U.S. Treasury's Financial Stability Plan - Making Homes Affordable - Guidelines
On March 4, 2009 the U.S. Treasury issued its Making Homes Affordable Guidelines:
The Home Affordable Refinance program will be available to 4 to 5 million homeowners who have a solid payment history on an existing mortgage owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Normally, these borrowers would be unable to refinance because their homes have lost value, pushing their current loan-to-value ratios above 80%. Under the Home Affordable Refinance program, many of them will now be eligible to refinance their loan to take advantage of today’s lower mortgage rates or to refinance an adjustable-rate mortgage into a more stable mortgage, such as a 30-year fixed rate loan.
The Home Affordable Refinance program ends in June 2010.
The Home Affordable Modification program will help up to 3 to 4 million at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure by reducing monthly mortgage payments. Working with the banking and credit union regulators, the FHA, the VA, the USDA and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Treasury Department announced program guidelines that are expected to become standard industry practice in pursuing affordable and sustainable mortgage modifications. This program will work in tandem with an expanded and improved Hope for Homeowners program.
With the information now available, servicers can begin immediately to modify eligible mortgages under the Modification program so that at-risk borrowers can better afford their payments. The following is a summary of the Treasury Department’s detailed guidelines:
Eligibility and Verification
- Loans originated on or before January 1, 2009.
- First-lien loans on owner-occupied properties with unpaid principal balance up to $729,750. Higher limits allowed for owner-occupied properties with 2 - 4 units.
- All borrowers must fully document income, including signed IRS 4506-T, two most recent pay stubs, and most recent tax return, and must sign an affidavit of financial hardship.
- Property owner occupancy status will be verified through borrower credit report and other documentation; no investor-owned, vacant, or condemned properties.
- Incentives to lenders and servicers to modify at risk borrowers who have not yet missed payments when the servicer determines that the borrower is at imminent risk of default.
- Modifications can start from now until December 31, 2012; loans can be modified only once under the program.
Loan Modification Terms and Procedures
- Participating servicers are required to service all eligible loans under the rules of the program unless explicitly prohibited by contract; servicers are required to use reasonable efforts to obtain waivers of limits on participation.
- Participating loan servicers will be required to use a net present value (NPV) test on each loan that is at risk of imminent default or at least 60 days delinquent. The NPV test will compare the net present value of cash flows with modification and without modification. If the test is positive meaning that NPV of expected cash flow is greater in the modification scenario the servicer must modify absent fraud or a contract prohibition.
- Parameters of the NPV test are spelled out in the detailed guidelines, including acceptable discount rates, property valuation methodologies, home price appreciation assumptions, foreclosure costs and timelines, and borrower cure and redefault rate assumptions.
- Servicers will follow a specified sequence of steps in order to reduce the monthly payment to no more than 31% of gross monthly income.
- The modification sequence requires first reducing the interest rate (subject ato a rate floor of 2%), then if necessary extending the term or amortization of the loan up to a maximum of 40 years, and then if necessary forbearing principal. Principal forgiveness or a Hope for Homeowners refinancing are acceptable alternatives.
- The monthly payment includes principal, interest, taxes, insurance, flood insurance, homeowner’s association and/or condominium fees. Monthly income includes wages, salary, overtime, fees, commissions, tips, social security, pensions, and all other income.
- Services must enter into the program agreements with Treasury’s financial agent on or before December 31, 2009.
Payments to Servicers, Lenders, and Responsible Borrowers
- The program will share with the lender/investor the cost of reductions in monthly payments from 38% to 31% of gross monthly income.
- Servicers that modify loans according to the guidelines will receive an up-front fee of $1,000 for each modification, plus “pay for success” fees on still-performing loans of $1,000 per year.
- Homeowners who make their payments on time are eligible for up to $1,000 of principal reduction payments each year for up to five years.
- The program will provide one-time bonus incentive payments of $1,500 to lender/investors and $500 to servicers for modifications made while a borrower is still current on mortgage payments.
- The program will include incentives for extinguishing second liens on loans modified under this program.
- No payments will be made under the program to the lender/investor, servicer, or borrower unless and until the servicer has first entered into the program agreements with Treasury’s financial agent.
- Similar incentives will be paid for Hope for Homeowner refinances.
Transparency and Accountability
- Measures to prevent and detect fraud, such as documentation and audit requirements, will be central to the program.
- Services will be required to collect, maintain and transmit records for verification and compliance review, including borrower eligibility, underwriting, incentive payments, property verification, and other documentation.
- Freddie Mac will audit compliance.