In discussing the issues surrounding the current economy, the term "mortgage meltdown" is now officially as tired a wordplay as assemblages like "From Wall Street to Main Street," "Where's my bailout?" and "It's a crisis of confidence." Beyond these catchphrases, you might still be wondering: What is really behind this recession?
In a nutshell, big banks created a huge demand for mortgage backed securities. Mortgage securities are basically your mortgage, packaged with a bunch of other people's mortgages, which are then sold on the open market to investment banks who pay for the package based on the quality of loans included. Good borrowers with good loan applications made up the "Prime" packages, and different variations of the packages existed for other qualities of debt, such as "Alt-A" and "Sub-Prime", the latter being defined by weak credit scores and little documentation. The packaging allowed investors to pick and choose, depending on how much risk they wanted to take on. This worked well as long as everyone in the game stayed honest.
It turns out, everyone involved was not being honest. As more and more consumers qualified for loans, the securities became watered down. It got to the point that literally anyone with a pulse was being qualified for a home loan. The prime packages were increasingly including "low-doc" and "no-doc" consumers, who had little prospect of being able to afford their mortgages over the long term. However, the investment banks kept buying and selling, re-packaging bad loans for investment banks who were hungry for more securities.
This giant tinder box eventually exploded when all parties realized that what they owned was worth far less than they thought. Adding to the devastation was the trillions of dollars in side bets on the market, termed "credit default swaps". When the whole thing blew up, everyone needed to be paid. The only problem- the banks simply didn't have enough money to go around. Lending froze as everyone clung tightly to the dollars that remained. Despite hundreds of billions in government money, banks still aren't completely out of the woods.
Now that the dust has somewhat settled, many entities who purchased the bad debt are discovering that they can't even prove ownership. In a New York bankruptcy court earlier this month, a mortgage servicer was unable to prove it serviced the loan or that the parent bank was the legal note holder. Upon formal request to prove their ownership of the note, the servicer, PHH Mortgage alerted the court that US Bank actually owned the loan. The only "proof" which PHH could provide was some vague paperwork by PHH officials, multiple signatures by the same executive (although with different titles each time), documents post-dated from the date of bankruptcy filing and eventually, an admittance of improper fees levied and even less proof they had a right to what was owed. The judge, unable to ascertain whether the debtor's proposed Chapter 13 plan would be paying the right bank, completely disallowed the bank's claim. You heard that right--the judge completely eliminated well over $450,000 in mortgage debt! Not only will this person continue to sleep in her house, she'll be doing so knowing her mortgage payment isn't due any time soon. Or ever.
Not every case involving a confused lender will result in such a favorable outcome. A lot will depend on the supporting documentation behind the loan, but if you bought or refinanced a home during the boom years, the chances are higher that your note holder might not be able to prove that it owns the debt. In a bankruptcy setting, this is a huge problem for the lender, and a potential windfall for the consumer.
The recent New York case is being looked at as a serious wake-up call for lending institutions: the days of free passes and assembly-line foreclosures are over. If you're a consumer with a bad loan and bad terms you can't afford, at the very least a bankruptcy may be an option to catch you up on the missed mortgage payments. Call an experienced bankruptcy attorney today to discuss how bankruptcy can help you save your family home. In North Carolina, call the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt. +1-919-646-2654.