The Housing Chronicles Blog: BofA to slash mortgage payments for troubled loans

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BofA to slash mortgage payments for troubled loans

Bank of America has announced a drastic plan to address the toxic loans it inherited from Countrywide Financial, which is to slash mortgage payments or even reduce the principal balance owed so mortgage holders can stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. explains:

A plan announced today by Bank of America will be the most aggressive foreclosure prevention effort ever undertaken by a U.S. bank.

The program, scheduled to start in December, will be open to distressed borrowers who signed up with Countrywide Financial between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2007. Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) in July.

It came in a legal settlement that the company entered into with the attorney general offices of 11 states, who had sued Countrywide over predatory lending practices, but the company stated that borrowers in all 50 states will be eligible to participate in the program...

As part of the initiative, Bank of America will cut monthly housing payments, including mortgage, property taxes and insurance, to no more than 34% of gross income. The move is expected to help keep as many as 400,000 troubled borrowers in their homes.

The program targets holders of subprime adjustable rate mortgage (ARMs), subprime fixed rate loans and option ARMs, but prime and Alt-A borrowers, who did not document their income, will be eligible as well.

No other foreclosure prevention effort has aimed to keep borrowers' house payments so low...

By contrast, the much heralded foreclosure-prevention initiative announced in August by the FDIC for customers of IndyMac Bank, the subprime lender that the agency took over in July, said it will keep borrower payments to no more than 38% of gross income.

"This is the biggest mandatory modification of loans in U.S. history," said Jerry Brown, attorney general of California, the state with the largest number of borrowers who may benefit from the settlement. "Of course, we never saw such a big rip-off by any other company either."

According to Simon, the Countrywide program will proactively screen all of its borrowers for eligibility, and then contact them directly to offer loan workouts. No prepayment penalties or modification fees will apply. But the program can't help every Countrywide borrower. Some, because of illness, divorce, job loss and the like, simply won't be able to afford any reasonable mortgage payment...

As the credit crisis continues, more and more lenders and mortgage servicers are coming to grips with the fact that preventing a foreclosure is usually cheaper than going through the repossession process and then reselling the property in a declining market.


Depending on each borrower's circumstances, Bank of America might freeze or lower a loan's interest rate or even cut the principal loan balance. The bank said it will also participate in the government's Hope for Homeowners program, a provision of the housing rescue bill which went into effect Oct. 1 and makes FHA-insured loans available for delinquent borrowers.

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