Hello again, and thank you for joining us today at the Butler Blog. As always, I am your host, Allen Butler, Managing Director of The Realty Butler LLC and agent of West USA Premier Properties.
Before we get started, let me remind our audience again regarding pre-foreclosure options: there are really only two; you can work it out so you can stay, or work it out so you can leave. Today, we’ll discuss your options for STAYING in the home, and there are two: either rectify the loan, or modify the loan.
Now, before we get too far ahead, I want to go back for just a moment here and pull the timeline of foreclosure, and review the “Action Zone” for homeowners. Remember, the quicker you call for help, the more options you’ll have. And, you’ll feel better knowing that a plan is in place for dealing with the problem.
Now, the reason for you loan “delinquency” is very important, because it determines your options in dealing with the foreclosure. There are two reasons for delinquency.
One reason is Hardship. This can be any number of things, from death to divorce to illness to military or job transfer. Notice that these “certifiable hardships” are something over which the homeowner has little or no control.
The other reason for delinquency is Strategic. This is where homeowners CAN pay their mortgage, but simply don’t want to because the house is too far “upside – down.” Whether fortunate or not, there is no help for people who have the money to pay, but choose not to.
Now, if you have a verifiable hardship, you have two options to STAY IN YOUR HOME:
1.) First, you can bring your balance current. If your hardship was temporary, or you have some way to come up with the money to clear the back payments and fees and continue the payments, you CAN get yourself our of foreclosure, right up until the home is sold at auction. Obviously, this will not be an option for many.
2.) Your only other option to stay in the home is to request a loan modification from your lender. Let’s examine these loan mods, and how they work.
Earlier this year, the US Treasury Dept issued the Home Affordable Modification Program or “HAMP” for short. The program has guidelines to determine eligibility for a loan mod, and it identifies four methods of doing loan mods. We’ll deal specifically with HAMP, as 85% of all mortgage servicers in the US use it, or a program like it, to modify loans.
Now, the primary goal of HAMP is to make loans more “affordable,” and it identifies an affordable mortgage as one that is not more than 31% of monthly net income.
It is important to note that all modifications are on a trial bases for 90 days, and if the payments are made in full and on time, and all requested documents are provided to the lender, the modification will be “locked in” for 5 years.
In order to be eligible for HAMP
1.) You have to either already be behind on payments, or in a position where your ability to make payments is about to stop.
2.) You must also have a certifiable hardship, as discussed previously.
3.) The loan must have been written BEFORE January 1st 2009
4.) Second mortgages and Home Equity Lines of Credit are NOT eligible for this program. The Dept of Treasury is currently working with investors and industry trade groups to develop ways to include second lien-holders into the program.
5.) Finally, your loan balance cannot be greater than $729,750
If you are eligible, your loan can be modified in up to 4 ways:
1.) Most loan modifications are done by lowering the interest rate. Rates can go as low as 2%. At the end of 5 years, the rate will go back to either your original rate, or the Freddie Mac 30 year fixed rate at the time of the modification, whichever is lower. If a rate adjustment is NOT sufficient to reach 31% of your monthly income, the lender can next adjust the term of your loan.
2.) HAMP says that lenders can extend and re-amortize loans for up to 40 years. However, many loans are sold in packages to loan servicers using “Pooling and Servicing Agreements”. These agreements usually will not allow servicers to extend the term of only one loan within the pool.
3.) Now, if lowering your mortgage rate and extending your term are not enough, lenders CAN do principle “forbearance.” This means that a portion of the mortgage will be “lopped off” and placed into an insulated “bubble”. You won’t pay any interest or principle on this portion for a while, but that amount is still attached to the mortgage, and the entire amount is still owed.
4.) The final modification is “principle forgiveness”. This means that a portion of your loan is again, lopped off, but this time, it’s entirely forgiven and “disappears”. Of the 1700+ permanent loan modifications made under HAMP so far, only 5 were achieved by principle reduction. In other words, the chances of this happening are SLIM.
Now, this highlights a problem.
Let’s talk about that for a minute.
I mentioned in our first installment that negative equity was a large part of the foreclosure crisis. Now, in comparing the problems of negative equity and unemployment against the programs in place to combat this foreclosure crisis, we see that these programs may simply delay the inevitable.
Let’s do a simple example for an Arizona family in trouble with their mortgage.
So, this family bought a home in 2005 for $250,000, and the monthly payment is $1,887 per month.
Now, hardship comes, the mortgage is modified, and the new payment is only $1025 per month. Now the family can afford their home. Remember, the family still owes $250,000 on the house. The fact of the matter is, right now, the home in question is really only worth $100,000 TOPS.
Now, let’s fast forward. In year 6, the loan interest rate goes back up. Is the family making more money now, so they can afford the re-adjusted payment? If not, they’re in the same boat they were in 5 years ago. But that’s only part of the problem.
Remember, the family still owes close to $250,000 on the home, and it was only really worth $100,000 at the time of the loan modification. If any life change forces a move, you’re in the same place you were in 2007; upside down, in a big way.
What will the real estate market look like in 2017? Who knows, but I’ll ask you, the viewer: how many years do YOU think it will be before home values in Arizona DOUBLE from what they are now, so these people can sell if they need to? My professional instincts say it’ll be PLENTY longer than 5 years. It’s already been 4, and the problem seems to just keep rolling along, impervious to efforts to stop it.
See, the bottom line is, loan modifications are a personal family decision regarding the home, and families should definitely proceed with caution. Also, be sure to keep an eye toward the future when planning your long term strategy. Remember:
1.) Your payment WILL go up again. IF you can afford to make the new adjusted payment, you’ll live happily forever after.
2.) You may be living in the home well, “forever after”. . .
Now, please listen, and listen carefully: I AM NOT advocating that Arizona homeowners should decide against a loan modification. What I AM saying is: do not jump in blindly, thinking that a loan modification will resolve the underlying issues. And remember that for the remaining 97% of the country where home prices have NOT crashed and burned, a loan modification may be exactly what those families need. They may have a very good expectation that they’ll be able to recover the equity they need to sell their homes again in 5-7 years.
Please, if you have questions or concerns about loan modifications, I encourage you to call our offices, or simply send an email. We are always here to help. Also, remember, these broadcasts are just my personal internet ramblings. The things I say should NEVER be construed as legal, credit, or tax advice. If you have questions regarding your specific set of circumstances, I strongly encouraged you to seek the appropriate professional counsel.
In our next installment, we’ll cover the SHORT SALE, what it is, who can do one, and why they would do one. Until then, if you have questions or concerns regarding your personal pre-foreclosure situation, I encourage you to contact me. My staff of highly trained and certified mortgage default specialists is always ready to take your calls or emails.
Until Next time, this is Allen Butler, Managing Director of The Realty Butler LLC, and agent of West USA Premier Properties, signing out.