Saturday, August 29, 2009

The HAMP Mirage

Posted on Calculated Risk:

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones discusses problems with the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP): The Foreclosure Rescue Mirage

Industry experts are now questioning how many of the program’s estimated 235,000 modifications will actually benefit homeowners in the long term, and say that homeowners clamoring to participate in HAMP have created an industrywide logjam for mortgage servicers, resulting in substantial delays and backed-up customer service support. The Treasury’s first servicer performance report (PDF), covering March to July 2009, found that servicers had offered modifications to just 15 percent of eligible delinquent homeowners, and initiated them for just 9 percent of that group.
I've heard from servicers who've said they are just overwhelmed and are staffing up to meet the demand. And it appears the administration is trying to make improvements:
Despite its flaws, HAMP is a good-faith effort by the government to address the foreclosure crisis, and there are signs of improvement. In June, HAMP officials began conducting much more rigorous reviews of servicers, and have started a "second look" program, in which servicers’ decisions to approve or deny HAMP modifications are scrutinized. Compliance officials are also analyzing samples of HAMP-modified loans to track error rates with servicers. And government officials have on several occasions tried to light a fire under HAMP servicers to speed up the modification process.
Some believe HAMP will fall far short of the goals:
The Treasury has set a target of modifying 4 million mortgages by 2012, but Moody's estimates HAMP will in fact modify only 1.5 to 2 million.
The Treasury disagrees:
More than 400,000 modification offers have been extended and more than 230,000 trial modifications have begun. This pace of modifications puts the program on track to offer assistance to up to 3 to 4 million homeowners over the next three years, our target on February 18.
Actually the original press release stated the program "will help up to 3 to 4 million at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure" and the new press release says "offer assistance to up to 3 to 4 million homeowners". A few word changes makes a significant difference.

The Treasury's current target is 500,000 cumulative trial modifications started by November 1st, up from the 235,000 cumulative at the end of July. At that pace (about 90 thousand trials started per month), the cumulative trial modifications started will be close to 3.0 million by early 2012 - however many of those borrowers will probably redefault. Anyone who redefaults will have been "offered assistance", but probably will not "avoid foreclosure".

The article has a few interesting anecdotes of the struggles of borrowers in dealing with their servicers.

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