Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to Allow Homeowner Walkaways in Some Short Sale Cases

5 02 2013

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will let some borrowers who kept up payments as their homes lost value erase their debts by giving up the properties, helping Americans escape underwater loans while adding to losses at the mortgage giants bailed out with $190 billion of taxpayer money.

Non-delinquent borrowers with illness, job changes or other reasons they need to move will become eligible in March to apply for a so-called deed-in-lieu transaction that erases the shortfall between a property’s value and the size of its mortgage. It follows a change in November that lets on-time borrowers sell properties for less than they owe, known as short sales, wiping out the remaining mortgage debt. Normally, the lenders could pursue people to recoup their losses.

Eligible borrowers will have the forgiven debt – the amount remaining between the property’s value and size of their mortgage – erased.

“The goal is to make sure people who have suffered a hardship have the appropriate options to prevent foreclosure,” says Andrew Wilson, spokesman for Fannie Mae.

Borrowers may still be required to pay some of the forgiven debt, however, if the borrower has the means to do so.

“Homeowners applying for deed-in-lieu transactions may be asked to make cash contributions of up to 20 percent of their financial reserves, excluding retirement accounts,” Bloomberg reports about the guidelines. “Or, they may be asked to sign a promissory note for future no-interest repayments. The amount and terms can be negotiated.”

Fannie and Freddie’s new eligibility for deed-in-lieu of transactions has been met with some criticism, particularly at a time with the government-sponsored enterprises are still underwater themselves from steep losses the last few years. The GSE’s have, to date, required $190 billion of taxpayer money since 2008.

“It’s an extraordinarily generous approach for companies still in debt to American taxpayers,” Phillip Swagel, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, told Bloomberg. “We’re giving people an incentive to walk away, right when the housing market is starting to right itself.”

But some argue that past programs tended to penalize borrowers on the brink of foreclosure who kept making their payments, says Julia Gordon, director of housing finance and policy at the Center for American Progress. Mortgage servicers in some cases were even advising borrowers to stop making their mortgage payment so that they could qualify for more assistance.

“Fannie and Freddie are finally recognizing that some people are stuck in their homes,” Gordon told Bloomberg. “There are a lot of families who need to move who can’t do it if they’re going to have debt hanging over their heads. There’s no winner when someone is forced to default on their mortgage – not the investor, not the homeowner and certainly not the neighborhood.”

Source: Bloomberg

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