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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Second Lien Plan Will Help Homeowners Struggling with Second Mortgages

Second Lien Plan Will Help Homeowners Struggling with Second MortgagesThe Obama administration has a new plan to help homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their second mortgages. It's called the Second Lien Program, and it will be active in about a month. Here's a clip from the Treasury Department website:

"...The Second Lien Program announced today will work in tandem with first lien modifications offered under the Home Affordable Modification Program to deliver a comprehensive affordability solution for struggling borrowers. Second mortgages can create significant challenges in helping borrowers avoid foreclosure, even when a first lien is modified. Up to 50 percent of at-risk mortgages have second liens, and many properties in foreclosure have more than one lien. Under the Second Lien Program, when a Home Affordable Modification is initiated on a first lien, servicers participating in the Second Lien Program will automatically reduce payments on the associated second lien according to a pre-set protocol. Alternatively, servicers will have the option to extinguish the second lien in return for a lump sum payment under a pre-set formula determined by Treasury, allowing servicers to target principal extinguishment to the borrowers where extinguishment is most appropriate..."

And here's some more insight from a Bloomberg article:

"...Mortgage delinquencies increased to a seasonally adjusted 7.88 percent of all loans in the fourth quarter, the highest in records going back to 1972, according to figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington. Loans in foreclosure rose to 3.3 percent, up from 2.04 percent a year earlier.

Obama’s overall plan to reduce foreclosures by modifying mortgages targets as many as 4 million homeowners. As many as half of the participants in the mortgage-modification program may be eligible for the second-lien assistance, administration officials said.

Congressional Action

The administration also intends to urge action by Congress to make Hope for Homeowners easier to use and more accessible, the administration officials said. The program is primarily aimed at borrowers who are “underwater,” owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

No other legislative changes are required for the administration’s revised housing plans to take effect, the officials said.

The new measures may ease mortgage investors’ concerns that the biggest banks and servicers would be tempted to rework too many loans under the program in order to bolster their home- equity portfolios, Laurie Goodman, an analyst at Amherst Securities Group LP in New York, said in a telephone interview.

“Certainly, it appears that the Treasury has listened to first-lien investors,” Goodman said. Today’s announcement “goes a very long way toward addressing their objections,” she said.

Second-Lien Program

The second-lien program should be up and running in about a month, the officials said. They estimated that about 75 percent of all U.S. mortgages are managed by servicers that already have agreed to participate in the government’s modification programs. Servicers are administrators in the relationship between lenders and borrowers.

The mortgage initiative offers subsidies to servicers and lenders, including bond investors, to help lower borrowers’ housing payments to 31 percent of their income. Because modifications are voluntary, the Treasury is offering incentive fees to encourage participation in the program.

The $12,000 in possible incentive fees has several components. Many of the fees are paid over time, as an incentive for borrowers and servicers to strike deals that will last.

When modifying first mortgages, servicers can receive $1,000 up front, and $1,000 per year for three years. If the mortgage being modified is eligible and not yet delinquent, they can also receive $500, for a maximum possible total of $4,500.

Reducing Principle

Then borrowers who make their new payments can get up to $1,000 per year for five years, up to a total of $5,000. This money is paid to the lender or investor who holds the first mortgage, and it reduces the borrower’s principle.

When a second mortgage is also modified, the servicer on that mortgage can get a $500 up-front fee, plus $250 per year for three years, for a maximum possible total of $1,250. The borrower also is eligible for an additional $250 per year for five years, again paid toward the principle on their primary mortgage..."

"...The Treasury announced today that second-mortgage holders will be given a subsidy to reduce the borrower’s interest rates to as low as 1 percent. Alternatively, the lien holder could receive as much as 12 cents on the dollar to retire the debt. There also are incentives in place for first-mortgage holders.

In the case of a sample borrower with a $250,000 interest- only first mortgage with a 6 percent rate, leading to housing expenses equal to 40 percent of the borrower’s income, the government may pay about $2,625 annually to help reduce those payments for five years, according to an Amherst Securities Group report in February.

If that borrower also had a $43,942 second mortgage with an 8.6 percent rate, the government may bear half of the $2,336 annual cost of reducing the payment for five years under the plan announced today, according to data released by the Treasury..."

Even more insight from a recent Associated Press article:

"...During the housing boom, lenders readily gave out "piggyback" second loans that allowed consumers to make small down payments or avoid them entirely. While home prices soared, such mortgages were even extended to borrowers with poor credit scores and people who didn't provide proof of their incomes or assets.

But those loans, which are attached to about half of all troubled mortgages, have been an obstacle to efforts to alleviate the housing crisis. That's because borrowers who are trying to get their primary mortgage modified at a lower monthly payment need the permission of the company holding the second mortgage.

The new plan aims to get rid of that roadblock, administration officials said. "We're offering even more opportunities for borrowers," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement.

The new incentives are estimated to help up to 1.5 million borrowers with second mortgages, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said. While data on how many household have been helped by the Obama administration's housing plans are not available, Donovan told reporters there have been "hundreds of thousands of applications."

The administration's second mortgage initiative will be funded out of $50 billion in financial rescue money already allocated. As an incentive to modify second loans at lower interest rates, mortgage companies would get $500 upfront for each modified loan, plus $250 a year for three years as long as the borrower doesn't default.

Similarly, borrowers would get up to $1,000 over five years applied to the principal balance of their primary mortgage, and the government would pick up part of investors' costs as well. Lenders would also be given the ability to remove second mortgages entirely in exchange for larger government payouts.

The administration also plans to give mortgage companies $2,500 payments to entice them to participate in the "Hope for Homeowners" program. It was launched by the government last fall but has so far has been a failure, proving unattractive to banks required to absorb large losses.

It was supposed to allow 400,000 troubled homeowners to swap risky loans for traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with lower rates. Instead only one loan has received final approval, with about 50 more in the works and fewer than 1,000 applications.

The program has been stymied by high fees, complex regulations and a requirement that banks absorb large losses. The Obama administration supports legislation in Congress to ease those restrictions.

Meanwhile, the faltering economy is causing the housing crisis to spread. Nationwide, nearly 804,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from January through March, up from about 650,000 in the same period a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing firm..."

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