New Hope for Chico HomeOwners!

On the Brighter Side

by Mike Wiegert, broker Chico Homes

There’s new hope on the horizon for Chico homeowners saddled with ruinous adjustable rate loans that are threatening to convert happy homeowners to cheerless renters. Last week House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank announced new legislation to stem the significant rise in mortgage foreclosures by allowing the Federal Housing Administration to insure and guarantee refinanced mortgages that have been significantly written down by mortgage holders and lenders. A summary of the proposed draft and the full text is available on the Financial Services Committee website. Mr. Frank cautioned interested readers that the text of the proposed legislation could change over the next few weeks and encouraged comments from all concerned parties.

The new program would permit FHA to provide up to $300 billion in new guarantees that would help to refinance at-risk borrowers into reasonable and affordable new loans. In consideration of a significant reduction of principal, the existing lender or mortgage holder would receive a short payment from the proceeds of a new FHA loan and subsequently the new loan would result in terms that the borrower can reasonably be expected to pay. The existing lender or mortgage holder would receive a cash payment and would agree to not harm or affect the credit of the borrower.

This proposal could potentially refinance between 1 and 2 million loans, thereby helping Chico families to stay in their homes, protect neighborhoods and help stabilize the housing market.

Under the proposed program, a homeowner or existing loan servicer would contact an FHA approved lender who would determine the eligibility and size of the loan consistent with the program’s guidelines. The lender would also evaluate and confirm the borrower’s ability to reasonably repay the new loan. If the current mortgage holder agrees to a write-down or discount of the existing principal balance in accordance with the requirements of the program and makes the new loan affordable, the FHA lender will pay of the existing mortgage.

In addition to the first lien, the newly proposed program grants the government a “soft” second lien to cover the FHA’s costs and preclude borrower misuse of the program such as “flipping” or speculative buying and selling of homes. When the borrower sells or refinances the home there would be a required payment from the profits. This payment would be the higher of a 3 percent exit fee or a declining percentage of any profits ranging from 100 percent in the first year to 20 percent in the fifth year. After the fifth year, the 3 percent exit fee would be the maximum.

Other requirements for eligibility to the program must be met. Eligible applicants are limited to owner occupied principal residences. There is no availability to rental homes, speculative homes or owner occupied second homes. The existing senior loan being refinanced must have been originated between January 1, 2005 and July 1, 2007. To avoid borrowers purposely defaulting on existing loans, the borrower must have a debt to income ratio of 40 percent or higher as of March 1, 2008 and must certify that he/she has not intentionally defaulted. Existing mortgage holders or investors wishing to participate must waive any penalties or fees associated with the existing mortgage and accept the proceeds of the new loan as payment in full. In order for the existing mortgage holder to participate in the program, a significant reduction of the existing loan balance must be “written off” so that the new FHA loan does not exceed 90 percent of the property’s current appraised value. Additionally, the principal reduction of the existing loan must provide for all up front fees for the new loan. Participating existing mortgage holders are limited to a payment of no more than 85 percent of the current appraised value of the property.

Distressed borrowers stuck with adjustable rate loans that are about to be or have been recently reset really need to pay attention to this program. Once enacted, this program will provide to eligible participants not only relief from a looming, excessive home loan, but the possibility of increased equity and a new loan tailored to a borrower’s realistic ability to repay.

Let’s hear it for this bold new step in the right direction by our Federal Legislators.

Sandi Bauman (Chico Homes): Real Estate Agent in Chico, Butte County, California
Tomato University Graduate Real Estate Tomato

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