Some Homeowners Will Receive Permanent 2% Interest Rates Thanks to Bank of America Mortgage Settlement

August 21, 2014 6 Comments »
Some Homeowners Will Receive Permanent 2% Interest Rates Thanks to Bank of America Mortgage Settlement

Today, Bank of America reached a historic agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay the largest settlement in U.S. history related to toxic mortgage loans it knowingly sold to investors.

In short, the company admitted that it misrepresented the quality of the loans it packaged and sold to investors via its Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Mortgage brands, as well as through Bank of America.

Additionally, the bank has taken responsibility for its faulty loan origination practices that resulted in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA taking on countless bad loans that eventually hurt American taxpayers (not to mention homeowners).

The bank also settled a case with the SEC in which it knowingly “shifted the risk” of wholesale loans originated by mortgage brokers that were described internally as “toxic waste.”

Simply put, the bank and its affiliates made trillions of very bad loans that they tried to pawn off, and now they must pay.

Speaking of payment, the company has agreed to pay $9.65 billion in cash, including $5.02 billion in civil monetary penalty and $4.63 billion in compensatory remediation payments.

Additionally, BofA will provide $7 billion in consumer relief, which will come in the form of loan modifications, including principal balance reductions, forbearance, and second mortgage extinguishments.

How Does a 2% Interest Rate Sound?

Most significantly, some lucky homeowners will receive principal reductions that lower their loan-to-value ratio to 75%. But that’s not all. They’ll also receive a 2% interest rate on their mortgage that is fixed for the life of the loan.

The Department of Justice provided an example where a homeowner with a $250,000 mortgage balance would see it fall to just $112,000 on a property worth only $150,000 today.

That’s a pretty good deal, regardless of what may have happened to the homeowner.

Let’s be honest, a lot of borrowers knew they weren’t providing proper income documentation either, or that their home appraisal was a tad bit steep. But I’m sure they looked the other way, just like everyone else at the time.

The DoJ also negotiated a tax break for those who receive relief under the settlement assuming the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act isn’t extended.

They created a so-called 25/25 Tax Relief Fund where 25% of the value of the relief will be made available to offset any tax liability, up to $25,000. But the amount of money set aside is limited, so not all homeowners will be able to take advantage.

During his speech, Associate Attorney General Tony West called on Congress to extend the Act so homeowners won’t be on the hook for phantom income.

Bank of America will also be required to provide more low- to moderate-income mortgage originations, expand affordable housing initiatives, and provide community reinvestment for neighborhoods experiencing or at risk or urban blight.

The settlement is expected to reduce the company’s third quarter pre-tax earnings by $5.3 billion and reduce earnings per share by 43 cents.

Obviously the stock was up on the news, because that’s how the stock market works. But really, investors are probably happy to see the bank move forward from the mortgage mess once and for all.

And its current price of under $16 a share is still just a fraction of what it was during the previous housing boom when shares traded in the low $50 range.

6 Comments

  1. ldarby August 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm -

    I have been locked into a high interest rate since starting with Countrywide mortgage (almost10%). As financial times get harder, I applied for a refinance thru now Bank of America. They said that I was a good candidate for refinance, but after about 15 days and lots of paperwork, I was denied. I was told that the terms of insurance governing the total complex could not give them an exact figure of payout if complex was destroyed. There was nothing I could do. After Sandy the complex insurance was reviewed and knowing we would see a substantial increase we went with a excellent carrier (Lloyd’s of London). I read your article and wondered if you have encountered anything like this.

  2. Colin Robertson August 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm -

    Sounds like two different issues, one a high-rate mortgage with Countrywide and the other an insurance-related issue. Not sure why you were denied (because of the insurance?), if so, you might want to inquire about some kind of relief, as opposed to a refinance, assuming Countrywide wronged you in some way. Or consider a refi at a different lender who can get around any issues you’re having.

  3. Stephanie September 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm -

    How are we notified if we qualify for any benefit from Bank of America. Do we have to apply for this?

  4. Colin Robertson September 30, 2014 at 4:42 pm -

    Stephanie,

    It would probably be smart to get proactive and contact them, instead of waiting for them to reach out, but I’m assuming they’ll send out notices eventually.

  5. Peter February 23, 2015 at 9:26 pm -

    I purchased my house is 2005 at the height of the market for $545k. I was 25 and Countrywide was the only lender that would give me a loan. I was excited about the house and at 25 I assumed if they were willing to give me a mortgage it was legit. I got a 10 year interest only loan which this year will adjust to pay off the principal over 20 years the rate readjusts continuously based on current interest rates. To try and avoid this adjustment I attempted to do a regular refinance. Online estimates put the value of the property between $355k and $575k so I figured we’ll see what an actual appraiser comes up with. The appraisal came in at $400k. I’d originally put 20% down and so the loan balance is $436k. It seems there was maybe originally some number fudging to qualify me with Countrywide and I likely got a predatory loan, but it is unclear to me how to proceed with Bank of America. My loan is not Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac approved and is not FHA insured so I don’t qualify for any HARP programs. What I have read online seems to indicate if I was eligible for one of Bank of America’s Countrywide settlements they should have contacted me already. I have made every payment on time, but when the mortgage readjusts and continues to readjust amortizing the principal over 20 years I probably can not afford the payments. I’d love to get the principal lowered to a 75% LTV ratio and get at 2% interest rate, but don’t know how to proceed. Any advice?

  6. Colin Robertson February 24, 2015 at 8:44 am -

    Peter,

    I heard about this settlement when it was originally announced, but nothing since. So I’m not sure what’s going on with it, but perhaps reaching out to BofA as opposed to waiting for them to call might be the move, especially if you can get a principal reduction and a lower fixed rate. Good luck.

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