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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We’ve heard of Freddie Mac; what is it?

We’ve heard of Freddie Mac; what is it?


Freddie Mac was created by the United States Congress in 1970. Its publicly stated mission is to stabilize the nation's residential mortgage markets and expand opportunities for homeownership and affordable rental housing. Under Federal law, Freddie Mac’s mission is to:



  1. provide stability in the secondary market for residential mortgages;

  2. respond appropriately to the private capital market;

  3. provide ongoing assistance to the secondary market for residential mortgages (including for lower income families); and

  4. to promote access to mortgage credit.


Freddie Mac does not loan money to would-be property owners the way that banks do. Rather, it participates in the secondary mortgage market by purchasing mortgage loans and mortgage-related securities for investment and by issuing guaranteed mortgage-related securities. The secondary mortgage market consists of institutions engaged in buying and selling mortgages in the form of whole loans (i.e., mortgages that have not been securitized) and mortgage-related securities.


Due to the housing/mortgage crisis in America, Freddie Mac currently focuses on “meeting the urgent liquidity needs of the U.S. residential mortgage market, lowering costs for borrowers and supporting the recovery of the housing market and U.S. economy.” Specifically, Freddie Mac states that it is working toward reducing the number of foreclosures; making homeownership and rental housing more affordable; and helping families keep their homes.


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides assistance to borrowers in need of mortgage relief services, such as mortgage loan modification, foreclosure negotiation, refinancing, and deed-in-lieu or other negotiated settlement resolutions. These professional services may include dealing with mortgage loans owned or securitized by Freddie Mac.

Friday, December 23, 2011

We’ve heard of Fannie Mae; what, exactly, is it?

We’ve heard of Fannie Mae; what, exactly, is it?


Fannie Mae was created by the United States Congress in 1938 to support liquidity, stability, and affordability in the secondary mortgage market, where existing mortgage-related assets are purchased and sold. Fannie Mae itself has stated that it has “a mission to expand affordable housing”.


Fannie Mae does not originate loans or lend money directly to consumers in the primary mortgage market because Federal law prevents it from doing so. However, it does purchase mortgage loans and mortgage-related securities. In other words, while you can’t get a loan from Fannie Mae, Fannie Mae might end up owning your mortgage loan.


Fannie Mae also often securitizes mortgage loans originated by lenders into Fannie Mae mortgage-backed securities (called Fannie Mae MBS)  and makes other investments which are intended to increase the supply of affordable housing.


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides assistance to borrowers in need of mortgage relief services, such as mortgage loan modification, foreclosure negotiation, refinancing, and deed-in-lieu or other negotiated settlement resolutions. These professional services may include dealing with mortgage loans owned or securitized by Fannie Mae.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HARP: Refinancing for Underwater Mortgage Loans

HARP: Refinancing for Underwater Mortgage Loans


As an attorney who assists borrowers with mortgage loan modifications, foreclosure negotiations, refinancing, deeds-in-lieu, and other mortgage loan relief, one of the most common complaints that I hear is that borrowers who continue to pay their mortgage loans are essentially penalized for living up to their obligations: “I’m current on my mortgage, so the bank won’t modify it. My house is underwater, so I can’t refinance. How come it’s only the people who aren’t paying their mortgages who get help, while I get punished for continuing to pay mine?”


Well, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) may be for you, my responsible yet underwater friends.


HARP is specifically designed to assist borrowers who have an unfavorable loan – to – value ratio (LTV). These borrowers have little equity, no equity, or negative equity in their homes and have likely seen the value of their property decrease over the last few years, often becoming worth less than what is owed on the mortgage loan(s).


There is less information available about HARP when compared to what is known about other government – backed mortgage relief programs, but Fannie Mae has publicly stated that “If you don’t have any equity [in your home], you may still qualify for the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program.”


Who qualifies for the Government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)? According to the US Government, the following mortgage loans may qualify:



  1. The mortgage loan must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

  2. Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae must have obtained their interest in the loan before May 31, 2009.

  3. The mortgage loan must be current with a good payment history for the preceding 12 months.

  4. The mortgage loan must not have been previously refinanced via HARP (except for Fannie Mae HARP refinances which took place between March and May, 2009).

  5. The current LTV must be greater than 80%. For example, if you owe $500,000 but your home is now only worth $400,000, your LTV is 125% (greater than 80%).


 A refinance through HARP should result in lower monthly payments. Keep in mind, however, that applying for refinancing via HARP is applying for a new loan. Thus a loan application needs to be completed, refinancing fees apply, and an underwriting evaluation process will occur. You must be current on your mortgage loan to qualify for HARP.


If a traditional or HARP refinance isn’t the right option for you, but you want to keep your property, a mortgage loan modification may be an option. While making it through the mortgage loan modification process can be challenging, it can be done.


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides assistance to borrowers in need of mortgage relief services, such as mortgage loan modification, foreclosure negotiation, refinancing, and deed-in-lieu or other negotiated settlement resolutions.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HARP: Who Qualifies for Government Mortgage Refinancing?

HARP: Who Qualifies for Government Mortgage Refinancing?


Who qualifies for the Government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)? According to the US Government, the following mortgage loans may qualify:



  1. The mortgage loan must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

  2. Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae must have obtained their interest in the loan before May 31, 2009.

  3. The mortgage loan must be current with a good payment history for the preceding 12 months.

  4. The mortgage loan must not have been previously refinanced via HARP (except for Fannie Mae HARP refinances which took place between March and May, 2009).

  5. The current loan – to – value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80%.

    1. a.      For example, if you owe $500,000 but your home is now only worth $400,000, your LTV is 125% (greater than 80%).



 A refinance through HARP should result in lower monthly payments. Keep in mind, however, that applying for refinancing via HARP is applying for a new loan. Thus a loan application needs to be completed, refinancing fees apply, and an underwriting evaluation process will occur. You must be current on your mortgage loan to qualify for HARP.


If a traditional or HARP refinance isn’t the right option for you, but you want to keep your property, a mortgage loan modification may be an option. While making it through the mortgage loan modification process can be challenging, it can be done.


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides assistance to borrowers in need of mortgage relief services, such as mortgage loan modification, foreclosure negotiation, refinancing, and deed-in-lieu or other negotiated settlement resolutions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Government Mortgage Refinancing for Borrowers who are Current

 HARP: Government Mortgage Refinancing for Borrowers who are Current


 


According to the United States Government, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is designed to help borrowers who are unable to obtain a traditional refinance due to their home’s decline in value. A refinance through HARP should result in lower monthly payments. Keep in mind, however, that applying for refinancing via HARP is applying for a new loan. Thus a loan application needs to be completed, refinancing fees apply, and an underwriting evaluation process will occur. You must be current on your mortgage loan to qualify for HARP.


If a traditional or HARP refinance isn’t the right option for you, a mortgage loan modification may be an option. While making it through the mortgage loan modification process can be challenging, it can be done.


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides assistance to borrowers in need of mortgage relief services, such as mortgage loan modification, foreclosure negotiation, and deed-in-lieu or other negotiated settlement resolutions.

Friday, December 2, 2011

More than 1 of every 5 Americans with a Mortgage Loan is "Underwater"!

More than 1 of every 5 Americans with a Mortgage Loan is "Underwater"!


Some key pieces of information extracted from CoreLogic's comprehensive report from the third quarter of 2011:



  • North Carolina: 12% of mortgaged homes are underwater (lower than the national average of 22%).



  • South Carolina: 15.5% of mortgaged homes are underwater.



  • Florida has the third highest percentage of  mortgaged homes underwater - 44%. I'm really happy to report that my wife and I are part of that 44%. 



  • Georgia (30%, 5th highest in the country) now has a higher percentage of underwater homes than California.



  • Tennessee: 14.7% of mortgaged homes are underwater.



  • Ohio (22.6%) is almost right at the national average.



McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides professional legal services for those in need of mortgage relief, including mortgage loan modifications, foreclosure negotiations, and deeds-in-lieu. 

======================================================


by Jann Swanson


CoreLogic: 27% of Homes in Negative or Near Negative Equity Position


Nov 29 2011, 11:53AM


Over one-quarter of all mortgaged homes in the U.S. are now either underwater or close to it according to data released today by CoreLogic. In the third quarter of 201110.7 million homeowners, 22.1 percent of all those with mortgages, owed more on that mortgage than the market value of their homes. This situation arises when prices decline, mortgage debt increases, or a combination of the two. An additional 2.4 million homeowners were in a near-negative equity situation with mortgage balances only five percent or less below the value of the home. In total, homes with negative or near negative equity account for 27.1 percent of all mortgaged property, down from 27.5 percent in the second quarter.


"Although slightly down, negative equity remains very high and renders many borrowers vulnerable when negative economic shocks occur, such as job loss or illness. The nearly $700 billion mortgage debt overhang has touched many corners of the market, and this overhang is holding back the recovery of the housing market and broader economy," said Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic.


While negative equity can be the result of multiple mortgages on the property, 6.3 million borrowers (59 percent) have only first mortgages. However those borrowers represent only 18 percent of all borrowers with only one mortgage on their home. These loans have an average balance of $222,000 and are underwater by an average of $52,000, an average loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 131 percent. First liens without home equity loans account for $329 billion aggregate negative equity out of the national total of $699 billion.


The 4.4 million borrowers with a mortgage and a home equity loan have an average mortgage balance of $309,000 and are underwater by an average of $84,000 with an average LTV of 137 percent. Multiple mortgage holders with negative equity represent 38 percent of all multiple mortgage holders. First equity liens with home equity loans have an aggregate outstanding balance of $190 billion on the first liens.


Negative equity homeowners are more likely to have above market interest rates than other homeowners. Twenty-two million borrowers (45 percent of the total) have LTVs above 80 percent and 69 percent of them have mortgages with above-market interest rates compared to 54 percent of homeowners with less than 80 percent LTV. While above-market interest rates make refinancing at today's historically low rates a cost-effective step for qualified homeowners, it can be more difficult for borrowers with above-average LTV ratios to qualify for refinancing.


Conventional loans account for 8.6 million of the negative equity loans. These have an average outstanding balance of $272,000 and have an average negative equity of $70,000. The 1.5 million negative equity FHA loans have an average balance of $170,000 and negative equity of $26,000. CoreLogic estimates that 1.6 million properties valued at an aggregate negative equity of $105,000 are housed in bank portfolios.


Nevada has the highest negative equity percentage with 58 percent of all of its mortgaged properties underwater, followed by Arizona (47 percent), Florida (44 percent), Michigan (35 percent) and Georgia (30 percent). This is the first quarter that Georgia entered the top five, surpassing California which had been in the top five since tracking began in 2009. These five state combined have an average negative equity ratio of 41.4 percent, while the remaining states have a combined average negative equity ratio of 17.6 percent.


CoreLogic based its analysis on its data base of 48 million properties with a mortgage which includes over 85 percent of all mortgages in the country. Current home values are derived from CoreLogic Automated Valuation Models for residential properties.


by Jann Swanson


 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Not Guilty" - or I Kill Myself

Juror Threatens to Kill Himself if "Forced" to Vote to Convict


 


I've had jurors make up the need for search warrants, elect an unemployed 19 year old as foreperson, invent conspiracies, retroactively state that they failed to follow the law, and call opposing counsel a "buffoon", but I've thankfully never had a juror threaten to commit suicide. Apparently everything really is bigger in Texas, including courtroom melodrama.


============================================



A Texas jury hearing a murder case against a San Antonio mom accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter sent three notes to the judge yesterday.




All indicated that the panel was hung, 11-1, although it wasn't clear if the majority wanted to convict Andrisela Ng, 24, of murder or the lesser included offense of injury to a child. However, the third note was a show-stopper, informing District Judge Maria Teresa Herr that one of the jurors was threatening to kill himself if he had to vote to convict in the case, the San Antonio Express-News reports.


Herr then declared a mistrial. Ng is expected to be retried early next year.


“Never in all my years of practice have I had a note like that,” said attorney Stephanie Boyd, who is representing Ng. “This juror decided what his vote was, and he was not going to bend.”


-- by Martha Neil, American Bar Journal (November, 2011)


Friday, November 18, 2011

Is it Legal to Breastfeed in a Courtroom?

Is it Legal to Breastfeed in a Courtroom?


The public generally has the right to be present in a court of law, although there are recognized limitations to that right. So, if a citizen has the right to be in a courtroom, and the right to breastfeed "in public", does she has the right to breastfeed her baby in a courtroom?

=====================================


A woman fighting a Michigan boating ticket that had already resulted in a bench warrant says she had no choice but to take her 5-month-old with her to a Tuesday hearing as he recuperated from a fever.


Quiet for more than two hours as she waited for her case to be called, the boy then awakened and needed to eat. So, since she was wearing appropriate clothing for the purpose, she breastfed him, Natalie Hegedus tells WWMT.


This didn't go over well with the judge, when Hegedus' case was called while her son, Landen, was still eating.


“You think that's appropriate in here?” Judge Robert Hentchel asked her, according to a transcript of the 7th District Court case in Paw Paw.


Hegedus replied that she had to feed her son, and it was legal to do so.


“Ma'am, it's my courtroom, I decide what's appropriate in here, come on up, okay," Hentchel then tells her. "You have to understand that a judge, the laws don't apply in a courtroom, the judge's law applies, do you understand that?"


Hegedus tells the station she wouldn't have minded if the issue had been handled more discretely, but she felt publicly humiliated by the judge's tone and the implication that she had done something "dirty" by nursing her baby.


Chief Judge Paul Hamre said he felt Hentchel had done nothing wrong, WWMT reports, calling it "inappropriate" for a defendant to appear in a criminal court holding a baby and noting that Hentchel nonetheless hadn't sanctioned Hegedus or even asked her to leave the courtroom.


Supporters of Hegedus are now planning to hold a "nurse-in" outside the Van Buren County courthouse later this month.


-- As written by Martha Neil of the ABA Journal, November, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Foreclosure Problems - Seawatch in Brunswick County North Carolina

Foreclosure Problems - Seawatch in



Brunswick County, North Carolina



[UPDATE: AUGUST, 2015] We received a call from an angry woman who refused to spell her name or tell us exactly what her connection with this story is. However, based on phonetics and brief research, it appears to have been the same Ms. Boodro listed in the story linked and pasted below, which was published on the www.southeastdiscovery.com website. Apparently no lover of free speech, she threatened us and insisted that we remove the blog post because Southeast Discovery is a "competing marketing company" and the article it published contains "many factual errors".

Well, we don't give in to threats (especially from persons who won't even fully identify themselves), and we don't get in the middle of back-and-forths between competing companies, neither of which is or ever was our client. It's a shame that Ms. Boodro didn't call us in a reasonable and polite manner - one of our partners would gladly have had a courteous conversation with her to listen to her concerns / her side of the story. Under the circumstances (we've done the same sort of update when we received calls from Bank of America's national PR folks, who didn't like our articles), we decided to update this story to share Ms. Boodro's protest - now you all know that she believes the article below to be partly false.

In the meantime, we've continued to assist borrowers who had their dreams go down the tubes in Seawatch. By the way, that assistance has been in the way of negotiations, not litigation, and we've never had any direct interactions with/against the entities that Ms. Boodro appears to be connected with. We've actually maintained productive working relationships with the banks involved in most of the Seawatch loans, and been able to reach reasonable resolutions for almost every client related to Seawatch. Having said that, each case and each client is different, and we can never promise any particular outcome.

[ORIGINAL POST]  Contained and linked below (further down, after my commentary) is an informative article about the Seawatch Development in Brunswick County, North Carolina.

My law firm, McGrath & Spielberger, represents a few of the Seawatch lot owners with regard to mortgage loan modification / foreclosure / deed-in-lieu type matters. I know that many of the owners are faced with the difficult decision of continuing to try to pay what has become a large mortgage payment compared to the current or near-future value of the property versus exploring some exit strategy.

It has been my experience that, if a borrower and/or the borrower's attorney are able and willing to work long and hard on the matter, lenders are fairly willing to compromise, especially if paying the mortgage is a hardship for the borrower. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes mortgage modifications or other negotiated agreements can be reached whether the borrower is current on payments or behind.

We wish the owners in Seawatch the best in this unfortunate circumstance.

=====================================================

From the company called "Southeast Discovery":

http://www.southeastdiscovery.com/southern-way-of-life/2011/11/seawatch-at-sunset-harbor-in-brunswick-county-nc-%E2%80%93-2011-update#comment-2132

Seawatch was to be one of Coastal Communities’ largest projects to date. At about 3,000 acres, this community is located in the center of Brunswick County along Hwy 211 where another large development exists right down the road, St James Plantation - which has been a highly successful master planned community on the North Carolina coast over the past 15 years. In addition, there are many other smaller residential developments along Hwy 211 that were birthed in the early 2000’s. This corridor, which leads to the historic and charming Southport along Hwy 211 shows signs of many developments started in the heyday of the real estate market and their markings of difficulty when the heyday stopped.   Many lots were sold in these smaller developments. For those developments where amenities weren't built or completed - they too struggled and homes were not built.  Today, lot buyers are either sitting on their lots hoping in time, their lot values will come back, amenities within their community will be built by the developer or a new developer will come in and finish out the proposed infrastructure and amenities.

Prices on lots within these developments along Hwy 211 that were not fully completed have come down substantially off of their highs set 5 to 10 years ago. What we are seeing now is retail buyers, many Baby Boomers who are looking to retire and relocate or have a second home are slowly purchasing lots in the better developments along Hwy 211 and other parts of Brunswick County for a fraction of their original price.

Seawatch’s Master Plan called for 2,500 home sites on the 3,000 acres with a host of amenities to be built: Clubhouse, pools, parks, entranceway off of Hwy 211, kayak launch (which has been built) and …a private marina for SeaWatch residents on the intra coastal waterway – similar to SeaScape’s marina, but larger to accommodate the fact SeaWatch would be about six times the size of SeaScape.

Earlier this month, Seawatch held its annual POA meeting. Southeast Discovery is told about 25 to 30 lot owners were present, a very low number considering 1,400 lots have been sold in the community. Most were hoping that Mark Saunders, the owner of Coastal Development and developer of Seawatch would be at the meeting to address the current state of the development. They were hoping he would be available to talk to the attendees, the property owners and answer their questions directly and give some insight as to the future of this large, unfinished development. One property owner commented to Southeast Discovery they were hoping to hear the developer’s candid and honest current plan of finishing out the development – and that didn’t happen.

Instead, Deborah Boodro, who works for the developer - Coastal Communities, headed up the meeting. When asked about the building of amenities – such as the pool, clubhouse and the marina, she did not have an update on the status of these items. Boodro told the property owners in attendance Mark Saunders is committed to delivering all amenities in the original plan but the delivery will be pushed out until a larger base of homeowners are living in the community.  The property owners responded back to that statement with the notion that many of them are not inclined to build in the community until the amenities actually exist. One of the property owners that we spoke to left the POA feeling there is a real stalemate between the developer, Coastal Communities and the lion’s share of the current property owners at Seawatch.  And therefore, the development will continue to be clouded with uncertainty, unfinished amenities and the bulk of the real estate activity which will exist in Seawatch will consist of foreclosure activity and distressed lot owners willing to sell their lots at a fraction of what they paid for them to buyers willing to take a chance on the development at a much lower acquisition cost.

Some current facts about Seawatch;

The first home site in Seawatch was sold in November of 2003. In total, about 1,400 home sites have been sold by the developer, Coastal Communities. We know lot prices at Seawatch were introduced in a range of $90,000 to over $225,000 per lot. Let’s use $125,000 as an average lot price, which is a conservative figure for the average price per lot. 1400 (lots) at $125,000 (per sold lot) equal $175,000,000. That is an unbelievably large number.

Here it is, 8 years later in November of 2011, amenities are not finished nor are more being built. The Seawatch marina that was part of the master plan of the development located within Seawatch along the intracoastal waterway hasn’t been started and the website of Seawatch states that the development did in fact receive its CAMA permit to build the marina.  This entry on Seawatch’s website was on March 4, 2010 – and here is a copy of that announcement.

Seawatch Obtains Permit for Marina – March 4, 2010

After four years of persistent effort by many, we are pleased to announce we have received the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Permit for The Marina at Seawatch at Sunset Harborsm!

On The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - This 267-slip safe-harbor marina will be the largest of its kind in North Carolina south of New Bern. The acquisition of a select CAMA Permit for a 10+ acre Upland Basin Marina is a significant milestone for the Seawatch® community. The Marina at Seawatchsm will offer residents an easily accessible, protected launching point for cruising the Intracoastal Waterway and fun-filled excursions on the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s planned for The Marina at Seawatch at Sunset Harborsm:

•Located close to channel marker 24 on the ICW at the Lockwood Folly River

•10+ acre upland basin marina, offering excellent protection to sailboats and power vessels

•267 wet slips, including guest boat slips

•Depth of 8’ at mean low tide

•State-of-the-art floating dock system

•Easy, quick access to the Atlantic Ocean at the Lockwood Folly Inlet on the ICW

•2 private boat ramps

•Resident parking

•A 3/4 mile, 6’ wide pedestrian boardwalk around The Marina

•Crabbing and fishing piers with gazebos

•A pedestrian and passenger cart bridge extending from the Marina to the Waterway Village of Brisa de Mar

A timetable for construction of the Marina is in development. Our first priority, of course, is continuing with Seawatch’s infrastructure and roadway construction progress and the first phase of Sunset Park.

This is the real estate activity we were able to account for that has taken place at SeaWatch the past two years;

In 2010, there were 6 sales for the year in SeaWatch. All were resale home sites, not one of these sales were developer inventory.

According to records that Southeast Discovery was able to pull, there have been 6 home sites that have sold in 2011 and here is that data;

Closing Date       Closing Price     Days on Market

2.11.11                   $25,000                  29

2.11.11                   $25,000                206

2.16.11                   $28,000                217

4.8.11                   $11,000                418

5.2.11                   $12,250                  59

5.25.11                   $24,000                728

It is a shame what has happened – or not happened at Seawatch. Yes, the market has been a challenge to developers. But the economy has been especially difficult on developers that have neglected to put the promised amenities in their communities – at a realistic pace. For Coastal Development to tell the property owners of Seawatch that amenities will go in when more people build on their lots doesn’t make sense.  Lot owners at Seawatch are already financially wounded by their purchase in this development. It is rather ignorant to think as a developer that lot owners will take the leap of faith (again) before the developer does – and build their home first in hopes that the amenities will eventually be built. In today’s economy, most lot owners are not going to take that chance.

Now we could defend the developer here as well and state that until the economy improves and more buyers buy lots and more property owners build homes within Seawatch, the build rate on the amenities will be – and could be expected to be – at a slower pace. But – with 1400 lots sold at an average price of $125,000 within the community, where is that capital that should have been used to build out the amenities of Seawatch?  We should not be having this discussion. The amenities and the marina should have already been completed with that amount of capital raised from lot sales.

Brunswick County continues to be a sought after area of the Atlantic coast for retirees and second home buyers. Being in the middle of two distinctly different towns – historic Wilmington and the vibrant Myrtle Beach give its location the best of two worlds, and a world of its own.   Brunswick County enjoys a strand of beaches to enjoy –Wrightsville Beach, Holden Beach, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach and Bald Head Island. In addition there are three smaller towns within the County that offer a small town coastal feel – Southport, Shallotte and Calabash.  Property taxes are low, the overall cost of living is low and the quality of life many who live here will tell you – is quite fabulous.

Last – Southeast Discovery would like to note, the land of Seawatch is some of the most attractive land we have seen in Brunswick County.  One, and most importantly, it has direct access to the intra coastal waterway. Two, it has great topography, not usually found in the coastal area and much of the development has beautiful tree coverage.   This is a very attractive development with natural attributes that a developer cannot create.  It has location, great topography for the coast and beautiful tree coverage.  So we wonder, with $175 million in lot sales, unless our numbers are way off, why hasn’t Coastal Development proceeded with the marina after receiving the CAMA permit and put the other proposed amenities in the community?

We can’t help but think if this were done, several things would happen as this economy recovers –

1.   Many property owners who own lots in Seawatch would become home owners.

2.   The inventory of available lots in Seawatch that are currently in foreclosure would be purchased at a faster clip and this would eventually eliminate the distressed lot market that exists in the development.

3.   Overall, lots in Seawatch would begin to increase in value as the development becomes a community with built amenities.

4.   Home construction would take place in this community as people would feel confident that Seawatch is becoming the community that was originally marketed to the public back in the early 2000’s.

5.   This would be a shot in the arm for Brunswick County. Building activity which could put many in the county to work and an increase in property tax revenue as lot owners become homeowners.  Not to mention, it would bring sales tax revenue to Brunswick County as many who move into this large community would be patronizing the businesses throughout the county.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Factors Affecting the Success of Consumer Debt Negotiations

Factors Affecting the Success of Consumer Credit
Card Debt Settlements & Negotiations


 


More and more consumers are bogged down by overwhelming debt. A large portion of this debt consists of unsecured consumer debt – mainly credit card debt. The huge amount of debt and the high interest rates have resulted in a drastic increase in consumer bankruptcies. However, bankruptcy is not suitable for all consumers, either because they don’t qualify or they choose not to file. As such, more and more consumers are turning to bankruptcy alternatives in order to manage or resolve their credit card debt issues.


One such potentially viable alternative is known as debt settlement or debt negotiation – the process whereby consumers or their advocates actively negotiate with the credit card companies and collection agencies to pay a portion of the total debt and have the debt considered paid or satisfied (whether such settlements can still negatively affect a consumer’s credit rating or credit score is a discussion beyond the scope of this article). However, consumers need to be aware that there are many factors that can affect the success of credit card settlements and negotiations. The following are a few:


1. Consumer Hardship: Creditors will often look at consumers’ ability to pay when determining whether or not to settle and at what amount. Obviously, creditors are less likely to make a great settlement offer to consumers that have enough income and/or assets to make their minimum monthly payments. Likewise, creditors may be more likely to file a lawsuit against such consumers (see factor number 3 below). A good debt negotiation attorney can help consumers accurately and strategically communicate the hardships the consumer is facing to the creditors.


2. “Maturity” of the Debt: Creditors may be less willing to work with consumers who are currently paying their debts or who recently started to miss payments. Therefore, consumers may receive better offers after they have been in default for a considerable amount of time (i.e., their debt has “matured”). However, consumers need to be aware that the likelihood of being sued by creditors also increases the longer consumers fail to make payments. As such, it is a good idea for consumers to consult with good debt negotiation attorneys to determine what strategies, and their associated risks, are best for them.


3. Ability to Collect on Judgments: Creditors may be more willing to negotiate with consumers instead of filing lawsuits if collecting on court judgments may be difficult or expensive. For example, consumers in states where the laws prohibit creditors from garnishing wages or levying bank accounts may receive more favorable offers than consumers in states with laws more favorable to creditors. Again, it is advisable for consumers to consult with an attorney to help them understand the collection laws in their states.


4. The Negotiator: Who is conducting the negotiations may be the factor that affects the success of credit card settlements and negotiations the most. Those experienced in this area will likely be able to negotiate better settlements due to their knowledge of the applicable laws, understanding of the policies of each creditor, and expertise in negotiation. For example, a good debt negotiation lawyer can assess all of the above-mentioned factors, as well as the vast number of other factors not discussed here, so that a customized strategy can be developed that gives each individual consumer the best chance of achieving positive results with respect to credit card debt settlements and negotiations.


McGrath & Spielberger helps consumers by providing viable, personalized solutions to their debt problems.

Monday, October 31, 2011

5 More Reasons to Change Your Will

 5 More Reasons to Change Your Will



  1. You no longer own certain items specified in your will. (If you thought you were going to make Junior happy by passing your ’65 Mustang onto him but then had to sell it when your Enron stock went bad, Junior may be left empty handed.)

  2. The beneficiaries of your will have had significant life changes. (If Niece Belinda has quit the symphony orchestra for good and moved to Amsterdam, do you really want to give her the Stradivarius, knowing she may just parlay it into some top grade Dutch hash?)

  3. Your financial situation has changed. (Given that your Enron stock didn’t work out so well and you’re now living hand-to-mouth, does that third cousin on your mother’s side really need something, or do you want to focus what you have left on your kids?)

  4. You aren’t the same person you used to be. (I don’t mean this in a Chastity / Chaz Bono kind of way – at least not for most of you. I mean that, over time, your own values and decisions about what you want to do with your belongings may have changed.)

  5. Elvis has left the building. (The reality is that we sometimes outlive those whom we thought would outlive us. If one of the potential beneficiaries has passed on, you may want to update your will.)


 McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides will services in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio: http://mcgrathspielberger.com/areas-of-practice/wills.


 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Women Don't Like Working for Female Partners?

Women Don’t Like Working for Female Partners?


 


A female law professor in Chicago surveyed 142 legal secretaries (almost all of them women) at larger law firms and asked them if they preferred working for male partners, female partners, male associates, or female associates. Not a single one preferred working for a female partner. Not one!


Disclaimer: ladies, please don’t shoot the messenger here – I am only reporting what this survey found!


Most of the legal secretaries polled in this 2009 online survey were middle aged and had significant professional experience. Some of the reasons they gave for not wanting to work for female partners:



  • Female partners are passive / aggressive.

  • Female partners make it emotional / personal but males don’t.

  • Female partners are less flexible.

  • Female partners may tend to be demeaning.

  • They are “such a pain in the ass!”

  • They are either too mean or too nice/too emotional and can’t handle the stress. “Either way, their attitude/lack of maturity somehow involves you being a punching bag.”*


*A female attorney once told me “You have to be a bitch; if you’re nice, they walk all over you.”


As time goes by, it has become more generally recognized that women in higher level, demanding positions can face more challenges than their male counterparts for many reasons, often involving societal expectations and the challenge of establishing an acceptable work / life / family balance.


The medium sized firm I was previously a partner in had one of the best diversity rates in the state; we had an almost equal number of male and female partners. Legal support staff members seemed to prefer working for the male partners, and I did hear comments similar to the ones reported by this survey.


 McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides legal services in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We are happy to work with clients of all genders.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

CAN MY CREDIT CARD COMPANY STILL SUE ME?

Can My Credit Card Company Still Sue Me?:  A Summary of the Statutes of Limitations for Credit Card Debt


In today’s struggling economy incurring debt seems to be inevitable. In particular, consumer credit card debt is at an all-time high and is severely impacting the financial and emotional lives of millions of Americans. Credit card companies often attempt to charge exorbitant interest rates, make harassing collection calls and, quite often, file collection lawsuits to gain judgments against consumers who are ill-equipped to defend themselves. But often times, unknown to the consumers, a viable defense to such lawsuits exists – expiration of the statute of limitations.


In short, a statute of limitations is a period of time within which a lawsuit or claim must be filed before it can be dismissed as not being timely. There are statutes of limitations of various timeframes for many different areas of the law (e.g., filing a personal injury lawsuit, collecting on a judgment, etc.) which begin to “run” at various times (e.g., time of the injury, date of the judgment, etc.). The statutes of limitations applicable to the filing of lawsuits based on nonpayment of credit card debt vary in length by state and generally begin to run from the date of the first missed payment. However, please keep in mind that there are a number of events which can re-start the statute of limitations time period.


The following is a summary of the statutes of limitations that may apply to credit card debt collection lawsuits in the Southeastern Atlantic states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. However, this summary is provided merely as a starting point for consumers - there are many factors which can affect the applicability or relevance of a particular statute of limitations and many of such factors are beyond the scope of this article. Consumers should consult with an experienced debt negotiation attorney before proceeding to raise these time-barring defense tools against credit card companies.


North Carolina



  • The statute of limitations for credit card debts is generally three (3) years

  • The statute of limitations for promissory notes is generally five (5) years


South Carolina



  • The statute of limitations for credit card debts is generally three (3) years

  • The statute of limitations for promissory notes is generally three (3) years


Georgia



  • The statute of limitations for credit card debts is generally four (4) years

  • The statute of limitations for promissory notes is generally six (6) years


Florida



  • The statute of limitations for credit card debts is generally five (5) years

  • The statute of limitations for promissory notes is generally five (5) years


 McGrath & Spielberger helps consumers by providing viable, personalized solutions to their debt problems.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 5 Reasons to Change Your Will

Top 5 Reasons to Change Your Will 


 



  1. You don’t have a will. (So having one would be a change!)

  2. Your marital status has changed. (Do you really still want your ex getting all your stuff?)

  3. You have moved to a new state. (It’s possible that not every part of your New York will would be enforceable once you get old & cranky, move to Florida, start playing golf 5 times a week and eat dinner at 4:30 p.m.)

  4. Your family has grown. (I’m mainly referring to having a child, not the 25 pounds you may have packed on.)

  5. You don’t like your family any longer. (Unfortunately, ill will – pun intended - within families is one of the primary motivators for will changes.)


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides will services in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio: www.McGrathSpielberger.com.


 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rating Wells Fargo Bank's Mortgage Loan Modification Performance

Rating Wells Fargo Bank's Mortgage Loan Modification Performance


 Wells Fargo Bank's performance in assisting distressed homeowners was ranked as average among large mortgage loan servicers, according to the Federal Government's most recent report. The Making Homes Affordable ("MHA") Final Report for the second quarter of 2011 states that Wells's performance is in need of "moderate" improvement. Let's take a closer look at how Wells performed in five (5) key categories, with all the information below based on conclusions by the Federal Government.


1.  Did Wells effectively follow guidelines for identifying and contacting homeowners who may be eligible for the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP")?  No. Wells did not meet the required standards, with moderate improvement needed.


2.  Did Wells effectively follow guidelines for evaluating and assisting homeowners?  Yes. Wells met the required standards. However, minor improvement may be indicated.


3.  Did Wells effectively follow guidelines for general program management, program data reporting, and program compliance?  Yes. Wells met the required standards. However, minor improvement may be indicated.


4.  How often did Wells make errors greater than 5% in calculating the homeowner applicant's income (a crucial factor in determining eligibility for a HAMP mortgage loan modification)?  This occurred 4.4% of the time, with moderate improvement needed.


5.  How often did the Federal Government disagree with Wells as to whether a homeowner was eligible for a permanent HAMP mortgage loan modification?  The Government disagreed with Wells on this issue only 0.4% of the time and concluded that Wells was performing adequately by this measurement. Additionally, 1.3% of the time, the Government was unable to determine whether Wells made the correct determination on a homeowner’s eligibility.


Conclusion: President Obama's administration has concluded that Wells requires moderate improvement in its performance as a mortgage loan servicer participating in HAMP, and that the Federal Government will not withhold incentives until improvement is shown.


McGrath & Spielberger provides legal services in an attempt to assist borrowers seeking mortgage loan modifications or other mortgage - related relief.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rating Citi's Mortgage Loan Modification Performance

 


Rating Citi's Mortgage Loan Modification Performance


 For a 2 minute video of this blog, please click here: Citi Mortgage's HAMP Performance.


 CitiMortgage's performance in assisting distressed homeowners was ranked as average among large mortgage loan servicers, according to the Federal Government's most recent report. The Making Homes Affordable ("MHA") Final Report for the second quarter of 2011 states that Citi's performance is in need of "moderate" improvement. Let's take a closer look at how Citi performed in five (5) key categories, with all the information below based on conclusions by the Federal Government.


1.  Did Citi effectively follow guidelines for identifying and contacting homeowners who may be eligible for the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP")?  No. Citi did not meet the required standards, with moderate improvement needed.


2.  Did Citi effectively follow guidelines for evaluating and assisting homeowners?  Yes. Citi met the required standards. However, minor improvement may be indicated.


3.  Did Citi effectively follow guidelines for general program management, program data reporting, and program compliance?  No. Citi did not meet the required standards, with substantial improvement needed.


4.  How often did Citi make errors greater than 5% in calculating the homeowner applicant's income (a crucial factor in determining eligibility for a HAMP mortgage loan modification)?  This occurred 12.0% of the time, placing Citi into the worst category, with substantial improvement needed.


5.  How often did the Federal Government disagree with Citi as to whether a homeowner was eligible for a permanent HAMP mortgage loan modification?  The Government disagreed with Citi on this issue only 0.5% of the time and concluded that Citi was performing adequately by this measurement. Additionally, 5.5% of the time, the Government was unable to determine whether Citi made the correct determination on a homeowner’s eligibility.


Conclusion: President Obama's administration has concluded that Citi requires moderate improvement in its performance as a mortgage loan servicer participating in HAMP, and that the Federal Government will not withhold incentives until improvement is shown.


McGrath & Spielberger provides legal services in an attempt to assist borrowers seeking mortgage loan modifications or other mortgage - related relief.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rating Bank of America's Mortgage Loan Modification Performance

Rating Bank of America's Performance
Under the Federal Goverment's Mortgage
Loan Modification Program (HAMP)


Click here to watch a 2 minute video summary: Bank of America's HAMP Performance


Bank of America's performance in assisting distressed homeowners was ranked as one of the worst among large mortgage loan servicers, according to the Federal Government's most recent report. The Making Homes Affordable ("MHA") Final Report for the second quarter of 2011 states that BOA's performance is in need of "substantial" improvement. Let's take a closer look at how BOA performed in five (5) key categories, with all the information below based on conclusions by the Federal Government.


1. Did BOA effectively follow guidelines for identifying and contacting homeowners who may be eligible for the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP")? No. BOA did not meet the required standards, with moderate improvement needed.


2. Did BOA effectively follow guidelines for evaluating and assisting homeowners? No. BOA did not meet the required standards, with moderate improvement needed.


3. Did BOA effectively follow guidelines for general program management, program data reporting, and program compliance? No. BOA did not meet the required standards, with moderate improvement needed.


4. How often did BOA make errors greater than 5% in calculating the homeowner applicant's income (a crucial factor in determining eligibility for a HAMP mortgage loan modification)? This occurred 13.2% of the time, placing BOA into the worst category, with substantial improvement needed.


5. How often did the Federal Government disagree with BOA as to whether a homeowner was eligible for a permanent HAMP mortgage loan modification? The Government disagreed with BOA on this issue only 0.8% of the time and concluded that BOA was performing adequately by this measurement. Additionally, 8.2% of the time, the Government was unable to determine whether BOA made the correct determination on a homeowner’s eligibility.


Conclusion: President Obama's administration has concluded that BOA requires substantial improvement in its performance as a mortgage loan servicer participating in HAMP, and that the Federal Government will withhold incentives until improvement is shown. (We wonder if BOA would be discussing the monthly debit card fee if they were going to receive the financial incentives.)


McGrath & Spielberger provides legal services in an attempt to assist borrowers seeking mortgage loan modifications or other mortgage - related relief.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

McGrath & Spielberger’s E-lawyering Recognized by the American Bar Association

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McGrath & Spielberger’s E-lawyering Recognized by the


American Bar Association


The cover story for the current American Bar Association's Law Practice Magazine recognizes McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC in its discussion about law firms which have incorporated a "virtual practice" to further assist clients. McGrath & Spielberger is one of the only law firms in the United States which practices law both traditionally and virtually in multiple states. Here is a link to the Firm's online legal services portal.


To access the story and see the comments about McGrath & Spielberger (see right column of story), please click here: ABA Law Practice Magazine: Moving to a Virtual Practice Model - Do You Have the Right Stuff?


McGrath & Spielberger uses the internet and its online legal services platform to reduce costs and increase efficiency, with resulting benefits to all. The Firm has taken extra measures to ensure that its website and online legal services platform is especially secure. Please don't hesitate to contact us if we may be of assistance to you.


 


 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Aren’t Borrowers Offered HAMP Loan Modifications?

Why Aren’t Borrowers Offered HAMP Loan Modifications?


 


Here are 10 fundamental reasons borrowers may not be offered a mortgage loan modification under the Federal Government’s HAMP loan modification program:



  1. the property is not the borrower’s primary residence;



  2. the unpaid principal balance (“UPB”) is much higher than the net present value of the property;



  3. the borrower is not delinquent and default is not reasonably foreseeable;



  4. the borrower cannot document a financial hardship;



  5. the borrower cannot represent that (s)he has insufficient liquid assets to make the monthly mortgage payments;



  6. the UPB is greater than $729,750 (for a single housing unit property);



  7. the property is vacant or condemned;



  8. the mortgage loan at issue was originated after January 1, 2009;



  9. the mortgage loan was previously modified under HAMP; and



  10. the property is not a 1 to 4 unit residential property.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Summary of Government Mortgage Loan Relief Programs

Government Mortgage Loan Relief Programs: Summary


 


The following federal government programs are summarized herein:




  • Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”)




  • Home Affordable Unemployment Program (“UP”)




  • Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (“HAFA”)




  • Second Lien Modification Program (“2MP”)




 HAMP provides eligible borrowers with a chance to modify their first / primary mortgage loans to make them more affordable on a monthly basis. This program has written guidelines which servicers (the organizations which actually handle the day to day processing and maintenance of most residential mortgage loans) are supposed to follow. Qualified borrowers who apply and are able to make it through the challenging process should be rewarded by one or more of the following: an interest rate reduction, a loan term extension, a principal forbearance and/or a reduction in the actual principal of the loan (extremely rare). 


 UP is designed to help borrowers unable to make their mortgage payments because of unemployment. This program grants qualified borrowers a 3 month or longer period during which their mortgage payments are reduced or suspended.    


 HAFA may allow borrowers who can’t afford their mortgage to utilize a short sale or deed-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure to avoid foreclosure. This program grants financial incentives to servicers, investors, and borrowers that utilize a short sale or a DIL to avoid a foreclosure on a HAMP-eligible loan.    


 2MP is intended to work only in combination with HAMP to offer borrowers with secondary mortgages even greater affordability. If a borrower’s primary mortgage loan is modified under HAMP, a loan servicer who participates in 2MP must offer to modify the secondary mortgage and offer to accept a lump sum payment in exchange for full or partial extinguishment of the secondary mortgage.


 McGrath & Spielberger helps borrowers try to find solutions to their mortgage issues.


 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Abortion Law Partly Blocked by Federal Judge

Judge Blocks Part of Texas Abortion Law


By Debra Cassens Weiss, as published by the American Bar Association


A federal judge has blocked key parts of a Texas law that required women seeking abortions to view sonograms of the fetus and listen to the heartbeat.


U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday, finding the law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors and patients, report Reuters, the New York Times and the Austin American-Statesman. "The act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen," Sparks wrote.


Last week, Sparks rejected an anti-abortion lawyer’s request to file an amicus brief in the case on behalf of “317 Texas women hurt by abortion,” according to Texas Lawyer's Tex Parte Blog. In a sternly worded order, Sparks called the San Antonio lawyer, Allan Parker, “anything but competent.”


“A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant,” Sparks wrote. The judge went on to seal one of the exhibits—which was a picture of an aborted fetus, Parker says.


Above the Law had deemed Sparks’ order the “benchslap of the day.” Parker tells Texas Lawyer that Sparks’ criticism was “hurtful,” but he respects the judge and “he’s entitled to his opinion.”


In an order in a different case, also issued last week, Sparks invited two apparently squabbling members of the bar to attend what he called a "kindergarten party" to learn basic discovery skills.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Even Lawyers Get Spanked Sometimes!

Even Lawyers Get Spanked Sometimes!


From the outside, you never know what someone does or doesn't deserve. However, based on my experience, there are many, many lawyers who need a judge to treat them this way! Photobucket


Photobucket

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Foreclosure Rate: Up or Down and Why?

Is the Foreclosure Rate Up or Down, and Why?


My wife and I house shopped on and off for several years until recently purchasing another home. Almost every real estate agent we met during that time period declared “The housing market is rebounding” or “We’re past the worst of it”. I didn’t bother to argue, but I always wondered how ongoing foreclosures, lower home sale prices, less sale activity, teachers being fired by the hundreds, libraries closing, and potholes in the road not being fixed were indicators of improvements in process or improvements right around the corner. Of course, general economic conditions impact the rate of foreclosures, and the rate of foreclosures in turn affects general economic conditions. So what is the foreclosure rate now, compared to what it was the last few years, and why?


Let’s take a look at the United States foreclosure rate since January, 2008. Please be advised that all statistics are approximate, and that there are many sources of information for such data, not all of which agree.



















































Month, Year



 Foreclosures Started This Month



Foreclosures Completed This Month



Jan., 2008



107,000



47,000



July, 2008



110,000



78,000



Jan., 2009



100,000



67,000



July, 2009



136,000



88,000



Jan., 2010



105,000



90,000



July, 2010



98,000



93,000



Jan., 2011



75,000



76,000



May, 2011



62,000



68,000



 


What do these statistics tell us? They tell us that the rate of foreclosure is actually lessening. Why? There are several reasons, one primary reason being that the rate of mortgage loan modifications is increasing. Now let’s compare the foreclosure rate versus the rate of initiating mortgage loan modifications since the Government modification programs were initiated in 2009. Please be advised that all statistics are approximate, and that there are many sources of information for such data, not all of which agree.




































Month, Year



Cumulative Foreclosures Completed Since April, 2009



Cumulative Mortgage Modifications Initiated via Govt. Programs Since April, 2009



July, 2009



300,000



800,000



Jan., 2010



800,000



2,150,000



July, 2010



1,300,000



3,300,000



Jan., 2011



1,850,000



4,300,000



May, 2011



2,100,000



4,900,000



 


As you can see, in the first 5 months of 2011, there have been approximately 600,000 mortgage loan modifications initiated via Federal Government programs versus “only” 250,000 foreclosures completed.  The increased availability to mortgage loan modifications has helped to slow the tide of foreclosures. This is good news, but we’re not through the storm yet.


If you have challenges related to your mortgage loan, or are otherwise interested in a mortgage loan modification, please don’t hesitate to contact McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC: contact us.

 


 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

US Government Claims Mortgage Loan Modification Success

US Government Claims Mortgage Loan Modification Success


The Federal Government claims a remarkable increase in successfully modifying mortgage loans over the past 13 months. The July, 2011 U.S. Housing Scorecard includes the following information.



  • Since HAMP began in April, 2009, 1,639,382 borrowers entered into trial modifications, with 763,071 (46.55%) having converted to permanent mortgage loan modification status. Considering that 115,515 trials were reported to be in process, when those trials are removed (as the eventual conversion rate of those trial can't be known, although it can be predicted), the all-time success rate in converting HAMP trial mortgage loan modifications into permanent mortgage loan modifications is 50.07%.

  • As of June, 2010, 42% of eligible applicants to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) had been converted to permanent mortgage loan modifications. Since June, 2010, the Obama Administration claims a  success rate if 74%. Significant changes were made to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) in June, 2010, as a result of widespread and intense criticism of the program.

  • Between July, 2010 and July, 2011, 74% of borrowers eligible for HAMP who applied for mortgage loan modifications via the Program achieved permanent loan modifications within 3.5 months of entering the Program (There is typically a mandatory 3 month "trial modification" period before the modification, after which the modification is supposed to become permanent if all conditions of the Program have been met.) In June, 2010, it reportedly took 5.2 months for 74% of participants to achieve permanent modification status.

  • HAMP modifications in 2011 have generally been larger in sum (greater reduction of the monthly payment amount), with correlating success rates.

  • As of July, 2011, 23,014 borrowers in a HAMP trial modification remained in trial status for 6 mos. or more, compared to 165,543 as of June, 2010.

  • Overall, 91% of borrowers who had a reduction of over 50% in monthly payments remain in HAMP after 1 year.


If you have challenges related to your mortgage loan, or are otherwise interested in a mortgage loan modification, please don’t hesitate to contact McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC: contact us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is the Government Modifying Loans?

Federal Government Housing and Mortgage Scorecard for July, 2011: is the Government Modifying Loans?


Periodically, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works with the Department of Treasury to release a "Housing Scorecard" which is designed to summarize the most recent and relevant information available regarding the American housing and mortgage loan market. The July, 2011 Scorecard includes the following information.



  • Only 4.4% of prime mortgages were delinquent more than 30 days (down from a 2010 high of 5.9%).

  • 32.9% of sub-prime mortgages were delinquent more than 30 days (a staggering number, but down from a 2010 high of 36.6%).

  • Since the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) began in April, 2009, 1,639,382 borrowers entered into trial modifications, with 763,071 (46.55%) having converted to permanent mortgage loan modification status. 115,515 trials were in progress as of July, 2011. 

  • 74% of eligible applicants who applied for mortgage loan modifications via HAMP achieved permanent loan modifications within 3.5 months of entering the Program. (There is typically a mandatory 3 month "trial modification" period before the modification, after which the modification is supposed to become permanent if all conditions of the Program have been met.) In June, 2010, it reportedly took 5.2 months for 74% of participants to achieve permanent modification status.

  • 93% of those "permanent" modifications were still active after 6 months; 84% were still active after 12 months.

  • Of those who have had their mortgage loan modifications modified via a Federal Government sponsored program, and who are still in the program 1 year later, approximately 20% are now 60 days delinquent in their payments, despite the modifications.

  • Of those who have had their mortgage loan modifications modified via a Federal Government sponsored program, and who are still in the program 6 months later, approximately 10.5% are now 60 days delinquent in their payments, despite the modifications.


If you have challenges related to your mortgage loan, or are otherwise interested in a mortgage loan modification, please don’t hesitate to contact McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC: contact us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

NC Bar Ethics on Cloud Computing

The following letter was sent today from attorney Jason A. McGrath to the NC Bar Ethics Committee and NC Bar Ethics Counsel. Here is a link to the proposed ethics opinion (scroll down on the linked page).


UPDATE: a few hours after this posting, the NC Bar updated its website and proposed FEO 6 was removed. I believe it is being reconsidered at this time. The two bullet points which concerned me are below, and were proposed minimum requirements:


• An agreement on how confidential client information will be handled in keeping with the lawyer’s professional responsibilities must be included in the SaaS vendor’s Terms of Service or Service Level Agreement, or in a separate agreement that states that the employees at the vendor’s data center are agents of the law firm and have a fiduciary responsibility to protect confidential client information and client property.


• The agreement with the vendor must specify that firm’s data will be hosted only within a specified geographic area. If by agreement the data is hosted outside of the United States, the law firm must determine that the hosting jurisdiction has privacy laws, data security laws, and protections against unlawful search and seizure that are as rigorous as those of the United States and the state of North Carolina.


===================


Regarding: Proposed 2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 6: Subscribing to Software as a Service While Fulfilling the Duties of Confidentiality and Preservation of Client Property (April 21, 2011)


 NC Bar Ethics Committee:


 I write to offer formal commentary on proposed FEO 6, which addresses the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) by North Carolina attorneys and law firms. I realize that proposed FEO 6 may already be back in Committee for further tweaking. I thank you in advance for your time and effort in considering the thoughts I share herein.


 I share the following to provide some perspective for my view points. Although I have a traditional law background (practicing law since 1996, first 5 years spent as a criminal prosecutor), I was one of the first attorneys in North Carolina to open a virtual law office (“VLO”), and one of the first in the country to have a multi-jurisdictional VLO. My firm currently services clients in multiple states, and combines a traditional law practice with the virtual practice of law. I am a member of the American Bar Association’s “E-Lawyering Task Force” and I recently served as a panelist at the Online Bar Association’s inaugural conference in Miami. My firm pays for increased website and email security.


 As technology advances and as such technology becomes more and more prevalent in and integrated into our society, including our professions, new methods exist to accomplish the same results previously accomplished in other ways. The electronic folder replaces the file cabinet, the MS Word file replaces the notepad, the email replaces the physical letter, etc. The level of security required for electronic communications and data storage should be similar to that required for physical communications and data storage.


 I believe that the majority of proposed FEO 6 is reasonable; certainly the Ethics Committee is headed in the right direction. However, I have significant concerns over the first two bullet points under “Opinion #2”, both of which may not be realistic / practical requirements as currently written. Since the concerns are similar for both bullet points, I will address the two requirements together.


 Ideally, I can understand that it would be preferable to require SaaS vendors to certify that their security methods comply with Rules of Professional Conduct and that their data is stored in the U.S.A. or a location with relevant laws at least as strict and enforceable as those in the U.S.A. and in North Carolina. However, the disparity in bargaining power is such that larger SaaS vendors would refuse to do so altogether, and smaller SaaS vendors would either refuse or charge the law firm for any and all changes which such certification would require. (I have experienced this very issue, in which a small SaaS vendor refused to make even minor changes to its practices and service; I chose not to do business with said vendor and ended up paying more to use a different vendor’s Saas.) The end result would be that NC attorneys would have very little access to reasonably priced SaaS, putting us at a competitive disadvantage.


 Please keep in mind that I am not only focusing on the immediate increase in cost and decrease in options for the NC lawyer. The end result actually hurts the residents and businesses of North Carolina. The more we attorneys have to pay for SaaS (or anything else), the higher fees we have to charge our clients to make up for it. My firm often offers lower fees when compared to firms which do not efficiently utilize SaaS and other technology; that would not continue if overly restrictive regulations drive my firm’s costs up. The net result would be decreased access to legal services for those in lower income brackets.


 To require lawyers to only use SaaS vendors which will agree to the conditions in the proposed FEO would be like telling lawyers that they can only use a physical file cabinet with a specially made lock, and that we must obtain certification from the lock manufacturer that said lock is good enough to supply the level of security required by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Said manufacturers, of course, would not comply. Instead, they would point out (correctly) that their locks meet industry standards, are used by banks, the government, etc. and are sufficient.[1]


 Other analogies which must be considered include the use of courier services and copy services. I am unaware of a single lawyer or law firm which has successfully attempted to have Fed Ex, UPS or Kinko’s change their terms of service to specifically state that their services comply with Rules of Profession Conduct. Attorneys use private companies every day to handle their data in some form or fashion. There is nothing stopping a Kinko’s employee from reading each and every document sent to Kinko’s to be copied. There is nothing stopping a Fed Ex employee from reading every document which passes through his/her hands. However, we use such companies without further thought, confident that the industry standards regarding security and confidentiality are appropriate and sufficient.


 As long as SaaS vendors certify that their security meets a certain grade (an industry standard) and that certification is supported by the vendor’s actual practices, that vendor should be approved for use by NC lawyers. At the end of the day, what good is 100% security if obtaining that standard is so cost-prohibitive that a lawyer can’t stay in business, or can’t offer anything but the highest rates? I can guarantee you that the majority of my clients would prefer reasonable security and reasonable prices, as opposed to incredible security and higher prices.[2]


 I fully recognize that these issues are extremely challenging ones, and that the standards which we require of ourselves must be a work in progress. I encourage the Committee to continue to explore reasonable standards which accomplish the necessary security and confidentiality while also allowing NC lawyers and clients to fully benefit from the advantages offered by SaaS.


                                                                                                 Sincerely,


 


                                                                                                 Jason A. McGrath, Esq.


 cc: Alice Neece Mine, NC Bar Ethics




[1] I would point out that I have had Clerks of Court in multiple counties in North Carolina use Yahoo and Gmail to e-mail me with regard to official court matters/cases; I make no further comment on the levels of security involved in such emails.




[2] It may be that law firms using SaaS or similar services/data storage options should be encouraged or required to disclose the same to clients, or even to obtain client consent.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Which Mortgage Loans May Qualify for a Government Mortgage Loan Modification?

Which Mortgage Loans May Qualify for a Government Mortgage Loan Modification?


Does it matter if my loan is owned, securitized, or guaranteed by an agency of the Federal Government? Yes. Only certain loans qualify for possible modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”).


How do I find out if my loan is owned, securitized, or guaranteed by an agency of the Federal Government? Your mortgage loan servicer is obligated to provide this information upon request.


Does the amount of the mortgage loan matter? Yes. If the loan is owned, securitized, or guaranteed by Freddie Mac, for example, the original loan amount cannot be more than $729,750.


My mortgage loan has already been modified once; may I still qualify for a government modification? If your loan has already been modified via HAMP, it is not eligible for another modification via HAMP. However, you may still be able to obtain a mortgage loan modification in other ways.


My mortgage loan was acquired after January 1, 2009; may I still qualify? No. Only loans taken out on or before January 1, 2009 are eligible for modification under HAMP. However, you may still be able to obtain a mortgage loan modification in other ways.


May secondary mortgage loans qualify for modification under HAMP? No, not via HAMP. However, if your primary loan is modified through HAMP, your secondary mortgage loan may qualify to be modified via the Federal Government’s Second Lien Modification program.


Does it matter if the loan is for my primary residence as opposed to for a property where I do not reside? Yes. HAMP only applies to mortgage loans for the borrower’s primary residence.


This is the final article in a July, 2011 series about the U.S. Government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”). McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides professional foreclosure prevention negotiation and mortgage loan modification services.


 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Who May Qualify for a Government Mortgage Loan Modification?

Who May Qualify for a Government Mortgage Loan Modification?


I obtained my mortgage in 2008; am I eligible? If you obtained your mortgage loan on or before January 1, 2009, then you may be eligible for a loan modification under the Government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”).


I’m current on my payments, so I’m not eligible, right?  WRONG. Borrowers who are current on their mortgage payments can still be eligible for HAMP, as long as they and their loan meet the other criteria, including financial hardship.


Can I get a loan modification if I have no income at all? Probably not, since the goal is to reduce mortgage loan payments to an amount which allows the borrower to make the new payment amount now and into the future. (In other words, there would probably be a reluctance to reduce the loan payment, only to have the borrower not be able to even make the reduced payments.)


Does the ratio of my mortgage payments vs. my expenses matter? Yes, this is one of the key factors. To qualify under HAMP, a borrower’s mortgage payment(s) must make up more than 31% of the borrower’s monthly income.


I need to get a loan modification for a home I don’t currently live in; can I? HAMP was designed to modify mortgage loans for primary residences – the home in which the borrower primarily lives.


I’ve heard that I might have to take some sort of class to be eligible for government mortgage loan modification – is that true? Borrowers whose monthly total debt payment to income ratio is 55% or more are supposed to enter into a free credit counseling class to be eligible.


The bank has already started foreclosure proceedings against me; can I still qualify for a government loan modification?  Yes. Borrowers against whom foreclosure proceedings are pending can be eligible.


What if I am filing bankruptcy? Filing bankruptcy, in itself, does not render a borrower ineligible.


This is the second article in a July, 2011 series about the U.S. Government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”). The next article will discuss which loans may qualify for a HAMP loan modification. McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides professional foreclosure prevention negotiation and mortgage loan modification services.


 


 

Monday, July 11, 2011

5 Basics to Know About the Government's Mortgage Loan Modification Program.

5 Basics to Know About the Government’s Mortgage Loan Modification Program (“HAMP”)



  1. The Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”) is intended to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by modifying their mortgage loans so that the payments are affordable both now and over the long term, and can thus be made.

  2. Not all homeowners qualify, and not all mortgage loans qualify.

  3. Both FHA and private loans may qualify.

  4. HAMP is designed for primary mortgage loans, not secondary mortgage loans.

  5. Homeowners with no income usually will not qualify.


 This is the first article in a July, 2011 series about the U.S. Government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”). The next article will discuss who may qualify for a HAMP loan modification. McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC provides professional foreclosure prevention negotiation services and also helps homeowners attempt to obtain a mortgage loan modification.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: What You Need to Know

 Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: What You Need to Know.


What is a Deed In Lieu of Foreclosure?


The Federal Government defines a deed in lieu of foreclosure (“DIL”) as follows: the process by which a homeowner may voluntarily transfer the deed to a home to the servicer when payments cannot be made. Note: the Federal Government use of the term “servicer” here may or may not be correct. The deed may be transferred to the mortgage loan holder (the entity actually owed the $) instead of the servicer (the entity which handles day to day items relating to the mortgage loan). Elsewhere, it describes a DIL as: to avoid foreclosure (“in lieu” of foreclosure), a deed is given to the lender to fulfill the obligation to repay the debt; this process does not allow the borrower to remain in the house but helps avoid the costs, time, and effort associated with foreclosure.


How is a DIL different than a mortgage loan modification or a short sale?


A mortgage loan modification results in the homeowner remaining the homeowner, but with a mortgage loan which has had its terms changed. By way of example: a 30 year loan at 7% with monthly payments of $2000 might be modified so that the loan is paid back over 35 years and/or the interest rate is lowered, resulting in a lower monthly payment for the homeowner.


A short sale is the process by which a homeowner sells the home for less than what the homeowner owes the mortgage loan holder, but the mortgage loan holder agrees to accept the sale amount as repayment of the mortgage loan. By way of example: a homeowner owes $300,000 but is only able to sell the home for $250,000 and the bank / mortgage loan holder agrees to accept the $250,000 as repayment of the mortgage loan (instead of demanding the full $300,000).


A deed in lieu of foreclosure is when the mortgage loan servicer and/or mortgage loan holder agrees to accept the deed to the house (accept full legal and actual ownership of the house), typically in return for allowing the homeowner to walk away free and clear of any further obligations. As you can tell by the name of this process, this may occur when the home was heading toward an involuntary foreclosure.


Do mortgage loan holders have to accept deeds in lieu of foreclosure?


Sometimes – but not usually. Through the Federal Government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, loans originated on or before January 1, 2009 which are owned, guaranteed, or securitized by Freddie Mac may be subject to a deed in lieu of foreclosure. However, there are other requirements to qualify, including attempts at loan modification and short sale before attempting to utilize a DIL.


For loans which aren’t associated with Freddie Mac as described above, the mortgage loan holder (and the investors which have influence over that mortgage loan) has some discretion regarding alternatives such as mortgage loan modifications, short sales, and deeds in lieu of foreclosure.


Why don’t banks and other mortgage loan holders like deeds in lieu of foreclosure?


There are numerous reasons, and here are two of them.


If a homeowner owes $300,000 on the mortgage loan but the mortgage loan holder could only sell the property for $250,000 if it took ownership of the home, obviously this would not be attractive to the mortgage loan holder.


Another issue is that the mortgage loan holder may have to deal with any title issues which accompany the property, or spend time, money, and resources ensuring that the title is clear and conveyable. The last thing any homeowner wants – whether that homeowner is an individual or a bank – is to find out that there are issues which might interfere with subsequent free use and/or sale of the property.


So, bottom line, is a deed in lieu of foreclosure likely to be a way to get a homeowner out of a mortgage mess?


Unfortunately, probably not. However, it usually doesn’t hurt to ask, and there are people out there who have used this method to put a mortgage loan problem behind them and move on with their lives.


McGrath & Spielberger, PLLC is a law firm which may provide assistance to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages or otherwise interested in exploring their alternatives. Inquiries can be made by emailing Info@McGrathSpielberger.com or by clicking here: mortgage loan modification / foreclosure negotiation assistance.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jason A. McGrath elected to Charlotte's Civil Service Board

Jason McGrath Elected to Civil Service Board


One of McGrath & Spielberger's founding partners, Jason A. McGrath, was recently elected to the City of Charlotte's Civil Service Board by the City Council. The Civil Service Board is made up of seven citizens of Charlotte, and it:



  • holds and presides over hearings for employees of the Police and Fire Departments who are charged with violations by the Police Chief or Fire Chief (some of these employees face termination from their Department);

  • reviews and considers approval for applications for positions in the Police and Fire Departments;

  • reviews and considers approval for promotions in both Departments; and

  • maintains a register of officers graduating from the Academy.


Mr. McGrath is honored to have been entrusted to such a position and is glad to be able to serve the community of Charlotte. Board Members are not paid for their service.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homeowner Forecloses on Bank of America

Homeowners Foreclose on Bank of America. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, in this case it's not the other way around.


In 2010, Bank of America brought foreclosure proceedings against husband and wife homeowners in Naples, Florida. This is not surprising, happens all the time, right? Well, in this case, there was one small problem: no mortgage loan had ever been taken - the homeowners didn't owe Bank of America (or anyone else) after they bought the home with cash.


The couple hired an attorney to defend them in the foreclosure action, and eventually Bank of America realized the error of its ways. By then, however, the homeowners had incurred several thousand dollars in legal fees. BOA didn't reimburse the homeowners after several requests, and a court order was entered that BOA make the homeowners whole. Bank of America, however, failed to comply with the court order in a timely fashion. As a result, an additional court order was entered allowing the homeowners to foreclose on local BOA property.


One hour after the homeowners' attorney and sheriff's deputies appeared at the local BOA branch to confiscate BOA property, the bank manager produced a check to satisfy the costs and fees owed by BOA.


The moral of the story?  Don't be a victim of this insanely broken system. McGrath & Spielberger may be able to assist you with your mortgage loan matter, whether by attempting to obtain a loan modification or by working with you to try to prevent foreclosure.