Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mortgage Rescue Plan - What's Missing?

The last post entailed a discussion of the President's basic loan modification plan to help 1 in 9 homeowners. The plan is comprehensive and deals with loans that are owned by a bank, FannieMae (FNMA), FreddieMac (FHMC), or the Federal Housing Administration (F.H.A.). The problem arises, as often stated here, when the mortgage loan is sold into a securitization pool which strips the mortgage loan of its individuality.

It is no longer a "regular" loan; it is part of a large pool of loans, each loan providing a small part of the means to pay interest to the people who buy the pool by buying little pieces of it called bonds (fancy name is Mortgage Backed Securities), and each mortgage itself, giving the collateral to be certain the interest will be paid. After all, home loans are the safest in the world! Right?? Remember, the loan (or mortgage loan) is the I.O.U. that you give to the lender; the mortgage is you giving your house as collateral for the I.O.U.

Currently, the housing market and the loan market are in a downward spiral. Even if there is a loan modification to make a mortgage loan more affordable, by lowering the interest rate, thereby lowering the payments, if the house has decreased in value from $200,000 to $160,000, the Borrower is paying for value that has disappeared. Sure, the Borrower took the money and the evaporation of value is not the Lender's fault. However, Borrowers could probably pay the normal interest rate if the amount of the loan was reduced to the actual market value.

On the other side of the matter of fault, assume that the lender is one of the good ones and has done nothing wrong. The lender is being asked to lose $40,000 (in the example). Who would want to do that and it isn't fair. Life isn't fair. The was no contract at the time of your birth that you, or a parent-type person, signed stating that "LIFE WILL BE FAIR". Not trying to be humorous or cavalier, that is reality.

What is also reality is that a borrower who owes 20% more than a house is worth, is likely to just walk away if the borrower's financial situation gets worse. Why try to save a house that won't have equity for 10.5 years ($200,067 loan principal at 5% interest for 30 years will not pay down to $160,000, the amount of the value of the house for 10.5 years). Yes, there is no appreciation of value in the house calculated so maybe in 9 years the mortgage and house will have the same value.

Reality check: If someone is pushed to the wall because of a loss of income, or increased energy costs, or due to illness/healthcare expenses, WHY WOULD THAT PERSON KEEP A HOUSE THAT IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY HE/SHE OWES??

The current Presidential plans do not address the problem of the Loans that are part of securities ("MBS"). The difficulty is that there are dozens of contract involved in each one. NO ENTITY IN THE CHAIN OF OWNERSHIP HAS THE RIGHT TO MODIFY THE LOANS UNLESS SPECIFICALLY ALLOWED IN ALL OF THE AGREEMENTS.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow Bankruptcy Judges to modify the loans, essentially changing the contracts. These same judges do this every day on virtually every other kind of contract, including mortgages - just not mortgages on primary residences. Hopefully, the Senate will pass the same bill or once that conveys the same powers to the Courts.

There are no easy answers to the mortgage crisis, especially since it was allowed to get out of hand. Yes, there are bad borrowers who will "milk" the system. But, there are millions of borrowers who were swindled when they got their mortgages, and have been hit hard a second time with prices plummeting.

Links are provided below for further information on the Senate Bill, and the effects of the issues on several homeowners.


Bloomberg News Article on the Senate Bill


Reuter's Article on the Effects of the Bill and a Bankruptcy Judge's Opinion

Author's Copyright by Richard I. Isacoff, Esq, March 2009

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