Taking issue with recent suggestions that mortgage lenders aren’t doing enough to help troubled borrowers, a report released Friday by the HOPE NOW Alliance suggests that servicers significantly ramped up loss mitigation efforts significantly during the fourth quarter. Relying on data from nine of the nation’s largest servicers responsible for managing 4.1 million loans, or approximately 58 percent of outstanding subprime loans, HOPE NOW said that the mortgage industry assisted 370,000 homeowners during the second half of 2007. Of that number, 250,000 include formal repayment plans and 120,000 represent loan modifications. â€œThe number of borrowers being helped is accelerating rapidly,â€? said Faith Schwartz, executive director of HOPE NOW. â€œOur job is to get homeowners the help they need and we are doing that. HOPE NOW, which leverages the work already being done by servicers, is a program that yields significant results.â€? HOPE NOW is an industry coalition comprised of counselors, mortgage market participants, and mortgage servicers to create a unified, coordinated plan to reach and help as many homeowners as possible; the coalition led efforts to formulate a voluntary streamlined mortgage-modification program (the so-called ARM freeze) in conjunction with the Treasury Department and officials within the Bush administration. The HOPE NOW study follows a report by the Mortgage Bankers Association, which yesterday released similar data for the third quarter. MBA concluded 148,000 subprime homeowners were helped, including 120,000 formal repayment plans and 28,000 modifications. Modifications made in the third quarter were double those made in the first quarter. Looking beyond the MBA survey, mortgage servicers were modifying subprime loans during the fourth quarter at triple the rate of the third quarter, HOPE NOW said. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson characterized the HOPE NOW report as “a promising development.” “Entire industries do not adjust easily or quickly, even in times of market calm,” Paulson said. “But this alliance is demonstrating that an industry can improve its coordination and outreach to make a difference.” In November 2007, HOPE NOW said it had sent out approximately 233,000 letters to at-risk homeowners asking them to call their servicer for assistance. As a result of these letters, more than 16 percent of borrowers responded by contacting their servicer, far more than the normal response rate of 2-3 percent. Another 250,000 letters were mailed in December, the organization said.
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