Some Borrowers Will Need Very Large Loan Modifications

As discussed in a previous post, Bank of America agreed with the state attorneys general to offer  concessions to 390,000 sub prime and pay option arm borrowers by reducing both the principal owed and/or the interest rate to a level that allows these borrowers to have a an “affordable and sustainable” monthly mortgage payment.   An affordable and sustainable payment was determined to be a mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) that would not exceed 34% of gross monthly income.   With this agreement apparently setting a standard for future concessions to homeowners, consider some recent mortgage transactions/applications that I have seen.

  • Woman wants to refinance her Connecticut home which she bought in early 2006.  The home today would probably sell for no more than $260,000.  Home was purchased for $305,000 with 95% financing; the current interest rate is at 11.625% and she owes $285,000.  The negative equity is only $25,000.  Borrower has a gross monthly income of $3780 per month and her current monthly payment of principal, interest, taxes and insurance is $3682 giving her a debt ratio of 97%.   She is currently in arrears on the mortgage and obviously not capable of making the payment.   In order for her payment to become “affordable and sustainable”  with a 34% debt to income ratio, the lender would have to reduce her loan balance to $158,000 with an interest rate of 1%.

If the home owner gets this deal, not only would her payment become affordable, she could also sell the house and reap a gain of $102,000.  The applicant’s income is about the same today as it was when she purchased the home, so there was no drastic decline in income.  Obviously, this woman should have never been approved for a mortgage in the first place; both the bank and borrower knew this.

  • A self employed carpenter applied for a mortgage to purchase a home for $185,000.  Applicant has no credit score since he pays for everything “in cash”.  The yearly income reported on his tax return for the past two years averaged $5500.  When I told the applicant that he did not qualify he became indignant and arrogantly proclaimed that his bank told him they would approve him; I wished him good luck.  This guy hasn’t been reading the papers lately but the days of borrowing based on what you say your income is are over.   The applicant understood his situation; his income averages $458 gross per month according to his tax return and the monthly mortgage payment with taxes and insurance would have been at least $1650 per month which he insisted he could afford.  I would say that the IRS should conduct more audits of self employed individuals.
  • Borrower with very good credit and working two jobs has a sub prime mortgage and applies for a lower rate under the FHA mortgage program.   Borrower gets approved with with a debt to income ratio of 56%.  At this point, instead of bringing his lunch to work everyday, he might be better off to stop paying on his mortgage and  ask his bank for a loan modification once he is delinquent.  The interest rate would need to be reduced  from 6.25% to 1% which would put him at the recommended 34% DTI.  Although most loan modifications are currently being offered only to sub prime and pay option arm customers, I am certain that in the name of equitable treatment, the offer will expand to include the multitudes of other borrowers with a debt ratio over 34% .  Why discriminate against better credit borrowers?
  • Borrower with fair credit purchases a home with 100% FHA financing with the help of a down payment assistance program.   Borrowers debt ratio at time of approval was 48%, which is extremely high and not affordable or sustainable for very long.  Why is the FHA approving loans at this ridiculous debt ratio when the state attorneys general are forcing Countrywide to modify loans to a debt ratio of 34%?  I suggest that a state attorney general be named Head Underwriter for the FHA.

I could go on and on, but one thing is for certain; there are millions of home owners currently in a stressed income situation with negative home equity who would like to refinance but can’t due to low credit scores/lack of home equity or both.   As word spreads of the great deal that Countrywide borrowers got from the recent Bank Of America settlement, there will be many indignant and angry home owners demanding the same treatment.   Can the banking system, already insolvent, handle huge new write downs?

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