Make us your home page
Instagram

The Nation's Housing: 7

Testing a tool to fight foreclosure

WASHINGTON — If you're seriously under water and headed to foreclosure, what would you say if the lender suddenly offered you the chance to remain in your home as a tenant for an extended period plus have your mortgage debt wiped away? Would you say yes?

Or would you instead conclude: Hey, why pay rent? It's going to take the bank more than a year to complete the foreclosure and evict us, so why not just stay put and save some money?

One of the country's largest banks is about to find out which choice significant numbers of distressed owners make in response to a new foreclosure-avoidance plan it calls "mortgage-to-lease." Bank of America is sending proposals later this month to upwards of 1,000 customers in Arizona, New York and Nevada. If the reaction is positive, the program is likely to be expanded to other states, and could become a model for the biggest players in the mortgage market — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here's how it works: The homeowners in the initial pilot tests all have been previously offered a variety of possible alternatives to foreclosure — loan modifications, forbearance on payments, short sales and "deeds-in-lieu," where the borrower hands the property title back to the bank and moves out. But they either have not been able to qualify or have not responded to the bank's proposals. They're now essentially at the end of the line — there are no other standard lender remedies available to keep them out of foreclosure. In fact, most lenders are now speeding up the pace of foreclosures to get heavy loads of defaulted mortgages off their books.

In the mortgage-to-lease plan, borrowers are expected to deed back their homes to the bank and in exchange get multiyear lease terms at or slightly below the going market rent for their unit — provided they have monthly income to make the payments. There is no built-in guarantee that at the end of three years, they will have a shot at repurchasing their home.

Bank of America officials readily acknowledge that they are unsure how many homeowners will take them up on their offer. "This is an experiment — we just don't know," said Dave Steckel, the bank's home retention strategy executive. It's entirely possible, he concedes, that some owners will simply choose to proceed to foreclosure.

Though Bank of America has not discussed details of the plan with foreclosure-prevention and homeownership advocates, leaders of some groups had generally positive reactions to the core concept.

Where is this all headed and how fast? If pilot projects go well, and consumers are enthusiastic — both of which are uncertain — look for mortgage-to-lease to spread to other large lenders, and potentially become a new tool in the national foreclosure-avoidance effort.

Kenneth R. Harney can be reached at kenharney@earthlink.net.

The Nation's Housing: 7

03/24/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post - Writers Group.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  2. Rick Scott appoints longtime ally Jimmy Patronis as Florida CFO

    State Roundup
    Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO. [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Local gas prices plummet as Fourth of July holiday travel approaches

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Local gas prices are enjoying an unseasonal dip around the $2 mark just in time for the hectic Fourth of July holiday travel weekend.

    The price of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped to $1.99 at a Rally station on Pasadena Ave. South and Gulfport Boulevard South, South Pasadena.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy

    Autos

    Shattered by recall costs and lawsuits, Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., saying it was the only way it could keep on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.

    Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. CEO Shigehisa Takada bows during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of defective air bag inflators.
[(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
  5. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.

    Corporate

    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.