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John Mauldin has another interesting weekly letter called This Way There Be Dragons. Here's a look at the section on housing. Emphasis mine.
"Yesterday Fitch ratings estimated that up to 75 percent of the modifications now being done through the administration's Making Home Affordable program will re-default in six months to a year. I'm not talking about the old modifications, which were largely repayment plans that could actually raise monthly payments. I'm talking about the new mods, which lower monthly payments to 31 percent of a person's income. I couldn't understand Fitch's reasoning, so I called them.Servicer Incentives
"Diane Pendley, managing director at Fitch, said the problem is not on that "front-end" ratio, but on the back end, which is all of the borrowers other debt (credit cards, car loans, student loans, etc.). She said that in talking with servicers, she's hearing other debt is so high that most of today's troubled borrowers cannot afford any loan payment at all, even at a very modest debt-to-income ratio. 'Just getting the house payment done doesn't mean their lifestyle is sustainable,' she said.
"Another problem is that with home prices continuing to fall, more and more borrowers, who are essentially just renting their mortgages now because they will never see any home equity, are walking away. Even if the mortgage payment is low, the property taxes and home maintenance costs are padding that payment, and without an upside to the investment, there's simply no reason to pay. Suffice it to say, the foreclosure crisis, on the high and low ends, is not getting any better."
And it gets worse.
More Prime Foreclosures In Our Future
The Mortgage Bankers Association noted that a record 12%, or 1 in 8 homeowners, in the US are now behind on their payments or in foreclosure. 10.6% of the mortgages in Florida are now somewhere in the process of actual foreclosure. (My seatmate here on the flight says the prices on the condos where he lives are now back to 1998 levels. It would be scary, he said, if you had to sell. There are new developments that only have 10% actual occupancy, as the bulk of the condos were bought for speculation. Now those 10% of buyers are having to shoulder all the fees for upkeep. Nobody will buy, because the upkeep costs can be more than the mortgage. It is a vicious cycle.)
In Nevada foreclosures are 7.8%, Arizona 5.6%, and California 5.2%. 25% of subprime loans are now in foreclosure, 14% of FHA (government, taxpayer-guaranteed) loans and a growing 6% of all prime loans are now in foreclosure. (Note: the seasonal adjustments may overstate the actual numbers, as we are in new territory in terms of actual foreclosures.) Quoting from the MBA press release:
"In looking at these numbers, it is important to focus on what has changed as well what continue to be the key drivers of foreclosures. What has changed is the shifting of the problem somewhat away from the subprime and option ARM/Alt-A loans to the prime fixed-rate loans. The foreclosure rate on prime fixed-rate loans has doubled in the last year, and, for the first time since the rapid growth of subprime lending, prime fixed-rate loans now represent the largest share of new foreclosures. In addition, almost half of the overall increase in foreclosure starts we saw in the first quarter was due to the increase in prime fixed-rate loans."
We are refinancing mortgages at attractive rates, with taxpayers picking up the tab via Fannie, Freddie and the FHA. Let's revisit the Home Affordable Modification Program Guidelines to see how ridiculous the program is.
Servicers will receive an up-front Servicer Incentive Payment of $1,000 for each eligible modification meeting guidelines established under this initiative. Servicers will also receive Pay for Success payments –as long as the borrower stays in the program – of up to $1,000 each year for up to three years. Similar incentives will be paid for Hope for Homeowner refinances.Taxpayers are forking money over to Countrywide and other servicers at $1,000 a pop (or more) for loan mods, of which 75% will re-default in less than a year because "most of today's troubled borrowers cannot afford any loan payment at all".
One-time bonus incentive payments of $1,500 to lender/investors and $500 to servicers will be provided for modifications made while a borrower is still current on mortgage payments.
Is this a great idea or what? No doubt Bank of America supports it 100%. It's all part of Geithner's "Heist America Plan".
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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