Foreclosure Shortcuts May Delay Housing Recovery

Thousands of people lined up in downtown L.A. -- some from as far away as Arkansas and Colorado -- seeking free help modifying home loans at lower rates, hoping to avoid foreclosure, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

Some stood in line up to six hours for the chance to get help to hold onto their homes.

"I have never missed a payment in six years, but every year my house payment goes up," said one homeowner.

"I put my house in short sale to weeks ago, but maybe this will help me," said another homeowner. "Maybe this will help me."

With 2.5 million Americans already put out of their homes in this recession, and 3 million more on the brink, a foreclosure freeze by two of the country's biggest lenders raises serious questions whether Americans are losing their homes legitimately.

Courts require lenders to verify and certify that the homeowner is in default. These banks shuffled through tens of thousands of foreclosures in 23 states, with little or no oversight - 56,000 by J.P. Morgan Chase alone. Florida foreclosure attorney Christopher Immel says one Ally banker personally signed 10,000 foreclosures a month. Robo-signers, he calls them, because one person reviewing so much paperwork seems humanly impossible.

"Their goal is to just move through foreclosure cases as fast as they can and it denies people the right to get back on their feet," said Immel.

Economists say banks, overwhelmed by the sheer number of foreclosures, took shortcuts that now could further delay any housing market recovery.

"Because there are so many problem loans and so much paperwork to work through, the whole process is going to slow down and may even come to a stand still for a while, until the courts work through it," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's.com.

Already it's getting ugly out there. In suburban L.A. a SWAT team moved in overnight to subdue a man barricaded in his house, making threats because his house had gone into foreclosure.

Both banks call it a mere technicality, one that doesn't change the fact many homeowners can't afford their mortgages.