Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guidelines Shifting for the Federal Loan Modification Program

Updates to the Making Home Affordable Handbook for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program are available here and will be effective July 1, 2014!

Top things you need to know about HAMP:
  1. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is a federal program designed to help homeowners obtain affordable loan modifications.
  2. HAMP Tier 1 only applies to loans of principal residences.
  3. A HAMP Tier 1 mortgage payment must reflect 31% of the homeowner's gross monthly income.
  4. HAMP Tier 2 may apply to loans of principal residences or to loans of rental properties.
  5. A HAMP Tier 2 mortgage payment must be within the range of 25% to 42% of the homeowner's gross monthly income.
  6. A HAMP Tier 2 mortgage payment must represent a reduction of at least 10% of the original mortgage payment amount. 
However, Supplemental Directive 14-02 to the Making Home Affordable Handbook is drastically changing the requirements under HAMP Tier 2 to make it easier than ever to get a loan modification on a non-GSE rental property!

In Section 6.3.3 of Chapter II of the MHA Handbook, the post-modification principal and interest payment under HAMP Tier 2 must be at least ten percent less than the pre-modification principal and interest payment. To clarify, if the original monthly principal and interest mortgage payment is $3,000, then the modified monthly principal and interest mortgage payment under HAMP Tier 2 must be $2,700 or less according to the ten percent reduction rule. Under this Supplemental Directive, however, this required percentage is totally erased. Now, it is only required that the post-modification principal and interest payment be less than the pre-modification principal and interest payment, thus expanding the amount of homeowners eligible for HAMP Tier 2. In the past, many homeowners were ineligible because servicers could not reduce the principal and interest amount by the required percentage due to the default amount, monthly real estate taxes, property value, and other similar factors. Without a required percentage, servicers will have a much easier time reducing the post-modification principal and interest payment for more homeowners across the country.

However, it should be noted that servicers may require a minimum reduction as long as that reduction is not greater than ten percent. Servicers must include this minimum reduction in their written policy if they choose to do so.

Another important clarification is the modification of loans prior to the loss of good standing. If a homeowner would like to modify an already HAMP-Tier 1-modified loan and is not in default on that loan, he or she may be eligible for HAMP Tier 2 if it has been more than five years since the HAMP Tier 1 modification. Once a homeowner accepts a HAMP Tier 1 loan modification, he or she cannot obtain another one in the future if that loan goes into default again. HAMP Tier 2, however, would still be available to this homeowner as a loan modification option (even if the property is a primary residence) as long as it has been more than five years since the original HAMP Tier 1 modification date. Since the Home Affordable Modification Program is the federal program to help homeowners cure their default, it always has priority over Lender in-house modifications.

Also included in this Supplemental Directive are updated guidelines regarding post-modification counseling, assistance for homeowners with limited English proficiency, and notice of interest rate step-ups. Although these guidelines are important as well, it is crucial that real estate agents focus on the new HAMP Tier 2 guidelines, especially if their clients own rental properties that are in risk of default or are currently in default. The more knowledgeable you are able these guidelines, the more your clients will trust you in other aspects of real estate.

Again, these updated guidelines will be effective July 1, 2014, and it is important that you understand and prepare for these changes.