Homeowners of underwater properties have a reason to rejoice thanks to the introduction of new guidelines from the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) – Fannie Mae(FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC). On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (:FHFA) – the regulator for these two GSEs – announced a number of guidelines that are expected to make short sale simpler and easier. With the implementation of the guidelines effective November 1, short sale of properties would speed up.
The new measures announced by FHFA will have to be followed by mortgage servicers. These will consolidate the current short sale programs into one streamlined program and enable lenders and servicers to promptly and easily get eligible borrowers for short sale.
As part of the new set of rules, property owners with mortgages from either of these two GSEs will be able to short sale their homes despite making timely payments of interest and principal if they have an eligible hardship (death of a borrower or co-borrower, divorce, disability or relocation for a job). The servicers will be able to allow short sales without any additional permission from these GSEs.
Moreover, both GSEs will be lowering the number of documents required to complete a short sale, thereby aiding those homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure. Further, it would also improve the efficiency of the servicers in completing a short sale.
In addition, the servicers will make guidelines clearer and more uniform, leading to faster processing and execution of short sales. Further, the GSEs will offer a maximum of $6,000 to the holders of the second liens (once the short sale is complete), so that mortgage holders do not haggle over the proceeds of the sale. Moreover, while approving the short sale of property, servicers would evaluate the ability of the homeowner to pay the difference between the balance loan amount and the current sale price of the home. In cases where the property owner has the ability to pay the differential amount, the GSEs will waive off the right to follow deficiency judgment. Though the FHFA did not provide any projections related to the number of homeowners eligible for the new short sale initiative, there are about 4.6 million borrowers with mortgages backed by GSEs. Out of these, approximately 80% have not missed any loan payments. The new short sale guidelines are a part of the FHFA’s Servicing Alignment Initiative that is expected to simplify the GSEs plan for short sales and other modes to prevent foreclosures. In framing the new streamlined short sale process, the FHFA and the GSEs worked in collaboration with the National Association of Realtors (:NAR). The NAR believes that improving the short sale procedure would help homeowners avert foreclosures and also stabilize the value of residential property going forward. However, one of the biggest fall-outs of the additional short sales is expected to be for those banks that have provided second mortgages to the borrowers. They will have to record losses on home-equity loans. Some of the major providers of second liens include Wall Street biggies – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corporation (BAC), Citigroup Inc. (C) and Wells Fargo & Company (WFC). Nevertheless, the new short sale process is also expected to be in the larger interest of the overall housing sector and economy. In addition, the real estate agents and home owners planning to sell their property would also benefit from this simplified process.
The bank is trying to dump loans and claim it's helping borrowers at the same time.
FORTUNE -- Citigroup is getting into the rental business, at least it says it is.
On Wednesday, the bank launched a program to rent out 500 homes to homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgage, rather than put the loans in foreclosure and kick the owners out. Homeowner advocacy groups and liberal economists have been pushing banks to offer the option to rent to borrowers nearing foreclosure. So the fact that Citi (C) was becoming the second large bank - Bank of America launched a similar program in March - to try out a rental program that would alleviate some of the pain of foreclosure seemed like good news
One in 10 U.S. children has been or will be affected by the nation's surge in foreclosures, a new report says.
Five years into the foreclosure crisis, an estimated 2.3 million children have lived in homes lost to foreclosure, according to a report from First Focus, a Washington, D.C-based bipartisan advocacy group focused on families.
Another 3 million children live in homes at risk of foreclosure because home loans are in the foreclosure process or are seriously delinquent. And 3 million children lived or live in rental homes lost to foreclosure or at risk, the report says.
"Children are the often invisible victims of the foreclosure crisis," said report author Julia Isaacs. She did the study while at the Brookings Institution and is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Labor, Human Services and Population Center.
Isaacs analyzed foreclosure and U.S. Census Bureaudata to estimate the number of children affected. The report is the second released by First Focus on the crisis' impact on children, and the organization says it's the first to estimate the number of children affected who live in rental properties.
Not surprisingly, the impact on children is greatest in states that were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. In Nevada, almost 1 in 5 children lived or live in owner-occupied homes that were lost to foreclosure or are at risk of being lost, Isaacs estimates.
Elsewhere, the percentages fall to 15% in Florida, followed by 14% for Arizona and 12% for California. In Alaska and North Dakota, only 2% of children are affected, the lowest rates in the country.
Being forced from home affects children's health, interrupts development and hurts their performance in school, said First Focus President Bruce Lesley.
For every forced move that occurs during a school year, a child's math and reading scores drop as much as if they'd missed a month of school, Isaacs says, based on a synthesis of 16 studies.
Isaacs warns that the number of affected children could be even larger. Her estimates are based on mortgage loans made from 2004 to 2008, which captures the bulk of risky loans that contributed to the housing bubble. But it doesn't cover loans outside of that time. The estimate also fails to adjust for the possibility that loan delinquencies may be higher in families with more children, the report notes.
(Repost from USA TODAY)
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Fannie, Freddie regulator says no to reducing mortgage principal
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not lower the amount struggling homeowners owe on their mortgages, their regulator declared Tuesday after a months-long delay.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency said its analysis found that principal reduction does not prevent foreclosures while saving taxpayers money. "FHFA has concluded that the anticipated benefits do not outweigh the costs and risks," said Edward DeMarco, the agency's acting director, who has steadfastly resisted calls to implement the loan modification technique. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, however, is not taking no for an answer. He quickly shot off an eight-page letter to DeMarco urging him to change his mind. In it, Geithner argued that allowing principal reduction would ultimately save taxpayers as much as $1 billion. "I do not believe it is the best decision for the country," Geithner wrote. "You have the power to help more struggling homeowners and help heal the remaining damage from the housing crisis."
California accounted for seven of the 10 highest metro foreclosure rates and 10 of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates during the first half of the year. Florida accounted for four of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates, and Illinois accounted for two of the top 20. Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado each had one city in the top 20.
“Increasing foreclosure starts in many local markets helped push total foreclosure activity higher in the first half of this year compared to the second half of 2011,” said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. “Those foreclosure starts are welcome news for prospective buyers and real estate brokers in many local markets where a shortage of aggressively priced inventory has been holding up sales activity. Markets with increasing foreclosure starts will likely see more distressed inventory for sale in the form of short sales and bank-owned properties in the second half of the year.”
A new report from AARP finds that foreclosure rates for people over 75 grew eightfold from 2007 to 2011, and that the risk of “serious delinquency” on mortgages has grown fastest for people over 50.
MABLETON, Ga. — Roy Johnson fell so far behind on his $1,000-per-month mortgage payments that last year he allowed the redbrick, three-bedroom ranch he had owned since 1963 to lapse into foreclosure.
“I couldn’t pay it any longer,” he said. “One day, I woke up and said, ‘Hell, I’m through with it. I’m walking away from the house.’ ”
That decision swept Mr. Johnson, 79, into a rapidly expanding demographic: older Americans who have lost their homes in the Great Recession. As he hauled his belongings by pickup truck from this Atlanta suburb and moved into his daughter’s basement, Mr. Johnson became one of the one and a half million Americans over the age of 50 who lost their houses to foreclosure between 2007 and 2011. Of those, the highest foreclosure rate was for homeowners over 75.
Once viewed as the most fiscally stable age group, older people are flailing. On Wednesday,AARPreleased what it described as the most comprehensive analysis yet of why the foreclosure crisis struck so many Americans in their retirement years. The report found that while people under 50 are the group most likely to face foreclosure, the risk of “serious delinquency” on mortgages has grown fastest for people over 50.
While the study classified even baby boomers as “older Americans,” its most dire findings were for the oldest group. Among people over 75, the foreclosure rate grew more than eightfold from 2007 to 2011, to 3 percent of that group of homeowners, the report found.
“Despite the perception that older Americans are more housing secure than younger people, millions of older Americans are carrying more mortgage debt than ever before, and more than three million are at risk of losing their homes,” the report found. “As the mortgage crisis continues, millions of older Americans are struggling to maintain their financial security.”
The report was based on nationwide loan data that covered a five-year span. The profile of those facing foreclosure has changed since 2007. As the average age and wealth of those people rise, their foreclosures are less likely to involve high-interest loans. In fact, most foreclosures are now the result of prime loans rather than subprime ones, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Instead, older Americans are losing their homes because of pension cuts, rising medical costs, shrinking stock portfolios and falling property values, according to Debra Whitman, AARP’s executive vice president for policy. They are also not saving enough money. Half of households whose head is between 65 and 74 have no money in retirement accounts, according to the Federal Reserve.
At CredAbility, an Atlanta-based credit counseling agency, the average age of callers needing help has risen to 49 from 43 in recent years. Scott Scredon, a spokesman for the agency, said most older Americans facing foreclosure are frugal but are unable to live on fixed incomes with the rising cost of living.
“When we think of foreclosures, we think of someone who was a little reckless and spent beyond their means,” he said. “The older the person, the less likely that is to be the case.”
Foreclosures create unique challenges for older people, Ms. Whitman said. They are less able to find new jobs and more vulnerable to becoming homeless, analysts say.
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Charlotte Orton’s three-bedroom apartment has been under foreclosure for four months. Since losing her job as a real estate agent, Ms. Orton’s only source of income has been Social Security payments of $1,200 per month.
If she is evicted, Ms. Orton, 69, who has no family members in Florida, says she does not know where she will live.
“This is the lowest point in my entire life,” she said. “If I were in my 30s, it would be easier to get employment. But all they want to know is what your recent experience is, and the real estate market has collapsed.”
Other older foreclosure victims have managed to negotiate with banks to stay in their houses. Josephine Tolbert, 76, was temporarily evicted from her house in San Francisco for two weeks. Protesters from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment staged a sit-in at Bank of America, and eventually Ms. Tolbert was able to renegotiate her loan.
“At my age, I don’t know what I would have done,” she said. “But let me tell you, it was a fight.”
Selling houses is also a challenge for many older people. The value of real estate has collapsed, especially in wealthy suburbs of Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and other sprawling metropolitan areas.
For Mr. Johnson, it was painful to watch the house he built 48 years earlier sell for only $33,000 at auction last year.
Now he lives in what his 55-year-old daughter calls his “man cave” in her basement. It is an hour away from his old house. Although Mr. Johnson is grateful to have been helped by a relative, he misses having space for all of his belongings and the tree from which he made pear preserves.
“I planned to die in that house,” he said. “But I guess it won’t work out that way.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 19, 2012, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Facing Foreclosure After 50.
California homeowners now have some of the best foreclosure protection in the nation. Governor Brown came to San Francisco Wednesday to sign a bill ending what he calls "abusive home lending tactics."
California has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country and this new law is supposed to slow down that rate, but critics say that might slow down the markets' recovery as well.
"We're done. We're done with robo-signing. We're done with false promises. We're done with the runaround," Attorney General Kamala Harris, D-California, said.
Governor Brown signed into law the nation's toughest protections for homeowners facing foreclosure. Much of the national mortgage settlement agreed to by five banks earlier this year now apply to all mortgage providers doing business in California and make the terms permanent. "I find it almost incomprehensible that so many smart people and so many rich people could screw things up so profoundly and cause so much suffering and get off in many cases," Brown said.
Beginning January 1, the Homeowner Bill of Rights will:
Ban "dual-tracking" (which is when banks pursued foreclosure even though the homeowner was seeking a loan modification)
Require one contact person per customer
Increase penalties for robo-signing (which automatically approves foreclosure without anyone reading documents)
Let homeowners sue for violations
The California Bankers Association is concerned about the potential spike in litigation. "If you mess with the process and the markets, that could increase the costs for future homebuyers," California Bankers Association spokesperson Beth Mills said.
The state Attorney General estimates about 700,000 Californians are in the foreclosure pipeline right now. Because the law doesn't take effect for another five months, it's unclear whether the new law can help them, but troubled homeowner Merrie Jo Musni of San Francisco is excited about the possibility of having one point of contact at the bank because she's already dealt with six. "I've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, something my family doesn't have. The stress is incredible," she said.
And lawmakers are not done. They're working on giving renters more protections if their rental is in foreclosure and letting non-profits have first dibs in buying a foreclosed home.