Non-Profit Lenders Step in to Provide Post-Foreclosure Modification

Editor’s Note: Principal reduction can be achieved in more ways than one. Here Non-profit Lenders see the clear opportunity to buy mortgages from dubious sources and then enter into new mortgages with the homeowner thus preventing eviction and restoring the homeowner to non-distress status.

The problem here is that title is not clear and eventually there is going to be a day of reckoning. The underlying theme here is that principal reduction is the ONLY way this mess will be cleared up and getting it right about WHO can sell a mortgage, execute a satisfaction of mortgage, or otherwise enforce or foreclose a mortgage is still in flux.
The reason is that it is in flux is that Judges and lawyers are just starting to get the the counter-intuitive idea that the finance sector actually set out to make bad loans because that was how they made money.
It’s not counter-intuitive if you realize that the real creditor is the investor who put up the money and all the rest are pretenders who pocketed a big portion of the proceeds of securities sale before funding mortgages. It is those pretenders who are “selling” and “enforcing” the “loans.”
My suggestion is that regardless of how and with whom you resolved your mortgage dispute, a quiet title action needs to filed naming all potential claimants in which a Judge declares the rights of the parties and confirms your title subject to whatever new mortgage or modified mortgage you executed. I don’t see any other immediate way to resolve the title problems
March 21, 2010

Finding in Foreclosure a Beginning, Not an End

By JOHN LELAND

BOSTON — Jane Petion lived in her home for 15 years and saw its value rise slowly, rise rapidly and, when the housing bubble burst, plunge at a sickening pace that left her owing $400,000 on a house worth closer to $250,000. Last June, her lender foreclosed on the property. The family received notices of eviction and appeared in housing court.

Then they discovered a surprising paradox within the nation’s housing crisis: Their power to negotiate began after foreclosure, rather than ending there.

In December Ms. Petion signed a new mortgage on her house for $250,000, with monthly payments of less than half the previous level. She and her husband now have a mortgage they can afford in a neighborhood that benefits from the stability they provide. A nonprofit lender made the deal possible by buying the house from her original mortgage company and selling it to her for 25 percent more than its purchase price — a gain to hedge against future defaults.

“It was exactly what we needed to get back on our feet,” said Ms. Petion, who works for a state agency. “We have income. But another bank, it would have been easy to look at our foreclosure and say, ‘I’m sorry, we have nothing for you now.’ ”

This counterintuitive solution — intervening after foreclosure rather than before — is the brainchild of Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit community development financial institution, and a housing advocacy group called City Life/Vida Urbana, working with law students and professors at Harvard Law School.

Though the program, which started last fall, is small so far, there is no reason it cannot be replicated around the country, especially in areas that have had huge spikes in housing prices, said Patricia Hanratty of Boston Community Capital. “If what you’ve got is a real estate market that went nuts and a mortgage market that went nuts, what you’ve got is an opportunity.”

Two years into the nation’s housing meltdown, and after hundreds of billions of dollars of federal rescue programs, government officials and housing advocates denounce the unwillingness of lenders to adjust the balances on homes that are worth less than the mortgage owed on them.

Research suggests that such disparity, rather than exotic interest rates, is the main driver of foreclosures, in tandem with a job loss or another financial setback. The financial industry lobbied aggressively to defeat legislation that would empower bankruptcy judges to adjust mortgage balances to properties’ market value.

That reluctance, however, eases after foreclosure, when lenders find themselves holding properties they need to unload, Ms. Hanratty said.

“We found, frankly, the industry wasn’t ready to do much pre-foreclosure,” she said. “But once it was either on the cusp of foreclosure or had been taken into the bank portfolio, banks really do not want to hold on to these properties because they don’t know how to manage them, don’t know what to do with them.”

Working with borrowed money, Boston Community Capital buys homes after foreclosure and sells or rents them to their previous owners, providing new mortgages and counseling to the owners, who typically have ruined credit. During the process the families remain in their homes. Since late fall it has completed or nearly completed deals on 50 homes, with an additional 20 in progress, Ms. Hanratty said. The organization is now trying to raise $50 million to expand the program.

Steve Meacham, an organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana, is one reason banks may be willing to sell their foreclosed properties to Boston Community Capital. When families receive eviction notices, his group holds demonstrations or blockades outside the properties, calling on lenders to sell at market value. It also connects the residents with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, whose students work to pressure lenders to sell rather than evict by prolonging eviction and “driving up litigation costs,” said Dave Grossman, the clinic’s director.

“So they’re being defended legally, and we’re ramping up the pressure publicity-wise,” Mr. Meacham said. “And B.C.C. came in; they had a part that buys properties and a part that writes mortgages. It wouldn’t work without all three.”

A focus of the program has been the working-class neighborhood of Dorchester, where home prices dropped 40 percent between 2005 and 2007, compared with a 20 percent drop statewide, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Foreclosures and delinquencies there are more than twice the state average, the bank found.

In such neighborhoods, lenders and residents are hurt by evictions, which often leave vacant properties that invite crime and drive down values of neighboring houses, Ms. Hanratty said. “So it’s in the lenders’ interest to get fair market value as quickly as possible, and in the interest of the community to have as little displacement as possible.”

The program is not a solution for all lenders or distressed homeowners. After months of post-foreclosure negotiations with her bank, Ursula Humes, a transit police detective, is waiting for her final 48-hour eviction notice. Her belongings are in boxes.

Mrs. Humes owed $440,000 on her home; her lender offered to sell it to Boston Community Capital for $260,000. But after assessing Mrs. Hume’s finances, the nonprofit asked for a lower selling price, and the lender refused.

On a recent evening, Mr. Grossman of the Harvard law clinic counseled Mrs. Humes on her options. “This is a case that doesn’t have a happy ending,” Mr. Grossman said.

Mrs. Humes said, “I depleted my retirement account and everything I owned, but I’m still going to lose it.”

Many commercial lenders, similarly, would shy away from such a program because it involves writing mortgages for borrowers who have already defaulted once — a high risk for a small reward.

For other homeowners, though, the program is a rescue at the last possible second. Roberto Velasquez, a building contractor, lost his home to foreclosure last November, owing the lender $550,000. After extensive wrangling, during which his family stayed in the house, he bought it again in March for $280,000, a price he can afford.

On the night after he closed, he joined other members of City Life/Vida Urbana at a foreclosed four-unit building in Dorchester from which most of the tenants had been evicted. A group of artists projected videos on sheets in the windows, showing silhouettes of families re-enacting their last 72 hours before eviction. Garbage filled one of the units. Mr. Velasquez said it hurt to stand amid such loss, but he was jubilant at his own perseverance.

“We’ve been fighting for so long,” he said, “and we win, because we’re still in the house.”

7 Responses

  1. Niel, My name is Charles, I found your blog doing a quick internet search. We started a new social networking site, http://www.HomeLeafs.com that helps address foreclosure issue that I believe you would be interested in and hopefully can share to your readers. Can you check out the site (semi-private beta), and/or send me an email to the address I provided? Thanks! Would love to chat!

    ~Charles
    /realestatefeeds

  2. Just imagine what would have happened had the Senate voted in “Right to Rent.” That would have made all these “pretender lenders” actual landlords. And you better believe they would have started negotiations prior to being a landlord! The mistakes that have been made……

  3. this sound scary!!!!!!!!!!!! living with the stress of being evicted and the pain of having to leave your home. familys seperating and having to move apart ooh my god how much do the poor have to suffer! the cord always snaps at the weakest point!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Also, currently being promoted is “short refinance”, in which hedge funds buy at steep discounts and then work to get a new mortgage for homeowners (not in foreclosure yet).

    Agree, the biggest problem with all these programs is TITLE – title is messed up. Do not know how the FHA (new program being announced will approach this).

    Still disagree that security investors are the creditor – they do not fund (or put up money) for individual mortgages – but only purchase securities for pro-rata share in a “pool” of receivables that are removed from some bank’s balance sheet to a questionable off-balance sheet conduit. These investors fund the bank – who then funds the mortgage at closing. Security investors are “indirect lenders” and not a creditor. All investors are entitled to a small percentage in the pass-through of mortgage payments. Question remains what happens when loan goes into default – and can no longer be a pass-through security – and what “investor” is the servicer acting on behalf of then – (trustee’s job is done). This is why title is a mess – and, I agree, MUST be resolved in court.

  5. lol.. love ur comment and couldn’t agree more..

  6. Nice….

    The previous “Lender” has stripped the home right out from underneath the homeowner and gets PAID to do so…

    And the cycle continues with the new “Lender” left holding a worthless piece of paper that will still not be enforcable???

    WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

    When you “modify” the loan you are playing right into their hand and making it legit for them when they had NOTHING before!!!

    OBAMA = One Big Ass Mistake America!!!

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