Loss Mitigation

A process to avoid foreclosure; the lender tries to help a borrower who has been unable to make loan payments and is in danger of defaulting on his or her loan

Loss mitigation is used to describe a third party helping a homeowner, a division within a bank that mitigates the loss of the bank, or a firm that handles the process of negotiation between a homeowner and the homeowner's lender. Loss mitigation works to negotiate mortgage terms for the homeowner that will prevent foreclosure. These new terms are typically obtained through loan modification, short sale negotiation, short refinance negotiation, deed in lieu of foreclosure, cash-for-keys negotiation, or a partial claim loan or other loan work-out. All of the options serve the same purpose, to stabilize the risk of loss the lender (investor) is in danger of realizing. The most common benefit to the homeowner is the prevention of foreclosure because loss mitigation works to either relieve the homeowner of the or create a mortgage resolution that is financially sustainable for the homeowner. Lenders benefit by mitigating the losses they would incur through foreclosing on the homeowner. Immediate foreclosure creates a tremendous financial burden on the lender. Loss mitigation has been a tool used by lenders for decades, but experienced tremendous growth since late 2006. This rapid expansion was in response to the dramatic increase in foreclosures nationwide. Prior to late 2006, early 2007; Loss Mitigation was a tiny department within most lending institutions. In fact, the run up prior to the near collapse of the entire mortgage industry shows Loss Mitigation was almost nonexistent. The ten year period prior to 2007 spurred rapid year over year increases in home prices caused by low interest rates and low underwriting standards. Loss Mitigation was only needed for extreme cases due to the homeowners ability to repeatedly refinance and avoid defaulting. Beginning in 2007 the mortgage industry nearly collapsed. Large numbers of lenders went out of business and the rest were forced to eliminate all of the loan programs that were most prone to foreclosure. These foreclosures were mostly caused by the packaging and selling of subprime and other risky mortgages. The transfer of ownership from mortgage lender to third party investor proved to be disastrous. Lenders wrote risky loans and sold them without being directly affected by the borrowers inability to pay. This practice prompted mortgage lenders to lower the requirements of mortgage approval to the lowest levels in history. This resulted in millions of unqualified people obtaining mortgages. Lenders sold pools of these loans to investment firms who packaged and resold them to the public in the form of bond issues. When the homeowners started to default on their mortgages and the bonds began to be considered too risky for investment, the investment houses could no longer sell the bonds. When the bonds stopped selling, the investment companies stopped purchasing newly originated mortgages. Lenders being unable to sell off the new mortgages, coupled with investment firms demanding that lenders buy back the bad loans previously sold, halted the regeneration of capital necessary to maintain the business of lending money. Well over 200 mortgage companies were either forced to close or go bankrupt. This crisis was dubbed the "Credit Crunch" and the subprime mortgage crisis. . With the surviving lenders faced with mounting losses from foreclosures, lenders were forced to tighten lending guidelines. This means people that were able to previously qualify for loans are now unable to do so. Many of these people are in risky subprime, adjustable rate and negative amortization loans are falling victim to dramatic payment increases. Without the ability to refinance out of these loans, the only answer for many is default and foreclosure or loss mitigation. Unfortunately, many companies have emerged to take advantage of homeowners who are desperate. After a borrower misses their mortgage payments, a "notice of default" is filed at the county level. When this notice is filed, companies will contact homeowners making promises that they can modify the homeowner's loan and some companies even promise to get the principal amount reduced. This is a fraudulent claim, a 2008 study by Professor Alan M White found that of 4,342 modifications that he studied, only 62 received principal reductions. The decrease in home values (housing correction) created a market with fewer qualified borrowers than homes for sale. When there is less demand the prices drop. Home values were at highly inflated levels prior to this due to historically low interest rates and the steady decline of credit requirements for the homeowner to qualify for a mortgage. This has led to a real loss of equity for every homeowner in the country. With less equity homeowners are less likely to qualify for a loan that will refinance them out of a risky loan; with less equity less homeowners are able to qualify for home equity line of credits or a second mortgage in order to pay for financial emergencies. For many homeowners the loss of equity has been extreme enough to cause negative equity. Negative equity is when the home is worth less than the amount owed by the homeowner. This has created a situation for homeowners wherein their home, which was previously their most valuable asset, is no longer an asset at all. Such homeowners are more and more frequently 'walking away' from their mortgage obligations and letting the home go into foreclosure.