In trying times you can surely bet that there will be those who will come up with ideas – some good, some bad. There is one mortgage servicer that has been following a plan for the last year, and it has proven successful in helping underwater homeowners (those who owe more to their mortgagors than the current market value of their homes). The program has been so successful it is going to be applied to many more loans the servicer is acquiring.
Ocwen Financial, a mortgage company that services 460,000 loans throughout the country, just completed a one year study of their new program, achieving an unbelievable 2.6% redefault rate (compared to nationwide 40-50% redefault rates for federal programs). Here is how it works: the mortgage servicer agrees to reduce your loan balance to the point that your debt is 5% below current appraisal value (giving you equity in your home). They then modify your mortgage so your new monthly payments are based on your reduced principal balance. Over the next three years, in annual increments, they write off the amounts of the original debt that they reduced (so you are truly paying a mortgage based on current value, with equity, and there is no tacking on the old balance to the end of your loan).
There is a catch: the homeowner has to agree to keep loan payments current, and has to share 25% of any future gain realized if the home is resold. Sounds like a good plan, right? Considering that there are an estimated 11 million homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, with an expectation of 2 million of those who will face foreclosure (according to an article posted today by Ken Harney), this could be a program that might prevent more foreclosures if adopted by other lenders.
I think this idea is good enough to share, and I hope that other lenders will follow suit and initiate similar programs. Some big lenders, like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, do offer principal reduction programs, but they do not utilize the “shared appreciation feature” inherent in Ocwen’s plan.Â I believe it is a brilliant possible solution for many people, so if your loan is not serviced by Ocwen please discuss this with your lender. Thank you to Ken Harney for bringing this story to light.