After more than a year of intense negotiations, 49 state attorneys general and the nation's five largest mortgage servicers reached a $25 billion settlement on February 9. While the agreement allotted specific amounts to go towards certain areas of relief for borrowers, including $10 million to write down principal on underwater mortgages, many are wondering how the decision between federal and state officials and the nation's top servicers will impact the housing market.[IMAGE]
""Moody's Analytics"":http://www.economy.com/default.asp released a report with an analysis of the settlement's expected impact on banks and borrowers.
*Impact on banks*
As for the servicers included in the settlement - Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup, and Ally Financial - the report stated, ""the settlement will have little to no financial effect on the banks and will remove some of the uncertainty surrounding mortgage servicing.""
More specifically, the report stated, ""Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and Citigroup have each publicly disclosed that the settlement will have little to no additional financial effect on the banks, outside of a modest reduction in interest income over the life of any modified loans.""
This is in part due to the fact that ""existing litigation and loan-loss reserves mostly cover the related costs"" for the banks.
The banks are still vulnerable to other lawsuits outside of the settlement from individuals or through a class action suit.
The settlement also includes new standards for how banks service loans and practice foreclosure proceedings, including a ban on robo-signing.[COLUMN_BREAK]
*Impact on borrowers*
The report projects that foreclosure timelines will be lengthened due to the requirement for servicers to review loans for principal forgiveness, causing a delay for servicers when referring loans to foreclosure. According to the report, Florida and California should be more significantly affected since they were awarded the highest proportion of funds from the settlement.
Borrowers will have greater protection since servicers and insurance providers will not be able to charge high premiums when force placing insurance and must instead charge commercially reasonably prices. A third-party review process will also be set in place offering more protection to borrowers since it will hold servicers accountable for meeting certain goals and deadlines.
The Mood Analytics stated that ""the reviews will likely assess whether or not servicers are making reasonable and timely modification decisions on behalf of both borrowers and investors and are implementing the key operation provisions of the settlement.""
Out of the $25 billion, the settlement allocates $10 billion for principal reduction; $7 billion in relief for other types of support including forbearance and short sales; $3 billion for refinancing underwater homes; $1.5 billion for those wrongfully foreclosed on between 2008 and 2011; and $3.5 billion for state housing programs.
While the settlement proved to be a disappointment to some since it does not include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, Moody's Analytics stated that the settlement is still significant.
""The number of distressed homeowners helped is modest in the context of the estimated 14.6 million underwater homeowners, a sore point for many critics of the settlement. Nonetheless, the number is significant,"" stated Moody's Analytics in the written report. ""Keeping even half a million households out of foreclosure or a short sale would be enough to curb the flow of foreclosed, vacant properties into the market, and thus relieve downward pressure on house prices nationwide and allowing prices to stabilize this year.""
The Moody's Analytics also expects to see Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida, Ohio, and Michigan to benefit the most since those states experienced the worse price declines and have the highest share of homes underwater.