New Firms Catching Up to Banks in Foreclosure Rankings

The New York Times | March 30, 2017           The number of home foreclosures is down sharply from the depths of the financial crisis, even as many of the mortgage firms involved remain the same, including Fannie Mae, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

But the latest foreclosure rankings also include a number of firms that barely registered or did not exist when the crisis began a decade ago.

These new entrants include firms affiliated with the private equity giant Lone Star Funds, the mortgage lender PennyMac Loan Services, the investment bank Goldman Sachs and the mortgage firm Carrington Mortgage Services.

This changing of the guard in the foreclosure rankings, based on data compiled by RealtyTrac, reflects the new reality that most foreclosures today are not coming from mortgages written during the post-crisis period, but from soured loans written before the crisis that are in the final stages of liquidation.

Quicken Loans, for instance, one of the top originators of mortgages issued during the last few years, ranks relatively low in terms of recent completed foreclosures, according to the RealtyTrac data.

Most of these newer firms that are moving up in the foreclosure rankings are ones that have bought soured mortgages and are looking to profit by restructuring those loans and getting delinquent borrowers to start making payments again. And when those efforts fail, the firms are foreclosing on borrowers, taking back the homes and reselling them.

Firms affiliated with Lone Star, PennyMac, Goldman and Carrington all have been staple buyers of distressed mortgages, either from big banks directly or from government agencies. Lone Star, a $70 billion private equity firm based in Dallas, has been one of the largest buyers and works in tandem with its wholly owned mortgage firm, Caliber Home Loans.  Read more here.

The Mortgage Market is Now Dominated by Non-Bank Lenders

The Washington Post | February 23, 2017         Most borrowers, whether they are purchasing property or refinancing their home, focus on their mortgage rate and loan terms rather than the type of lender they choose. 

Quicken Loans has seized a larger share of the mortgage market but rising interest rates and anticipated deregulation under President Trump could change things. (Uli Deck/picture-alliance/dpa/AP )

Quicken Loans has seized a larger share of the mortgage market but rising interest rates and anticipated deregulation under President Trump could change things. (Uli Deck/picture-alliance/dpa/AP )

Yet the landscape of the lending market has shifted dramatically over the past few years from domination by big banks to a market where more loans are made by non-banks — financial institutions that only make loans and do not offer deposit accounts such as a savings account or checking account. 

“For consumers, it doesn’t really matter whether you get your loan through a bank or a non-bank, although in some ways non-banks are a little more nimble and can offer more loan products,” says Paul Noring, a managing director of the financial-risk-management practice of Navigant Consulting in Washington. “The impact is bigger on the housing market overall, because without the non-banks we would be even further behind where we should be in terms of the number of transactions.”  Read full story here.

Spanish Banks Ordered to Repay Customers Over Unfair Mortgages

The New York Times | December 21, 2016         MADRID — Europe’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that customers of banks in Spain can reclaim billions of euros because lenders did not pass on savings from interest rate cuts on variable-rate mortgages, sending shares in several of the country’s top lenders crashing.

The ruling centered on the use of a “floor clause” in Spanish mortgage contracts during the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Such agreements meant that the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage was always held above a predetermined level, regardless of how low central bank rates fell.

Spain’s lenders began to use the clauses in 2009, after the global financial crisis pushed central banks around the world to slash interest rates. That helped preserve bank profit margins but failed to pass rate cuts on to customers beyond a certain level.

In 2013, Spain’s supreme court ruled that such deals were illegal, in part because the country’s banks did not adequately explain them to customers. The court did not, however, penalize lenders retroactively.

The European Court of Justice on Wednesday confirmed that the agreements were illegal, but went further by ruling that customers could claim reimbursement, without any time limit, for all payments made at a rate that was judged to be too high.

The decision, which cannot be appealed, means Spain’s banks could have to return 4.5 billion euros, or about $4.68 billion, to customers, according to Afi, a Spanish financial consultancy.  Read more here.

To Fight Foreclosure, NYC Buying Mortgages

ABC News |  June 30, 2016    New York City is taking a novel approach to addressing enduring pockets of the home foreclosure crisis by buying long-unpaid mortgages, with plans to help owners stay in their homes if possible or use the properties as affordable housing if not, officials say.

It's among the first cities to pursue buying such loans directly from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, officials say. Housing advocates and some lawmakers have pressed HUD to make it easier for cities and nonprofit groups, as opposed to investors, to buy troubled mortgages.

New York is announcing the $13 million program Thursday. Details of the program were provided to The Associated Press ahead of a planned afternoon announcement.  Read more here.

A New Name of the Game at Nationstar

Foreclosure clean-up firm follows rivals in rebranding effort to expand; here comes ‘Mr. Cooper’


The Wall Street Journal | March 29, 2016    The companies that thrived during the foreclosure crisis are entering an identity crisis.

Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc., which made its name servicing delinquent loans, this summer plans to rename itself “Mr. Cooper.” Foreclosure sales company Auction.com in January rebranded as “Ten-X.” Mortgage-services firm Altisource Portfolio Solutions last year bought rental-data firm RentRange and real-estate-investment website Investability.

The moves reflect a housing recovery that is threatening the business of foreclosure clean-up firms.

At the end of last year, about 3.4% of mortgages were 90 or more days past due, compared with 9.7% at the peak of the crisis in 2009, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

That means there are fewer loans that need the work-intensive services of companies that try to get borrowers current or process foreclosures. It also means far fewer homes are being sold in foreclosure auctions and short sales.

Many companies that made their bread and butter addressing the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis are expanding into other areas of the mortgage and real-estate businesses, in a bid to remain relevant or maintain growth as the housing market continues to strengthen.

Some are buying or launching completely new business lines that they hope can thrive as home prices rise. In the most extreme cases, the companies have decided it makes sense to take on a completely new identity to separate themselves from their foreclosure-related pasts.

“There’s a risk of extinction for companies that are either slow to realize the change in the market or simply don’t adapt. You can expect to see both contraction and extinction of some of these organizations,” said Ed Delgado, chief executive of the Dallas-based Five Star Institute, a provider of education and training programs for the mortgage industry.

Nationstar in February said it would rebrand itself as Mr. Cooper later this year, as it tries to expand its traditional mortgage-lending business.

The company, along with others such as Ocwen Financial Corp. , during the crisis bought the rights to service both performing and troubled mortgages from banks at deep discounts, which it would then try to make current again. Nationstar and other mortgage-servicing firms grew rapidly, but in the past couple of years have slowed amid customer complaints, regulatory scrutiny and fewer delinquent loans.

In part as a result, Nationstar is trying to expand beyond mortgage serving and make more loans itself. Last summer, the firm also launched a website where buyers can find homes, real-estate agents and a mortgage.

The most unusual step, however, might be the name change to Mr. Cooper, which Nationstar CEO Jay Bray said was an attempt to make a more personal connection with customers.

“We wanted it to be a bit radical,” Mr. Bray said. “We want to make an emotional connection.”  Read more here.

Bank of America Now Offers 3% Down Mortgages Without Mortgage Insurance

Partners with Freddie Mac, Self-Help Ventures Fund

Housing Wire |  February 22, 2016    Bank of America unveiled a new affordable mortgage program that offers consumers the option of putting as little as 3% down and requires no mortgage insurance. The program does not involve the Federal Housing Administration, whose program has recently undergone a lot of scrutiny from big banks. 

Bank of America announced a partnership on Monday with Self-Help Ventures Fund and Freddie Mac for its new "Affordable Loan Solution" mortgage, a conforming loan that provides low- and moderate-income homebuyers access to a responsible lending product with counseling at affordable entry prices.

To make the program function, the three companies will work together to help ensure the loan is properly originated and backed in case the loan goes delinquent, the companies said Monday.

For starters, Bank of America said the mortgage will be available through all of its mortgage sales channels. Read more here.

Virginia Reaches $63 Million Pact with 11 Banks in Mortgage Bond Fraud Suit

Reuters | January 22, 2016   A group of 11 banks agreed to pay more than $63 million to settle allegations that they misled the Commonwealth of Virginia and its retirement system about residential mortgage backed-securities, Attorney General Mark R. Herring said on Friday.

The banks, which include two Bank of America Corp units , Morgan Stanley and a unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, defrauded the state's retirement fund by selling it shoddy mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis, Virginia's attorney general said in a 2014 lawsuit.

None of banks admitted liability in the settlement, Herring said.

The $63 million pact is the largest non-health care-related sum ever obtained in a suit brought under a Virginia law aimed at curbing fraud against the commonwealth's taxpayers, Herring said in a statement.

In the lawsuit, Herring said an analysis showed nearly 40 percent of the mortgages that backed 220 securities purchased by Virginia's retirement fund were fraudulently represented as posing a lower risk of default than they actually did.  Read more here.

Is Another Housing Crisis Just Around the Corner?

Fox News|  January 19, 2016     Movie sequels are rarely as good as the original films on which they’re based. The same dictum, it appears, holds for finance. The 2008 housing market collapse was bad enough, but it appears now that we’re on the verge of experiencing it all again. And the financial sequel, working from a similar script as its original version, could prove to be just as devastating to the American taxpayer.

The Federal National Mortgage Association (commonly referred to as Fannie Mae) plans a mortgage loan reboot, which could produce the same insane and predictable results as when the mortgage agency loaned so much money to people who had neither the income, nor credit history, to qualify for a traditional loan.   Read more here.

Voices: For Some, Foreclosure Means Free Housing

USA Today - Opinion | January 4, 2016    LAS VEGAS -- I used to think of foreclosure as chillingly final. Then I visited this city, where the slow unspooling of the great housing crash of 2007-2009 is affording free shelter to tens of thousands of people.  Most are living in homes they technically still own, but on which they haven’t made a mortgage payment in months or years; others are squatting illegally in homes that were abandoned by owners who defaulted on mortgages.  These homes are in real estate limbo — in foreclosure, but not actually foreclosed — because many lenders are taking their time completing the process that eventually leads to repossession and resale.  Read more here