.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Life and Death of A Mortgage-Backed Security

The Life and Death of A Mortgage-Backed SecurityListened to a great episode of the NPR radio program This American Life earlier today. Truly excellent. The show was about the life and death of a mortgage-backed security (MBS), which was given the innocuous nickname "Toxie."

Basically, a group of Planet Money reporters pooled their money to buy a bond backed by mortgage debt. This is same type of investment that caused the financial crisis of 2008 and the global recession that followed.

5 reporters contributed $200 each, and bought the mortgage bond for $1,000. During the housing boom, that same bond was worth about $75,000! The investment -- essentially a big pile of paper drawn up by lawyers -- actually does OK for a while, producing a stream of income in the form of a monthly check. Eventually, however, the monthly checks dry up, and the MBS dies. In total, the investment returned $449.06, so the MBS ends up losing $550.94. Each of the five reporters gets back $89.80 from their $200 contribution. Ugly!

The reporters decide to invest what they have left in a gold coin. Much smarter, considering how gold has been doing since 2008. Moreover, the Fed just announced a new round of quantitative easing: printing new money out of thin air to buy Treasury securities. These purchases will, among other things, weaken the dollar, and will very likely contribute to gold's rise.

To read more about this episode of This American Life, and to download the free MP3, visit this link. There's also a fascinating interactive timeline here. Highly recommended!

Toxie's Dead from Enkhtulga on Vimeo.

Here's a cartoon we made for NPR's show, Planet Money. It's about Toxie, a personified toxic asset that helped burst the housing bubble. enjoy!

Labels: , , , ,

--> www.FedPrimeRate.com Privacy Policy <--

--> SITEMAP <--

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Strategic Default on Your Mortgage May Cost You More Than You Think

Strategic Default may result in a huge tax billI was listening to some business news the other day. According to the well respected economist who was being interviewed, folks who have been walking away from their home loans in response to owing more on their home than their home is worth, have been helping to fuel consumer spending. The money that was being used to pay the mortgage has been freed up to be spent on other things. Great news for this fledgling economic recovery, but going the strategic default route should never be taken lightly. Not only will your credit score being ruined for years, you may end up with a massive tax bill from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Here's a clip from a great WSJ personal finance article:

"...Americans considering walking away from an unaffordable mortgage: Beware of taxes.

Though not every homeowner who's underwater on a mortgage need worry, many are finding that a foreclosure or other form of housing loss can lead to a big tax obligation.

Maxine McDaniel walked away from her Loveland, Colo., home in January. Now the 59-year-old nurse faces a potentially huge tax bill.

In Ms. McDaniel's case, the 59-year-old in January abandoned the 4,300-square-foot Loveland, Colo., home she and her late husband built. After her husband's death in July 2008, Ms. McDaniel, who earns about $34,000 a year as a home-health nurse, couldn't maintain the $3,000 monthly payments necessary on her nearly $500,000 interest-only mortgage. So she stopped making them and moved in with an uncle.

Now, she's bracing for the next blow: an Internal Revenue Service form detailing as much as $150,000 in debt canceled by the bank when it took control of the house. The canceled debt is a form of income, says the IRS—meaning she'll owe taxes on it.

'I had no clue this would happen,' says Ms. McDaniel, who, with her husband, had refinanced at least three times, including one cash-out loan. That transaction caused her problems because, while canceled debt originally used to buy or build a house can be exempted from tax filings, debt used for other purposes cannot. 'I just thought I'd get out from under the house and that would be that,' she says.

As the U.S. economy continues struggling with the fallout of the debt-induced housing crisis, millions of homeowners like Ms. McDaniel are discovering that their decision to walk away from a mortgage could result in tax bills running into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

The upshot: anyone weighing whether or not to seek a mortgage modification—or debating whether to abandon a house that is worth less than the mortgage—should consider the tax treatment carefully before making a move. The same holds for any form of consumer debt that a bank ultimately cancels, including credit-card balances or an auto lease.

Federal and state tax laws have long viewed canceled debt as income because consumers who borrow money to buy a house—or who pull money out of their house to buy cars and such—and then don't pay it back 'wind up ahead of where they were,' says an IRS spokesman.

Thus far this year, Michele Knight, a CPA with a high-end clientele in Keystone, Colo., has had five clients owe taxes tied to houses and another five tied to credit cards and auto leases. 'They're calling me in tears and saying, 'What do you mean I owe taxes?'" she says. 'I never would have expected it.'

Dianne Corsbie, a White Plains, N.Y., financial planner, says about 5% of her 200-client practice owes taxes because of a foreclosure, most tied to investment properties. In Napa, Calif., Duane Carey, owner of a Ranch Tax Service, says every fifth person he sees 'comes in angry, holding one of these 1099s.'

Overall, the IRS estimates that individual taxpayers will have filed nearly 3.6 million tax returns for 2009 that include income from canceled debt. That's down a bit from 2008, but up 17% from 2007. The numbers include taxes due on primary homes, vacation and rental property, credit cards, auto leases and other canceled debts. The IRS projects the numbers to rise in coming years.

Part of that rise will likely come as the government expands its mortgage-modification program, including a call in March by the Obama administration for banks to reduce principal as a way to help people remain in their homes. That reduction could lead to tax obligations.

At first the government's mortgage-modification program focused on primary mortgages, which are tied to the purchase or construction of a primary residence, and which are eligible for exemption under a 2007 Congressional act aimed at helping homeowners avoid the tax implications of a foreclosure.

That act—the 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act—exempts taxpayers from as much as $2 million in forgiven debt. But the debt had to be acquired before Jan. 1, 2009—and had to have been used solely to buy, build or remodel/repair a primary residence.

The government's new, expanded modification programs include short sales, in which a bank agrees to accept as full payment less than the value of the mortgage balance; deed-in-lieu transactions, when a homeowner gives the house to the bank instead of repaying the mortgage; and second mortgages such as home-equity lines of credit.

In many of those instances, say Treasury officials, homeowners used mortgage money to fund everything from tuition and medical bills to vacations and cars and even the down payment on a second home or investment property. That debt, however, isn't eligible for exemption.

Sometimes the tax bills are so high that people can't afford to pay. In such a situation, the IRS will allow taxpayers to apply for an installment-payment plan.

Some homeowners can avoid the taxes completely if they can prove insolvency, in which the total value of debt exceeds total assets. But even that could leave some owing taxes.

IRS rules stipulate that a taxpayer can escape taxes up to the extent of insolvency, meaning that if one's liabilities are $500,000 and assets are $300,000, the $200,000 difference is the extent of the insolvency. But if the person has $250,000 in debt canceled, then $50,000 is taxable income.

'People think their house was underwater, so they're insolvent and can get out of owing taxes,' says Arthur Auerbach, a member of the Individual Income Tax Technical Resource Panel at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. 'But it doesn't work that way...'"

If you visit WSJ online to read the full story, be sure to read the comments. Lots of insight there, as usual. Enjoy!

Labels: , , , , ,

--> www.FedPrimeRate.com Privacy Policy <--

--> SITEMAP <--

Saturday, January 23, 2010

We Listened To A Lender Go From Making Homes Affordable To Making Modifications Impossible

Strategic Default
I would not have believed this if I did not hear it for myself. I listened while a banks’ “home retention” representative refused to let a homeowner pre-qualify for the federal government program, Making Homes Affordable aka Home Affordable Modification Plan aka HAMP. THE LENDER’S REASON for the refusal: The home owner was “contesting” the foreclosure action started by the same lender. They would not accept his HAMP pre-qualification app over the phone. Mind you, the HAMP program let’s homeowners enter into a temporary 3 month lower payment trial period. During the trial period the homeowner sends the lender the required financial documentation in order to get a permanent modification. The application and approval for the 3 month lower payment trial period usually happens over the phone. The approval is given within minutes after a homeowner provides the lender with his or her income and expense info over the phone. Basically the lender’s “home retention” rep enters the income and expense info into a computer program…then POOF!!!...the home owner can be approved on the spot. However, in this case, the lender refused to let a homeowner apply over the phone because the homeowner hired a lawyer to defend the lender’s foreclosure case.

At times, people will ask me to conference in during phone calls with their lenders. In this case, Paul (name changed for privacy) asked me to assist him with a loan modification, so we called the lender together. It was America's Servicing Company, a division of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. The “home retention" rep went through the standard verification procedures: name, social security, property address, & phone no#. Paul explained to the rep that he was in foreclosure. Paul told the rep that he was advised by his lawyer to call the lender for a loan modification. Paul then asked the rep about the HAMP program. The lender’s rep said “Yes, we provide modifications under HAMP, however you cannot apply over the phone because we were advised that you are contesting the foreclosure action.” Paul and I were totally stunned. I then asked “are you telling Paul that he can’t apply for the HAMP program and get an immediate 3 month pre-trial modification JUST BECAUSE he is defending himself in court” Initially, the rep said the software program would not allow Paul to apply. Then the rep got hung up on the word “contesting”. The rep tried to raise a distinction between “contesting” a foreclosure and “defending” a foreclosure. The rep implied that Paul was trying to claim he “should not be in foreclosure” that’s why Paul is “contesting” the foreclosure. The rep kept asking “Are you trying to say ‘you should not be in foreclosure’”...

Now let’s cut to the chase. It is clear that the lender’s “home retention” rep didn’t truly understand what was going on. Why would the lender deny Paul this option for a loan modification? Why would the lender’s be advised about defending a foreclosure case? What does it mean to “contest” a foreclosure and why does it affect Paul’s ability to apply for HAMP over the phone?

These are my thoughts: The lender wanted to discourage Paul from aggressively defending the foreclosure. It always benefits a homeowner to defend a foreclosure case, even though they owe the lender money. When a homeowner defends a foreclosure case, they invariably gain some leverage and extra time. There are more courts requiring mandatory settlement conferences between homeowners and lenders thus this creates pressures for settlement. It becomes a time consuming, costly affair for the lender. It comes to mind that phone conversations are recorded, so perhaps these recordings can be admissible in foreclosure cases? What if Paul said to the rep “I am not contesting the foreclosure” or “Yes, I should be in foreclosure, I owe you the money”.

If Paul were approved over the phone for the 3 month pre-trial modification, then the foreclosure action would be stalled. Most important, Paul could tell the judge he received a 3 month pre-approval and he expects to receive a permanent modification. This flies in the face of the abysmal record regarding lenders and HAMP. Beginning March 2009 up to including December 2009, there were 787,231 homeowners in a pre-trial period and only 66,465 homeowners with a completed permanent modification. Hmmm let’s see, what if the lenders collect monthly payments during the trial period and the homeowners ends up not receiving a permanent modification. What’s 787,231 homeowners times $1400 per month mortgage payment? That’s about $1.1 billion a month. Now let's multiply that by 10 months. You do the math and read between the lines.

I wonder how lenders treat homeowners who DON'T defend themselves in foreclosure. Are lender's denying the 3 month pre-trial mods to these homeowners? Hmmm.

I want to add that the “home retention” rep was respectful to Paul. In fact, I believe that this rep believed that his employers’ policy was wrong. He was sympathetic and supportive, however he had to do what he is ordered to do…he had to do his job.

At the end, Paul was unable to get the 3 month pre-approval, so Paul will bring it to the judge.

Now you know so take control.

Labels: , , , , ,

--> www.FedPrimeRate.com Privacy Policy <--

--> SITEMAP <--



Entire website copyright © 2024 FedPrimeRate.comSM

This website is neither affiliated nor associated with The United States Federal Reserve
in any way. Information in this website is provided for educational purposes only. The owners
of this website make no warranties with respect to any and all content contained within this
website. Consult a financial professional before making important decisions related to any
investment or loan product, including, but not limited to, business loans, personal loans,
education loans, first or second mortgages, credit cards, car loans or any type of insurance.