Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Obama's Housing Plan goes into effect today

Well, we have yet to hear back from President Obama or his staff in response to my letter. Can you believe it? Hopefully it won't matter. Today is March 4th and seeing as we still have yet to sell our house or even get one offer (after dropping the price 4 times) we will be calling Countrywide to see if we, indeed, qualify for the plan.

Here's a little information courtesy of cnnmoney.com:

Obama foreclosure fix open for business
Federal officials release details of $75 billion loan modification and refinancing programs. Borrowers can start contacting loan servicers.
By
Tami Luhby, CNNMoney.com senior writer
Last Updated: March 4, 2009: 11:08 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Obama administration's foreclosure prevention program is open for business.
The multipronged fix calls for companies to help as many 4 million struggling borrowers by modifying loans so monthly housing payments are no more than 31% of monthly gross income. Separately, homeowners who haven't missed a payment can refinance into lower-cost loans even if they have little or no equity. This is expected to help up to 5 million homeowners.
The $75 billion loan modification plan will provide incentives to borrowers and loan servicers and investors to spur mortgage modifications. The government will also subsidize interest rate reductions to get borrowers to affordable monthly payments.
"This plan will help make home ownership more affordable for nine million American families and in doing so, help to stop the damaging impact that declining home prices have on all Americans," said Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan.
Borrowers can now contact their servicers to see whether they are eligible for assistance. Federal officials will promote the program at homeownership events nationwide.
The administration Wednesday released additional eligibility criteria and program guidelines.
The loan modification plan focuses on people who are behind in their payments or are at risk of default.
Federal officials clarified the definition of "at risk" as those: suffering serious hardships, declines in income or increase in expenses; facing an interest rate hike; having high mortgage debt compared to income; owing more than their house is worth, or demonstrating other reasons for being close to default.
To participate in the loan modification plan, borrowers must:
have obtained their mortgage before Jan. 1, 2009;
have a primary mortgage of less than $729,500;
live in the property;
fully document their income by providing tax returns and pay stubs;
sign a statement of financial hardship; and
go for counseling if their total household debt - including auto loans, credit cards and alimony - totals more than 55% of their income.
The modification program will be in effect until the end of 2012, but loans can only be adjusted once.
Officials also unveiled more details on how servicers will modify the loans. First, they must reduce interest rates so that borrowers' total house payments are not more than 38% of their monthly income. The government will then subsidize servicers dollar-for-dollar to lower that ratio to 31% - but the interest rate can't go below 2%.
The new interest rate would then remain in place for five years, after which it will increase by 1 percentage point a year until it reaches either the original rate or the prevailing mortgage rate at the time of the modification, whichever is lower.
If rate reductions aren't enough to get payments to 31% of income, a lender can extend the term up to 40 years, or shift part of the principal to the end of the loan at no interest. Servicers also have the option of reducing the loan's balance.
Servicers will receive $1,000 for each loan modified, as well as additional annual bonuses if borrowers keep up with payments. Investors will receive one-time $1,500 incentive payments for restructuring qualifying loans that are not yet delinquent. Finally, borrowers who keep up with their new payments will receive up to $1,000 a year in principal reduction, for up to five years.
The program also includes a new provision to eliminate borrowers' second mortgages. Investors in those mortgages, who at times have blocked modifications because they don't benefit from the adjustments, will receive incentives to eliminate those claims. Servicers that get second-mortgage holders to participate will receive an additional $250.

First Published: March 4, 2009: 9:22 AM ET



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