Monday, October 6, 2008

Two-Thirds of Struggling Homeowners Meet Key Criteria for Housing Bill Relief, According to Survey by CCCS of Greater Atlanta

PRNewswire/ -- Almost two-thirds of homeowners who called Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Greater Atlanta for foreclosure prevention counseling in recent months appear to meet the threshold requirements for relief under the new federal housing bill that took effect Oct. 1, according to a recent survey of those homeowners.

Of 591 people surveyed in late September, 381 of them, or 64.6 percent, said they met five key eligibility criteria for the mortgage refinancing program.

On July 30, President Bush signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The law created a new program called Hope for Homeowners intended to help families save their homes from foreclosure. Mortgage lenders participating in the program can allow "at risk" borrowers to refinance their current mortgage into a new fixed-rate loan insured by the FHA. Lenders' participation in the program is voluntary.

"Our survey results indicate this new FHA program holds the potential to help a large number of Americans struggling to pay their mortgage," said Suzanne Boas, president of CCCS of Greater Atlanta. "Not everyone will be able to meet the terms. But if someone meets the basic criteria laid out in the housing bill, it would be worth a phone call to their lender to ask about the FHA program."

Homeowners must meet several requirements to be considered for the program. People who called CCCS of Greater Atlanta in July and August trying to avoid foreclosure were surveyed about these requirements by email from Sept. 19-23.

To be counted among the 64.6 percent of survey takers who appear to meet the threshold criteria, people needed to indicate that they live in the home with the problem mortgage; their mortgage was originated before January 2008; they didn't have an existing home equity line or other second mortgage; they did not own another home and they spend at least 31 percent of their gross monthly income on mortgage debt.

From those surveyed, the top challenge to participation in the FHA program is paying off a home equity loan or second mortgage. Thirty-five percent of respondents reported that their home secures more than one loan.

A second mortgage or home equity loan must be paid before a homeowner can qualify for the refinance program. It is possible to pay off the second mortgage through proceeds from the new FHA loan. That could be difficult if the first and second mortgage are held by different lenders because only the primary loan qualifies for the FHA program.

Also, nearly 20 percent of respondents say they don't spend at least 31 percent of their gross monthly income on their mortgage -- a threshold required by the FHA refinance program.

Borrowers who qualify for the FHA program are responsible for paying loan origination fees, as well as an insurance premium to FHA equal to 1.5 percent of the principal annually.

There are several other conditions:

-- The borrower must certify there was no misrepresentation in their application for the existing loan.

-- The borrower must agree to share both initial equity and future appreciation with The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD).

-- The equity sharing agreement provides that if the house is sold within the first year, 100 percent of the initial equity (generally 10 percent of the value of the property at origination) will go to FHA. After 1 year, FHA is entitled to 90 percent of the initial equity. The percentage keeps dropping in 10 percent increments to 50 percent after the fifth year, where it stays.

-- In addition to the initial equity which is a fixed amount, 50 percent of any future appreciation of the property must be paid to HUD when the property is sold.

-- The FHA loan will be a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and may not exceed 90 percent of the current appraised value of the property. An additional 3 percent mortgage insurance premium will be financed in the mortgage making the initial loan to value 87 percent.

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