Friday, May 30, 2008

April Workouts Move Higher; Evidence of Success?

(Housing Wire) HOPE NOW, the well-known alliance of mortgage servicers, counselors, and investors pulled together by Treasury officials last year, said Friday morning that mortgage servicers provided loan workouts to approximately 183,000 homeowners in April 2008, up 23,000 from the total recorded in March — the highest monthly amount since the program was begun in July 2007. Since July 2007, nearly 1.6 million troubled homeowners have been extended loan modifications and repayment plans, the group said in a press statement.

“These numbers clearly demonstrate that HOPE NOW is succeeding at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes,” said HOPE NOW executive director Faith Schwartz.

Estimates from the group show that approximately 106,000 of the prime and subprime loan workouts conducted by mortgage servicers in April were repayment plans, while approximately 77,000 were loan modifications. The current pace set in April would translate into just over 548,000 loan workouts in the second quarter; that total would be well above the 502,520 recorded during Q1.

Like most housing news these days, however, the good news comes with requisite ominous; HOPE NOW also reported 80,926 foreclosures in April, a total that would translate into 242,778 if extrapolated through the second quarter. That total would be an 18 percent jump in foreclosures during the quarter — meaning that while more borrowers are getting help, more borrowers are troubled in total as well.

To normalize comparisons, it’s worthwhile to look at total workouts against foreclosure activity.

In 2007’s third quarter that ratio stood at 2.95, meaning that for every 3 borrowers helped, one lost their home. By Q4, that ratio had risen to 3.13 — good news. In the first quarter of this year, the workout:foreclosure ratio fell to 2.44 despite an increase in workouts, suggesting servicers were having trouble keeping up with an influx of troubled borrowers.

April’s ratio? 2.26 borrowers in workout per foreclosure, the worst reading yet.

(Tanta @ Calculated Risk) Meanwhile, the Hope Now folks released a pathetic set of data charts on mortgage loss mitigation through April 2008. For heaven's sake, we're the financial industry, people. We're supposed to be able to use Excel properly.

There are some really puzzling features of this data, like why the total loan counts have not changed since October (see the first page). Since those loan counts are used to calculate the 60+ day delinquency percentage, the failure to update the total count makes those numbers rather dubious. On page two, I found myself unable to make sense of the completed FC sales/FC starts calculation using any possible definition of "five months" I can think of. Perhaps I am misreading the footnote. In any event, I gave up on my ambition to put this data into a more sensible format for you, after I lost confidence in the data integrity.

So here's from the press release, instead:

The April report from HOPE NOW estimates that on an industry-wide basis:

* Mortgage servicers provided loan workouts for approximately 183,000 at-risk borrowers in April. This is an increase of 23,000 from the number of workouts in March 2008 and is the largest number of workouts completed in any month since HOPE NOW’s inception.

* The total number of loan workouts provided by mortgage servicers since July 2007 has risen to 1,558,854.

* Approximately 106,000 of the prime and subprime loan workouts conducted by mortgage servicers in April were repayment plans, while approximately 77,000 were loan modifications.

Maybe next month the report will be cleaned up a little and we can look in more detail at these numbers. If we can shame Hope Now into issuing something readable.

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