Six new Bank of America (BofA) mortgage help centers will be opened in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside/San Bernardino, Antelope Valley, Modesto and Bakersfield by early summer. These new mortgage help centers will provide homeowners in danger of foreclosure on a BofA loan the ability to discuss their individual loan situations with BofA staff in hopes of obtaining the near-mythical permanent loan modification.
This newly-announced move comes in response to a scathing critique (full of bark, but oddly bite-less) of the Big Banks’ loose lending and servicing procedures which precipitated the Great Recession. [For more information on the recent audit of the Big Banks’ lending and servicing practices, see the April 2011 first tuesday article, Mortgage servicers to regulate…themselves?]
The housing counselors staffing these new mortgage help centers will be comprised largely of existing BofA employees the Big Bank is looking to redistribute during the current slowdown in loan originations. [For more information about the lack of buyers in the market, see the May 2011 first tuesday article, Jobless Californians, high vacancies.]
But will these six new mortgage help centers actually help? The critics are skeptical. Like many Americans, the pundits have taken a “we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it” attitude to the multitude of reform promises made by the Big Banks. These centers, after all, aren’t changing BofA’s modus operandi; they merely provide friendlier faces for their refusals.
first tuesday Take: Count us as one of the critics, but don’t believe the modifications will somehow magically flow forth. Viewed in the best light, BofA is 1) providing its homeowners with a more reliable way of reaching someone who will deny their loan modification requests, and 2) giving its under-employed employees something to do. But we are talking about a bank here, so the likelihood that this move will live up to the best possible interpretation is pretty darned miniscule.
It’s been clear for awhile that marking all these loans to market will hugely undermine (and that’s a nice way of saying “topple”) BofA’s claim to solvency. And even if you believe BofA cares for its customers, it doesn’t care enough for them to go out of business. [For more on mark-to-market vs. mark-to-management accounting, see the October 2010 first tuesday article, Deflation’s push on the real estate recovery.]
So, we’ll say this for BofA: they can be congratulated on their ability to get press coverage on their staffing acuity while they avoid increasing the swollen ranks of California’s unemployed. But mortgage assistance? Don’t count on it.
Re: “Bank of America to Triple Number of Mortgage Help Centers” from the New York Times