The Housing Chronicles Blog: Loan work-outs now available before missing mortgage payments

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Loan work-outs now available before missing mortgage payments

Up until this point in the mortgage crisis, borrowers had to be behind on their payments before lenders would even consider re-working a loan. Now, however, more lenders are allowing 'early workouts' when a wage earner loses a job, thus imperiling a mortgage soon down the road. From Kenneth Harney's column via the L.A. Times:

Here's some good news for homeowners facing tough financial times: You no longer have to miss two to three months of payments before your mortgage firm can modify your unaffordable loan terms.

Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant with an estimated 18 million home loans in its portfolio or in mortgage bond pools it guarantees, now will allow borrowers who face financial difficulties to request "early workout" loan alterations, even if they've never been late.

Fannie's policy change has the potential to help thousands of people who are losing jobs or facing layoffs as the recession crunches onward. Most lenders and loan servicers traditionally have declined to intervene in mortgage problems until borrowers are 60 to 90 days late. So-called loss mitigation staffs may then try to work out solutions through techniques such as rescheduling back payments or extending the loan term.

Under Fannie Mae's revised approach, servicers of the company's loans will be required to inform borrowers that if they are "reasonably" certain that changes in their income will cause them to miss mortgage payments, they might qualify for an advance loan modification -- before they fall behind.

Borrowers who qualify will enter into a trial period of reduced payments, usually for four months. If they make payments on time during the trial, the modified mortgage terms could be made permanent.

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