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Two mortgage servicers get aggressive on principal writedowns in January

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Mortgage servicers began aggressively writing down the principal on delinquent nonagency mortgages and even second liens in January, analysts at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) said in a report Wednesday, yet the amount of foreclosed properties continues to rise. GMAC, the servicing arm of Ally Financial (GJM), stood out to analysts, who surveyed 433 deals in the nonagency space. In one security, GMAC liquidated 45 mortgages for a $3.2 million loss. At the same time, however, it modified nearly 1,200 of the loans that included $5.5 million in principal forgiveness. "This is the first time we have seen large-scale principal forgiveness from GMAC," JPMorgan analysts said. Outside of GMAC, however, principal forgiveness has been contained only in the subprime sector, but even those have occurred on a smaller scale to GMAC's January numbers. Ocwen Financial Corp. (OCN) showed a push to charge-off second liens and low-balance first liens when it took over servicing for HomEq and Saxon Mortgage Services. "I haven't seen the report so I cannot comment specifically on it, but I can say that whenever we charge off second liens, it's in accordance the governing PSAs (pooling and servicing agreements) and consistent with accepted industry practice," Ocwen Executive Vice President Paul Koches told HousingWire. In January, JPMorgan analysts found 3,625 modifications on the deals it surveyed, up 12% from the previous month. Roughly 13% of the subprime loans included principal reductions with $25,000 forgiven on average. The Alt-A and option-ARMs that received a modification in January averaged $76,000, analysts said. Still, though, the inventory of foreclosures on these deals rose by 35 basis points for Alt-A loans and 45 bps for option-ARMs. The amount of homes 90-days delinquent or more continued to decrease in January for all product types except prime loans. While GMAC and Ocwen have shown that they're ramping up writedown efforts, JPMorgan analysts said the effort is not seen industry wide. "Bank servicers have not yet shown strong evidence of forgiveness," analysts said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior

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