HAMP Changes: Treasury Increases Incentives for Principal Reduction

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced on Friday that it was extending
the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) for another year – through December
13, 2013 – and that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would continue as financial
agents for Treasury in implementing the changes it then announced.  The press release also said the two GSEs
would “extend their use of HAMP Tier 1 as the first modification option through
2013” and that they were already in alignment with HAMP Tier 2 and no further
changes were necessary.

However, the Treasury Department, which jointly
administers HAMP, simultaneously announced what appear to be some significant
changes in the program.  Perhaps Timothy G. Massad, Assistant Treasury Secretary
for Financial Stability, was merely providing the English translation of
the FHFA press release or perhaps there is a division in the ranks.  In either case, here is the information he
provided in his blog posting.
 

The Treasury Department intends to triple the incentives offered to
investors holding distressed loans to encourage them to participate in reducing
the principal for those loans.  Under the
new guidelines, Treasury will pay from 18 to 63 cents on the dollar to
investors, depending on the degree of change in the loan-to-value ratio of the
individual loans.

While principal reduction has always been
available for modifying proprietary loans under the HAMP program (it even has
its own acronym, PRA) it has not been widely used.  Of over 900,000 permanent modifications
completed since the program began, only 38,300 are classified as utilizing principal
reduction

As we have previously reported,
FHFA has resisted all suggestions that the GSEs also include principal reduction
in their tools for dealing with distressed loans where borrowers are upside
down in their mortgages.  According to
Massad, Treasury has notified FHFA that it will pay principal reduction incentives
to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac as well if they allow servicers to forgive principal
in conjunction with a HAMP modification. 

In its press release FHFA said of the
Treasury proposal

“FHFA has
been asked to consider the newly available HAMP incentives for principal
reduction. FHFA recently released analysis concluding that principal
forgiveness did not provide benefits that were greater than principal
forbearance as a loss mitigation tool. FHFA’s assessment of the investor
incentives now being offered will follow its previous analysis, including
consideration of the eligible universe, operational costs to implement such
changes, and potential borrower incentive effects.”

Again,
according to Treasury, HAMP will be expanding its eligibility to reach a
broader pool of borrowers.  An additional
evaluation process is being implemented that will allow servicers to recognize that
some borrowers who can afford their first mortgage payments still struggle because
of other debt.  Some analyses of HAMP
have found that many borrowers could not qualify for a modification solely because
their housing expenses were already below the 31 percent ceiling allowed by
HAMP guidelines.  This ceiling will now
be flexible enough to include secondary debt such as medical expenses or second
liens in the evaluation ratio. 

Eligibility
will also be expanded to include properties that are tenant-occupied as well as
vacant properties that the owner intends to rent.  According to Massad, this will serve to
further stabilize communities with high levels of vacant and foreclosed
properties as well as expanding the rental pool as has been suggested by the
Federal Reserve and others.

…(read more)

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Mortgages: Mortgages – On Troubleshooting

As of this month borrowers have another place to vent: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.



Mortgages: Mortgages – On Troubleshooting

As of this month borrowers have another place to vent: the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.



Housing Industry Reacts to State of the Union

Housing featured prominently in
President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night.  The President made two specific proposals,
one to deal with the ghosts of housing past, the other to provide expanded
credit to homeowners.

In contrast to the settlement with banks
that Obama was widely rumored to announce
at the State of the Union, he instead directed Attorney General Eric Holder to
create a new office on Mortgage Origination and Securitization Abuses.  The President said, “The American people
deserve a robust and comprehensive investigation into the global financial meltdown
to ensure nothing like it ever happens again.”

According to the Huffington Post, the new
office will take a three-pronged approach to the issue, holding financial
institutions accountable for abuses, compensating victims, and providing relief
for homeowners, and will operate as part of the existing Financial Fraud
Enforcement Task Force.  On Wednesday several
news outlets were reporting that the unit will be chaired by State Attorney
General Eric Schneiderman, who has been regarded as among the toughest of state
law enforcement officers with Lanny Breuer, an assistant attorney general in
the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) as co-chair.  Others reported to be in the group are Robert
Khuzami, director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission,
U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh and Tony West, assistant AG, DOJ. 

The President’s second and more
broad-reaching proposal was for a massive refinancing of mortgage loans that
would reach beyond the current government initiates such as the Home Affordable
Refinance Program (HARP).  While few
details are available, the President said that his proposed initiative would
cut red tape and could save homeowners about $3,000 a year on their mortgage
payments because of the current historically low rates.  Unlike HARP, the program would apply to all
borrowers whether or not their current mortgages are government-backed and
would be paid for by a small fee on the largest financial institutions. Obama
did not mention principal reduction in his proposal.

Bloomberg is reporting that the program is
Obama’s response to a call by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in a paper sent to Congress
earlier this month for the administration to offer more aid for housing.   While largely dealing with the need to
convert excess housing inventory to rental property, the paper also touched on
the benefits of easing refinancing beyond the HARP program.

Bloomberg also outlined some of the
tradeoffs of a super-refinancing program saying it may damage investors in
government-backed securities by more quickly paying off those with high coupons
and limited default risk while aiding holders of other home-loan securities and
banks.  Word that such a proposal might be
forthcoming in the President’s speech, Bloomberg said, “Roiled the market for
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities according to a note to clients by Bank of
America Corp.”

The Associated Press quoted Stan
Humphries, chief economist at Zillow as saying the refinancing could allow 10
million more homeowners to refinance and, by preventing foreclosures and
freeing up money for Americans to spend, could give the economy a $40 to $75
billion jolt.  The Federal Reserve, the
AP said, was more cautious, estimating that 2.5 million additional homeowners
might be able to refinance.

The refinancing initiative would require
approval by Congress, however the day after the speech the focus was on other issues
such as tax reform and we could not find any reaction from members of Congress
specific to the refinancing issue.  Even the
Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) issued a statement from its president David
H. Stevens which did not mention the refinancing program, obliquely addressing
instead the creation of the mortgage fraud office.    

“Like the
President, we believe it is time to move forward with rebuilding this nation’s
housing market and that lenders and borrowers alike contributed to the housing
crisis we are currently in.  Let there also be no mistake, those who
committed illegal acts ought to face the consequences, if they haven’t already.”

Stevens
then called for a clear national housing policy “that establishes certainty for
lenders and borrowers alike.”  This,
according to MBA, requires finalizing the Risk Retention/Qualified Residential
Mortgage (QRM) rule “in a way that ensures access to credit for all qualified
borrowers,” establishing working national servicing standards, developing a
legal safe-harbor for Dodd-Frank QRM/Ability to Repay requirements, and “Move(ing)
quickly to determine the proper role of the federal government in the mortgage market
in order to ensure sufficient mortgage liquidity through all markets, good and
bad.

Creation
of the fraud office generated substantial comment, much of which was
unfavorable.  A lot of the criticism
focused on the lack of prosecutions that have emerged from the existing fraud
task force and there was a strong suspicion voiced by the liberal blogosphere
that the new office was merely a cover for pushing the DOJ/50-state attorneys
general settlement with major banks.  However,
one analysis, written by Shahien Nasiripour in U.S. Politics and Policies pointed out the wider powers of
enforcement available to attorneys general in some states such as New York’s
Martin Act and how the states and federal government might use the new office
to pool their powers and responsibilities to the benefit of each.  

The new
office will not lure California Attorney General Kamala Harris back into the
fold.  Harris and Schneiderman both
withdrew from the national foreclosure settlement last year, feeling that it
did not represent the interest of their respective states.  Despite the appointment of Schneiderman to
head the new office, Harris announced on Wednesday that she would not be
rejoining her fellow AGs
in their negotiations saying that the latest
settlement proposal was inadequate for California.  A spokesman for her office said, “Our
state has been clear about what any multistate settlement must contain:
transparency, relief going to the most distressed homeowners, and meaningful
enforcement that ensures accountability. At this point, this deal does not
suffice for California.”

Here’s the video of the speech beginning at the point discussing housing related issues…

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The Latest on On-line Lending; Principal Forgiveness Cost; How HUD’s Changes Will Impact Gov’t Lenders

As red-blooded American males prepare for the advertising onslaught
of Valentine’s Day (2/14), we are reminded that the media is indeed
powerful – just ask Sarah Palin. (Hey, whatever happened to her?) All
this month the public has seen the OCC foreclosure ads.
Supports Independent Foreclosure Review Program with Public Service
Ads. On January 4, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
announced that it placed print and radio public service advertisements
to inform mortgage borrowers of the Independent Foreclosure Review (IFR)
program launched by the OCC in November 2011. The print feature
explains that borrowers foreclosed upon between January 1, 2009 and
December 31, 2010 are eligible to have their foreclosures independently
reviewed to determine if the borrowers suffered financial injury as a
result of any errors by certain large, federally regulated mortgage
servicers. The ads will run in Spanish and English in 7,000 small
newspapers and on 6,500 small radio stations. Here is a copy of the OCC announcement with links to the ads.

Hiring across the country continues for some companies. SecurityNational Mortgage’s Crown Group is hiring retail
loan consultants, retail producing managers, and branch managers for
its Retail origination team, and wholesale AE’s who can build their
territory through wholesale, correspondent and retail branch
originations. The company is staffing up in the following territories –
Texas (DFW), Florida (Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval counties),
Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado.  (SNMC is also
hiring underwriters and processors in the Dallas area.)
“SecurityNational Mortgage is a nationwide lender offering Conventional,
FHA, VA and USDA loans thru its Retail, Wholesale and Correspondent
business channels.”  If you know anyone interested, please send
inquiries/resumes to CrownGroup@Securitynational.com.”

The other day someone told me that there were actually things on the
internet other than dirty pictures. I was stunned. Seriously, although
the article is a little slanted, here is some chatter on on-line lending.

The
average LO probably doesn’t care too much about the proposed settlement
between the states and the servicers. But the large servicers, which
are pretty much the large banks, care, and probably really want to “move
on” from this, which in turn would help return the flow of business. At
this point, supposedly state AG negotiators have reached the final terms on a settlement deal w/the country’s biggest banks,
and the preliminary pact is now being circulated among the 50 AGs. The
price tag for the servicers is around $25 billion, depending on how many
states sign on (California and NY remain on the fence). The tentative
agreement still must be approved by all 50 state attorneys-general, and
the states will be asked either to agree to proposals or decline to
participate with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup
and Ally Financial. Other banks, such as US Bancorp and PNC Financial
Services, have set aside reserves for such an outcome. Stay tuned…and
remember that the money has to come from somewhere…

Speaking of which, the FHFA noted that forgiving mortgage debt on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans would cost F&F almost $100 billion.
Freddie & Fannie guarantee nearly 3 million mortgages on single-
family homes that are underwater, but almost 80% of these borrowers are
still current. Principal forgiveness would increase the size of the
government’s bailout of the companies, which have cost taxpayers more
than $153 billion since they were taken under government control in
2008. One can almost hear Mr. DeMarco thinking, “First you made us raise
our g-fees, and now this…don’t complain when we lose more money…”  –
the letter.

And for more on government mortgage agencies, late last week HUD
released its final rule to improve and expand the risk management
activities of the FHA. It was pretty much as expected but a few things
should be noted. First, HUD will seek to force indemnification for “serious and material” violations of FHA origination requirements.
For those cases not involving fraud or misrepresentation, HUD will
require indemnification within five years from the date of the mortgage
insurance endorsement. Second, the proposed rule will also require
delegated FHA lenders to continually maintain an acceptable claim and
default rate, both to gain special lender status as well as to preserve
it
. HUD will require that the claim and default rate for a lender be
at or below 150% of the average rate of all of the states in which it
does business. Specifically for indemnifications, HUD says that lenders
may need to buyback loans if they failed to verify and analyze the
creditworthiness, income, and/or employment of the borrower, verify the
source of assets brought by the borrower for payment of the required
down payment and/or closing costs, address property deficiencies
identified in the appraisal affecting the health and safety of the
occupants or the structural integrity of the property, or ensure that
the property appraisal satisfies FHA appraisal requirements. HUD may
seek indemnification irrespective of whether the violation caused the
mortgage default. Clearly, the rule change should result in more
putbacks to lenders going forward.

What does this mean? Since HUD will be requiring a buyback only if
the loan has seasoned less than 5-years (unless there is fraud), similar
to GSE loans, this may lead to a reluctance from lenders to
refinance existing FHA loans due to the fear of resetting the seasoning
on the loan
. Further, this impact is not restricted to loans that
are seasoned more than 5-years as the seasoning is reset on all loans.
Although this change points towards a general tightening in underwriting
and a potential slowdown in prepays, experts are uncertain how putbacks will be implemented for loans that go through FHA streamline refinancings.
For these loans, FHA does not require an appraisal or income/asset
verification and hence it is not clear what criteria will be used for
the putback. That said, most believe that lenders will be more careful
in refinancing borrowers once this rule goes into effect. Since lenders
will be assessed on the credit performance of their overall FHA book,
this should also lead to lower delinquencies and defaults on newly
originated FHA loans going forward.

And put another way, the FHA’s rule makes it tougher to qualify for
loans insured by the agency. To qualify for mortgage insurance, lenders
must offer up evidence that their seriously delinquent and claim rates
remain at or below 150 percent of aggregate rates in home states. And
the rule authorizes more extensive examination for lenders in order to
ensure that they are able to meet the FHA’s new qualifications. It
requires that certain lenders indemnify HUD in claims over loans. And
let’s not forget that many believe the FHA fund is insolvent – perhaps
this will help.

The government has trouble not interfering with home lending in the
U.S., and in fact HUD has come out saying it would like to see FHA
lenders relax their credit score minimums allowing more borrowers to
qualify for FHA loans.  But lenders are telling HUD officials the agency
must first change FHA’s lender/monitoring system (“Neighborhood Watch”)
so they aren’t stigmatized for making loans to borrowers with lower
credit scores. Neighborhood Watch ratios are used by everyone to measure
performance in relation to other lenders in a certain geography, and a
high default and claim rate can trigger audits by FHA or the HUD
Inspector Generals, and these audits often lead to indemnification
demands for actual and future losses. Because of the Neighborhood Watch
“triggers”, many lenders are only comfortable originating high credit
score FHA loans. Other lenders are interested in venturing a little down
the credit quality curve, and will often bring in outside help in
making sure their originations, operations and quality control
procedures can withstand the scrutiny of the HUD’s Quality Assurance
Division, Mortgagee Review Board and the Office of the Inspector
General. The Collingwood Group LLC has been partnering with
lenders in navigating these issues to unlock this valuable product
development opportunity in ways that are responsible and defensible. 
Inquiries should be directed to Brideen Gallagher at bgallagher@collingwoodllc.com. (And nope, this is not a paid ad.)

For news moving rates,
the two-day FOMC meeting begins today and concludes with a news
conference Wednesday.  It is expected that the Fed will maintain its
rock-bottom policy rate, so the anticipation lies in the new decision to
publish rate forecasts of each district bank out to 2015 to show
greater transparency. Any hint of QE3 from the FOMC tomorrow “will send
mortgages off to the races.” And tonight’s State of the Union Address
has been known to move markets.

Yesterday MBS prices were nearly unchanged whereas the 10-yr T-note
lost nearly .375 in price and closed at a yield of 2.07%. Today for
excitement we have a $35 billion 2-yr note auction at 11AM MST. In the early going the 10-yr is down to 2.04% and MBS prices are a shade better.

(Parental discretion advised.)
A woman asks her husband, “Would you like some bacon and eggs? A slice of toast and maybe some grapefruit and coffee?” she asks.
He
declines. “Thanks for asking, but I’m not hungry right now. It’s this
Viagra,” he says. “It’s really taken the edge off my appetite.”
At lunchtime she asked if he would like something. “A bowl of soup, homemade muffins, or a cheese sandwich?”

He declines. “The Viagra,” he says, “really trashes my desire for food.”
Come
dinnertime, she asks if he wants anything to eat. “Would you like a
juicy porterhouse steak and scrumptious apple pie? Or maybe a rotisserie
chicken or tasty stir fry?”
He declines again. “Naw, still not hungry.”

“Well,” she says, “would you mind letting me up? I’m starving.”

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