Real Estate Market

Gulf area homeowners get mortgage relief

(06/17/2010) With livelihoods and home values threatened by the Gulf oil disaster, lenders and others are coming forth to offer special relief for homeowners.

Fannie Mae this week announced that servicers may immediately suspend or reduce mortgage payments for borrowers impacted by the nation's greatest environmental disaster.

Under the company's "Special Relief Measures"policy, servicers can suspend or reduce a borrower's payments for up to 90 days. During that time, servicers will determine the nature and extent of the impact the disaster is having on properties and homeowner's financial condition.

Once servicers conclude the assessment they have additional leeway to evaluate any loss mitigation alternative, including an additional three months of forbearance, a loan modification or other customized solution.

"We want to give homeowners every opportunity to weather this unprecedented disaster, including relief from their mortgage payment if that will help them get back on their feet and stay in their homes," said Michael J. Williams, President and CEO of Freddie Mac.

"Our policy is in place to support those who are experiencing a disaster-related hardship through no fault of their own and are acting in good faith to meet their mortgage obligation," Williams added.

Borrowers seeking relief under Fannie Mae's measures should contact their mortgage servicer.

In addition to rank and file homeowners, there are an estimated 150,000 private vacation rental property owners in the Florida white-beach panhandle area alone who could experience lost income, even if oil doesn't come ashore and that could affect their ability to pay the mortgage, according to an online portal for vacation rental owners.

The draw of the beaches and vacation home facilities are a major asset for the region's tourism economy, especially in Florida's Northwest region where the beaches and travel accommodations are often assets of individual vacation property owners, rather than hotels and resorts.

Citigroup CEO also this week announced a foreclosure suspension program for CitiMortgage home loans in coastal areas hard-hit by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

During a three-month suspension, effective Thursday through September 17, qualified borrowers with first mortgage loans owned by CitiMortgage will not be subject to foreclosure sales or foreclosure notifications, the bank said.

CitiMortgage will also waylay evictions on its real estate owned properties during the period.

The program aims to allow distressed homeowners to remain in their homes as Gulf communities respond to the oil spill and its economic repercussions.

"We hope that with this suspension we can help ease some of the financial stress for our customers in the affected Gulf region," said Sanjiv Das, President and Chief Executive Officer of CitiMortgage.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana Realtors Association (LRA) also recently announced it is prepared to use its Louisiana REALTORS Association Relief Fund (LRARF) to assist members and other Louisiana residents affected by the growing oil crisis.

LRA established LRARF in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina to assist its members and other Louisiana residents affected by major disasters. The program's guidelines online explain qualifying requirements.

Other help for homeowners may be available through the federal government's program.

Anyone can keep apprised online of the official Deepwater Horizon Response unified command, including related disaster relief efforts.

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