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The Obama administration on Friday announced it would significantly broaden the pool of consumers eligible for mortgage modifications by opening its program to owners of rental properties and homeowners burdened by medical and credit card bills and second mortgages.
Under an expansion of the Home Affordable Modification Program, investors can seek mortgage loan modifications for rental properties, regardless of whether the home is occupied by a tenant or it is vacant but the owner plans to rent it. Previously, only owner-occupants were eligible for loan modifications under the government's plan, but officials said they decided to take this step because foreclosed rental properties were having a particularly detrimental effect on low- and moderate-income renters.
"The whole purpose of HAMP is to try and prevent foreclosures," said Treasury Assistant Secretary Tim Massad in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon. "We're expanding it to investor-owned properties for the same reason. If your neighbor is foreclosed on, whether they're an owner or a tenant, that affects you and all your neighbors. We're allowing them to get modifications. They still have to prove a hardship and go through a protocol that proves this is a good use of taxpayer money."
Roughly 700,000 rental properties nationally may be eligible for loan modifications, he added.
"They're finally recognizing that this is a part of the housing market that needs stabilization," said Geoff Smith, executive director of DePaul University's Institute for Housing Studies. "These small multifamily buildings make up a big part of the housing stock in Chicago so any effort to stabilize them would be helpful. But one of the reasons that HAMP didn't target rentals was at some level these are businesspeople and why would you want to incentive them for taking too much risk on an investment."
Federal officials also said HAMP would begin evaluating borrowers who may face large medical, credit card or second lien payments but up to now have been ineligible for mortgage modifications because the debt-to-income ratio on their first mortgages was below 31 percent.
HAMP, which was set to expire in December, now has been extended until Dec. 31. 2013. There will be no additional costs to taxpayers for the expanded program, officials said. It will be funded from the $29 billion already set aside mortgage modification efforts.
Part of the administration's Making Home Affordable effort that was announced shortly after President Barack Obama took office, HAMP has been criticized as falling woefully short of its goal of helping 3 million to 4 million homeowners. Of the more than 1.7 million trial mortgage modifications begun under the program since its March 2010 start, only about 43 percent had resulted in permanent loan modifications through November.
The government has withheld $131 million in servicer incentive payments from Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase for poor compliance with the program.
Also announced was a tripling of the financial incentives awarded to mortgage investors whose modifications include principal writedowns in cases where the homeowner owes significantly more on the mortgage than the value of the underlying property. The current rate of between 6 cents and 21 cents on the dollar will be increased to between 18 and 63 cents. Officials said they had already briefed mortgage servicers on the new incentive plan.
Principal reduction incentives also will be offered to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if they use them in loan modifications on mortgages they own or insure.
The Obama administration has announced changes to its flagship foreclosure prevention initiative the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Among the changes, borrowers who are struggling because of debt beyond their mortgage will be eligible for a secondary evaluation with more flexible debt-to-income criteria, andeligibility will be extended to investor-owned homes that are used as rental properties. The administration is also giving principal reductions a bigger role within the program, tripling incentives for investors that agree to write down an underwater borrowers principal balance and offering these same incentives to the nations two biggest mortgage investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Despite record low mortgage rates, 2011 has seen a surprisingly high level of cash home purchases, according to the real estate research firm Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.
Jonathan Dienhart and Ken Lee, two analysts with the company, say between tight lending standards and a desperate search for yield by investors, cash purchases of homes particularly for distressed properties became even more common in 2011 than last year.
Dienhart and Lee analyzed data collected through Hanley Woods Housing IntelligencePro, and shared their findings in a blog post.
The two discovered that 38 percent of homes purchased in 2011 were bought with all cash. Thats up from 34 percent in 2010, and double the 19 percent rate in 2006.
According to Dienhart and Lee, this trend is likely to continue in the near term. They note that cash-paying investors are responsible for an increasing share of home purchases nowadays as prior homeowners abandon the ownership market and head back to rentals.
Source - MLive