Friday, December 12, 2014

Couple Wins $1 Million in Lawsuit From Bank of America After Receiving 700+ Robocalls

Friday, December 12, 2014 12:11PM

A Florida couple recently won a $1 million lawsuit against Bank of America after receiving more than 700 collections calls over the course of four years.

Nelson and Joyce Coniglio of Tampa, Florida received 700+ robocalls from the bank after falling behind on their mortgage payments in 2009, according to WFTS. The couple says their phone would be ringing off the hook from Bank of America robocalls throughout the day. After filing a complaint in Federal court, a judge ordered Bank of America to pay the family $1 million for the harassment or $1,500 per call.

This isn't the first time people have been harassed by Bank of America. According to WFTS, an elderly couple in California claims they received over 2,000 collections calls from the bank. An Arkansas family saw over 350 collections calls from Bank of America, and more than 600 to a family in Indiana.

In 2010, Bank of America was revealed to have been using a collections agency based out of Texas, whose associates were recorded using foul language and racist remarks when attempting to collect on debts, WFTS says. Bank of America stopped working with that firm shortly after the recorded remarks went public, according to WFTS.

Bank of America sent a statement to ABC News regarding the ruling.

"Bank of America has helped 2 million homeowners avoid foreclosure. Our calls to the Coniglios were not to collect a debt, but rather to help them avoid foreclosure after they fell behind on their mortgage payments in 2009," Bank of America Senior Vice President Dan Frahm said. "Because our calls were not answered and our efforts to help the Coniglios avoid foreclosure were urgent, these calls continued. We are committed to help homeowners in need of assistance avoid foreclosure."

ABC Eyewitness News

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

3% Down Payments May Be Game Changer

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced Monday that first-time home buyers can now qualify for loans with down payments as low as 3 percent. That will expand credit for qualified home shoppers who may have been sidelined the last few years because of higher down-payment requirements, housing analysts say.
With Fannie Mae's 3 percent down-payment offering, borrowers must still meet standard eligibility requirements, including underwriting, income documentation, and risk management standards. Any buyer can take advantage of Fannie's loans as long as at least one co-borrower is a first-time buyer. The loans will require private mortgage insurance.Freddie Mac launched Home Possible Advantage, a conventional mortgage with a 3 percent down-payment requirement geared to low- and moderate-income borrowers. It's a conforming conventional mortgage with a maximum loan-to-value ratio of 97 percent. To qualify, first-time home buyers are required to participate in a borrower education program.
"Our goal is to help additional qualified borrowers gain access to mortgages," says Andrew Bon Salle, Fannie Mae executive vice president for single-family underwriting, pricing, and capital markets. "This option alone will not solve all the challenges around access to credit. Our new 97 percent LTV offering is simply one way we are working to remove barriers for creditworthy borrowers to get a mortgage."
The National Association of REALTORS® applauds the move by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie.
NAR said in a statement that the action by FHFA demonstrates its "commitment to home ownership by serving creditworthy borrowers who lack the resources for substantial down payments, plus closing costs, with a new 3 percent down-payment program that mitigates risk with strong underwriting. The new program ensures that responsible home buyers will have access to safe, affordable mortgage credit."
Source: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wells Fargo Faces Predatory Lending Charges

Cook County, Ill., is accusing Wells Fargo of making mortgages more expensive for black and Latino borrowers than whites.
Officials in Cook County, which includes Chicago, allege that the mortgage giant is taking part in predatory lending, and they've filed a complaint with the federal court in Chicago. Other municipal governments in Los Angeles and Miami have recently filed similar complaints.
Cook County officials say Wells Fargo has engaged in "equity stripping" with 26,000 loans, from origination to refinancing loans and foreclosures.
"Equity stripping is an abusive form of 'asset-based lending' that maximizes lender profits based on the value of the underlying asset and onerous loan terms, while disregarding a borrower's ability to repay," the complaint alleges.
County officials say the practice uses the bundling of mortgages to sell as securities and allows the lender to make a profit off the loans, even if they fall into foreclosure. Officials are seeking up to $300 million in damages, Bloomberg reports.
Wells Fargo officials call the accusations "baseless."
"It's disappointing they chose to pursue a lawsuit against Wells Fargo rather than collaborate together to help borrowers and home owners in the county," says Tom Goyda, a spokesman for Wells Fargo. "We stand behind our record as a fair and responsible lender."
Source: “Wells Fargo Accused of Predatory Lending in Chicago Area,” Bloomberg (Nov. 28, 2014)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FHA Allows Ex-Owners to Buy Back Homes

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a new policy that will permit some foreclosed home owners to purchase the homes back that they once had lost at fair market value. 
The FHFA, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, says the new policy likely will lower the principal on the loans of the former home owners if they elect to buy their former homes back. Prior to the policy, the FHFA had required borrowers who had gone through foreclosure and who wanted to buy back their home to pay the entire debt they owed on the mortgage, even if it was much higher than the home’s current value.  To regain ownership, the ex-owners must be able to pay the full current value of the property, and they still must wait at least three years after their foreclosure to regain ownership, which is required to purchase any home using a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae–guaranteed loan following a foreclosure. 
“This is a targeted but important policy change that should help reduce property vacancies and stabilize home values and neighborhoods,” says FHFA Director Melvin L. Watt. “It expands the number of potential buyers of REO properties and is consistent with the enterprises’ practice of requiring fair-market value for those properties.”
The new policy applies only to buyers’ former primary residence. Second homes and investor properties are not eligible. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Credit Unions Step in to Fill Lending Void

The number of mortgage originations issued from credit unions in the first half of 2014 has climbed 10 percent year-over-year. This has elevated credit unions to having more than 8 percent share of the home loan market—about triple their share prior to the recession—making them a growing option for home buyers looking for financing, according to data from the Credit Union National Association.
In June, the nation’s 6,557 credit unions surpassed 100 million members (you still have to be a member of one to get a loan, but many credit unions are tied to employment, trades, religious groups, or specific communities). Nearly two-thirds of credit unions offer mortgages.
“We’ve seen a very strong increase in originations over the course of the last several years,” Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and research at CUNA, told the Los Angeles Times.
Mortgages comprise about 41 percent of all credit union loans compared to 25 percent in 2000. The average loan amount at a credit union is $130,000, and 70 percent of the loans offered are for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. But many credit unions do offer different financing options for members. For example, Pentagon Federal, with 1.3 million members nationwide, introduced a 15/15 adjustable mortgage, where rates reset only once at the midterm mark to reflect the current market rate. Also, the National Institutes of Health Federal CU offers the five-year fixed-rate mortgage, dubbed the “see ya” loan, which allows home owners to refinance and coordinate it to a time of a special event, such as retirement or when the children go to college, in order to end their mortgage payments by that time.
Credit unions don’t typically charge cheaper interest rates, but they “tend not to tack on a bunch of superfluous fees that other lenders seem to love,” the Los Angeles Times notes in a recent article. “And because they are local and member-controlled, they are more likely to consider applicants with a story to tell than some underwriter five states over who is forced to stick to standard guidelines.”
Source: “Shopping for a Loan? Credit Unions Can be Consumer-Friendly Option,” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 9, 2014)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fannie, Freddie to Loosen Up on Lending

The regulator of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is reportedly working on a deal with the financing entities that will loosen up lending standards and make mortgages more affordable for those with less-than-perfect credit. The move is expected to expand home buyers’ access to financing, as tight credit the last few years has kept many sidelined. 
The new rules reportedly will include a lower minimum down payment requirement (from 5 percent to 3 percent), in order for lenders to qualify to sell a loan to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That would bring down payment in sync with the Federal Housing Administration, which insures loans made to lower-income borrowers and first-time buyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee about 59 percent of all mortgages written.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie and Freddie, reportedly will include more safety measures to help lenders protect themselves from making bad loans. Lenders have faced numerous high-dollar settlements after issuing loans that later defaulted. The new agreement would give greater confidence to lenders so they won’t be penalized years after a loan is made, The Wall Street Journal reports. 
The potential agreement “would allow credit to flow more freely to lower- and middle-income households,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s vital to getting the housing recovery moving forward.”
During the financial crisis, the financing giants faced steep losses as home loans defaulted. The spike was blamed on poor underwriting by lenders in ensuring that borrowers could afford their mortgages. In response, the companies, which were seized by the government in 2008, have had banks tighten their credit standards, which some critics say has gone too far and prevented many home buyers from qualifying for a home loan. 
The Urban Institute has estimated that 1.2 million more mortgages would have been issued in 2012 alone if lending standards that were commonly used in 2001 were still in place. 
"Understandably, after the [financial] crisis the pendulum of mortgage credit standards swung to a far extreme” Paul Leonard, California director of the Center for Responsible Lending, told the Los Angeles Times. “It's now working its way back to a more moderate position.”
The FHFA is expected to formally announce the plans later this week. 
Source: “Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Reach Deal to Ease Mortgage Lending,” Los Angeles Times (Oct. 17, 2014) and “Mortgage Giants Set to Loosen Lending,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 17, 2014)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Small Lenders Bend for Risky Borrowers

Borrowers with minor imperfections on their credit applications — like a brief loss of employment or a temporary dip in their credit score — are starting to have better luck at snagging a loan with smaller lenders, Bloomberg reports. At least 15 smaller firms this year are offering slightly riskier mortgages, which in some cases come with higher interest rates and larger down payment requirements and aren’t backed by the government.
 “Some lenders became afraid of their own shadows,” RPM Mortgage Inc. Chief Executive Officer Rob Hirt told Bloomberg. The bank started a program this summer for borrowers who have higher debt burdens or who had sold a home for less than the outstanding mortgage. “The market is beginning to realize that if you make smart and sound loans to people who don’t fit in the narrow box, it doesn’t make them a worse risk.”
On the other hand, larger banks, like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co., have generally tightened their credit standards over the last few years. The average score on mortgages that government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bought now stands at about 740 – well above the 660 level that is considered subprime. Some of the big banks are reluctant to ease their credit standards, concerned that Fannie, Freddie, and the FHA will force them to buy back bad loans with underwriting errors; the banks do not want to take on the risks of loans that the government programs won’t insure, Bloomberg reports. The lending giants from 2006 through 2012 faced more than $200 billion in losses from home loans, according to Moody’s Analytics data.
But where big banks are stepping back, small banks are stepping in. For example, Shellpoint Partners LLC’s New Penn unit began this summer to offer mortgages for home buyers with debt-to-income ratios up to 55 percent and interest-only loans when borrowers have “high disposable income” or “high income potential due to their line of work.” Lone Star Funds’ Caliber Home Loans Inc. also debuted this summer new programs that offer flexibility for foreign nationals and on purchases of condos without approval for government programs. TD Bank’s Right Step program allows borrowers to put 3 percent down and not have to pay mortgage insurance if they have credit scores of 660 or above. Banc of California is providing loans to borrowers who have a foreclosure or late payments on their records, as long as they can make a down payment of at least 20 percent and show other strong assets in their finances.
“To us, it’s common sense,” says Jeff Seabold, chief lending officer at Banc of California. “There’s quite a few people who are boxed out that shouldn’t be.”
Source: “You Don’t Need to Be Perfect to Get a U.S. Loan Anymore,” Bloomberg Businessweek (Oct. 13, 2014)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ex-Owners Bamboozled Years After Foreclosure

Thousands of Americans who lost their homes to foreclosure years ago may have finally moved on, rebuilt their finances, and even considered home ownership again. But first, they may have to face a rising number of debt collectors who are chasing them down for money they still owe from the foreclosure they thought they had left in the past.
More banks are getting aggressive in pursuing deficiency judgments, finding that the proceeds of foreclosure sales may not have been enough to cover the amount of the loans, plus penalties, legal bills, and other fees.
"Using a legal tool known as a 'deficiency judgment,' lenders can ensure that borrowers are haunted by these zombie-like debts for years, and sometimes decades, to come," Reuters reports. "Before the housing bubble, banks often refrained from seeking deficiency judgments, which were seen as costly and an invitation for bad publicity. Some of the biggest banks still feel that way. But the housing crisis saddled lenders with more than $1 trillion of foreclosed loans, leading to unprecedented losses. Now, at least some large lenders want their money back, and they figure it's the perfect time to pursue borrowers: many of those who went through foreclosure have gotten new jobs, paid off old debts, and, in some cases, bought new homes."
Mortgage giant Fannie Mae is one of the most aggressive in pursuing deficiency judgments. Of the 595,128 foreclosures the government-sponsored enterprise was involved in through owning or guaranteeing the loan, it has referred 293,134 to debt collectors for possible deficiency judgment, according to a report by the Inspector General, reflecting the time period from January 2010 through January 2012.
Some of the largest mortgage lenders — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Co., and Citigroup — say they don't usually pursue deficiency judgment, but they do reserve the right to do so.
"We may pursue them on a case-by-case basis, looking at a variety of factors, including investor and mortgage insurer requirements, the financial status of the borrower, and the type of hardship," says Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Goyda.
Many borrowers may be surprised to later learn that their foreclosure from years ago is not really behind them. For example, former home owner Danell Huthsing thought she was in the clear after a foreclosure in 2008 on a home she shared with her boyfriend. But this summer, she was served with a lawsuit demanding $91,000 for the amount of mortgage still unpaid after the home was foreclosed and sold. She plans to appeal, but if she loses, the debt collector who filed the lawsuit will be able to freeze her bank account, garnish up to 25 percent of her wages, and seize her paid-off car, Reuters reports.
"For seven years, you think you're good to go, that you've put this behind you," said Huthsing. "Then wham, you get slapped to the floor again."

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nearly 1 Million Homeowners Regain Equity


Nearly 950,000 homes returned to positive equity in the second quarter, now bringing the total number of residential homes with equity nationwide to more than 44 million, according to CoreLogic’s Equity Report.  
“The increase in borrower equity of $1 trillion from a year earlier is evidence that things are moving solidly in the right direction,” says Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. “Borrower equity is important because home equity constitutes borrowers’ largest investment segment and, as a result, is driving forward the rise in wealth for the typical home owner.”
Still, home price rises are needed to help more home owners feel more confident in their equity position. Of the 44 million properties with positive equity, about 9 million – or 19 percent – have less than 20 percent equity (labeled “under-equitied”), and 1.3 million have less than 5 percent (considered “near-negative equity”), according to CoreLogic.
About 5.3 million homes – or 10.7 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage – remained in negative equity as of the second quarter. The number is falling. A year ago, 7.2 million homes – or 14.9 percent –were in negative equity. Negative equity is when borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth.
“Borrowers who are ‘under-equitied’ may have a more difficult time refinancing their existing homes or obtaining new financing to sell and buy another home due to underwriting constraints,” according to CoreLogic’s report.
If home prices rise by just 5 percent, an additional 1 million home owners currently in negative equity could regain equity, according to CoreLogic’s analysis.
“Many home owners across the country are seeing the equity value in their homes grow, which lifts the economy as a whole,” says Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “With more and more borrowers regaining equity, we expect home ownership to become an increasingly attractive option for many who have remained on the sidelines in the aftermath of the Great Recession. This should provide more opportunities for people to sell their homes, purchase a different home or refinance an existing mortgage.”
State Breakdown
The states with the highest percentage of properties with a mortgage in negative equity as of the second quarter were:
·         Nevada: 26.3%
·         Florida: 24.3%
·         Arizona: 19%
·         Illinois: 15.4%
·         Rhode Island: 14.8%
On a metro level, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla., had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties in negative equity at 26.2 percent, followed by Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz., at 19.5 percent.
On the other hand, the following states had the highest percentage of properties with a mortgage that were in an equity position:
·         Texas: 97.3%
·         Alaska: 96.5%
·         Montana: 96.4%
·         North Dakota: 96%
·         Hawaii: 96%
On a metro level, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas, boasted the highest percentage of properties with a mortgage in an equity position at 97.5 percent, followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas, at 97 percent.
Source: CoreLogic

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mortgage Giant Opens Door for Earlier Return of Ex-Home Owners

Former distressed borrowers may be able to jump back into home ownership sooner than they expected. Fannie Mae officials say the organization is overhauling its policy to change the minimum waiting period following a pre-foreclosure sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, taking the standard wait-out period from seven years to four years or perhaps even shorter.
Under the new policy, Fannie has removed the LTV requirements. All loans with application dates on or after Aug. 16 now will have a standard waiting period of four years, and only two years under extenuating circumstances.To be eligible for a new mortgage loan, Fannie requires formerly distressed borrowers to show they’ve reestablished their credit after a foreclosure, bankruptcy, preforeclosure sale, or deed-in-lieu. The standard waiting period was two years with a maximum 80 percent loan-to-value ratio and four years with a maximum 90% LTV. Standard eligibility, however, is seven years. In some cases, such as extenuating circumstances where borrowers had a prolonged reduction in income that was beyond their control, they may only have to wait two years with a maximum 90% LTV to get a new mortgage again.  
For example, a borrower who had a preforeclosure sale five years ago — not due to extenuating circumstances — would be eligible for a new loan with as low as a 5 percent down payment (they would not have been eligible prior to the change in the policy unless they at least had a 10 percent down payment). Also, a borrower with a deed-in-lieu two years ago that was due to extenuating circumstances would also be eligible for a new mortgage backed by Fannie with as low as a 5 percent down payment, in which they would not have been otherwise and would have needed at least a 10 percent down payment.
Other programs, such as the FHA's Back to Work program, are also available to formerly distressed borrowers and are curtailing the wait times even more, to as little as 12 months following a foreclosure or short sale. 
Source: “Fannie Mae Widens Credit Box for Failed Home Owners,” HousingWire (Sept. 9, 2014)