Servicers Are Questioning Obama's Rescue Plan

Tampa, FL-Servicing industry specialists have some pointed questions about the administration's mortgage rescue plans, as evidenced during a roundtable at the Mortgage Bankers Association's National Servicing Conference here.

The excerpt that follows features, from left in the adjacent photo, Rodney Bechdoldt, vice president, mortgage systems division, at Central Mortgage Co.; Cheryl Lang, president of Integrated Mortgage Solutions; James Miller, managing director of operations at The First American Corp.; Rich Rollins, chief executive of REO Sentinel and National Quick Sale; Fred Melgaard, executive vice president at DRI Management Systems; and Elsa Lewis, senior vice president of national sales/REO at Williams & Williams.

MSN: What do you think about the president's plan?

Cheryl Lang: I think it's a little disappointing. What I heard this morning was, if you are underwater 5% or less, you'll get some help. You have to qualify 31% of your income, and these aren't the folks that are really struggling with homeownership. I would like to see more of the people who are struggling with their payments because of layoffs. Those are the folks that really need the help.

Jim Miller: One of the things it may do is to bring some consistency. You have the FDIC with a 38% housing ratio. You have the OCC/OTS, they have anywhere from 40-50%. You go to the Hope Now alliance, they have a different outcome. The GSEs have a net 250. There's no consistency. So the issue is, when you talk about reperformance rates, the government's concern is half of them go delinquent again. But there was no standard for re-underwriting the loan. What you see is, not everyone re-underwrites the loan. The other issue is the delinquent taxes and interest, a 43% increase in the last 18 months. A lot of companies will take that into account. You can't just take the delinquent taxes and interest this year and last year and just recast it for 12 months because your payment goes right back up again. There's no set standards. That's why the reperformance rates aren't where they should be.

Cheryl Lang: But if we go with full underwriting, where are we going to get the resources? We're talking nine million people.

Jim Miller: The cost of servicing has gone through the roof. No technology can keep up with the changes. But if you get information from the government from people's W-2s, if you can get that, that would help. We hired FHA underwriters to reunderwrite. This bill will actually pay you whether you're a subprime lender or a securitizer. You weren't getting reimbursed if you were a securitizer. So that will help offset some costs, about $1,000 if you reperform. The only way these mods will reperform is if you re-underwite this. Otherwise if you take a verbal, it's a stated mod like a stated loan.

Rich Rollins: If there are significant resource problems currently with the servicers, and if you do have to go back and re-underwrite that many loans, I wonder if there's enough people. There is some technology that can help, but in order to do that and in the compressed timeframe you have to do it in, it's very difficult.

Jim Miller: There's a lot of people out of work on the origination side that should know how to write loans. If you have good analytics, there's a certain segment that are pretty streamlined. A majority of them, though, about 60%, need to be re-underwritten. The taxes and insurance are a big issue and can't be overlooked. It's a very resource-intensive issue, but unless you do it, it's going to keep perpetuating itself.

Rich Rollins: Jim stated the redefault rate is about 55%-60%. If this doesn't address those issues then it will be no more successful than any other plan that preceded it.

MSN: The amount of $75 billion in the plan, is that enough? What would be enough?

Cheryl Lang: I don't think anybody knows. We're making it up as we go along. If it's not enough we'll go back and say, "Can we have some more?" I don't think it addresses how we got to where we are. And how we prevent it going forward. We're putting a Band-Aid on something that has really exacerbated the global economy. And we have not asked, "What went wrong?"

MSN: If President Obama is watching, here is a chance to advise him. How can he make the plan better?

Jim Miller: One of the things that concerns me is there's a quote in there, "putting pressure on the servicers." Nobody realizes unless you're in this at the grass roots, the servicers have things coming at them in waves. There's no system or technology or policy they can adapt to how fast these changes are. For example, bankruptcy law. The states are making up their own rules. Because there's a perception out there that the banks are the bad guys. Now there's a whole lot of reasons how we got here. But the servicers are under tremendous amounts of pressure. You have consolidation of major banks and underneath that you have at least 15 different systems. And it's changing by the week and your systems can't keep up with it. You have five different government entities that have their own rules with debt ratios. So I would say to the president, have consistent guidelines so everybody can at least execute against it. There are too many different constituencies. There's no consistency. It makes it literally impossible for servicers to rig their systems or improvise.

Rodney Bechdoldt: They also have to adhere to the guidelines from the investors contract so they have to go through and seek approval. It's not the servicers' decision on how these modifications are made.

MSN: Jim, you mentioned redefault and that's a huge problem. How do you fix that? What modification gives people a good chance of staying in the loan?

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