If there was a real "fiscal" Cliff, at least three-quarters (¾) of Congress would have been thrown over into the abyss far below. Sorting out the facts from the political rhetoric and greed, we are quick to discover that this entire issue was created by Congress itself in 2012 because of a basic moral disconnect within Congress and a desire to stop the President's re-election.
Taxpayers will pay - all of us! Congress and the Administration have to stop the nonsense and reach an accord. $1T is a huge number BUT it's $100B/year for 10 years which is less than 3% of the 2011 budget as projected in 2008 which had been estimated to be $3.4T. It turned out to be $3.6T.
The much discussed fiscal cliff about which will fall over (or not based on Congress) is probably misunderstood more than any other jargonistic word in politics today. What is it? Please read further.
In late March, discussing Foreclosure, there was an analysis and recommendations in the American Banker which comprised the most succinct commentary on the current mortgage/foreclosure Bank-Owned real-estate problem and how to begin to solve it. I went through the Maryland S&L crisis running failed institutions. The last thing I wanted in any of them was more real estate. It's just a messy way to waste resources.Perhaps the most important portion of the author's comments is "if mortgage lenders and servicers undertake the challenge of developing teams of highly trained loss-mitigating experts, each able to professionally and sensitively work through an increasingly complex range of loan modification, restructuring, or short sale options with troubled borrowers, then real progress [to stop FORECLOSURE] can be made." To this point, not one mortgage company with whom I have dealt, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Ally Bank, HSBC/HFC/Beneficial, and the OCWENs, GreenTrees etc has such a unit in place. The Call Centers read from a script and require the patience of a saint to negotiate. There is no Unit of specialists! Mention workout and you get transferred for 30 minutes+One of the major program additions, to stem foreclosure, as proposed by the most recent housing stimulus is the concept of allowing principal reductions. The issue is not new, nor are the arguments against it. 1 ½ years ago I began researching and discussing the Home Equity Fractional Interest ("HEFI") program as a way to get houses back above water without sacrificing the possibility of recovering what the market won't support today. Kevin Hardin, and his company Equi Debt Solutions (http://www.equidebtsolutions.com) had produced a slide show (http://www.slideshare.net/equidebt/h-option) describing how the program works. Basically, the Mortgage Company agrees to a reduction of the principal balance, but in exchange gets a second mortgage. This allows the mortgage company and the homeowner to share in any appreciation of the property. Once the write down is recovered, due to a sale or maybe (in the distant future) a refinance, the homeowner and the Mortgage Company split the excess 50/50 or by whatever other agreement they reach at the time the transaction originally takes place. Although the program was accepted at the federal level, it withered on the vine and not one of the above-cited entities has ever discussed it with me or anyone else I know.Banks can maintain their moral high-ground and insist borrowers pay; either with cash or their house. Their bottom line - don't worry - "we already have a reserve for the loss". Let us agree that we had the perfect storm scenario and no one is to blame. Let's fix the problem not nip at its heels like a Yorkie puppy.
As the details of the Mortgage Settlement Agreement, the deal between 49 of 50 states and the U.S. on one side, and BanK of America, Wells Fargo, CitiBank, Ally Financial, and JP Morgan/Chase on the other, become analyzed, it a HUGE win for the Banks. The not only received a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card but are now assured that there will no jail and the cost will not hurt profits.
Quoting from the March 13, 2012 American Banker's article about the agreement
"The settlement includes releases from certain federal claims, including errors related to servicing conduct; origination; and errors specifically related to servicing loans for borrowers in bankruptcy
The Consumer Finance Protection Board ("CFPB") is trying to rein-in a common practice of mortgage companies country-wide. Very often, if a mortgage company or mortgage servicer believes that a homeowners policy has lapsed or been cancelled, the Servicer/Lender will put it's own insurance on the property. This HIGH PRICED coverage is called force-placed insurance, now euphemistically known as "Collateral Protection Insurance" or "CPI".