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Foreclosure Help Numbers: Whatever They Are, Still Work Ahead

Foreclosure
CNBC.com
Foreclosure

After last month’s to-do over the OCC refuting Hope Now’s count of how many borrowers have actually been helped by this Treasury-invented initiative (see link below), I thought we’d be done. Not so much.

Yesterday at 11:20 am I received an email with the latest Hope Now figures. According to the release, “the private sector alliance of mortgage servicers, counselors, and investors that is working to help prevent foreclosures, announced today that mortgage servicers helped approximately 170,000 homeowners avoid foreclosure in May 2008.” So the tally since it began in July 2007 (it really didn’t begin then but that’s when it was announced) is now 1.7 million homeowners avoiding foreclosure.

Not twenty minutes later, the OCC ( Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) puts out a statement from John Dugan: “I am pleased that the OCC is working with Hope Now and OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision) to move mortgage reporting towards a more common set of metrics and definitions.”

Phew. Mr. Dugan still notes the differences in the numbers that “reflect differences in the populations of underlying loans and in some key definitions.” But at least they’re all “working” together to figure it all out.

So Hope Now is doing well. But in all the data and arguing over the data, let’s actually look at the data for a second. Of the 170,000 mortgages saved in May, 100,000 were repayment plans and 70,000 were modifications. Repayment plans do not change the nature of the mortgage, they just allow the borrower to either miss some payments, or tack payments onto another part of the loan. Only the modifications change the actual faulty loans. Not all those modifications are permanent either. Many are for just five years or less.

In other words, the numbers, whatever they are, still need work.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com