Mortgage modifications fall short of previous year
Mortgage servicers are on track to modify far fewer loans in 2011 than the previous year, according to the most recent data provided by the Hope Now alliance formed by these firms and others in the industry. Through November, servicers modified roughly 969,000 mortgages through both private initiatives and the administration's flagship Home Affordable Modification Program. The 639,000 private workouts nearly double the 330,000 under HAMP. Servicers completed 84,000 permanent modifications in November, up 6.3% from the month before. With the December data yet to be released, the 2011 total currently stands just more than half of the 1.76 million modifications completed in 2010. In November, foreclosure starts doubled the amount of modifications completed. Servicers started 166,000 in November, down from 209,000 the month before. Through the first 11 months of 2011, nearly 2.1 million foreclosure starts were reported. The total will likely fall short of the more than 2.6 million starts for all of 2010. The slowdown across almost all servicer duties will result in a delayed recovery in housing. The amount of delinquent mortgages isn't subsiding, according to Lender Processing Services (LPS) data. More than 7% of all outstanding mortgages in the U.S. are overdue by more than 90 days. The rate hasn't changed for the past six months. But the slowdown itself is a result of several missteps by the servicers themselves, most notably the robo-signing scandal and constant paperwork problems. Consent orders signed in April with federal regulators forced servicers to install single points of contact and ended the practice of foreclosing on borrowers who are in the modification process. Other shifts occurred. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are aligning servicing guidelines. Federal agencies are constructing national servicing standards. State and local governments are passing new laws and ordinances changing decades-old foreclosure rules. Hope Now Executive Director Faith Schwartz said delinquencies have come down from the heights of nearly 4 million mortgages more than 60 days past due. She said the slowdown in assistance has been the result of an entire industry shift. "Clearly, a combination of regulatory consent orders, litigation, mediation extended timelines adds to the timeframe a solution takes place," Schwartz said Tuesday. "As a reminder, we will exceed 1 million modifications this year which is still a material and important impact on foreclosure prevention. So we continued to be pleased with the focus and energy on helping homeowners keep their homes. " Hope Now said several homeowner events are in the final stages of planning across the country. In the first quarter, the group will host gatherings in Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; Las Vegas; Sacramento, Calif.; and Los Angeles. "There are more alternatives to foreclosure than ever before for homeowners through federal programs, proprietary modifications, and state level initiatives such as Hardest Hit Funds," Schwartz said. "Mortgage servicers and non-profit, housing counselors are using all tools at their disposal to find options that fit each individual homeowner’s situation whenever possible." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.