Tue Feb 12, 2013, 04:52 PM
Redfairen (1,276 posts)
How Mortgage Servicers Make Money by Screwing Their Homebuying Customers
The mortgage servicing industry has always been a bit of a black hole. Servicers aren't the folks who make loans, package loans, or invest in loans. Rather, they're the folks who collect payments and handle the routine administrative work after loans have been packaged up and sold off as securities. Basically, they do the gruntwork.
So they had little to do with creating the mortgage crisis of the aughts. However, despite their unglamorous middleman role, they've been one of the chief obstacles to fixing the mortgage crisis over the past few years. The reason is fairly simple: they make more money by screwing borrowers who are in trouble than they do by trying to come up with solutions. David Dayen explains:
"In general, servicers are paid through a percentage of the unpaid principal balance on a loan. This creates problems when a borrower gets into trouble and can no longer afford their payments. There are many modifications to help a borrower in such a bind, the most sustainable, successful type being direct reductions of the principal, for obvious reasons. But forgiving principal cuts directly into servicer profits by cutting the unpaid principal balance, so most servicers shy away from it. Moreover, servicers collect structured fees ó such as late fees ó which make it profitable to put a borrower in default and keep him there. And foreclosures donít hurt a servicer, because they make back their money owed, along with all fees, in a foreclosure sale, even before the investors for whom they service the loan. The investors take whatever losses result from a foreclosure; the servicer makes out just fine."
So there you have it. Servicers don't like simple principal reduction because that reduces their fees. Conversely, servicers do like it when borrowers get jerked around a lot because that increases their fees. And if it all ends up in foreclosure? That may be too bad for the investors, but servicers make lots of money from foreclosures. The bottom line is simple: servicers do best when distressed borrowers are (a) milked for a while and then (b) foreclosed on.
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