More borrowers sticking with HAMP mortgage modifications
Servicers participating in the Home Affordable Modification Program provided 36,827 permanent workouts in March, and more borrowers continued making payments a year into their new terms. The total in March upticked from the average 27,000 seen over the past two months. The Treasury Department launched HAMP in March 2009 to provide servicers an incentive in modifying delinquent mortgages. In two years of operation, servicers moved more than 670,000 three-month modification trials into permanent status, while canceling 751,000 trials out of the program. More than 1.8 million trials have been extended. For those modifications that have been in permanent status for at least one year, 84% remain in the program. The remaining 16% were disqualified for missing three consecutive payments, the Treasury said. The steeper the cut to the monthly payment, the better the performance. Of the modifications that reduced payments in half, 11% had fallen into 60-day delinquent status within a year. Comparatively, one-third of borrowers whose payments were reduced by 20% or less fell into 60-day delinquent status over the same period. Bank of America (BAC) leads all other servicers, starting more than 123,000 permanent modifications so far, followed JPMorgan Chase (JPM) at 90,782, Wells Fargo (WFC) at 89,134, and Citigroup (C) at 49,886. BofA volume isn't surprising considering it has extended more than 509,000 trials. The closest is Wells, which has offered roughly 307,000 trials. But as the amount of trials pushed up and more borrowers attempted access to HAMP, a backlog soon formed. In May 2010, more than 190,000 HAMP trials had aged six months or more. After installing new guidelines and pushing servicers to begin working through this backlog, the Treasury reported 26,000 aged trials in March. Of all the servicers, Chase averaged 7.6 months to convert a trial into permanent status, followed by Citi and the smaller servcing arm of Morgan Stanley (MS) Saxon Mortgage Servicing at 6.3 months. All other servicers averaged a 4.8 month conversion time. The lowest was reported by Ocwen Financial (OCN) at 3.1 months. The Treasury said servicers are directed to cancel or convert trial modifications after three or four monthly payments depending on circumstances. While HAMP showed some improvement in March, the program remains off the pace of reaching the 3 million to 4 million mark originally set by the Obama administration. House Republicans voted to end the program early before it is set to expire at the end of 2012. But the Treasury has long defended HAMP, maintaining redefault rates are below industry norms, and private modification programs were designed around HAMP. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.