Given the recent development on the foreclosure front here’s my 2 cents and a possible solution.
How can a trust with tens of thousands of individual loans in it dispute each one of those defaulted loans one by one in court? This isn’t going to happen. And it’s not because it’s too long and too costly – there are ways around that, but because trusts can’t prove that they own those mortgages, they don’t have the paperwork needed. To go forward with foreclosure en masse would mean some abrogation of the sacred contract. Also, if the house has several liens on it, as happens in most cases, the potential buyer, who’s hunting for a cheap foreclosed home can’t be 100% sure what exactly he’s buying. It can turn out that he’s going to be second in line, after the primary mortgage holder claims to own the property as these two unfortunate guys found out. I mean what reliable source or a database do you check to know what it is that you’re buying with a foreclosed home? I think foreclosure has a risk of becoming a four-letter word.
What it can mean is foreclosure market will be dead for a long time, because bargain hunters will be spooked by the legal uncertainty. In reality it would look like the whole country will be plagued by haunted houses that no one can sell, buy, move into, bulldoze to the ground and not even touch with a ten foot pole. Wouldn’t that signal that the new construction will be hot again? People have to live somewhere. Just a speculation on my part.
That’s just one of many problems. The other one is sloppy record keeping.
Even before the mortgage meltdown, the servicing industry “was plagued with problems,” such as servicers charging unauthorized or excessive fees and making false or unsubstantiated statements about how much borrowers owed, says David Vladeck, head of the bureau of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission, which has brought several recent cases against servicers.
I read a few articles in the past few days and to my horror I found out that no one is really insured from being foreclosed upon in this unceremonious manner, even if you’re current on your mortgage! That is because most of those small lenders that originated your loans are non-existent right now, those loans are long gone from their balance sheets into the trust without proper documentation being transferred into the hands of a new owner or lost altogether. In this case how do you prove that you paid all your mortgage bills on time? You have your records, sure, but they have theirs! Prove that your records are correct! These robo-signers are a sort of indiscriminate roulette that can pull your own mortgage out of some system purely by mistake and make you in default. “Because it says so on the computer screen” – you will be hearing when, puzzled, you call your mortgage servicer trying to clear the little misunderstanding. You will be speaking with some clueless person who will be immune to your logic and calls to reason, because I suspect they all are being trained to not understand questions for which there are no standard answers from the manual. What recourse do you really have in situation like this other than going to court?
The solution. With such clusterfuck in the foreclosure process and a high unemployment rate the solution begs for itself. Just like in early 2000s a bunch of no name lending companies popped up here and there I can see a huge market for foreclosure specialists. The business model would look like this: A small company gets a list of the prospective foreclosures from the trust or from the sponsoring bank and hires high-school drop outs for $10 an hour to phone the properties on the list. If somebody still lives there and pays mortgage or at least is working out a payment plan – those get dropped from the FC process. If no one answers the phone, the bank is given the green light to proceed with the FC. I mean this is a rough idea, perhaps those employees have to do visits to the property and follow some guidelines, etc. but you get the idea. Then they send the updated list back to the bank, which, in turn, proceeds with the wholesale robo-signed foreclosures. It’s a sort of quid pro quo: if banks want to speed up the process and bypass the paperwork requirement they have to pay to make sure that no current homeowners end up on the list. Isn’t that a reasonable requirement? This way we kill many birds with one stone: the FC proceeds at a reasonable speed (not as fast as it is right now, but not as slow as it would under the judicial review); a bunch of unemployed people get jobs (and maybe, as a positive side effect, even pay their own mortgages); politicians can move on something else, like fighting socialism – everybody’s happy. I think even Republicans can support something like this – after all it’s good for business.