WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is trying to jump-start its sputtering attempts to tackle the foreclosure crisis with an effort to assist homeowners who owe more on their properties than their homes are worth.
The Federal Housing Administration will allow lenders to give these borrowers refinanced loans if the lender agrees to forgive at least 10 percent of the original mortgage amount.
The plan, which was announced in March, is being made available starting Tuesday.
The FHA said in a document published last month that between 500,000 and 1.5 million homeowners are projected to be helped.
However, the Obama administration’s previous efforts to stem foreclosures have fallen far short of expectations. Analysts at Barclays Capital estimated last month that the refinancing program would only aid between 200,000 and 300,000 homeowners.
As of the end of June, there were 11 million U.S. homes, or 23 percent of those with a mortgage with so-called underwater mortgages, according to real estate data provider CoreLogic.
FHA loans came into existence in the 1930’s during the Great Depression in order to allow lower income Americans to borrow money for the purchase of a home. The government program was intended to provide banks with adequate insurance to insure against mortgage defaults that were subsidized by the government.
Well, the fall of 2010 should bring us a new refinance program for those with mortgages that are underwater (the mortgage amount exceeds the value of the home). However, the program is voluntary for mortgage lenders.
The government will offer cash incentives tied to the total value of loan principal reduced. To participate in the program, lenders must write down at least 10 percent of the original loan balance, and the restructured loan amount must be less than the current value of the home. After the principal write down, the new loan to value can be no higher than 97.75% of the new appraised value.
If you have a second mortgage, the lien holder must agree to subordinate their second mortgage to the new first mortgage, and must agree to write off any principal amount that exceeds 115% of current loan-to-value (LTV).
This option will be made available to homeowners with mortgages that are not currently insured by the FHA. Existing FHA-insured borrowers are not eligible for this program.
- You must be current on your existing mortgage(s)
- You must occupy the home as your primary residence
- You must qualify under current FHA underwriting requirements (after principal write down)
- Your FICO score cannot be less than 500
- Your front-end debt-to-income (DTI) ratio can not exceed 31%, and the back-end DTI ratio can not exceed 50%
- The existing lender must agree to principal write down
- The second mortgage lien holder must subordinate to the new first mortgage, and cap the balance at 115% of the value of the home.
Other measures include:
- Temporary assistance for the unemployed: the government will allow unemployed borrowers to reduce or suspend mortgage payments for 3-6 months
- Helping Homeowners Move to More Affordable Housing (HAFA): Encourage short sales and deed-in-lieu transactions as an alternative to foreclosures. The government will increase payments to mortgage service companies and second mortgage holders who agree to participate and will double relocation assistance payment for borrowers successfully completing foreclosure alternative to $3,000 from $1500.
Keep in mind the principal reductions will occur over a three-year period and it’s unclear what the impact of these modifications will have on credit scores.
Call it what you want but it seems after the past few years being a free for all for Mortgage Modification’s handed to people so far in default it’s crazy, soon there may be a program to help those who are actually making their mortgage payments on time… stay in their homes and catch a break.