Bank of America's Attempt to "Help"

By: Josh Cantwell

Recently, Bank of America struck a deal with regulators that may help many peoplefacing foreclosure.

I say may, because with banks one never really knows what they really mean when they offer “help,” besides these days they need a great deal of help themselves (B of A posted on Monday that it’s profits were down 68 percent).

The deal was the result of a lawsuit by several states that went after Countrywide for predatory lending. This past summer, Bank of America bought Countrywide and has agreed to modify loans for more than 400,000 homeowners.

The purpose of this action is to give some relief to homeowners struggling to stay in their homes, but how this effort is carried forward will be interesting to watch. For those homeowners that made little money and bought an expensive house, no amount of adjusting the loan will help. For example, the US mail carrier that bought a 700k house in Pepper Pike on a 50k salary is out of luck.

Bank of America is saying that they will drop rates as low as 2.5 percent for some borrowers and forgive some debt. Moreover, they also intend to suspend foreclosures to give them a chance to determine which homeowners qualify.

And if that's not enough, Bank of America plans to reduce payments for borrowers to one-third of the borrowers income.

On the surface, this could be huge for the American homeowner facing foreclosure; however, we all know that loan modifcation at this time helps only 10 percent of homeowners. Likewise, many of the workouts that banks agree to still don't make the loan affordable.

As Jerry Kayser, SREC coach, told me last week, “People have learned spending habits that they don't give up so easily. So even if a monthly payment is reduced by a couple hundred dollars, in a few months that homeowner could be right back in the same position.”

The catch to all this “do-good” publicity by Bank of America is that in doing workouts, they have reserved the option of putting homeowners into interest-only loans so as to reduce their payments. If done, homeowners will still be making payments on a houses where the balance owed is signifcantly higher than what the property is worth.

Hmmm. . . if so, how many homeowners do you think will stick around and continue to make payments on a house with little hope of a return?

I'll keep you posted on more news to come!

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