NEW YORK — Bank of America Corp., continuing its efforts to deal with homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages, will open 28 offices across the country in the coming weeks that specialize in distressed loans.
The offices will be in 18 different states, including seven in California, and bring the bank's total to 40. The bank had only seven last year, but is ramping up efforts to work with borrowers struggling to make payments after last year's foreclosure problems and recent regulatory actions. The centers will work with borrowers through the modification and foreclosure processes.
The nation's biggest bank by assets has struggled with a massive portfolio of mortgages, many of which were originated during the housing bubble by Countrywide Financial before Bank of America purchased Countrywide in 2008. With homeowners finding it difficult to pay off huge debts, and many homes now worth less than their remaining principal, the bank has had to revamp operations from creating mortgages to figuring out what to do with homeowners in distress.
Last month federal regulators issued consent orders to the nation's biggest mortgage servicing companies ordering them to step up their efforts to help homeowners. The orders included demands the servicers create single-points of contact for distressed borrowers and speed up ruling on which loans can be modified.
Bank of America has already said it is moving thousands of employees from originating to servicing units, and laid off about 3,500 in mortgage creation during the first quarter. The bank had said last month it was closing more than 100 mortgage fulfillment centers, some of which are now being transformed into the distressed homeowner centers.
Rebecca Mairone, the bank's national mortgage outreach executive, said the goal is to get more help into highly distressed areas. She said the bank may open more later this year.
Mairone said the centers will also play a part in helping the bank push changes in the regulatory orders. She said borrowers that go to the centers will have a single point of contact, though getting every borrower that needs one a single point of contact is a much larger project than the centers.
Mairone said the consent order served to speed up decisions the bank had reached in its own review, which came after it halted foreclosures last fall. She said there have been improvements already, and more are expected.
"I think the good news is we have seen some declines in delinquencies and that...is helping us stabilize," Mairone said in an interview. "We've learned a ton and we continue to learn."