Bank of America (BOA) has begun implementing the National Homeownership Retention Program (NHRP) enhancements, announced in late March 2010, to modify the mortgages of qualified homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship.
What is the National Homeownership Retention Program (NHRP)?
NHRP, launched in October 2008, is a loan modification program that emerged from an agreement with several state attorneys general to provide assistance to former Countrywide borrowers with Sub-prime and Pay-Option adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) loans.
BOA found that many homeowners who owe considerably more than their home is worth are reluctant to accept a solution that does not address a reduction in the principal balance due. In BOA’s outreach to date, about 30% of underwater and delinquent customers who had not responded to offers of modifications without a principal reduction component did respond when offered a significant reduction in principal.
Expanding NHRP will enable BOA to more effectively help customers, especially those who are severely underwater. Enhancements to the mortgage modification program include:
- Earned Principal Forgiveness – A first look at principal forgiveness coupled with an innovative solution to help delinquent borrowers who owe more than 120% of their property’s current market value.
- Principal Reduction for Negative-Amortization Loans – Also a first look in the HAMP sequence of solutions for certain qualifying loans. On delinquent and imminent default Pay-Option ARM loans with negative amortization, Bank of America will lower the principal balance to the extent of the negative amortization incurred to as low as 95% loan-to-value (LTV).
- Program Expansions – Now covers prime two-year hybrid ARM loans and the entire program will be extended 6 months through the end of 2012. In addition, qualifying mortgages eligible for NHRP will be expanded to include those originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009. Eligible relocation payments will have a floor of $2,000 per loan, and this benefit will be extended to tenants as well as borrowers.
Earned Principal Forgiveness
For NHRP-qualifying mortgages with current loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 120% or higher, BOA will take a first look at offering an interest-free forbearance of principal that the homeowner can turn into forgiven principal annually over 5 years, provided the homeowner remains in good standing on payments.
This “earned principal forgiveness” can result up to a maximum 30% decrease in the principal balance, with forgiveness of principal in installments over 5 years to as low as 100% LTV.
If the forbearance is not enough to meet the HAMP payment target of 31% of the homeowner’s income, an interest rate reduction and other steps in the standard sequence of solutions will be employed.
For each of the first 5 years that the homeowner’s payment record remains in good standing, the borrower may earn forgiveness of up to one-fifth of the forborne principal amount. The amount is set at 20% in the first 3 years. In the 4th and 5th years, the amount of forgiveness will take into account any increase in the property value over the period of the modification such that the then-current LTV will not be reduced to below 100% through principal forgiveness – helping strike a critical balance between customer and investor interests.
Principal Reduction for Negative-Amortization Loans
BOA has begun offering two other affordable and sustainable payment solutions on certain Pay-Option ARMs.
- If the principal balance on the loan has grown because the borrower selected an option to make payments that did not cover the interest due and this payment difference was added to principal – known as negative amortization – the bank will consider offering a HAMP modification eliminating the negative amortization feature and forgiving all or part of the negative amortization amount to reduce the principal to as low as 95% LTV.
- If a pending recast of a Pay-Option ARM will increase the customer’s monthly payments, a preemptive modification that eliminates the negative amortization feature of the mortgage and converts it to a fully amortizing market rate loan may be offered.
With implementation of these enhancements, BOA will make principal reduction the initial consideration toward reaching the HAMP’s target for an affordable payment equal to 31% of household income when modifying qualifying Sub-prime, Pay-Option ARM and Prime 2-year hybrid ARM loans that are also eligible for NHRP. An interest rate reduction and other steps would then be considered, if additional savings are necessary to reach the targeted payment.