Wednesday, 26 August 2009 19:49

Making Homes Affordable: Is This Homeowner Rescue Plan Real or a Smokescreen?

Written by  Steven Wightman
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Audie Murphey, the most highly decorated soldier of WW II had a simple philosophy about leadership; "follow me!" he commanded. Soldiers did just that. Why? He was the first into battle and the last out. He lead by example. In life and as a financial planner, I have remembered this lesson well. I have always put myself at risk first before asking a friend, family member or client to follow. This has been a true education to me of the difficulties people have where the rubber meets the proverbial road. Today is a good example.

I received a call from Citimortgage Loan Modification Division requesting that I talk to their refinance department at yet another number and voicemail chain. I was greeted with five selections, several sounding very similar and all of them ambiguous. I threw a dart and found a real voice with an accent right out of India. Courteously he referred me to another number where I repeated the process. Here I found Jennifer, who made an exception. She provided me with a "warm transfer", where I bypassed providing all my personal information all over again. The opposite is a form of telephone waterboarding where the caller runs out of time, patience or quarters and is defeated.

Brian in refinancing told me I did not qualify for a Refi with Citimortgage. Citi already financed a loan in 2008, but not now? I wasn't a risk then, am I now? I have the same credit score (excellent), a lower debt load, and a secure income, though lower than 2008. Citi said my income to loan ratio was too high. You are rejected. It mattered not that I had applied for the Making Homes Affordable program on April 1 of 2009 and I was assured that it would only take 60 days to reach a decision. That 60 days has passed 2.5 times over and there's still no decision. Every other month Citi requests new and or fresh documents saying that once they have them, a decision is just around the corner. What I later learn is around the corner is more curves and smoky rules.

Making Homes Affordable is a great program in theory, but a failure in practice because of one simple missing ingredient: Accountability. Citibank took 60 billion in taxpayer money to keep itself afloat. One might think they'd show some gratitude to American taxpayers for that right? Not a chance. In fact the Refi Dept offered me an interest rate about a half point higher than the current market rate for my credit rating. They are profiting from a homeowner mortgage rescue program.

The skinny on how this program is treated by banks is this: If you are in imminent risk of foreclosure, you will likely get the best deal. If you are cash poor but have make all your payments and you have maintained a high credit rating, banks do not consider you a risk and therefor they are unlikely to grant a modification even when income has shrunk over 50% due to unemployment or underemployment. In other words, they drag out the process until you are unable to make all your mortgage payments on time. Once you have defaulted twice, they are likely to pay more attention because they do not want to take possession of a home; they want a cash payment stream.

Conclusion? Being responsible to creditors may place homeowners in a gauntlet that never seems to end and the jokes and the profits go to those who are delivering the punches. As Audy Murphey well understood; no one comes out of battle unscarred.