Homeowners struggling to stave off foreclosure too often encounter stonewalling from banks and other lenders when trying to do short sales.
It ranks as one of the most tragic elements of the current foreclosure crisis.
Iíve heard my share of stories on this blog from homeowners who complain they have been strung along for months or longer, unable to get an answer back from their bank in time to close a proposed short sale.
Even more maddening, the banks are likely to take a bigger hit in the end foreclosing on the home or condo and then letting it fall into disrepair as it sits empty on the market.
Enter the Obama Administration, which has issued new rules it contends will help speed along short sales and help prevent needless foreclosures.
There are clearly some helpful elements in the Treasury Departmentís proposal. Overall, it attempts to bring some order to what too often appears to be a nebulous process, establishing timetables and formal documents.
But there are some troubling aspects as well that leave me wondering whether this is a real effort to help or just an industry approved public relations gimmick. (For a different take on the new rules, check out this afternoon's post by real estate attorney Richard D. Vetstein.)
Frankly, Iím skeptical
For starters, there appears to be a reliance on trying to use little bribes to get mortgage companies to comply, rather than the big stick of regulation.
Mortgage companies can get $1,000 for administrative costs, which seems strikingly similar to the Obama Administrationís efforts to use modest cash incentives to prod lenders to head off foreclosures by modifying loans.
Of course, that $75 billion initiative has been a dismal failure. Just check the foreclosure rates Ė they are soaring.
The new program is also voluntary for lenders who hold a second mortgage on a home - half of all homeowners in default fall into this category.
These lenders can stand to make up to $3,000 for agreeing to bow out Ė not much incentive for the holder of a $100,000 to $200,000 loan.
Of course, there's a small carrot for homeowners here as well - they get $1,500 to pay for moving expenses.
Thanks Uncle Sam.
But the icing on the cake? The new rules wonít kick in until April 5th.
I am sure thatís just what the banking and mortgage industry lobbyists ordered up.
No need to rush things here, letís just take our sweet old time.
But thatís not much help for homeowners on the edge of losing it all.
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