From HW:

Thirteen of the 20 largest mortgage servicers participating in the Home Affordable Modification Program have begun principal write-downs, according to Laurie Maggiano, director of policy at the homeowner preservation office inside the Treasury Department.

While outlining changes to HAMP at the Mortgage Bankers Association servicing conference last week, Maggiano said several thousand modifications have had the principal written down by an average between $50,000 and $100,000. That number was confirmed by the Treasury late Friday.

The Treasury announced the initiative in March 2010. The Treasury said then that the write-downs would apply only to borrowers with 115% or higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratios. Servicers initially forbear some or all of the balance exceeding 100% of the home’s value, down to a 31% debt-to-income ratio. Then, the servicer forgives the forborne amount in three equal installments over three years, contingent on the borrower’s ability to remain current on payments.

A spokesperson for the Treasury told HousingWire that the program is still very new and that it will begin reporting on the write-downs in March.

“Additionally, each servicer has a plan in place for implementation of the program – so principal reduction is on those loans they have targeted in their portfolio,” the spokesperson said.

Despite an increase in existing home sales, analysts at FNC, said home prices continued to decline in December because so many of those sales were foreclosures.

“Driven in part by rising sales of distressed properties and higher foreclosure-sales discounts, home prices declined for the seventh straight month in December and suffered their largest one-month drop during the year,” according to FNC.

Of the 30 major metro areas tracked by FNC, 23 had price declines in December by an average of 2.2%.

FNC’s dim view of house prices is not theirs alone. CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming expects home prices to decline between 5% and 10% through 2011. Fleming added that stabilization should occur by the end of the year, but the damage has been extensive and the road to recovery will be a long one.

“The flooding may have finally stopped,” Fleming said. “But the living room is half underwater.”

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