Understanding the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program

by | Real Estate

In light of the rising number of property foreclosures in the United States, the government has expanded the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) to include provisions and incentives for servicers to allow short sales or deeds-in-lieu as positive options for eligible homeowners in default who wish to avoid foreclosure. The new program is called Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA).

What is the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program? Here are some of its benefits:

Borrowers will receive $1,500 in relocation expenses from the US Government.

Loan Servicers will receive $1,000 from the US Government per transaction that they process.

2nd lien holders will receive up to $3,000 of the sale proceeds for releasing their liens.

1st lien investors can receive up to $1,000 from the US Government for “signing off” on payments that subordinate lien holders.

Borrowers must be “fully released” from any and all further liability.

These new guidelines are ultimately designed to get the process to go faster and include an “amenable resolution” for all of the parties concerned in the transaction, including the loan servicers, lien holders, and the borrowers.

Participation in HAFA cannot save the homeowner from losing his or her property, but it can eliminate the effects of a foreclosure on the homeowner’s credit. Financial incentives for participation in the program include a $1,000 servicing bonus for lenders and a $1,500 relocation bonus for displaced homeowners.

HAFA is designed for homeowners who have applied to HAMP for assistance but have had no success with their loan modification program. To participate in HAFA, homeowners must still meet HAMP’s eligibility criteria (principal residence, first-lien mortgage, serious delinquency, unpaid balance under $729,750, and a mortgage payment over 31 percent of gross income).

Homeowners must be considered for HAFA within 30 days if they cannot meet HAMP’s requirements or if they specifically request consideration for HAFA. However, the homeowner only has 14 days to respond to a written notice that HAFA may be available to them, giving the lender time to meet their 30-day deadline.

As with other short sales and deeds-in-lieu, the lender or loan servicer of the primary mortgage must approve of the transaction and conduct their own independent appraisal. Under HAFA, however, they must also agree to accept the proceeds from the sale of the house as payment in full, waiving their right to collect the balance of the loan from the homeowner.

It is up to the lender or servicer of the first-lien mortgage whether they or the homeowner negotiate with any subordinate lienholders. Lenders of HELOCs and other subordinate liens may be allowed to keep a limited portion of the proceeds (up to $3,000 each) of a short sale, with the first-lien lender’s approval. These funds are part of an incentive program for subordinate lienholders to waive their right to collect the balance due on their loans. The original lender may not be held responsible if any subordinate lienholders decline to participate and decide to sue the borrower for the amount of their unpaid debt.

HAFA’s Short Sale Agreement (SSA) has certain stipulations for all parties involved. Their SSA requires that the deadline for the homeowner to find a buyer and complete the transaction be not less than 120 calendar days from the date the SSA is mailed to the homeowner. The lender has the option of extending this deadline another 245 calendar days, for a total term of 12 months. The SSA also mandates that a HAFA transaction must be ‘arms-length’, and that the end buyer must agree to hold the property for at least 90 days after closing. Finally, the SSA gives the listing real estate agent the right to an undiscounted 6 percent commission at closing.

A short sale is any sale of property, usually during the foreclosure process, in which the lender(s) agrees to accept less than the balance due on the mortgage(s) or lien(s) in order to avoid the cost of foreclosure. Depending on HAFA requirements and state law, the lender(s) may or may not pursue the homeowner for the remainder of the debt. The vacancy date is determined by the terms of the closing.

Unlike a short sale, a deed-in-lieu simply allows the homeowner in default to transfer the deed to the property back to the lender in exchange for partial or full payoff of the mortgage. The vacancy date must be at least 30 days after the deed-in-lieu agreement is signed.

In either case, HAFA requires that the lender agree to suspend all foreclosure sales in good faith, pending the outcome of either transaction. In the case of a short sale, the lender also must agree to pay the administrative closing costs.

The Department of the Treasury, which authorizes all programs under the Making Home Affordable umbrella, has designated Freddie Mac as its compliance agent.

The HAFA program is set to begin on April 5, 2010. Servicers may initiate a HAFA transaction earlier in 2010 under certain conditions. As of this writing, all HAFA agreements must be finalized and signed by December 31, 2012.

Please download the Treasury Department’s Supplemental Directive 09-09 for more specific details and samples of forms to be used in processing HAFA transactions.