Check Your Paperwork to Avoid Mortgage Problems

Welcome to the latest mortgage mess: Big lenders have to throw out or restart foreclosure proceedings because of their own processing errors.

It makes you think: If lenders are this sloppy when their own interests are at stake, how well are they protecting their borrowers’ interests?

Major lenders like GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) and Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) have halted foreclosures while they look into documentation issues. Among the problems reported are errors in figuring how much borrowers owe and improper foreclosure processing, like incorrect statements attesting to the accuracy of paperwork.

Part of the problem is that lenders are simply overwhelmed, and perhaps too tight fisted to add the staff needed to do the work properly. But securitization, the process of selling bonds backed by bundles of mortgages, has made matters even worse. By the time a foreclosure begins against a homeowner, the original lender may no longer have any stake in the loan. In fact, the servicing company that receives monthly payments and deals with the borrower may not know who actually owns the mortgage.

The problem has become something of a blessing for homeowners who find their foreclosures slowed or halted. But it also serves as a reminder to other borrowers to keep good records and to double check statements and calculations made by the loan servicing firms.

Even if you don’t wind up in foreclosure, you could be a victim of any number of processing errors. It’s worthwhile, therefore, to keep a record of all interactions with the servicing firm, including bank records showing that your monthly payments have cleared.

It’s common for a borrower to receive a statement every year updating the escrow requirements, or the amount paid every month to a fund the servicer uses to pay real estate taxes and, in many cases, homeowner’s insurance.

If you liked this article you might like

Why You May Not Want to Pay Cash, Own Your Home Free and Clear

Now You Can Get That Home Equity Loan in a Comfortable Hybrid

If Retirement Health Care Costs Look Scary, Try These Tactics

Why Buying Bonds With Negative Yield Isn’t as Weird as It Sounds

Investors Turning to Dividend-Paying Stocks See Benefits of Buybacks, But Must Heed Caveats