What should a loan modification look like?

I just wrote this long comment on Jillayne’s post, and decided it needed to be a post of its own.  This loan mod returns the risk premium that was not effective at controlling risk.  It didn’t work…give it back. It also makes the lender partly responsible for approving short term income on a long term basis.  It does not involve ANY loss to the lender below the face amount of the notes, and gives them some interest, and saves the homestead.  I think it includes all aspects of consideration for a loan mod, but finding staff competent to come up with loan mods in a short period of time, is not realistic.

What we do know is that the higher risk premium rates, did not cover the risk.

Let’s take an example and see how it plays out, and propose a loan mod.

Family qualified for their current home based on $80,000 a year. $60,000 was salary and $20,000 was two years of consistent bonus or overtime. That was considered conservative lending guidelines “two years of proven history on bonus or overtime

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: ardelld@gmail.com cell: 206-910-1000

76 thoughts on “What should a loan modification look like?

  1. I posted this on the other thread but it’s worth re-posting.

    Why would any sane, rational thinking person pay the additional amount of interest contained in a FORTY YEAR mortgage?

    Based on this person’s debt-to-income ratios, this homeowner is at a high risk of RE-DEFAULTING, thereby costing the lender even more money.

    Further, this also costs the homeowner dearly in “time.” Time to start rebuilding his or her credit.

    Sometimes it might be better to walk away, rent a good home and start rebuilding your credit now, instead of postponing the inevitable.

    TJ in the other blog post said that these same folks can begin rebuilding, saving, and then perhaps buy that same home back in a few years at a much, much lower price.

    As it is right now, loan mods are re-defaulting at a rate of 40%.

    All loan mods do is push the recovery of the housing market out even longer, when people like the couple in this scenario are tired of not being able to get ahead.

    Sometimes it really is okay to move on and start over.

    What the industry needs is TIME.

    Time to work the bad loans out of the system and time to work the rising inventory of overbuilt new construction homes and the rising inventory of resales out of the system.

    We do not need a one year moratorium on foreclosures, we simply need lots of time for the market to right itself.

    Instead, I predict we will be given massive government intervention.

    (Maybe they’ll hand out FEMA trailers. /sarcasm off.)

  2. Jillayne,

    At present, FHA is still granting loans with up to a 60% back end AND easily approving loans with a 43% back end.

    This loan mod takes the owner to a 40% back end based on salaried income. If this loan mod can’t work…then how can new loans not default?

    If this loan mod is not good enough, then FHA needs to revamp its approval guidelines as well.

    I agree that current loan mods don’t work IF the borrower is not put into a scenario that at least EQUALS current approval standards. But this one is less than current approval standards.

    If it can’t work, then neither can new loans not default.

  3. BTW easy to say they should walk away and rent. But truth is, someone with bad credit may not be able to rent. You think landlords don’t check credit score? “Go rent” could actually mean go live on the street.

  4. I really think Chapter 13 is a better option than a loan modification. Most people have unsecured debt that they need to deal with, and a Chapter 13 will deal with that. Also, in theory, a Chapter 13 will keep them from running up new debt while they cure their default.

  5. Ardell, there are massive amount of foreclosures taking place in the country. I can’t believe that these people are now living on the streets? I don’t know this for a fact but it seems very unlikely. Do you know of decent people who just got caught in the bubble with foreclosure as result that now live on the streets?

  6. These people have NO unsecured debt, Kary. That’s why their front end equalled their back end.

    Also many unsecured debt collectors are also working loan mods, reducing the 30% interest rate, forgiving charges and decreasing payments without being forced to do so via a bankruptcy proceeding.

    If the mortgage IS the only debt, as in this example, and they can’t afford the payment, how does Chapter 13 help them more than the above recommended loan mod?

  7. The title of this post is, “What Should a Loan Modification Look Like?”

    Here is another answer to the question. Instead of a 40 year amortization, how about the lender takes a principal balance haircut and writes off the existing principal balance on the loan to a certain percentage of current market value.

    How about we limit these to homeowners who can verify income and assets and whose debt-to-income ratios match current conforming loan guidelines so as to minimize the chances of re-default.

    Realize that the program I’m describing is already available. It’s called Hope Now and most lenders do not want to participate because of the mandatory principal balance reductions (second mortgages must be entirely extinguished), and the homeowner isn’t too thrilled because they must share their future appreciation with HUD.

    Another good scenario is when an attorney is used to find evidence of egregious predatory lending and state and federal law violations. Now the homeowner is holding all the good cards in the deck.

  8. tj,

    Many are living with family members.

    Many if not most left before their credit was dinged and rented or bought before the short sale or foreclsure. That’s why so many short sales and foreclosures are on already vacant property.

    If someone stays in the house because they believe the bailout or Obama or a forthcoming loan mod is going to offer a solution, their options decrease the longer they stay in their home.

    That’s the danger of false hope.

  9. @ Ardell “At present, FHA is still granting loans with up to a 60% back end”

    Bye bye, FHA. It’s been nice knowing you.

    I wonder, I wonder….what will our housing industry look like once we push more and more people with a 60% back ratio to FHA and FHA goes down. Hmmm.

    It may sound like I’m being cold and heartless here but from my vantage point, I’m looking at this from the lense of the future of the mortgage lending industry and the future of our housing industry, long term.

    Short term loan mods may not maximize good consequences for the most number of people nationwide.

  10. That’s quite a difference, living cheap with family while you rebuild is an excellent idea, living on the street is terrible. If people with income and otherwise good credit habits are refused any rental and are forced to live on the streets due to their foreclosure this is where we need government intervention and regulation that’s for sure. You need to understand that you made a mistake and be prepared to pay for it to some extent the question is how much and for how long.

  11. Jillayne: “Here is another answer to the question. Instead of a 40 year amortization, how about the lender takes a principal balance haircut and writes off the existing principal balance on the loan to a certain percentage of current market value.”

    I’m working with a loan mod that doesn’t require that the taxpayer pay for someone else’s house. But let’s see what the haircut does.

    A recent comment on another post from Andrea said she had a $728,000 loan on a house that can be sold today for $518,000. That’s a $210,000 haircut. (BTW, histrically lenders will not sell to the current owner at the same price they will unload a house to a new owner. I’ve seen it done, but it’s rare.)

    Back to Andrea and “haircuts”. Let’s say Andrea has a blended rate of 7% amortized over 30 years. Current rates are 6.5% FHA (let’s pretend she could be FHA so we don’t have to deal with a second mortgage).

    $728,000 at 2.75% (from my proposed loan mod) at 40 years would be a payment of $2,500 principal and interest without the bank or taxpayer eating $210,000.

    Your haircut method at current rate of say 6.5% for 30 years would be a payment on $518,000 (if the bank got a buzz cut) of $3,274.11.

    My way works better, doesn’t cost anyone $218,000 and equals a payment the homeowner can likely afford without sending them toward a re-default mode.

  12. tj,

    I’m totally for the living with family until you are debt free and save some money option. Unfortunately not everyone has family who will take them in. Sad but true. If they have to leave their job to go where family is…that may not be a good option. I like my loan mod. It punishes the lender for mis-deeds via lower interest, but forces no one to forgive the face loan amount.

  13. Regulators must ask those who are pushing FHA and VA ratios (which were already higher than conventional historically) why they are doing that? The answer? So people can buy homes with inflated values. If they ask themselves why…they likely will reduce the ratios.

    Forget 60% back end as that is not the norm. A 43% FHA back end was pushed up from a 38% or 39% back end…why? Let’s go back to 28% 36%, the long time established criteria. Or even 33% – 38% the original first expanded criteria. Or 40%/40% the over the top and yet pre-subprime criteria.

    Getting a little better or even a lot better is not good enough. Let’s go back to 1993 standards of 33% – 38%. That’s high enough, isn’t it? Or the long established old VA ratio of 40%-40% that rewards people with no debt.

    We can’t fix what’s broken without fixing what buyers are currently allowed to do as well. Tighter standards. Not just tighter than they were two years ago, but as tight as they were for 20 or 30 years before that.

  14. The problem is that the house is not affordable, I don’t care how you squeeze them into the debt ratios. Just the fact that Jillayne mentioned that nearly half of all loan mods go back into default should be enough evidence that the issue is not the lenders, it is the borrowers. A $475k home is almost unaffordable on $60k per year at a zero interest rate when you factor in taxes, insurance, pmi. The homeowners cannot afford to keep the home under any circumstances. Anyone that buys a $475k house on $80k is not smart enough to be a homeowner. PERIOD.

    My problem with all these loan mods is when does it end? People have ALWAYS gone into foreclosure, I don’t care how good the economy is at the time. We are going down a very slippery slope where no one is ever going to be responsible for anything that goes wrong in their life.

    The only folks who should be getting loan mods are the handful of little old ladies who were the victims of OBVIOUS predatory lending tactics which is probably like 200 folks nationwide (I don’t know how many it is, but it ain’t no where near a statistically significant amount of the foreclosures that are occuring).

    If we want to help these folks out, we need to be doing some things so they can get better jobs… we need to let this market cleanse itself and stop prolonging the pain.

  15. @Ardell “a payment the homeowner can likely afford without sending them toward a re-default mode.”

    One challenge with these scenarios is that it assumes that the homeowner will have zero other unsecured debt for the life of the loan.

    Not realistic. Very, very few homeowners with zero credit card debt move forward throughout their life with zero debt. Things happen. Water heaters and furnaces wear out, cars need fixing or replacing, etc.

    An underwriter has to make a solid decision based on logic whether or not homeowners are likely to re-default.

  16. “Just the fact that Jillayne mentioned that nearly half of all loan mods go back into default should be enough evidence that the issue is not the lenders, it is the borrowers.”

    Responsible loan modifcations require the practitioner to match the mod to the situation. In my example there is still an employed household with a salaried income.

    Most loan mods just want to make it better than it was…without doing the detail work of fitting it in as if it were a new loan, and meeting the same criteria. That is why they fail. The bank agrees to less thinking they are “helping” matters. Less is not the answer…realistic to the owners situation is the answer.

    So if the owner has NO income or 75% less income, then short sale or foreclosure is the route to take. If the owner has a slightly reduced income or they were OK until the payment increased, then you can fit the loan mod into the now situation.

    The bank has to look at the borrower and not itself. When they look at themselves they make it better for the borrower…but not realistic for the borrower. That’s not good enough and why loan mods fail.

  17. I agree Jillayne as to no debt long term. But as long as VA still has equal front end and back end, I’d have to say that what appears to be “good” for veterans must have some validity.

    Until the structure of other loan methods is challenged, using other loan methods as bottom line criteria for loan mods, is still realistic.

    Sure…debt won’t stay at zero…but either will income long term. VA thinks it will balance out somewhere down the line. What’s the default rate on VA 100%, zero down, equal front end back end ratios over the last 20 years?

  18. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with massive bailouts by taxpayers, when we can put the wheel on track by using previously acceptable and working models.

  19. There was a study done last year that said the perfect mortgage for homeowners was basically a version of an option ARM. Essentially, some b-school professor looked at why loans went into foreclosure and proposed that banks come up with more flexible mortgages that allowed homeowners still be able to pay their mortgage in a time of need or depressed income. In this case, the homeowners would be able to opt to make a lower payment as just part of having the regular mortgage for a temporary timeframe. No need to get a loan mod. Just make a different payment.

    Maybe lenders should come up with mortgages that automatically have built in insurance in case of the curtailment of income or allow the home owner to skip up to say 6 mortgage payments.

    The issue is that homeowners usually go into foreclosure because of income issues. Mortgages are not very flexible, so in a society where we are living check to check, it almost always will result in default. If it is truly a temporary situation, then having that built in flexibility would be a benefit for both lender and borrower.

    Just throwing some thoughts out…

  20. “The only folks who should be getting loan mods are the handful of little old ladies who were the victims…”

    Reminds me of some people who only wanted to feed the homeless children and not their parents. They literally wanted the parents to drop the kids off to eat and stand outside starving. Meanwhile their kids where hiding food to bring out to the parents because they felt too guilty to fill their bellies while their parents were starving. Some were nicer and let the Moms in but not the Dads.

    You can’t do a bailout based on “worthiness of person” vs. solid lending guidelines, anymore than you can choose which starving person to feed based on your aversion to men who are hungry vs. children who are hungry.

  21. Ardell,

    It is not to be heartless, but at some point, people are going to have to fend for themselves. At what point do we stop doing loan mods for people when the run into trouble? Why are loan mods ok now, but not in 2004 or earlier when people were still going into foreclosure before the crisis? Why mod a loan that is clearly unaffordable when there is a high likelihood they are going to end up in foreclosure eventually?

    The moral hazard is very dangerous. I actually had a client call me the other day asking how he could benefit from all the “hand outs” going on right now with his mortgage. He pays everything on time and in no danger of going into foreclosure, but he was basically seeing everyone else basically being given a free ride so wanted to know when he could get his…

  22. No one who earns $80K/year has any business buying a $475K home. If you cannot put down 20% on a down payment, then no one should lend you the money to buy a home.

    Home ownership is a privilege earned by many years of responsible behavior; it is not a right. Our national obsession with home ownership needs to end.

  23. I have to agree with Russ and Sampai, homebuying has completely gotten out of control over the years. We have lost the understanding that owning a home is a privelage. People who have no business buying homes have put the burden of bailing them out on all of the responsible homeowners out there. There has to be some ramifications for the ignorant people who were spending way way outside of their means. What those ramifications are, I have no idea, but we can’t ignore the obvious mistakes that people have made financially.

  24. Well Sampai, we can all agree to that as to the future and the not so distant past. But holding the lender somewhat responsible for the recent past is not out of line either.

  25. SM,

    I don’t know where you are from, but $475,000 for a beat up old rambler was not a move based on greed and excess in these parts, as in near work, as in work being at Microsoft or Downtown Seattle.

    I did see some people buying $1.3M houses zero down stacked costs stated income and I’m not proposing a loan mod with that example. But a family of 4 buying a beat up rambler was sucked in by everyone who told them what they could do using inflated ratios.

    Many people were protected by reasonable lender ratios for most of history. De-regulating pulled out the basic supports for most people who depended on the professionals for guidance. Not fair to leave them holding the bag entirely.

  26. Hi Ardell,

    Your bring up Veterans reminds me of something. One of my students works at the V.A. and said the local V.A. offices are going out of their way to help the Veteran obtain a loan mod when needed. Even if the loan was not a V.A. loan (many went subprime unfortunately) the V.A. is helping the Veteran interact with the lender.

  27. 60% back end ratios on FHA loans is NOT the norm…I keep seeing this figure brought up at RCG. I have yet to see a loan approved at 60%…. 53% DTI, yes…I’ve seen it and there were compensating factors that probably supported the expanded ratio. I’m not justifying…I just don’t want our readers to think that every FHA loan has a 60% DTI.

    I’ve had FHA loans declined with a 43% DTI. It depends on more factors than debts and income.

  28. Rhonda, I did say that back in comment 13 “Forget 60% back end as that is not the norm.” in case you were busy today 🙂 The DOW is still “hanging in the eights”.

  29. Kary #4,

    We need to bring back Usury Laws vs. using Bankruptcy to control 25%+ interest rate credit cards. It’s highway robbery for credit cards to be charging 25% to 33% interest rates, and everyone knows it. Someone tell Obama.

  30. I’m hoping that we’re just “bouncing” on the bottom. I keep picturing an anchor dragging until it settles in. Isn’t it odd to look forward to “the bottom”?

    I have been busy today, but it’s been more “busy work” than actual transactions coming together…which is fine. I sent my email newsletter out to my clients…I’m a few months behind and I’m amazed and touched at how many of my past clients have responding asking if I’m doing okay in this market.

    Back to topic…I still think that a 43% DTI is pretty hefty if it’s a “true” calculation. We may just end up with humans doing all the underwriting again and if so, be prepared for much longer transactions.

  31. I’m looking forward to bottom AND longer transactions, both. They got too short for people to know what the heck they were doing. 45 day minimum. 60 day norm.

  32. So why aren’t banks modifying loans by reducing the principal balance to 90% of current appraised value, as “suggested” in HR 3221?

    I think it is because of the requirement that the banks would have to immediately “mark to market

  33. Roger,

    If you gave me ten scenarios, I would likely have 10 different propositions as to loan mod. Point being, if it doesn’t give the borrower a fighting chance to be able to keep their head above water, it will fail.

    Loan mods are not appropriate for anyone whose income is dramatially reduced or gone altogether. So an automatic haircut to 90% on the loan amount is not in and of itself a remedy for anyone. You have to match the circumstances to the situation. The one above backs into a salaried income of $60,000 which was known by the lender on day one. It basically penalizes the lender for assuming a long term consistency of ancillary overtime and bonus income. It also utilizes no bailout funds as no portion of the loan amount is charged off.

    Historically businesses want to cut out their bad stuff to put it behind them. But that reminds of of some schools who are given funding based on test scores. Result is they try to expel the lowest scoring students on any technicality they can find or conjure up, or force them out some other way. There’s more than one way to get good scores, one is to outst the poor scorers.

    When you take “actions to improve the situation short term, the long term consequences are often severe. No action should be taken short term that doesn’t consider the long term consequence to all parties.

  34. “Besides, in the long term, we are all dead.”

    I hope that is not the new slogan for this Country. We have always been a Country of improving things for the generations that follow us. Though I have to agree that I meet many more people who don’t look past their death when making decisions, than those who worry about what they leave behind for others to deal with. I think that’s a mode of “linear thinkers”. Let’s have classes in school that create fewer linear thinkers. That’s an idea.

  35. Bubbles collapse and those who bought at the peak lose. After the election I expect the vote pandering and demagoguery will cease, and politicians may stop pretending they can prevent the deflating of this bubble.

  36. Perhaps many who are stuck paying most of their income on a declining asset are better off to walk away now, and will still be be able to purchase a home in the future

    Why? Consider the possibility that in a few years when the dust has settled, a default during this time period will not be viewed so negatively to one’s credit and the bubble collapse will be taken into account by lenders. If someone qualifies under traditional guidelines and has no other issues, this one time event may be considered an aberration. If I were a lender I might not turn away otherwise good business.

  37. Ardell:

    What I was trying to point out is the necessity of factoring in what people and institutions are willing to do, absent force, in order to create positive change, rather than what they should do, in an ideal sense.

    Most people and institutions in trouble will only make a change and take a risk that has a clear short term benefit (however small), figuring that living to fight another day is a victory in and of itself.

    I agree it doesn’t make sense to modify a loan to a new failure.

    And, of course, long term thinking and planning is needed as well, but most homewoners that are in grave need of some kind of modification are likely to choose a short term benefit over a long term benefit.

    The “in the long run” quote is from Keynes.


    Keynes had some remarkable quotes…I particularly liked this one I just discovered!

    “There is no harm in being sometimes wrong — especially if one is promptly found out.”

    Oh, if only Greenspan had been promptly found out… 🙂

  38. Pingback: Loan Modification: The next wave? | Coastal Real Estate and Lifestyles

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