The Obama administration launched a new program Monday, aimed at easing borrowers out of homes if they owe more than the home is worth. The program pays $3,000 in moving expenses to homeowners and $1,500 to lenders, if both parties agree to what’s known as a short sale. The process is designed for homeowners who are in financial trouble but don’t qualify for the administration’s $75 billion mortgage modification program. Homeowners still lose their homes, but they walk away from their debt, and a short sale doesn’t hurt a borrower’s credit score as permanently as foreclosure does. Lenders, on the other hand, fetch more money in a short sale than a foreclosure. It’s theoretically cheaper and faster than a foreclosure, but what’s the hold up? Short sales so far have dragged out—some for years—because lenders are suspicious of lowball offers. But does this program offer enough incentive to get the market moving? And should the government really need to offer banks incentives to do what they’re already supposed to be doing?
Laurie Maggiano, Director of Policy for the Homeownership Preservation Office at the Department of the Treasury.
Eli Brewer, Professor of Finance at DePaul University