About Government Refinance and Home Purchase Programs

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Archive for January, 2008...

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FHA reform is only one component of the economic stimulus bill that is working its way through the senate after passing in the House of Representatives already. Once the senate approves the President is expected to sign the bill immediately. The goal date set by Senate majority leader Harry Reid is Feb. 15, 2008. Here is a portion of a recent AP article that touches on the mortgage related aspects of the new bill:

The House plan includes two provisions designed to boost the ailing housing market, although lawmakers, under pressure from the Treasury Department, limited the duration of one of them.

The measure increases the size of Federal Housing Administration-backed loans from $362,790 to as high as $729,750 in expensive parts of the country such as the Bay Area, but only until the end of the year.

Democrats believed that the Bush administration was open to making that limit permanent for FHA loans. But Treasury officials insisted over the weekend that the new FHA limits expire by year-end, Steve Adamske, spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Tuesday.

Another measure included in the House plan raises the maximum size of mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy from $417,000 to as high as $729,750 in expensive parts of the country. House leaders had agreed early on that the increase would expire at the end of the year.

Congressional leaders are aiming to send the package to Bush by Feb. 15. The goal was to start mailing out rebate checks in May and to have most of them to taxpayers by July so that people would spend the money and kick-start a slumping economy. But the divergent plans – and bids by Senate Democrats and some Republicans to enlarge the package with more add-ons – could drag out that schedule.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said she hopes the Senate would “take this bill and run with it.”

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Thursday, January 31st, 2008

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It turns out the FHA reform portion of the new economic stimulus package only good through the end of 2008. That is the news that came out today as the bill passed easily in a House vote. The Senate gets a whack at the bill next.

Here is an excerpt from a recent story over at BusinessWeek.com:

The House approved two measures Tuesday designed to boost the ailing housing market as part of a broad economic stimulus package.

Under pressure from the Bush administration, lawmakers limited the duration of one of the measures.

The plan, approved 385-35, raises the maximum size of mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy from $417,000 to as high as $729,750 in expensive parts of the country. The proposed increase would expire at the end of the year.

Democrats believed that the Bush administration was open to making that limit permanent for FHA loans. But the Treasury Department insisted over the weekend on making the new FHA limits expire by year-end, Steve Adamske, spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Tuesday.

The administration also swayed House lawmakers to narrow the legislation so that it focused only on hiking the loan limits, rather than enacting a broader overhaul of the agency, which was created during the Great Depression to aid cash-strapped borrowers.

“We’re baffled by this,” Adamske said, noting that the Bush administration has been advocating such legislation for months. “When push came to shove, they didn’t want to pass it as soon as it was possible.”

Jennifer Zuccarelli, a Treasury Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message that bills overhauling the FHA and government sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “should be completed as soon as possible on a separate track from the stimulus package.”

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

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Here is the relevant segment from a report at cnnmoney.com

Easing the housing crisis. The economic stimulus package proposed by House leaders also includes two housing measures intended to make it easier for consumers to obtain mortgages or refinance expensive subprime loans.

In his State of the Union address, Bush pushed for three other housing measures, noting that “these are difficult times for many American families, and by taking these steps, we can help more of them keep their homes.”

First, he reiterated his call to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which guarantee the purchase and sale of home mortgages in the secondary market.

Both Fannie and Freddie have been plagued by accounting scandals, and reform would subject them to more stringent regulation. But Democrats and Republicans disagree over just how the oversight rules should be changed and also over the inclusion of unrelated elements in the reform bill.

He also called on Congress to modernize the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The FHA loan program is intended for home buyers and home owners with weak credit. FHA reform would lower down payment requirements, increase the cap on loans eligible to be FHA-insured and lower origination fees, among other things. The House and Senate each passed versions of FHA reform in 2007.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

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Today the loan limit for FHA loans is about $363,000 in high cost areas and lower in other areas. The new economic stimulus package that the White House and the Democrats in the House of Representatives worked out last Thursday will increase those loan limits dramatically (assuming it can get past the Senate in the next few weeks as Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is projecting). But what will the new limits actually be. Turns out nobody know yet. The could be as high as double, or perhaps less. For those of you who want a sneak peek — Here is a recent article in the WSJ Online with some speculations on the new limits.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Sunday, January 27th, 2008

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Leaders from the House of Representatives worked out a deal with the White House on Thursday regarding the new economic Stimulus package. Here is an excerpt from a recent AP report:

To address the mortgage crisis, the package also raises the limits on Federal Housing Administration loans and home mortgages that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase to as high as $725,000 in high-cost areas. Those are considerable boosts over the current FHA limit of $362,000 and the $417,000 cap for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s loan purchases.

However, the Senate still needs to concur before the bill is sent to the President for a signature:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the goal is to send the package to the White House by Feb. 15 for President Bush’s signature

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Friday, January 25th, 2008

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Treasury secretary Paulson recently made some optimistic comments on the US economy and included these comments on recent and pending FHA reforms:

In addition, the Administration continues our on-going efforts to minimize the housing market’s impact. We have made progress. Last Friday the HOPE NOW alliance, a coalition representing over 90 percent of the subprime servicing market, as well as non-profit mortgage counseling organizations, trade associations and investors, announced promising developments. This industry-wide effort employs multiple tools to reach and help struggling homeowners, including streamlining subprime borrowers into refinancings and loan modifications. According to HOPE NOW, the industry assisted 370,000 homeowners in the second half of 2007, and mortgage servicers modified subprime loans during the fourth quarter at a rate three times faster than in the third quarter.

As I have said, entire industries do not adjust easily or quickly, even when markets are calm. This alliance is demonstrating that an industry can, through coordination, make a difference and do so without forcing American taxpayers to pay the bill. I look forward to regular progress reports in the coming months. As we learn more, we will look for additional measures to reach more borrowers and prevent as many avoidable foreclosures as possible.

The Administration has also, through FHASecure, expanded affordable mortgage options. Working with Congress, we have increased funding for mortgage counselors who assist struggling homeowners. We have also temporarily eliminated taxes on forgiven mortgage debt. But more action is needed in the housing sector, action just as urgent as a broader short-term economic boost.

Congress needs to pass legislation to modernize the FHA, to increase availability of affordable FHA mortgages. It needs to strengthen regulatory oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they will continue to fulfill their affordable mortgage financing mission. And as part of this reform, to temporarily raise the loan limit on conforming mortgages for securitization. Congress should also allow states to issue tax-exempt bonds to raise funds for innovative refinancing programs.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Thursday, January 24th, 2008

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Congressman Barney Frank and other Democrats are pushing to get FHA reforms into the new White House Economic stimulus package. Here is an excerpt from a recent Bloomberg report on the subject:

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — Congressional Democrats want to expand availability of federally insured mortgages for subprime borrowers as part of the economic-stimulus plan being negotiated with the White House, Representative Barney Frank said.

Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said today in a telephone interview it’s “very likely” legislation to overhaul the Federal Housing Administration will be part of the $140 billion to $150 billion plan for jumpstarting the U.S. economy amid increasing signs of a recession. The measure would help homeowners refinance mortgages to keep from losing their homes, Frank said.

“You would not ordinarily think of a bill to restructure the operations of the Federal Housing Administration as stimulative, but in this case it is because we’re talking about foreclosure avoidance,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Frank and other Democratic lawmakers are working with the Bush administration to develop an economic plan as the subprime- mortgage crisis continues to roil markets and squeeze consumers. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, said today he wanted to get the plan through Congress and to President George W. Bush within three weeks.

Lawmakers are also considering a provision that would temporarily let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy home loans above $417,000 for packaging into securities, Frank said. The language is part of a Senate bill that would create a tougher regulator for the two largest U.S. mortgage finance companies.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

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The White House recently announced a major economic stimulus package. Here are the portions of it related to mortgage relief:

The Administration Has Taken Steps To Help Struggling American Homeowners

In September, the President and his Administration launched a new initiative at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) called FHASecure. FHASecure expands the FHA’s ability to offer refinancing by giving it the flexibility to work with homeowners who have good credit histories but cannot afford their current payments. By the end of 2008, the FHA expects this program to help more than 300,000 families refinance their homes.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson have facilitated the private-sector HOPE NOW alliance. HOPE NOW has developed a plan under which up to 1.2 million homeowners could be eligible for assistance. This plan will help subprime borrowers who can afford the current, starter rate on a subprime loan, but would not be able to make the higher payments once the interest rate goes up.

President Bush signed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, which will help Americans avoid foreclosure by protecting families from higher taxes when they refinance their home mortgages. This Act created a three-year window for homeowners to refinance their mortgage and pay no Federal taxes on any debt forgiveness they receive.

Congress Has More Work To Do To On Measures To Help Families Stay In Their Homes

The President has called on Congress since August to complete work on responsible legislation modernizing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). This bill will give FHA the necessary flexibility to help hundreds of thousands of additional families qualify for prime-rate financing.

Congress needs to pass legislation permitting State and local governments to help troubled borrowers by issuing tax-exempt bonds for refinancing existing home loans. Under current law, cities and States can issue tax-exempt bonds to finance new mortgages for first-time homebuyers, but States are unable to do the same for homeowners seeking to refinance. Congress needs to pass legislation to reform Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. GSEs provide liquidity to the mortgage market that benefits millions of homeowners, and it is vital that they operate safely and soundly. The President has called on Congress to pass legislation that strengthens independent regulation of the GSEs and ensures they focus on their important housing mission.

The President strongly believes that government assistance must be responsible — the wrong answer, such as a bailout, could actually prolong the problem.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Saturday, January 19th, 2008

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Hold on tight folks — things may get a little bumpy. Recent comments by the Fed indicate that there are real concerns that a recession is coming for the US. Here is an excerpt from a report by Jeannine Aversa over at the AP:

WASHINGTON – Retailers, home builders and many manufacturers should brace for even more rough times ahead, a somber Federal Reserve suggested Wednesday amid growing fears that the U.S. might be sliding into recession.

The Fed’s snapshot of business conditions showed a national economy losing momentum heading into the new year and a future riddled with uncertainty. The persistent housing slump and harder-to-get credit are making people and businesses ever more cautious, it said.

The Fed report was the unwelcome icing on a recent batch of economic indicators — ranging from a plunge in retail sales to a big jump in unemployment — raising concern that the country is heading for its first recession since 2001.

At the beginning of last year, many economists put the chance of a recession at less than 1-in-3; now an increasing number say 50-50 or even worse. Goldman Sachs, the biggest investment bank on Wall Street, thinks a recession is inevitable this year.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

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Andrew Housser over at KOAM TV in Kansas recently filed this useful overview of the recent and pending changes to the FHA program:

In August, President George Bush proposed a series of programs, called “FHA Secure,” to help homeowners who are overburdened by their mortgages. Since then, the program has been modified to include additional provisions.

To address some of those concerns, homeowners may find it helpful to understand some of the key modifications to the President’s plan:

* A rate freeze for borrowers who will not be able to afford their adjustable mortgages. This will help some borrowers on the margin, but will not help the majority of subprime borrowers facing foreclosure. Several requirements will exclude most subprime borrowers. For instance, the borrower cannot be more than 30 days past due on the account at the timethe loan is changed, cannot have been more than 60 days late at any time in the past 12 months, must hold a loan whose interest rate will reset in 2008, and must demonstrate he/she is not capable of paying the new higher payment. Just about 100,000 to 250,000 loans will qualify for this program – fewer than 10 percent of loans whose rates will reset between now and the end of 2009.
* Tax relief for forgiven debt (cancellation of debt income). If the lender forgives a portion of the loan balance as part of the foreclosure process, the forgiven debt has been considered taxable income. For example, if a home is worth $400,000, but the owner has a $500,000 mortgage, and the lender lets the owner walk away without paying the difference, the IRS considers the homeowner as having received $100,000 in value. That $100,000 would be taxable. Now, Bush and Congress have provided tax relief to individuals in this situation. This will simply lessen the pain for some consumers already in the dire financial situation of foreclosure.

Other proposals are in the works in Congress. These include:

* Federal Housing Finance Reform Act. The House would strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, companies that work closely with government to sell mortgages as securities. The Senate has not acted.
* Expanding American Homeownership/FHA Modernization Acts. The House and Senate have approved different versions of this act that would give the FHA more leeway to help needy homeowners refinance their mortgages.
* National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act. The House has approved legislation to build or preserve 1.5 million low-cost homes and apartments over 10 years. The Senate has not acted, and Bush threatens a veto.
* Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. The House has moved, and Senate is considering, legislation to regulate the mortgage lending industry.

They say that time heals all wounds, and time may be one of the best cures for the nation’s mortgage woes. In the meantime, homeowners and investors alike are in for a bumpy ride — but now, Congress is coming along, too.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

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Deborah Donovan out at the Daily Herald in the Chicago area wrote an interest piece related to our post-subprime age in the US. Here is an excerpt:

What mortgage opportunities will you find when you want to buy a house in this post-subprime world?

Regardless of fears and stories you may have heard about tight credit, mortgages are available.

In fact, interest rates are low — 5 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, said Paul Lueken, president of the Illinois Association of Mortgage Professionals.

Riskier loans that did not make sense according to traditional underwriting standards are gone or have become very rare.

These include subprime mortgages designed for borrowers with bad credit that require little equity or down payment and little or no proof of income. Rates for these loans often escalate over the years.

Now 30-year fixed loans are popular again, credit scores are important and FHA mortgages are a choice for those who don’t have large down payments.

Adjustable rate mortgages are less popular these days because rates are not much lower than 30-year fixed rate mortgages.

Experts recommend shopping around for rates and meeting with a mortgage representative to examine what options are available.

Remember, besides a down payment, with most mortgages there are $1,500 to $3,000 in closing costs and a few months of payments in savings required as a reserve.

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Saturday, January 12th, 2008

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Even the Canadians care about FHA reforms… The folks over at CEP news published a recent report on the recent comments made by Treasury Secretary Paulson. Here is an excerpt:

He noted that in his travels around the country in recent weeks, one concern he heard repeatedly was reduced availability of mortgages. Paulson said he and others at Treasury have been pushing Congress to pass an FHA modernization bill that would provide financing for roughly 250,000 borrowers, and would raise loan caps on jumbo loans, those mortgages above the conforming loan limit.

The primary focus remains “keeping the economy as strong as possible as we weather this housing correction,” Paulson said.

In a question and answer session following his speech, Paulson said President Geroge W. Bush has not yet settled on an economic stimulus plan. He also said that permanent tax cuts would give financial markets certainty, but acknowledged it is difficult to get Congress to make tax cuts permanent.

Paulson also reiterated comments that the housing slump has not spread to the broader economy and that the housing market downturn still has “further to run.”

Comments (0) Posted by G.R.A. Admin on Thursday, January 10th, 2008