Home loan servicers urged to do more

Loan application

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Elsewhere on the Washington agenda, some of the country's biggest loan-servicing companies have been summoned to the capital. The White House is unhappy with their progress on its Making Home Affordable program. That's the Obama administration's plan to help more than three million homeowners modify their mortgages and so stay out of foreclosure. Five months into the program, just 200,000 families have been helped. Tamara Keith tells us what happened at the meeting.


TAMARA KEITH: The gathering seemed like it might be a trip to the wood shed for banks and loan servicers. But it turns out it wasn't all punishment. Barbara Desoer with Bank of America Home Loans was there. And says it was constructive.

BARBARA DESOER: We all have the same objective. Is the good news, which is to get more customers who want to stay in their homes to be able to do so, and to make the process more customer friendly.

Just ask customers, though, and many will tell you this process has been anything but friendly. There's just a lot of confusion around the Making Home Affordable program.

MARIETTA RODRIGUEZ: It can be very, very frustrating.

Marietta Rodriguez heads foreclosure prevention efforts at Neighborworks of America. She says homeowners spend hours on hold, and months waiting for answers. Sometimes call-center workers give out wrong information. Frequently Rodriguez says customers and loan counselors are told applications are lost or out of date.

RODRIGUEZ: In many cases we will fax it and e-mail it back into that same system just overloading them again because we don't have a sense. Did you get it, I don't know. If I got it, it may be sitting there, so we'll send it again, and it's just this very vicious cycle of communication.

Rodriguez says there are some very simple things servicers could do to streamline the process, like keeping customers in the loop on where their applications stand. And servicers talked about some of those things today. The Treasury Department released a statement as the gathering wrapped up saying that servicers did commit to do more loan modifications more quickly going forward.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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