Only weeks ago, I published a post with updated information from an advanced education class I was taking though the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) program for Realtors, that was discussing different types of distressed sales and loan modifications to your mortgage, and how they would impact your credit score. In that class, we learned that borrowers were being told that taking advantage of the government HAMP (Making Home Affordable) program should not negatively effect their credit score, and that we should encourage borrowers to strongly consider this option before looking down the road of a short sale or foreclosure. Today, CNNMoney exposes several stories from people who have utilized the program, and whose credit scores are mysteriously dropping.
For some, a drop would be completely expected. For those who are behind on mortgage payments and who take the new mortgage arrangement, it is reasonable to expect that their credit would have already been damaged to some extent, just from the mortgage payments that had been missed. However, many other people have been encouraged to look at the HAMP program to re-arrange their mortgage and reduce their payments, even before they are behind on a payment. It is these people who have been squeaking by, trying to make ends meet and who have been making payments, who were being told (even by mortgage officers themselves) that their credit would not be effected. One of those stories is followed in the article today;
Axelrod, a municipal employee who lives outside Chicago, entered a trial mortgage modification program this spring.
He had not fallen behind in his mortgage, but he was finding it harder to make ends meet after his overtime was cut and his property taxes skyrocketed. Told it would not hurt his coveted 750 score, Axelrod secured a $565 reduction in his monthly payments.
Eight months later, Axelrod is still stuck in the trial modification, trying to satisfy his loan servicer’s endless requests for documents.
And to his horror, his credit score has plummeted to 644.
“It’s completely destroyed my credit,” said Axelrod. “If I had known it would affect my score, I would have never entered the program.”
Representatives at JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), which services Axelrod’s loan, are instructed to tell applicants that entering a modification could impact their credit histories, a bank spokeswoman said.
Despite his weakened credit score, there is at least some good news for Axelrod: After being contacted by CNNMoney.com, JPMorgan Chase said his permanent modification had been approved.
According to CNNMoney;
The coding alone can impact credit scores, which measure a consumer’s financial health and range from 300 to 850 under the FICO system. The severity depends on how many payments the borrower missed before entering the program. Those who were current in their mortgages could see their scores fall up to 100 points, according to the Treasury Department.
For now, it sounds as though a mortgage modification may still certainly have its benefits over a short sale or a foreclosure, if you want to keep your home. However, it is important for everyone to know that for what we can tell, it does not come as “risk-free” as it may have been advertised. This is sure to be a topic we’ll be hearing about more soon, but until then, please be sure to consult your tax advisor and your attorney for advice before beginning a mortgage modification program.
[Hat tip to Lani Rosales at Agent Genius for pointing out this important article.]