MIAMI BEACH — A flurry of recent activity on the part of the government, not-for-profit agencies and corporate banking institutions may signal some relief for homeowners.
The Obama Administration recently tweaked its Affordable Homes Modification Program so that the progam can also help borrowers who are unemployed. The revamped program also helps people with homes valued at less than what they owe on their mortgages. Also, at least two major banks have set up programs to either hasten the modification process, or eliminate some of the debt.
South Florida borrowers will get round-the-clock attention with the modification process over the next several days during the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America’s “Save the Dream” tours, a forum to enhance home preservation.
The program, which began on Thursday, April 15, continues through Monday, April 19, 24 hours each day, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
There, homeowners can meet counselors and lenders, and some homeowners can even leave with temporary loan modifications. The services are free.
Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Board’s Housing committee invited NACA to bring its tour as close to residents as possible after organizers saw the scope of a February NACA event in West Palm Beach.
“We were hearing [at] the housing committee meetings people asking about loan modifications, and how they gave money to attorneys with no progress,” said Retha Boone-Fye, a spokeswoman for the county. “We connected with NACA, invited them to Miami-Dade, and helped them find space for the event.”
Homeowners who qualify and arrive with the necessary paperwork can expect to be on the road to a permanent modification, said Darren Duarte, NACA’s spokesman. At the West Palm Beach event, 24,000 households came. Of that number, 25 to 30 percent of the people had a solution the same day. Depending on the paperwork needed or their loan’s investor guidelines, other homeowners had some modifications done in about 60 days.
“We do what the banks should have done in the first,” Duarte said. “We counsel the homeowners to find out what they can afford, basically what some banks didn’t do.”
The recession, receding home values and widespread unemployment and underemployment have affected many homeowners’ ability to keep up with the terms of their original mortgages.
NACA intercedes with lenders on the homeowners’ behalf, contractually getting the bank to reduce mortgage loan interest to as low as 2 percent, and reducing payment amounts to match affordability, based on the homeowner’s income.
The need for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified, non-profit agency like NACA emerged when homeowners, in financial crisis, tried to communicate with lenders, but were stonewalled. The Obama Administration infused $23.5 billion into the Housing Finance Agencies Initiative, through which more than 90 state and local housing finance agencies – such as NACA – contribute to homeowner retention programs.
NACA’s Duarte said the organization moved to continuous service for the Miami Beach event after it saw customers camped out overnight in West Palm Beach. Banks that are attending will only be available from 9 a.m. to about 9 p.m. daily, Duarte said. He encourages homeowners to come at any time to take advantage of the counseling.
Banks seem to be responding. Some are holding their own marathon modification shindig, if not on a 24-hour cycle.
As the custodian of Chase, EMC and Washington Mutual mortgages, JP Morgan Chase is holding its own five-day modification program, coinciding with the same dates as NACA’s program in South Florida, but at a different location in Miami, according to Nancy Norris, a spokeswoman for the lending institution.
“While we work with NACA and will continue to work with NACA, we find it more efficient to work directly with our customers, in our own space,” Norris said.
If your mortgage is with Bank of America, the bank may forgive some part of it.
Bank of America on March 24 announced that it will forgive some mortgage principal on loans that were originally subprime, adjustable rate or had other unfavorable loan terms. Bank of America inherited many toxic assets from Countywide Mortgage Corp. when it acquired the company July 2008. As part of its National Homeowner Retention Program, Bank of America expects about 45,000 borrowers to benefit from this program.
The quickening pace of loan modifications may have to do with new rules that will be instituted on June 1. The Obama Administration will no longer allow temporary modifications to be issued until all information requested of the mortgage holder has been independently verified, ostensibly eliminating the immediate solutions provided at events such as the one in Miami Beach.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Chase Home Loan Modification Marathon
WHO: Customers with Chase, EMC or Washington Mutual mortgages
WHEN: April 15-19, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. No appointments necessary.
WHERE: InterContinental Hotel, West Miami, 2505 NW 87th Ave., Miami
WHAT: Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America’s (NACA) “Save the Dream” tour
WHEN: 24 hours, April 15-19
WHERE: Miami Beach Convention Center, 1701 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach.
WHAT TO BRING: If you plan to seek a loan modification at the event, bring the following documents:
a) Pay Stubs (most recent available 30 days)
b) Monthly Mortgage Statement (most recent available)
c) Property Tax Bill (most recent available)
d) Homeowners Insurance Bill (most recent available)
Visit www.naca.com to preregister, or call 888-499-6222