From the WSJ:
Mortgage lenders are trying to arrange smoother departures for distressed homeowners who can’t be saved by loan modifications–and discourage them from trashing the homes on their way out.
CitiMortgage, a unit of Citigroup Inc. (C), announced Wednesday a pilot project that will let some delinquent borrowers remain in their homes without making mortgage payments for six months if they voluntarily transfer ownership to the bank.
Over the past two years, millions of foreclosures have been delayed by state and federal programs requiring lenders to try to keep borrowers in their homes by easing their monthly payments. But the moment of truth is approaching for hundreds of thousands of households that sought help under the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, launched a year ago, as well as borrowers who have sought help through other programs.
“We are concerned that if there is a foreclosure glut at some point in the cycle it would have to have a negative impact on house prices,” and Citi’s pilot program should help prevent a build-up in foreclosed homes, said Sanjiv Das, the chief executive of CitiMortgage in an interview.
The CitiMortgage pilot program provides incentives for more borrowers to use a procedure known as a “deed in lieu of foreclosure,” in which the borrower voluntarily transfers ownership of the home to the lender, which then cancels the mortgage debt. Aside from letting such people stay in the homes for six months, CitiMortgage says it will give them at least $1,000 to cover relocation costs, an incentive sometimes dubbed “cash for keys.”
Mr. Das said, “Something formally needs to be done in addition to the modifications. We are in a different stage of the housing cycle. Restructuring mortgage payments was part one of the cycle, making sure that foreclosure glut doesn’t hit the industry is part two of the cycle. Citi is trying to stay ahead of it.”
The pilot program is available for certain people whose mortgages are owned by CitiMortgage in Texas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio. The bank should benefit by avoiding legal costs and reducing the time homes are left vacant and exposed to vandalism. Participants will be required to “maintain the property in its current condition,” the bank said. It plans to expand the program if the pilot is successful.
From the Washington Post:
Seeking alternatives to the nation’s struggling foreclosure prevention efforts, federal and mortgage industry officials increasingly are looking for ways to get distressed borrowers to leave their homes voluntarily, without going through the expensive foreclosure process or a messy eviction.
Citigroup, for instance, plans to announce a pilot program on Thursday that would allow delinquent borrowers who don’t qualify for or decline mortgage relief the opportunity to stay in their homes without making payments for up to six months before turning over the keys, in return for keeping the property in good condition. The bank estimates that up to 20,000 borrowers in Texas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio could be eligible.
Moody’s Economy.com has forecast that the number of short sales and transactions in which borrowers surrender their deed in lieu of foreclosure will increase more than 50 percent, to about 490,000, this year. That is just a fraction of the 1.9 million homeowners Moody’s has forecast will lose their homes to foreclosure this year, up from 1.7 million last year.
From the Star Ledger:
The fourth-largest mortgage servicer in the country is offering homeowners in New Jersey who are 90-days late on their payments a chance to walk away with cash.
CitiMortgage, a unit of Citigroup, will announce today a trial program that lets borrowers remain in their homes for six months after signing a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure contract — so called because owners agree to hand over their homes to the lender.
These borrowers also will receive at least $1,000 in relocation expenses.
“Basically, the lenders are giving defaulted owners cash for their keys,” said James Bednar, who writes a real estate blog at njrereport.com.
He said some participants could eventually end up saving as much as $20,000 after relocation expenses and mortgage payments.
Real estate agents also said the program could have an adverse effect on New Jersey’s already troubled housing market by driving down prices.
“They’re going to have to be at a lower price than everyone else,” said Sal Poliandro, a Saddle River-based real estate agent, of the homes that will eventually go up for sale. “Not only are they going to have these houses on the market, they are going to be encouraged to sell them quickly.”