales (where a lender agrees to accept a purchase offer for less than is owed on the mortgage, releasing the homeowner from the loan).  According to the terms of the settlement, at least 60 percent of the borrower relief is to be spent on principal reductions.
Nearly $10.6 billion in mortgage relief has made its way to homeowners as part of the $25 billion national settlement reached earlier this year, according to a progress report from the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight.
So what is the problem? So far, the bulk of that money -- more than 85 percent -- has gone to pre-foreclosure (short) sales, which the banks were already doing before the settlement. In fact, according to data firm RealtyTrac, short sales were already on the rise before the settlement took effect in March. In the first quarter of 2012, short sales were up 25 percent year-over-year.
Of the $10.6 billion paid out so far, about $8.7 billion has gone to short sales. Only about $1 billion combined has gone toward mortgage modifications that reduce loan balances and refinances.
Of the five banks, JPMorgan Chase has spent the most money on first-mortgage principal reduction at $367 million, followed by Wells Fargo with $216.9 million, Ally at $111.3 million and Citibank with $54.3 million.
As for Bank of America: The company hasn't spent a dime on first-mortgage modifications that reduce loan balances for borrowers or on refinancing mortgages. Instead, they have spent $4.8 billion -- the most of the five banks -- on short sales.
According to the report, Bank of America has made nearly $2 billion in trial offers for first-mortgage modifications, but we'll have to wait for the follow-up report to come out next year to see where those numbers finally land.
In California, one of the hardest-hit states during the foreclosure crisis, the banks promised to spend $12 billion alone on principal reduction by 2015, but so far have spent only $335 million -- just 2.7 percent of the relief promised.
On the other hand, short sales completed in California total $3.9 billion of relief.
"The California piece of the settlement emphasized principal reduction because that is what is needed to stabilize families and neighborhoods in California, and yet the banks initial performance shows that meeting Californians' needs is not their priority," said Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition.
The banks have spent nearly $10.6 billion in just a few months, but largely on relief efforts that further their own interests. By focusing their efforts on short sales, the banks skip the arduous foreclosure process -- they no longer have to manage, maintain and market a home -- and instead make their money right away.
While more short sales mean fewer foreclosures dragging down the real estate market, the focus on pre-foreclosure sales also means more homeowners are losing their homes and damaging their credit -- not exactly the intent of the settlement.

Monday, February 4, 2013

FHFA Announces New Standard Short Sale Guidelines for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

FHFA Announces New Standard Short Sale Guidelines for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Programs Aligned to Expedite Assistance to Borrowers
Washington, DC – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are issuing new, clear guidelines to their mortgage servicers that will align and consolidate existing short sales programs into one standard short sale program. The streamlined program rules will enable lenders and servicers to quickly and easily qualify eligible borrowers for a short sale.
The new guidelines, which go into effect Nov. 1, 2012, will permit a homeowner with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage to sell their home in a short sale even if they are current on their mortgage if they have an eligible hardship. Servicers will be able to expedite processing a short sale for borrowers with hardships such as death of a borrower or co-borrower, divorce, disability, or relocation for a job without any additional approval from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
“These new guidelines demonstrate FHFA’s and Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s commitment to enhancing and streamlining processes to avoid foreclosure and stabilize communities,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “The new standard short sale program will also provide relief to those underwater borrowers who need to relocate more than 50 miles for a job.”
The new guidelines:
  • Offer a streamlined short sale approach for borrowers most in need: To move short sales forward expeditiously for those borrowers who have missed several mortgage payments, have low credit scores, and serious financial hardships the documentation required to demonstrate need has been reduced or eliminated.
  • Enable servicers to quickly and easily qualify certain borrowers who are current on their mortgages for short sales: Common reasons for borrower hardship are death, divorce, disability, and distant employment transfer or relocation. With the program changes, servicers will be permitted to process short sales for borrowers with these hardships without any additional approval from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, even if the borrowers are current on their mortgage payments. Borrowers will now qualify for a short sale if they need to relocate more than 50 miles from their home for a job transfer or new employment opportunity.

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will waive the right to pursue deficiency judgments in exchange for a financial contribution when a borrower has sufficient income or assets to make cash contributions or sign promissory notes: Servicers will evaluate borrowers for additional capacity to cover the shortfall between the outstanding loan balance and the property sales price as part of approving the short sale.
  • Offer special treatment for military personnel with Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders: Service members who are being relocated will be automatically eligible for short sales, even if they are current on their existing mortgages, and will be under no obligation to contribute funds to cover the shortfall between the outstanding loan balance and the sales price on their homes.
  • Consolidate existing short sales programs into a single uniform program: Servicers will have more clear and consistent guidelines making it easier to process and execute short sales.
  • Provide servicers and borrowers clarity on processing a short sale when a foreclosure sale is pending: The new guidance will clarify when a borrower must submit their application and a sales offer to be considered for a short sale, so that last- minute communications and negotiations are handled in a uniform and fair manner.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders to expedite a short sale. Previously, second lien holders could slow down the short sale process by negotiating for higher amounts.
    This alignment comes as part of a broader FHFA effort, the Servicing Alignment Initiative, to streamline Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs for short sales and other foreclosure alternatives to assist struggling homeowners. FHFA announced guidelines in June that establish strict timelines for servicers considering short sales. Servicers are required to review and respond to short sales within 30 days of receipt of a short sale offer; they must provide weekly status updates to the borrower if the offer is still under review after 30 days, and they must make and communicate final decisions to the borrower within 60 days of receipt of the offer and complete borrower response package. These borrowers will not be eligible for a new mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac for at least two years after a short sale.
    FHFA encourages homeowners to reach out early to their lender or servicer if they face any hardship affecting their ability to pay their mortgage. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bay State Personal Bankruptcy Filings Drop 18 Percent In 2012

Chapter 13 Filings Also Decrease From Last Year

2012MABankruptciesPersonal bankruptcy filings in Massachusetts decreased more than 18 percent in 2012 from a year earlier, according to a new report from The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.
There were 11,964 Chapter 7 bankruptcies filed in Massachusetts last year, down from 14,716 filed in 2011. Chapter 7 of the U.S. bankruptcy code is the most common option for individuals seeking debt relief, and accounted for more than 74 percent of Massachusetts' bankruptcy filings last year.
"The drop in bankruptcy filings is an encouraging sign; it indicates that consumers are more optimistic about their ability to pay off debt and clean up their financial situations," said The Warren Group CEO Timothy M. Warren Jr. "If the housing market - and overall economy - continues to improve, we are sure to see even better results in 2013."
People filing under Chapter 7 bankruptcy can eliminate most debt after non-exempt assets are used to pay off creditors. In contrast, Chapter 13 requires debtors to arrange for a three- or five-year debt-repayment plan.
Filings under Chapter 13 of the U.S. bankruptcy code dropped 17 percent to 3,991 in 2012, down from 4,813 in 2011.
Chapter 11 filings, which are used for business bankruptcies and restructuring, also declined in 2012. Filings decreased 29 percent to 152, down from 215 in 2011.
A total of 16,107 filers statewide sought protection under Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code in 2012, down from 19,744 in 2011.
Bankruptcy Definitions:
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, sometimes called a straight bankruptcy, is a liquidation proceeding. The debtor turns over all non-exempt property to the bankruptcy trustee who then converts it to cash for distribution to the creditors. The debtor receives a discharge of all dischargeable debts usually within four months. In the vast majority of cases the debtor has no assets that he would lose, so Chapter 7 will give that person a relatively quick "fresh start."
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also known as a reorganization bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed by individuals who want to pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. This type of bankruptcy appeals to individuals who have non-exempt property that they want to keep. It is also only an option for individuals who have predictable income and whose income is sufficient to pay their reasonable expenses with some amount left over to pay off their debts.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is typically used for business bankruptcies and restructuring. It is not commonly used by individual consumers since it is far more complex and expensive to pursue. It allows businesses to reorganize themselves, giving them an opportunity to restructure debt and get out from under certain burdensome leases and contracts. Typically a business is allowed to continue to operate while it is in Chapter 11, although it does so under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court and its appointees.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

BofA enhances short sale incentive up to $30,000

BofA enhances short sale incentive up to $30,000

Did you get a “Golden Ticket” from Bank of America?
The nation’s largest mortgage servicer has officially released its Enhanced Relocation Assistance program in California, six months after it deemed a pilot run of the program in Florida a success.

Bank of America sent letters and overnight packages to some lucky homeowners last week, a windfall equivalent to receiving a mythical ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. A client of Dream Big Real Estate received a notice that they qualify for the program, which will provide them up to $30,000 after they complete a short sale on their home.

“Bank of America is reviewing all current, in-process preapproved-price short sale agreements to determine who is eligible for this limited-time offer,” according to a statement from Bank of America. “Eligible homeowners actively participating in a preapproved-price short sale program (such as HAFA or Bank of America’s proprietary program) will receive a letter if they qualify for the additional relocation assistance.”

Here are some program details:

The enhanced program is only available for preapproved-price short sale programs, which are initiated without an offer from a buyer. Officials said it may be extended to other programs in the future.

The amount of the relocation incentive is based on the appraised value of the home. Payments made to the homeowner at the close of a short sale range from $2,500 to $30,000.

The incentive can be used to help pay off junior liens, including credit cards judgments, utility liens and tax liens.
The short sale must be initiated in 2012 and close by Sept. 26, 2013.

Homeowners will receive a 1099 form from Bank of America for the unpaid balance and the relocation incentive, and it should be included when they complete their next tax return. (Consult with your CPA or tax attorney to determine if you have a tax liability after a short sale.)

Unlike other high-dollar relocation-incentive programs, Bank of America’s enhanced program allows homeowners to raise their hands and volunteer. Want to know if you qualify for the Enhanced Relocation Assistance? Call our office today at 951-778-9700 and we’ll do the research for you.

Bank of America isn’t the only institution offering relocation incentives after a short sale. Below are a few other programs:

HAFA PROGRAM: More than 20,000 short sales have been completed through the federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, which provides a $3,000 relocation incentive for the homeowner.
The U.S. Treasury version of the program this week increased the amount allowed to satisfy junior liens to $8,500, making the program a better alternative for California homeowners, who are more likely to have high-balance home-equity loans.

Many banks participate in this program, though not all homeowners fit the mold.

WACHOVIA: Wachovia Mortgage has been providing relocation incentives of $2,500 to $10,000 in a short sale for more than a year. The lender is well-known for its speedy response and no-nonsense negotiations.

CHASE BANK: This lender offers relocation incentives up to $45,000. Not all Chase loans qualify for the incentive — To find out if you have one of these loans, call us today at 951-778-9700.

CITIMORTGAGE: Citi says its average short sale incentive offer is $12,000 in cases where Citi owns the loan. The incentives are based on a variety of factors, including level of distress of the homeowner and loan characteristics.

WELLS FARGO: Wells also completed a trial program in Florida last year that offered $10,000 to $20,000 to a homeowner who completes a short sale or deed-in-lieu. The incentive is only available on first trust deeds that Wells itself owns, the lender said.

This is not a comprehensive list, but these are good examples of the programs available to homeowners who are in danger of losing a home to foreclosure.

Despite what you may have heard, banks prefer short sales over foreclosure or even loan modifications. Why? It’s all about the numbers.

Short sales net banks 12 percent to 25 percent more than they would gain from a foreclosure because of the time and expense to take back, repair, maintain, market and resell a property. And as many as half of loan modifications redefault within the first year, later turning into foreclosures and short sales.

Thus short sales continue to increase, especially in Southern California, as lenders streamline processes and create attractive offers to help distressed homeowners. A short sale allows a homeowner to avoid a financially devastating foreclosure, limit damage to their credit, and re-enter the housing market much more quickly as an able buyer — before home values again shoot through the roof.

More importantly, a short sale allows a homeowner to exit their house on their own terms, with dignity intact.
Want to know if you qualify for any of these programs? Call us today at 508-699-2500 Ext 11.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fannie, Freddie Short Sales Hit Record High

A record number of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac short sales were signed off on by loan servicers in the third quarter of 2012, according to a report from the mortgage giants' regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).
Short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure totaled 37,966 for the three months ending Sept. 30, 2012, up 4 percent from the previous quarter and 23 percent from a year ago. Fannie and Freddie implemented accelerated timelines in June 2012 for reviewing and approving short-sale transactions.
Fannie and Freddie short sales and deeds-in-lieu

Right-click graph to enlarge. Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The mortgage giants' inventories of "real estate owned" (REO) homes also continued to decline, as Fannie and Freddie got rid of homes faster than they acquired them through foreclosures.
During the first nine months of the year, Fannie and Freddie acquired 197,507 homes through foreclosure, and sold 218,321 REOs and foreclosed homes.
Fannie and Freddie REO inventories (thousands of homes)

Right-click graph to enlarge. Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency.
All told, Fannie and Freddie had 158,138 homes in their REO inventories as of Sept. 30, 2012, down 13 percent from a year ago and a drop of nearly 36 percent from a Sept. 30, 2010, peak of 241,684.
Fannie and Freddie were placed under government control, or conservatorship, in September 2008. Since then, loan servicers working on their behalf have approved 2.1 million home retention actions, including 1.26 million permanent loan modifications.
During the same period, Fannie and Freddie acquired more than 1.1 million homes through foreclosure, and signed off on 413,436 short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure.
There have been about 4 million completed foreclosures nationwide since September 2008, according to data aggregator CoreLogic.
Of the 62,561 loan modifications completed in the third quarter, about 45 percent of borrowers saw their monthly payments decrease by more than 30 percent. More than a third of loan mods included principal forbearance. Less than 15 percent of loans modified in fourth-quarter 2011 had missed two or more payments as of Sept. 30, 2012, nine months after modification, the report said.
Since the beginning of the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) in April 2009, just over 1 million borrowers have been offered a trial loan modification, and more than half had been granted a permanent modification. Of those, 21.2 percent had defaulted as of the third quarter. The vast majority of the remainder, 428,946 borrowers, were in active permanent modifications as of the third quarter.
Since October 2009, Fannie and Freddie have offered 564,822 non-HAMP permanent loan modifications. Non-HAMP modifications made up two-thirds of all permanent loan mods in the third quarter, the report said.
The share of mortgage loans 30-59 days delinquent rose slightly to 2.08 percent of all loans serviced in the third quarter, but the share of seriously delinquent loans fell slightly to 3.39 percent. Seriously delinquent loans are those that are 90 days or more delinquent or in the process of foreclosure. More than half of seriously delinquent borrowers had missed more than a year of mortgage payments as of the end of the third quarter, the report said.
Nearly 3 in 10 of these deeply delinquent borrowers are located in Florida.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Will Mortgage Rates Go Up Again Soon?

Will Mortgage Rates Go Up Again Soon?

Mortgage interest rates are expected to rise this year, and the increase will likely curb refinancings and affect move-up home buyers.
The Mortgage Bankers Association projects the 30-year fixed rate to increase to an average of 4.1 percent in 2013 and 4.5 percent in 2014, up from 3.7 percent last quarter. The group's December forecast has the dollar value of refis dropping to $818 billion this year and $350 billion next year, from approximately $1.2 trillion in 2012.
Neither higher interest rates nor fewer refis are expected to have a significant impact on housing starts or home sales, however. "Interest rates are so low right now that a modest increase wouldn't have much effect on sales," according to Walter Molony of the National Association of REALTORS®.
What would be a game changer, he adds, is a loosening of credit standards — especially considering that so many borrowers still cannot qualify for financing. "A return to normal standards would boost sales 10 percent to 15 percent," Molony estimates.
Source: "Mortgage Rates About to Lift?" Investor's Business Daily (Jan. 4, 2013)

Rates Ring in the New Year Near Record Lows

Rates Ring in the New Year Near Record Lows

Fixed-rate mortgages are averaging near record lows, keeping home buyer affordability high, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.
"Mortgage rates started the year near record lows, which should continue to aid the ongoing housing recovery,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. 
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Jan. 3: 
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.34 percent, with an average 0.7 point, dropping from last week’s 3.35 percent average. The record low for 30-year mortgages is 3.31 percent, which was set in November. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 3.91 percent. 
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.64 percent, with an average 0.7 point, dropping from last week’s 2.65 percent average. The record low for 15-year mortgages is 2.63 percent, also set in November. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.23 percent. 
  • 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.71 percent, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 2.70 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.86 percent. 
  • 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.57 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 2.56 percent average. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.80 percent. 
Source: Freddie Mac

How to Start the Bankruptcy Process

How to Start the Bankruptcy Process

Initiation And Consultation

Take the Initiative
You have hit rock bottom. You cannot meet your monthly payment obligations and you are falling behind on your bills. You are starting to receive harassing phone calls threatening legal action. Even worse, you are in foreclosure, there is a lien on your bank account and/or your wages are being garnished. It is extremely important that you do not sit idle and bury your head in the sand.
I know it can be very difficult, but the first step is realizing that you have a financial problem that you cannot fix. It takes courage, but you must take action. Hopefully this is done early before things get out of control or before you liquidate exempt assets in an attempt to stay above water.
It is important that you consult with a bankruptcy lawyer before making any drastic financial decisions.
The Selection Process
So, while this is an extremely difficult time in your life and you don’t know where to turn, choosing the right bankruptcy lawyer could make all the difference.  Make sure you do your research, read their blog and meet for a free consultation.  Hire the lawyer you feel most comfortable with who respects you and your situation and treats you with the dignity that you deserve.
The Consultation
The initial consultation is perhaps the most important part of the bankruptcy process. It is the jumping off point to future financial freedom. So, if a lawyer does not offer an initial, free consultation, do not hire that lawyer. This initial consultation is an important meeting where you get to interview the lawyer and the lawyer gets to interview you. Invaluable information is passed back and forth at the initial consultation.
It is important to come prepared. Most lawyers will advise you on what needs to be brought to the initial consultation. Some will have you complete a pre-consultation intake form to provide them with necessary information. At a minimum, you should bring the following documents with you to the initial consultation:
  • Copies of your previous two (2) filed Income Tax Returns;
  • Copies of your pay advices (or proof of income) for the previous month;
  • Copies of your monthly bills (utility bills, credit card statements, mortgage statements, etc.);
  • Copies of bank statements for the previous two months; and
  • Any other relevant documentation.
You should always come organized and as prepared as possible.
It is important to be completely honest, cooperative and share everything. Remember that the attorney/client privilege applies to the initial consultation so all communications with your potential lawyer will be protected. Speak freely and disclose everything as one tiny detail omitted could impact the outcome of your case.
As the debtor, you play an active role in your bankruptcy case and just as you rely on your lawyer, your lawyer relies on you to communicate all information in a truthful and forthcoming manner.
It is also important that you ask questions and get as much information as you can. You should leave the initial consultation with a solid understanding of the bankruptcy process and whether you will be filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Finally, you should leave the consultation with a clear picture of what your bankruptcy filing will cost you. Some lawyers still bill by the hour and this creates confusion and uncertainty. Most bankruptcy lawyers today utilize flat billing fees where you are billed a set fee for your entire case. This is a clean, concise and easily understood billing model.
Remember, initiate and take action before it is too late and make the most of your consultation as it is the first affirmative step to getting out of debt and achieving future financial freedom.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mortgage Debt Tax Relief Extended

Mortgage Debt Tax Relief Extended

The tax break, which has been extended to the end of 2013, allows home owners facing short sales, reduced loan principals, or foreclosures to avoid paying taxes on any debt still owed to the bank. Otherwise, the debt would have been taxed by the IRS as income. 
The tax break first took effect in 2007. 
Home owners had rushed to complete short sales before the end of the year out of fear that the tax break would not be extended.
In Florida, short sales have sold on average for about $103,000 less than what the home owner owed. As such, a typical home seller in that state in, say, the 25 percent tax bracket who completed a short sale in 2013 would have been faced with a $25,725 tax bill if the extension had expired. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How Does the Fiscal Cliff Bill Affect You?

How Does the Fiscal Cliff Bill Affect You?

On Jan. 1 both the Senate and House passed H.R. 8 legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2.
Below is a summary of real estate related provisions in the bill:

Real Estate Tax Extenders

  • Mortgage Cancellation Relief is extended for one year to Jan. 1, 2014
  • Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums for filers making below $110,000 is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012
  • 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements on commercial properties is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012
  • 10 percent tax credit (up to $500) for homeowners for energy improvements to existing homes is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012

Permanent Repeal of Pease Limitations for 99% of Taxpayers

Under the agreement so called “Pease Limitations” that reduce the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers.  These limitations will only apply to individuals earning more than $250,000 and joint filers earning above $300,000.  These thresholds have been increased and are indexed for inflation and will rise over time.  Under the formula, the amount of adjusted gross income above the threshold is multiplied by three percent.  That amount is then used to reduce the total value of the filer’s itemized deductions.  The total amount of reduction cannot exceed 80 percent of the filer’s itemized deductions.
These limits were first enacted in 1990 (named for the Ohio Congressman Don Pease who came up with the idea) and continued throughout the Clinton years.  They were gradually phased out as a result of the 2001 tax cuts and were completely eliminated in 2010-2012.  Had we gone over the fiscal cliff, Pease limitations would have been reinstituted on all filers starting at $174,450 of adjusted gross income. 

Capital Gains

Capital Gains rate stays at 15 percent for those in the top rate of $400,000 (individual) and $450,000 (joint) return.  After that, any gains above those amounts will be taxed at 20 percent.  The $250,000/$500,000 exclusion for sale of principal residence remains in place.

Estate Tax

The first $5 million dollars in individual estates and $10 million for family estates are now exempted from the estate tax.  After that the rate will be 40 percent, up from 35 percent.  The exemption amounts are indexed for inflation.