Jeffrey M. Rosenblum, P.C.
A Fresh Start

Principal Reduction Alternative Under the Home Affordable Modification Program

To help distressed homeowners lower their monthly mortgage payments, the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and of Housing and Urban Development established the Home Affordable Modification ProgramSM (HAMPSM) for mortgage loans that are not owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Under HAMP, a participating loan servicer must consider a sequence of modification steps for each eligible homeowner's mortgage loan until the loan's monthly payment is reduced to 31 percent of the homeowner's verified monthly gross (pre-tax) income. Sometimes, a change in the mortgage loan's interest rate is sufficient to reach the 31-percent target. Sometimes additional modification steps of term extension or forbearance are necessary as well. See the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) page on the MakingHomeAffordable.gov website.

Since the last quarter of 2010, if a mortgage loan is being considered for a HAMP modification and if the ratio of the amount owed to the value of the home is greater than 115 percent, then the servicer must consider whether a Principal Reduction AlternativeSM (PRA) principal reduction should be effected as one part of the HAMP modification. See the Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA) page on the MakingHomeAffordable.gov website.

For HAMP modifications that include a PRA principal reduction, the unpaid principal balance of the modified loan is divided into an interest-bearing principal amount and a non-interest-bearing PRA Forbearance Amount. If the homeowner then achieves a payment history that is sufficiently timely over a three-year period, the entire PRA Forbearance Amount is eventually reduced to zero.

In connection with every HAMP modification of a loan that is not owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, to encourage participation in HAMP, the government provides incentives to the investor (that is, the holder of the loan), to the homeowner, and to the servicer. If a HAMP modification of such a mortgage loan includes a PRA principal reduction, the government makes additional incentive payments over three years to the investor. (These additional incentives are called "PRA investor incentive payments.") The size of the PRA investor incentive payments depends not only on the amount of principal reduced but also on the loan-to-value ratio and the loan's payment history before the HAMP modification. The PRA investor incentive payments range from 6% to 21% of the principal amount reduced.

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