Financial help is moving to embattled homeowners under the $25 billion national mortgage settlement that resulted from abusive foreclosure practices by some of the nation’s largest banks.
Mortgage servicers spent $10.6 billion on principal reductions, short-sales, refinancing and other borrower relief efforts from March 1 to June 30, according to a report Wednesday by settlement monitor Joseph Smith. The help was directed at 137,846 U.S. homeowners, who received an average benefit of $76,616 each.
The spending includes $6.7 million in settlement-related relief for 260 Iowa homeowners, which averaged $25,781 each, according to the office of Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller. The disparity is partly due to the state’s lower home prices. Iowa residents are eligible for $18 million in direct relief in all.
Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial reached the deal in March, while admitting no wrongdoing. Their alleged misdeeds included the falsification of documents via so-called “robo-signing” operations. They have three years to fulfill their mortgage-relief obligations.
“It’s good news that here in Iowa and across the country we’re starting to see the banks moving generally in the right direction,” said Miller, who was the lead state attorney general in the joint state-federal investigation which resulted in the landmark civil settlement. The probe began in October of 2010 amid widespread reports of servicer misconduct.
The servicers spent $8.67 billion on short sales, which occur when an underwater borrower sells their home for less than they owe on it, according to the monitor. Idled workers saddled with an underwater mortgage generally are more likely to restrict their job searches to the area around their home. Short sales are important because they make it easier for the unemployed to pursue jobs that require relocation.
Bank of America has the largest financial obligation under the settlement, at $11.8 billion and has committed to writing down the principal owed on 200,000 homes whose owners are now underwater on their mortgages.
The five mortgage servicers also committed to new rules under the deal, which include making foreclosure a last resort.