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  • Underwater mortgages create a huge problem for homeowners and lenders alike. When your home is worth much less than the balance on its mortgage it takes away much of the incentive for paying your monthly payments because most of us view our home as an investment not an expense.

    The government is trying to give homeowners an additional incentive to keep their homes by offering loan modifications and refinancing that improve the terms of their mortgages. There are four main ways to improve your mortgage’s terms: reducing your interest rate, changing from a variable rate to fixed rate, extending the term of your mortgage and reducing the amount you owe your lender.

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    Needless to say lenders are not in love with any of these options with the possible exception of extending the term of the mortgage, which reduces your mortgage payments but can increase the overall cost of your mortgage. However, the less popular mortgage rescue method for lenders is without a doubt the reduction of the mortgage balance. However, research shows that reducing the balance of a mortgage is the most effective way of reducing delinquent borrowers, which is good for both lenders and borrowers. For this reason the government is trying to get Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to pressure lenders into reducing the mortgage balance of their underwater clients. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold or insure 60 percent of all mortgages in the United States and therefore has the leverage with the large mortgage providers.

    Edward J. DeMarco, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, does not believe write-downs are the panacea their supporters present them as. "There’s no free lunch" he is often quoted as saying when asked why he doesn’t support he Obama administration’s efforts to incentivize mortgage write-downs.

    Although DeMarco does not support write-downs he is planning to provide lenders with incentives such as increasing financial aid for those willing to improve the conditions of underwater mortgages. Learn more about these incentives in our next post.

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