Pam Martens covers all things Wall Street, and if you want to stay in a permanent state of despair about the country generally, and economic fairness specifically, you should read it religiously. She has been covering the Senate hearings on the foreclosure “settlement” and you won’t believe this:
Not to put too fine a point on it, it appears that the banks engineered a deal where they get to decide who they scammed, and then they get to call one dollar 500 dollars. (I wonder if I can repay my own mortgage using that kind of accounting?) For that matter, if they can find a million dollar mortgage out there they can convert a dollar into a thousand dollars. Plus, and why is this no surprise, they can get this rosy outcome by comforting the most comfortable among those they scammed (or decide that they scammed, and they are incentivized to decide they scammed the rich) while ignoring the most strained. What a great country.
A consumer-rights leader and expert sends the following comment:
Oregonian opinion columnist Elizabeth Hovde wrote an execrable column the other day that proposed cutting food stamps for the "not so needy" -- you know, the folks with smartphones and on foodstamps.
Hovde's column shows that if she ever had any understanding of just how damn expensive it is to be poor in America, her perch of privilege has long since helped her forget that crucial fact. So I wrote a letter to the editor in response, which they ran today (below).
If you have no idea what I mean when I say it's really costly to be poor in America, click the image over there, which is to a great book, Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy, which every politician in America should have to read and pass a test on before being allowed to legislate.
Letter: Cellphones don't always signal prosperity
Another Oregon attorney writes:
(hat tip to "The Housekeeping Report")
NCOA Issues Updated Guide for Seniors Considering a Reverse Mortgage
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) today issued the 2013 version of Use Your Home to Stay at Home™, the official reverse mortgage consumer booklet approved by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). The guide is designed to help seniors understand the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners who are 62 or older to convert home equity into cash while remaining in the home.
Amy Ford, director of NCOA’s Reverse Mortgage Counseling Services Network, called the guide “an older homeowner’s best resource when it comes to examining whether a reverse mortgage is right for them.”
A free copy of the guide is available (download the pdf by clicking here).
The good folks at the National Consumer Law Center have just issued a new report that addresses a lot of the problems with student loan lending (pdf download), particularly the problems caused by for-profit "education" mills that really seem to be about something quite different than education.
Lots of good discussion about reverse mortgages lately:
And for a "straight from the horse's mouth" take on that, note the name of this publication - dsnews, a publication for the "default servicing" industry:
Reverse Mortgages Puts Confused Homeowners at Risk of Foreclosure 06/28/2012 By: Tory Barringer
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report Thursday showing that although reverse mortgages are meant to help borrowers in retirement, they are in fact causing problems for many who don’t fully understand them.
A reverse mortgage is a type of home loan that lets older homeowners access the equity they have built up on their homes and defer loan payment until they sell the home, move out, or pass away. The original purpose of reverse mortgages was to allow these homeowners to convert home equity into an income stream or line or credit to use in retirement. Borrowers were largely expected to age in place with their loans, living in their current homes until they passed or needed skilled care.
Reverse mortgages require no monthly mortgage payments, but borrowers must still pay property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. The report showed that nearly 10 percent of reverse mortgage borrowers are at risk of foreclosure because they failed to pay those costs.
“Reverse mortgages are complex and have the potential to become a much more pervasive product in the coming years as the baby boomer generation enters retirement,” said CFPB director Richard Cordray. “With one in ten reverse mortgages already in default, it is important that consumers understand what they are signing up for and that it is the right product for them.”
The report found that many reverse mortgage borrowers do not understand how their loan balance will rise and their home equity will fall over time. In addition, the influx of new choices brought on by innovations and policy changes have made the matter too complex for many homeowners. The bureau further found that the tools currently available to help consumers understand the risks and tradeoffs are not enough. The report called for improved methods for housing counselors to help consumers understand their choices.
There are many other problems with reverse mortgages as they currently stand, the report pointed out. Many consumers are getting reverse mortgages before the age of 70 (with the most common age for a new borrower being 62, the first age at which reverse mortgages are available), and some are even getting them before retiring.
“These borrowers will have fewer resources to pay for everyday and major expenses later in life and may find themselves without the financial resources to finance a future move-whether due to health or other reasons,” said the report.
Another problem is that 70 percent of borrowers are taking out the full amount of proceeds as a single lump sum instead of treating the payment as an income stream. As a result, these borrowers have fewer available financial resources later in life. They may not be able to continue paying taxes and insurance on their homes, leading to potential foreclosure. The report found that borrowers who save or invest their money may earn less on the savings than they spend paying interest on the loan.
Finally, the bureau addressed the issue of deceptive or misleading marketing materials about reverse mortgages. The report cited examples of mailers that depict reverse mortgages as a government benefit or entitlement program in the vein of Medicare and use images resembling government seals to entice consumers. It can be difficult for consumers to tell that a reverse mortgage is a financial product, not a government benefit. . . .
Given the extreme hardship that many people are suffering as a result of loosey-goosey lending that skyrocketed from about 2001 forward, it's sad that we're already seeing ads suggesting to borrowers that they should not want to be as well-informed as possible before entering into a very serious transaction, probably the biggest financial deal that most people have ever done.
Remember, anyone offering to lend you money without a solid appraisal of the collateral is not doing so because YOU will be better protected. Lending without an appraisal just means that they are satisfied that THEY are protected (that there's enough value in the home to secure their interest).
Given the outrageous junk charges that lenders cram into loans, the appraisal is the last place to look to save money. Instead of getting a refi (which is just real estate jargon for a new loan) without an appraisal, maybe you should ask them to let you pay for an independent appraisal but cut the cost of it out of the other closing costs they charge, especially the loan application fee.
Never think for a minute that the lender is your friend -- because they are not, as millions and millions of Americans are learning to their sorrow.
John Gear is a Salem attorney in solo practice