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773.818.9054 office/cell
866.381.4238 efax

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Illinois Third in Foreclosures Despite National Improvement

From today's Chicago Tribune.

Foreclosures starts in Illinois are on par with those in other areas but the state's court-supervised foreclosure system continues to bog down properties in the process.

Almost 7.5 percent of all one-to-four-unit mortgage loans in Illinois were in foreclosure in the first quarter, compared with a national average of 4.39 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"Illinois and New Jersey trail only Florida as being the worst in the country, and they're getting worse," said Jay Brinkmann, the association's chief economist. "The rate in Illinois more than twice that of California. In the judicial states the problem continues to get worse in terms of the backlog of loans in the foreclosure process."

Added Miichael Fratantoni, the association's vice president of research and economics, "This is not a case that loans are entering foreclosure at a greater extent than in nonjudicial (states). It's that they're staying in foreclosure longer."

Illinois is not alone, according to the trade group's quarterly national delinquency survey. In judicial states, the percent of loans in the foreclosure process reached an all-time high of 6.9 percent during the first quarter. That compares with a rate of 2.8 percent in non-judicial states, the lowest since early 2009.

"That difference is due entirely to the systems some states have in place that effectively block timely resolution of non-performing loans," he said. "Hard-hit markets like Arizona that have moved through their foreclosure backlog quickly are seeing home price gains this spring."

Of all loans in foreclosure nationally, 52.4 percent are centered on just five states: Illinois, Florida, California, New York and New Jersey.

The overall national picture for mortgage delinquencies showed improvement in the quarter. The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure or at least one payment past due, at 11.3 percent, was at the lowest reading since 2008. Only four states -- Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Washington -- saw first-quarter increases in the 90-plus day delinquency rates.

Foreclosure activity typically slows in the first three months of the year, but some of the overall improvement in delinquency rates is tied to modest gains in the job market, economists said.

"The report has some considerable good news in it in terms of where we are in the housing recovery," Brinkmann said. "The improvement does reflect a generally improving jobs picture over the last year."

Thirteen months ago, the Illinois Supreme Court formed a committee to study the state's mortgage foreclosure process and how different rules affect the proceedings here and how other states have handled an unprecedented number of foreclosure cases.

This spring, the committee made recommendations to the court. Most involved paperwork changes and giving homeowners more notice about their rights. However, the committee also recommended that the Supreme Court require that in most cases foreclosure sales be held within 45 days of the expiration of the redemption period, the date by which a homeowner can make the mortgage current and keep the property.

2:53 pm cdt 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bank of America Offers Home Loan Modification

From Wednesday's Sun-Times:

LOS ANGELES — Homeowners with a Bank of America mortgage have good reason to check their mailbox.

The lender said Tuesday it has begun mailing out letters to customers who may qualify to have their home loans reduced as part of a multistate settlement over alleged foreclosure abuses.

The company estimates that more than 200,000 customers could be in line for a reduction in the principal balance on their mortgage.

Some customers could receive letters from the bank as early as this week that invite them to provide financial information as part of a review process for the program. The bank plans to have mailed out most of the letters by the end of the third quarter.

Bank of America estimates that customers whose loans are modified will save, on average, 30 percent a month on mortgage payments.

Among the criteria to qualify, borrowers must owe more on their mortgage than the property is worth and be at least 60 days behind on payments as of Jan. 31.

Bank of America will reduce the amount owed by the homeowners by as much as $100,000 in some cases. Only mortgages owned by the company qualify.


12:56 pm cdt 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bernanke: Even Qualified Homeowners Can't Get a Mortgage

Banks have become so restrictive in making mortgages that many worthy homebuyers are being frozen out of the U.S. housing market, and lending practices are not likely to loosen any time soon, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Thursday.

Speaking via satellite to a banking conference in Chicago, Bernanke highlighted ongoing problems in mortgage finance availability, even though banks are much healthier now as the 2007-2009 financial crisis has receded.

"To be sure, a return to pre-crisis lending standards wouldn't be appropriate," Bernanke said. "However, current standards may be limiting or preventing lending to many creditworthy borrowers."

Lax lending practices, including "liars' loans" handed out to borrowers who provided little or no documentation for jobs and incomes, have been cited as a key contributing factor in precipitating the severe financial crisis.

Bernanke implied the backlash by banks against criticism of their lending practices, which now are far tighter, might be overdone and will be extremely hard to reverse.

"Many factors suggest this situation will be difficult to turn around quickly, including the slow recovery of the economy and housing market, continued uncertainty surrounding the future of the government-sponsored enterprises, the lack of a healthy private-label securitization market, and cautious attitudes by lenders," Bernanke said.

Overall, Bernanke said, home mortgage credit outstanding at banks has contracted about 13 percent from its peak.

The government-sponsored enterprises - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - previously were key vehicles in home-mortgage finance because they bought mortgages originated by banks and packaged them into securities that were then resold to investors. The practice freed up funds for banks to make new mortgages.

But Fannie and Freddie had to be bailed out by the government and were taken over at the height of the crisis. The government is considering options that include possibly winding them down, leaving it unclear what type of housing-finance system eventually will emerge in future.

Bernanke said Fed surveys show that even when homebuyers can make a 20 percent down payment, banks are often reluctant to offer mortgage money to any but the best qualified.

"Most banks indicated that their reluctance to accept mortgage applications from borrowers with less-than-perfect records is related to 'putback risk' - the risk that a bank might be forced to buy back a defaulted loan if the underwriting or documentation was judged deficient in some way," he said.

Recent Fed surveys on credit conditions have found that, years after the crisis, banks remain worried about hangover from the bursting of the housing bubble and now also fear strains from the ongoing European debt crisis.

Loan officers said they were less willing now than they were five years ago to lend to anyone except those with stellar credit.

On the positive side, Bernanke said the banking system generally is in much stronger condition, with more capital on hand and ample liquidity, so that as recovery gains traction and generates more credit demand it will be in good shape to expand lending that is necessary for stronger growth.

5:59 pm cdt 

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