The Boston Fed looked at foreclosures and loan modifications and kinda explains why banks modify so few loans and why government efforts to increase loan modifications may not be very effective.

However, we point out that renegotiation exposes lenders to two types of risks that are often overlooked by market observers and that can dramatically increase its cost. The first is ” self-cure risk,” which refers to the situation in which a lender renegotiates with a delinquent borrower who does not need assistance. This group of borrowers is non-trivial according to our data, as we find that approximately 30 percent of seriously delinquent borrowers ” cure” in our data without receiving a modification.

The second cost comes from borrowers who default again after receiving a loan modification. We refer to this group as ” redefaulters,” and our results show that a large fraction (between 30 and 45 percent) of borrowers who receive modifications, end up back in serious delinquency within six months. For this group, the lender has simply postponed foreclosure, and, if the housing market continues to decline, the lender will recover even less in foreclosure in the future.