HAMP mortgage mods reaching permanent status faster
Homeowners who entered into a Home Affordable Modification Program trial within the last year were transferred into a permanent workout almost two months faster than those who entered the program earlier. The Treasury Department launched HAMP in March 2009, pushing servicers to modify more mortgages on the verge of foreclosure. More than 1.6 million trials began since then, and servicers converted more than 763,000 of them into a permanent modification as of June 2011, according to Treasury statistics released Friday. But when the program first began, servicers rushed more borrowers into a trial without collecting the necessary documentation. A backlog soon formed. At the end of May 2010, more than 190,000 homeowners had been stuck in the trial stage for more than six months. According to HAMP guidelines, a trial is supposed to last three months. The Treasury responded by issuing new guidance, requiring servicers to collect all of the necessary documentation before putting a borrower into a trial. Effective in June 2010, servicers had to cancel or convert trials within three to four months, depending on circumstances. The trials that began after that date took an average 3.5 months to convert into permanent status, compared to an average 5.2 months for trials started before the new guidance. Meanwhile servicers were allowed to work through the backlog of significantly aged trials, reducing it down to just more than 23,000 as of June, a reduction of 87%. Only one major servicer's average conversion timeline exceeds the maximum four months. According to the Treasury, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) averages 4.7 months to convert a trial into permanent status — for trials started after June 2010. For trials started before then, Chase averaged roughly 8.5 months to convert a trial into a permanent modification. All other servicers are currently below the four-month threshold. The program averaged 30,000 new permanent modifications every month for the past year, and while the Treasury admits the program will not reach the 3 million to 4 million permanent modifications originally estimated, officials maintain the program's guidelines became the foundation for more larger, private initiatives. "Tens of thousands of additional homeowners are getting real relief from the administration's programs every month," said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Tim Massad. "These programs are setting standards across the industry that are yielding more sustainable assistance for homeowners in the face of the worst housing crisis in a generation." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.