Contact Us

Visit our website at www.bklaw.me OR contact our Massachusetts office at 508-499-3366 or our Rhode Island office at 401-250-5520.


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.