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Up to now, homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages had four main options: selling, a mortgage refinance, a loan modification or a short sale. Fannie Mae is trying to give home owners who are struggling to make payments and need a little time to get back on their feet.
The program is called the Forbearance Relief program and Fannie Mae is requiring all its approved servicers to offer it to unemployed borrowers starting from March 1, 2012.
What does this program offer? It doesn’t reduce the principal of the mortgage, it doesn’t reduce the interest rate. However, it does offer what many home owners need more than anything: time. In a nutshell it provides unemployed borrowers with 6 to 12 months of forbearance to allow homeowners time to get a job and put their finances in order. During the forbearance time lenders are not allowed to charge borrowers for late charges. In the event that a homeowners qualifies for a loan modification while in the forbearance period, the servicer must waive any unpaid late charges.
This program will simplify the existing forbearance requirements and simplify the application procedure. Freddie Mac—the other Government subsidized second market corporation—will also offer this program, starting from February 1st.
This is one of the strengths of this program. The Forbearance Relief program is open to most struggling homeowners. This includes delinquent borrowers, borrowers on the verge of delinquency and underwater mortgages. However, it is only open to principal residence homes. In other words, only borrowers who use the home in question as their main residence can apply. Second homes, vacation homes or investment properties cannot qualify for forbearance relief.
Mortgages that have been pooled into mortgage-backed securities are a special case in the Forbearance Relief program of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Homeowners whose mortgages have been included in MBS may qualify for up to six months of forbearance, but only if the pools were issued from June 1, 2007 to December 1, 2008. Longer forbearance plans may be offered, but only to mortgages pooled in to mortgage based securities before May 2007 or after January 2009.
Once a mortgage is approved for the Forbearance Relief program, the homeowner must take steps to reinstate the mortgage payments by the end of the forbearance period. If a homeowner needs an extension, the application for the extension must be filed between day 120 and 135 of the forbearance plan (between month four and five). Note that eligibility for this program is determined on a monthly basis.
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