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Short Sales Surpass Foreclosures

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

For the first time, the number of short sales has surpassed foreclosures according to Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS).Specifically, short sales outnumbered foreclosures in states with some of the largest shares of homes facing foreclosure, including California.

LPS reports that as of January 2012, short sales accounted for 23.9 of home purchases, compared with 19.7 percent for sales of foreclosed homes. This in comparison to January 2011 data that shows only 16.3 percent of transactions were short sales and 24.9 percent involved foreclosures.

According to Bloomberg, short sale transactions typically fetch a higher price for banks than sales of homes that have gone through foreclosure which is major reason why banks have become more agreeable to selling houses for less than the amount owed on their mortgages

This rise in short sales is likely a result of several new government initiatives.

For example, the Federal Housing Finance Agency ordered loan servicers to respond to all short-sale offers within 30 days, and approve or reject them within 60 days – an effort to short the process that can typically take months longer.

Additionally, banks including Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) have started providing incentives for homeowners to short sell in an effort to avoid foreclosure.

If you are interested in learning more about short sales check out this blog post for 5 Things You Should Know About Short Sales.

Foreclosure Settlement Finalized, Now What?

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The $26 billion foreclosure settlement between the nation’s five largest banks and attorneys general from 49 states and the District of Columbia was finally finalized by a federal judge on Thursday.

The settlement aims to make it possible for roughly two million borrowers to see a significant reduction in their mortgage payments with principal reductions for underwater borrowers, refinancing on some mortgages to lower interest rates and compensation to those who lost their homes due to improper foreclosure practices.

CNNMoney.com has a complete list of provisions the banks agreed to and has outlined what it means to you, the homeowner.

As reported by CNNMoney.com, the main provisions include:

  • The banks and servicers have committed at least $17 billion to reduce principal for borrowers who 1) owe far more than their homes are worth 2) are behind on payments. The amount of principal reduction will average about $20,000 per borrower in the cases of four of the banks. The Bank of America reductions will be even steeper, averaging $100,000 or more, according to spokesman Rick Simon.
  • Another $3 billion or more will go toward refinancing mortgages for borrowers who are current on their payments. This will enable them to take advantage of the historically low interest rates that are currently available.
  • The banks will pay $5 billion to the states and the federal government, the only hard money involved in the deal. Out of that fund will come payments of $1,500 to $2,000 to homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure. Other funds will be paid to legal aid and homeowner advocacy organizations to help individuals facing foreclosure or experiencing servicer abuses.
  • Another $1 billion will be paid directly by Bank of America to the Federal Housing Administration to settle charges that its subsidiary, Countrywide Financial, defrauded the housing agency.
  • The exact amount of the payments will depend on how many people participate in this part of the settlement. They will share equally in a pool of $1.5 billion. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expects about 750,000 former homeowners to take part.
  • In addition, the banks agreed to eliminate robo-signing altogether and to use proper and legal procedures when putting homeowners through the foreclosure process. They also agreed to end servicer abuses, like harassing delinquent borrowers for payments, and to include principal reductions more often in their mortgage modifications programs.

Which banks are participating?

Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial are taking part in the settlement.

Loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not part of the deal nor are loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration eligible.

If I take the money, what rights do I give up?

Individual borrowers do not give up any right to sue.

As part of this deal, state attorneys general gave up the right to sue the mortgage servicers for foreclosure abuses arising out of the robo-signing scandal. However, they reserve the right to sue — or press charges for criminal behavior — if they uncover improper acts when the loans were originated or when they were securitized.

Would I have to pay taxes on the principal reductions or the pay-outs?

If the principal is reduced in 2012, it will not be subject to income tax.

That’s because the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. The act is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, however.

So if the act is not extended and the principal reduction occurs in 2013, borrowers may be on the hook to pay taxes on the settlement amount.

It’s not clear whether you would have to pay taxes on the $1,500 to $2,000 payout. The IRS declined to comment on the question.

Check out further details about the settlement at CNNMoney.com

Mortgage Settlement Filed in Court This Week Still Leaves Homeowners Outraged

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The details of the multi-billion dollar mortgage settlement between 49 state attorneys general and the nation’s five largest banks were filed this week in court. However millions of homeowners will still be left without aid.

Proponents of the settlement estimate that roughly 1 million underwater homeowners will receive aid in the form of principal reductions and another 750,000 homeowners will be able to refinance their loans to lower interest rates. CoreLogic, however, states that this is just a fraction of the 11 million homeowners who are currently underwater.

CNNMoney.com reports:

“Principal reductions will also only apply to certain borrowers who have mortgages still held by the five major lenders: Bank of America, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase and Ally Financial.

Borrowers who have a mortgage held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac — roughly half the market — are out of luck. Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration are also ineligible.”

Unfortunately for many homeowners most loans are not retained by the original lenders. So if a borrower enters into a mortgage agreement with a bank, their loans are often sold to Fannie or Freddie and borrowers aren’t given a choice when their loans are sold.

Distressed homeowners throughout the country are outraged at the inequality the settlement offers. For the homeowners who bought responsibly and made their payments faithfully, the unfairness comes in the fact that their tax dollars are paying for government-funded programs to prevent foreclosures while irresponsible borrowers accrue the benefits like the ones offered in the settlement.

Additionally, some borrowers may qualify for much larger reductions than others, as well.

CNNMoney.com states:

“Bank of America, for example, said it will slash mortgage balances by an average of $100,000 or more for roughly 200,000 homeowners. The goal, according to BofA, is to reduce the amount owed on the home to 100% match the current market value. Meanwhile, the other four major mortgage lenders, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial, are expected to reduce qualified borrowers’ principal to between 115% and 125% of the value of their homes — an amount that the Department of Housing and Urban Development said should average about $20,000.”

The Other Foreclosure Settlement

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Distressed homeowners have heard a lot recently about the national $25B mortgage settlement. And while only some are able to cash in on the settlement, others are left wondering what other options are available to them.

Well they may be able to find some relief in the lesser known settlement that could lead to an even bigger payoff, in some cases.

According to CNNMoney.com, up to 4.3 million mortgage borrowers who were foreclosed on in 2009 and 2010 will have a chance to request an independent review of how their foreclosure was handled. This is part of a settlement that was approved last April with several mortgage servicers including Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, HSBC, MetLife Bank, PNC Mortgage and Wells Fargo.

However, only 90,000 eligible homeowners have requested independent reviews of their loans. The federal government has now extended the deadline to July 31 for those who wish to submit claims.

Compensation for claims is still to be determined but it will depend on the severity of their losses. According to Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, borrowers who were improperly charged even just a single fee could be repaid for it and borrowers who suffer much larger losses could be eligible to receive more than the expected $2,000 from the recent national mortgage settlement.

From CNNMoney.com:

“Unlike the $26 billion settlement with the state attorneys general, borrowers didn’t have to lose their homes in order to receive compensation, according to Hubbard.

“It could be anyone who suffered financial loss because of errors made in the foreclosure process,” he said.

Since the settlements are completely independent of one another, claimants can double-dip, filing for compensation under both settlements.”

How the $25B Mortgage Settlement Affects Californians

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The federal government, 49 attorneys general including California’s Kamala Harris, and five the nation’s largest banks announced last week the approval of the $25 billion settlement that’s aimed at helping distressed homeowners and keeping them in their homes.

While much ado has been made around this much needed aid, homeowners everywhere are asking how this will benefit them and Californians specifically are wondering how they can cash in on their portion of the $18 billion granted to California.

First of all, not all borrowers will be helped – The settlement only covers loans owned and/or serviced by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Ally Financial. So anyone with a Fannie or Freddie loan is left out – which is equal to about 30 million mortgage loans.

The main provision in the settlement provides principal reductions on loans for people who are underwater and are behind or “almost behind” on their mortgage payments. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “About $8.9 billion – or almost half of the $18 billion in borrower benefits California expects to receive – will reduce principal for an estimated 250,000 borrowers. That’s about $35,000 per homeowner.”

Homeowners who prove they have an economic hardship that makes it impossible for them to continue paying their mortgage are eligible for a principal reduction. The tricky part: This is only true for loans owned by the big five banks. Loans that are serviced by the big five but owned by investors may be eligible, but the investors have the final say and need to agree to the principal reduction. And again, loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration or Veterans Administration are not eligible.

Another provision in the settlement includes restitution payments for those whose loan was serviced by one of the five banks, regardless of who owned it, and were foreclosed on between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011. Those homeowners are automatically eligible for a one-time payment estimated at $1,500 to $2,000. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “In California, about 140,000 people could share $279 million in payments. Nationwide, about 750,000 are expected to share $1.5 billion. These payments are supposed to punish servicers for robo-signing and other shoddy foreclosure practices.”

While homeowners will not have to prove they were victim of such practices to receive a payment, if they can prove they were wrongfully foreclosed on due to these wrongful doings, they can also pursue damages individually or in a class action – and if they can only expect a maximum of $2,000, it’s a likely course of action for many.

The rest of California’s settlement will be divided as follows, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

  • California expects only $849 million – or 4.7 percent of the total benefits – for refinancing.
  • California anticipates that banks will devote $3.1 billion to help 23,000 homeowners do short sales.
  • California expects banks to put $3.5 billion toward “unpaid balances” on home loans, not necessarily deficiency judgments which are uncommon in California.

For more information, see oag.ca.gov or www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com.

NY AG Sues Banks Over MERS

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, on Friday filed a lawsuit against Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo over their use of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (MERS), claiming the banks submitted court documents containing false and misleading information that appeared to provide the authority for foreclosures when there was none.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Schneiderman accused the banks of deceit and fraud in their use MERS that puts homeowners at a disadvantage in foreclosures, eliminating homeowners’ ability to track property transfers through traditional public records. The Wall Street Journal reports that he said that the data is stored in an electronic system that is plagued by inaccuracies and what the lawsuit calls “faulty and sloppy document preparation and execution practices.”

“The banks created the MERS system as an end-run around the property recording system, to facilitate the rapid securitization and sale of mortgages,” Schneiderman said Friday. “Once the mortgages went sour, these same banks brought foreclosure proceedings en masse based on deceptive and fraudulent court submissions, seeking to take homes away from people with little regard for basic legal requirements or the rule of law.

By creating this bizarre and complex end-around of the traditional public recording system, banks achieved their primary goal — over 70 million mortgage loans, including millions of subprime loans, have been registered in the MERS system and the industry has saved more than $2 billion in recording fees,” according to the lawsuit.”

Friday Foreclosure Stories

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Mortgage companies and servicers continue to suffer the effects of the crisis even though last year saw the lowest level of foreclosures since 2007 when the recession began. With an uptick in foreclosures expected in 2012, homeowners should take note of these blunders by mortgage companies to help avoid some serious consequences.

Maria and Joseph Perez purchased their Texas home in 2007 with a mortgage that was backed by Bank of America and serviced by a firm called Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. In August 2009, the couple refinanced the loan through Quicken in order to get a better rate.

When Joseph was contact by Bank of America about being behind on the old loan, he found out that Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, the mortgage servicer, had ceased operations the same month they had refinanced and Bank of America hadn’t received the funds from the new loan to pay off the old one. Further, Quicken had sold the servicing rights to the new loan to Bank of America who refused to acknowledge the refinance. Eventually, Bank of America acknowledged that they had refinanced their loan and stopped sending the payment notices until a year later when they were served with a foreclosure notice.

The couple ended up moving to a different state with their children but they are suing Bank of America for unspecified damages for pain and suffering.

Read more about the Perez’s story and others on CNN Money: Foreclosure nightmares: 3 families fight for their homes