Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Use Of "Homemade Mortgage Modifications" Reduces Some Borrowers' House Payments To $0; "Free Rent" Approach To Loan Obligations May Be On Upswing

In St. Petersburg, Florida, The New York Times reports:
  • A growing number of the people whose homes are in foreclosure are refusing to slink away in shame. They are fashioning a sort of homemade mortgage modification, one that brings their payments all the way down to zero. They use the money they save to get back on their feet or just get by.

  • This type of modification does not beg for a lender’s permission but is delivered as an ultimatum: Force me out if you can. Any moral qualms are overshadowed by a conviction that the banks created the crisis by snookering homeowners with loans that got them in over their heads.

***

  • While there are no firm figures on how many households are following the [] path of passive resistance, real estate agents and other experts say the number of overextended borrowers taking the “free rent” approach is on the rise. There is no question, though, that for some borrowers in default, foreclosure is only a theoretical threat for a long time.

  • More than 650,000 households had not paid in 18 months, LPS [Applied Analytics] calculated earlier this year. With 19 percent of those homes, the lender had not even begun to take action to repossess the property — double the rate of a year earlier.

  • In some states, including California and Texas, lenders can pursue foreclosures outside of the courts. With the lender in control, the pace can be brisk. But in Florida, New York and 19 other states, judicial foreclosure is the rule, which slows the process substantially.

***

  • [F]or borrowers like Jim Tsiogas, the benefits of not paying now outweigh any worries about the future. “I stopped paying in August 2008,” said Mr. Tsiogas, who is in foreclosure on his house and two rental properties. “I told the lady at the bank, ‘I can’t afford $2,500. I can only afford $1,300.’”

  • Mr. Tsiogas, who lives on the coast south of St. Petersburg, blames his lenders for being unwilling to help when the crash began and his properties needed shoring up. Their attitude seems to have changed since he went into foreclosure. Now their letters say things like “we’re willing to work with you.” But Mr. Tsiogas feels little urge to respond. “I need another year,” he said, “and I’m going to be pretty comfortable.”

For more, see Owners Stop Paying Mortgages, and Stop Fretting.

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