NEW YORK — The five largest mortgage servicers are eager to modify loans and offer principal reductions to distressed homeowners to comply with the terms of the national mortgage settlement, but say many of those same homeowners are ignoring their solicitations.
Though data on response rates is scarce, some say that borrowers are so worn out from being solicited not just by their servicer but by loan modification and law firms — some of them scam artists — that many are simply not opening letters or returning phone calls, according to American Banker, an affiliate of Credit Union Journal.
"There is a great deal of fatigue among borrowers looking to resolve their mortgage situation," said Eric Schuppenhauer, senior vice president and head of mortgage servicing at JPMorgan Chase.
Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial have been sending mass mailings this year to thousands of distressed homeowners offering refinances, principal reductions, and other forms of relief to comply with the national mortgage settlement signed in March with federal and state regulators.
Banks should know soon how they are faring in their efforts to reach out to borrowers. Joseph A. Smith Jr., the independent monitor appointed to oversee the settlement, said last week that he was "thoroughly reviewing" preliminary data on consumer relief conducted by each servicer between March 1 and June 30. He expects to issue a report in the next several weeks.
Chase is so concerned about borrower response rates that it has been sending letters by FedEx to tens of thousands of borrowers saying they are preapproved for a lower interest rate or loan modification that may include a principal reduction, American Banker reported.
Those borrowers who take the time to open the packages might find that they do not have to respond at all. Because the loans are held in Chase's own portfolio, the bank already has data on the borrower and has determined that no further documentation is required. Only if the terms of the loan change or the borrower moves to a fixed rate from an adjustable-rate mortgage do they have to sign and return paperwork.
The letters are a "creative approach," one that often requires "little to no action from homeowners," Schuppenhauer says.
Chase says it has an 80% response rate on its refinance offers and a 50% response rate on loan modification officers.