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Bank of America Puts Short Sales Ahead of REO

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Bank of America, one of the largest lenders in the U.S., has instituted a policy of liquidating as many assets saddled with defaulted loans as possible before repossession, said Matt Vernon, the short sale and REO executive at BofA. Vernon took the position at BofA in February. He has since announced plans to add 1,000 employees to the short sale staff. BofA currently holds more than 477,000 loans eligible for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), and has provided more than 600,000 modifications through HAMP and its own programs. But Vernon said BofA will continue to make the short sale push when he spoke on a panel at REO Expo, being held this week in Dallas. "We're going to do everything possible to liquidate property prior to foreclosure," Vernon said. "REO will still be available, but we will do everything we can to do short sales." Vernon said the goal is to get as close to market value as possible, or even over market value. "Short sales is not an investment strategy to get homes on the cheap," he said. He added that agents who want a part of that market need to make short sales a major part of their business strategy through 2010 and into 2011. Not just agents, but other companies in the default space were listening as well. Danielle Washburn, assistant vice president at Lender Processing Services Asset Management Solutions said lenders are beginning to put more emphasis on short sales because of recent efforts from the current Administration. The Treasury Department launched the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program in April to provide incentives to servicers to provide short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure. "Because of programs like HAFA, the process is getting easier," Washburn said. "But they remain very complex. There are sometimes 10 decision makers with just one transaction, the lender, the buyer, the seller, mortgage insurer, investors and more. Just one of them can stop the whole deal." Milton Shaw, senior vice president of LPS Asset Management Solutions, said modifications and short sales through HAMP or HAFA could just be delaying the inevitable foreclosure and REO process, and the real estate business is growing frustrated with the delays. "There's just been an incredible amount of frustration," Shaw said. Both Washburn and Shaw agreed that more short sales will be on the way as HAMP continues to underwhelm both the industry and the public. In implementing the push for short sales, Vernon said a lot has been learned from HAMP. "We are learning from the past where we struggled mightily," Vernon said, "and from now as we still struggle. We need the best to execute these transactions." Write to Jon Prior.

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