Friday, January 30, 2009

Freddie Mac Extends Eviction Suspension Until March, Launches Rental Option for Foreclosed Borrowers, Tenants

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) today announced it is extending its suspension of evictions triggered by foreclosures on single family properties with Freddie Mac-owned mortgages through February 28, 2009. Freddie Mac is simultaneously launching a new strategy to offer qualified owner-occupants and tenants leases so they can rent the properties on a month-to-month basis after foreclosure.

"First and foremost, Freddie Mac's REO Rental Option is intended to help cushion the impact of foreclosure on families who own or rent homes with Freddie Mac-owned mortgages," said David M. Moffett, Chief Executive Officer of Freddie Mac. "At the same time keeping foreclosed properties occupied and in better repair will support local property values and promote a faster recovery in the housing market."

Under the REO Rental Option, leases will be offered to current renters on a month-to-month basis at market rents or the rent amount they were paying prior to foreclosure, whichever is less. The rent for former owner-occupants will be the market rent, which will determined by the property management firm Freddie Mac contracted to manage the program.

To qualify, current tenants and former owner-occupants must be able to demonstrate they have adequate income to pay the monthly rental amount. The home must also meet applicable building codes, or can be affordably brought into compliance, to be eligible.

Freddie Mac will also explore loan modification options that may enable owner-occupants to retain ownership of their homes by reinstating their mortgage with modified terms.

"In about half of all foreclosure sales there is no conversation between the borrower and the mortgage servicer about workouts. Before starting the eviction process, we want to ensure there is one last effort to achieve a workout," explained Ingrid Beckles, Senior Vice President of Default Asset Management at Freddie Mac.

In 2008 Freddie Mac approved more than 87,485 workouts, enabling three out of five of its seriously delinquent borrowers to avoid foreclosure.

Freddie Mac gives lenders servicing its mortgages broad authority to help troubled borrowers before they miss a payment through forbearance as well as provide permanent rate reductions, mortgage term extensions or other modifications to borrowers who are already delinquent. Freddie Mac workout options include the Streamlined Modification Program developed with Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), HOPE Now and 27 mortgage servicers to expedite loan modifications for eligible borrowers who have missed three or more mortgage payments. (For more about Freddie Mac workout options, see freddiemac.com/avoiding_foreclosure.)

Freddie Mac was established by Congress in 1970 to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the nation's residential mortgage markets. Freddie Mac supports communities across the nation by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Over the years, Freddie Mac has made home possible for one in six homebuyers and more than five million renters.

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Fannie Mae Extends Eviction Suspension Another Month

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) today announced that it will extend its suspension of evictions from Fannie Mae-owned single-family properties through February 28, 2009. The suspension applies to all single-family properties including owner-occupied properties that have been foreclosed upon as well as foreclosed properties occupied by renters.

The company this month began implementing its National Real Estate Owned (REO) Rental Policy that allows qualified renters in Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed properties to stay in their homes. The new policy applies to renters occupying any type of single-family foreclosed properties at the time Fannie Mae acquires the property. Eligible renters will be offered a new month-to-month lease with Fannie Mae or financial assistance for their transition to new housing should they choose to vacate the property. The properties must meet state laws and local code requirements for a rental property. On behalf of the company, property managers are contacting renters in Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed properties to notify them of their options.

Renters in Fannie Mae-owned properties can call 1-800-7-FANNIE for further information about their options.

Fannie Mae exists to expand affordable housing and bring global capital to local communities in order to serve the U.S. housing market. Fannie Mae has a federal charter and operates in America's secondary mortgage market to enhance the liquidity of the mortgage market by providing funds to mortgage bankers and other lenders so that they may lend to home buyers. Our job is to help those who house America.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

HGTV’s FrontDoor.com Names the Top 10 Dreamy Neighborhoods

(BUSINESS WIRE)--In honor of HGTV's 13th Dream Home Giveaway, FrontDoor explores 10 of the dreamiest places to live in the United States. Whether it’s lush acreage, majestic views or exclusivity that you crave, each of these neighborhoods offers all that and more. Perhaps that's why they're in high demand, with buyers willing to pay millions to call them home. Find out what makes them so irresistible. (http://www.frontdoor.com/top10)

1. Sonoma, California. What's not to love about Sonoma? The wine country's rolling hills and sandy beaches make it an all-inclusive place to live. While the median home price is more than $500,000, acreage is in high demand here and buyers pay millions for it. Architecture ranges from Mediterranean to Victorian to Craftsman, and houses come in all sizes, from stunning estates to modest bungalows. No wonder HGTV chose this quaint northern California town to be the site of this year's Dream Home. Don't forget to sign up for a chance to win it.

2. Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia. This trendy district north of Atlanta is a fascinating blend of old-money mansions and new-money nightlife. Whether it's a cozy cottage in Peachtree Hills or a magnificent estate in Tuxedo Park, you'll find Southern charm on every corner. Buckhead is a shopper's paradise, with two major shopping areas -- Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza -- that offer high-end retailers and great people-watching. The district also boasts the best dining and nightlife in the region, with more than 300 restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

3. Gold Coast, Chicago, Illinois. Old money and stunning lake views characterize this hot neighborhood that runs contrary to the Chicago phrase, "cooler by the lake." Oprah lives on the border of this high-priced community, where homebuyers can pay millions for a two-bedroom condo. The neighborhood offers world-class shopping, dining and entertainment as well convenient proximity to the lake and business district.

4. Scottsdale, Arizona. With upscale shopping, an active nightlife scene and a number of high-end residential golf communities, Scottsdale is the "it" place to be in the Phoenix area. The average home price is $2 million to $3 million, but homes can easily sell for a lot more. Home to more than 70 resorts and hotels, the city has designed itself to be a big tourist draw, creating a high demand for land in this area and raising property values.

5. Coral Gables, Florida. Just eight miles south of Miami, Coral Gables is quintessential old South Florida, featuring historic architecture, good schools and the Miracle Mile, a lively street lined with restaurants, bars and high-end boutiques. Expect to see lush landscaping and charming 1920s stucco homes with red tile roofs, archways and private courtyards.

6. Mercer Island, Washington. Location plays a key part in the high-end real estate market on Mercer Island. Connected to Seattle by two bridges, the island offers incredible views of the city's skyline without the hustle and bustle of urban life. Tranquility and convenience come at a price: a luxury home on Mercer Island can cost up to $40 million.

7. Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York. This neighborhood's historic charm, top-notch restaurants and shopping, and proximity to Prospect Park make it an attractive alternative to Manhattan for families and professionals. Seventh and Fifth avenues are Park Slope's main commercial areas, while other streets are occupied by renovated brownstones, which can sell for millions of dollars.

8. Lower Downtown (LoDo), Denver, Colorado. Looking for a Rocky Mountain getaway? Lower Downtown Denver is perfect for urbanites who love the mountains. The neighborhood is filled with old brick buildings converted into lofts, new condo towers, and a density of restaurants, bars and shops. The Riverfront Park, a rolling, meandering grassy swatch of real estate fronting the Platte River, offers great mountain views, places to barbecue and plenty of space to enjoy the fresh air of the Mile High City. Colorado boasts excellent skiing, world class dining and majestic views, which made Winter Park a great Dream Home location in 2007. And ski havens Aspen and Telluride are within driving distance.

9. Atherton, California. Located on the San Francisco peninsula, this high-end California neighborhood is home to computer company execs and venture capitalists. By preserving the area's wooded scenery and rural charm, Atherton is able to offer a quieter lifestyle than its neighbor, San Francisco. As of December 2008, the median home price in Atherton settles in at more than $4 million.

10. Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts. One of Boston's priciest neighborhoods, Back Bay is both a residential and commercial area, featuring Victorian brownstones on its northern end and some of Boston's tallest skyscrapers on its southern end. The neighborhood's historic Newbury and Boylston streets offer trendy cafes and upscale shopping, and Copley Square boasts several 19th century landmarks.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bankrate: Mortgage Rates Rebound to Three-Week High

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Mortgage rates increased after falling in each of the previous three weeks. According to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is now 5.59 percent with an average of 0.3 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage jumped to 5.2 percent and the average jumbo 30-year fixed rate climbed to 7.22 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were mixed, with the average 1-year ARM sliding to 5.91 percent and the 5/1 ARM rising to 5.58 percent.

The reversal in mortgage rates was prompted by investors' nervousness about a large supply of government debt and renewed concerns about the health of banks. Higher yields on benchmark Treasury debt and wider mortgage credit spreads spelled an increase in mortgage rates versus one week ago. While mortgage rates remain historically low, the barrier for many homeowners is lack of equity. Similarly, a lack of downpayment could be a barrier to an otherwise well-qualified home buyer.

Lower mortgage rates have opened the door to refinancing for homeowners with equity. As recently as October, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.77 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,299.86. With the average rate having since fallen to 5.59 percent, the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan is now $1,146.90.

SURVEY RESULTS
30-year fixed: 5.59% -- up from 5.28% last week (avg. points: 0.30)
15-year fixed: 5.20% -- up from 4.89% last week (avg. points: 0.37)
5/1 ARM: 5.58% -- up from 5.51% last week (avg. points: 0.38)

Bankrate's national weekly mortgage survey is conducted each Wednesday from data provided by the top 10 banks and thrifts in the top 10 markets.

For a full analysis of this week's move in mortgage rates, go to http://www.bankrate.com/mortgagerates

The survey is complemented by Bankrate's weekly forward-looking Rate Trend Index, in which a panel of mortgage experts predicts which way the rates are headed over the next 30 to 45 days. There is no firm conviction among the panelists this week, with 38 percent predicting that rates will remain more or less unchanged over the next 30 to 45 days. The remaining respondents are evenly split, with 31 forecasting higher rates and 31 percent expecting lower rates.

Source: Bankrate, Inc.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Exclusive North Augusta Golf and Country Club to Sell at Real Estate Auction

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Located minutes from Augusta National, North Augusta Golf and Country Club, one of the premier golf courses in the area, will sell at auction on January 29th onsite. J. P. King Auction Company, the nation’s leading auction marketing firm specializing in luxury properties, will manage the sale of the property.

“It’s a rare opportunity to purchase an active golf course in one of the golf industry’s most sought after areas,” said Craig King, president & CEO of J. P. King. “Golf enthusiasts annually flock to nearby Augusta National Golf Club for The Masters. The close proximity allows North Augusta Golf and County Club to host visitors and cater special events during The Masters Golf Tournament.”

The 18-hole golf course is situated on 135.5 +/- acres with a rolling terrain, towering pine trees, natural lakes and creeks throughout the property. The lakes throughout the property provide irrigation to the entire golf course. The course was renovated in 2005 and new tee boxes were constructed.

"North Augusta Golf and Country Club has been a staple in the Augusta community for over fifty years,” said Fred W. Layman, III, chairman and CEO, North Augusta Golf & Country Club. “It offers a strong and vibrant membership, which caters to the avid golfer and tennis player, and boasts over one hundred swim team memberships. This offering, as well as, The Pinery, are low hassle, turn key businesses with high-end opportunity.”

Founded in 1962, the club has remained the only full service country club in North Augusta offering members a unique golf experience with a pro shop, junior Olympic swimming facility and restaurant. Approved plans and all preparatory site work have been completed for the construction of a new state-of-the-art clubhouse facility.

Adjacent to the North Augusta Golf and Country Club, The Pinery, a turnkey residential land development opportunity consisting of 35.5+/- acres, is zoned for multi-family use.

The Pinery has been approved for 102 luxury residential townhomes providing spectacular golf course and lake views. An exceptional five bedroom, four bath model home has already been constructed and currently serves as a sales office. The Pinery is only two hours from the vacation destinations of Hilton Head, Savannah and Charleston.

Individuals interested in more information about the upcoming sale may contact J.P. King at (800) 558-5464 or visit the company’s web site at www.jpking.com.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Carol Flammer Named Associate of the Year by Home Builders Association

The Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (HBA) recently named Carol Flammer Associate of the Year at their annual Installation and Awards banquet on Jan. 15, 2009. The event, hosted by the Greater Atlanta HBA, the Certified Professional Home Builder program and HomeAid Atlanta, celebrated the successes of 2008, announced the installation of the 2009 board of directors and honored the association’s award recipients. Flammer is the founder and president of the Southeast's leading real estate public relations firm, Flammer Relations, and has been a member of the Greater Atlanta HBA for nine years.

“Carol’s experience, knowledge and dedication to the home building industry have been a huge asset to the Greater Atlanta HBA and this award is in honor and appreciation of her hard work during her membership,” said David Ellis, Executive Vice President of the Greater Atlanta HBA. “She has made immeasurable contributions to the industry by building credibility, awareness and a constant buzz about homebuilding in Atlanta and we are pleased to recognize her as our 2008 Associate of the Year.”

The Greater Atlanta HBA’s Associate of the Year is chosen based on professional excellence, involvement in the association and the community, participation in education and other affiliations. Since becoming a member of the HBA in 2000, Flammer has offered her knowledge and expertise to several committees and special events including Sales and Marketing Council (SMC), Atlanta 50+ Council, HomeAid Atlanta, the 2007 and 2008 Parade of Homes, Atlanta Housing Forum and the Get Home Atlanta Campaign. In addition to her HBA work, Flammer is active in the community, donating her time and resources to several local organizations including the Atlanta district council of the Urban Land Institute, Pick of the Litter and Etowah Valley Humane Society.

With 19 years of Atlanta-area public relations experience, Carol has established herself as the expert in the residential real estate industry and continues to set a precedent for excellence, while continuously supporting Atlanta’s building industry. She founded Flammer Relations in 1999 and built the company from the ground up. Flammer earned her MIRM (Member, Institute of Residential Marketing), Certified Sales Professional, Certified Marketing Professional and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist designations in 2007. In 2008, Flammer Relations teamed up with MLC New Home Marketing to launch mRELEVANCE, LLC, a real estate focused public relations, Internet marketing and social media firm designed to meet client needs in a changing marketplace by building online and off line relationships that are relevant to client success. mRELEVANCE implements a combination of traditional PR services and up-to-date Web 2.0 tools (e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, social media and others) to create relevant results for clients.

Flammer has received several awards and recognitions throughout her career including the 2006 Silver Professionalism Award for Best Marketing Campaign, numerous Gold and Silver OBIE awards, 2007 PRSA Phoenix Award in the blog category, Gold 2008 Hermes Creative Award, 2008 Spirit of Oglethorpe Award and much more.

Flammer Relations, Inc. is a public relations and social media agency specializing in residential real estate, nonprofit and business to business accounts. Flammer Relations has extensive real estate experience in the Southeast, including single family, townhomes, active adult, condo conversions and mixed-use projects. Services include strategic public relations, media relations, Social Media and blogging for SEO, special events coordination and copy writing for newsletters, Web sites and advertorials. For more information on Flammer Relations, Inc., visit www.FlammerPR.com or call 770-383-3360.

Flammer Relations publishes a number of blogs including Atlanta’s most successful real estate blog www.AtlantaRealEstateForum.com. Dedicated to promoting Atlanta real estate trends and news, the blog promotes news of interest to consumers and industry insiders from community grand openings, model homes, amenities and more.
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Patterson Named Business Woman of the Year by MSAR's Women's Council of Realtors

Sharon Patterson, broker for Crystal Lake Realty LLC, honored as Business Woman of the Year by the Women's Council of Realtors of the Metro South Association of Realtors(MSAR).

Patterson is currently serving a two-year term as National Association of Realtors (NAR) director representing the Metro South Association of Realtors (MSAR), an association with a membership composed primarily of Realtors from Henry, Clayton and Butts Counties.

A specialist in the luxury real estate market in Henry County, she is the broker for Crystal Lake Realty LLC, which handles sales for Crystal Lake Golf & Country Club in Henry County. Patterson is also the owner of Custom Community Concepts, a consulting company specializing in new home community marketing.

Patterson began her real estate career 20 years ago with Killearn Properties in Tallahassee, Fla. She has been in the Henry County area for 19 years and serves on the board of directors for the Henry Council Council for Quality Growth. While with Killearn, she was the broker for the Eagle's Landing Sales Center and the Durham Lakes Sales Center.

She is past president of the Metro South Association of Realtors, was the association's Realtor of the Year in 2003 and 2005 and Top Individual Producer in 1999, and has served on the board of governors for the Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) for the past four years. She holds the CRB (Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager) designation.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

FrontDoor.com Powered by HGTV Launches Online Insider City Guides Helping Real Estate Professionals Introduce Home Buyers to Top U.S. Markets

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Consumers looking to move, but not sure where to begin, need look no further than the new online City Guides at FrontDoor.com powered by HGTV. FrontDoor.com City Guides not only provide valuable decision-support content to consumers exploring a move to a new city, but also offer real estate brokers and agents an opportunity to introduce their brand and expert know-how to consumers earlier in the home research process. (http://www.frontdoor.com/city-guide)

FrontDoor.com’s City Guides take users on an insider virtual visit to America’s most popular areas and make scouting for new digs fun and easy. Users can now access City Guides for 21 major areas, including: Aspen, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Sonoma, Tampa and Washington, D.C. More City Guides are scheduled to be added soon.

Combining great visuals, informative articles, neighborhoood videos, real estate listings and even reviews and tips from locals, FrontDoor.com’s City Guides are user-friendly research tools for both novice and experienced househunters looking to acquaint themselves with the aspects of a city that make it unique. From the excitement of the Big Apple and flash of Aspen, Colorado, to the rich, agricultural aspects of Sonoma, California (the site of the 2009 HGTV Dream Home), the City Guides capture the flavor of small and large markets alike. What’s more, select real estate markets have their own custom pages, filled with detailed articles about the location, including information about local customs, culture, and even slang! Check out some of the informative topics explored with City Guides:

* Facts and Figures: How does the town population skew? What’s the weather like? How old are most of the homes? Where are the schools, and what are they like? Find out all that and more with “Facts and Figures” on City Guides.
* Reviews: What are the best local restaurants? What sights are worth seeing? What’s the best place to go dancing? Which parks are nice for picnics? FrontDoor.com’s partnership with Yelp.com allows City Guide users access to thousands of Yelp’s user-generated reviews.
* Explore: Using the advanced technology of Google Maps, the “Explore” section allows visitors to check out the city from any angle, marking points of interest along the way — whether it’s the most convenient bus stop or the biggest movie theater.
* Homes for Sale: Check out what’s available in the town, using FrontDoor.com’s powerful technology to narrow down options by neighborhood, size, price, amenities and type. Then use the unique tools to calculate mortgage options, and whether it’s smarter to rent or to buy.

"FrontDoor.com knows that the home search typically begins at the city or neighborhood level, yet it can be difficult to get a sense of what it's like to live in a particular area. FrontDoor City Guides employ rich photography, video, articles, data and local perspectives to introduce consumers to the pulse of a new city or area," explains Rich Lacy, vp and site director of FrontDoor.com.

Adds Vikki Neil, Scripps' vp and gm of online brands, "Knowing consumers are spending record time conducting their own research online before contacting a real estate professional, FrontDoor City Guides can introduce real estate professionals into the conversation earlier in the search process through brand sponsorship opportunities and promotion of property listings within the content."

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

AtlantaRentCompare.com Allows Consumers to Search the Major Rental Sites in Atlanta at the Same Time on One Screen with a Click

(BUSINESS WIRE)--AtlantaRentCompare.com today announces the first multi-search website that combines all the major apartment and house rental sites in Atlanta on one screen. Atlanta tenants looking online for a new place to live no longer need to hop from site to site. They can simply enter their search criteria once then search the major rental sites like Rent.com, Move.com, Apartments.com, CraigsList.com, Sublet.com, ForRent.com and more at the same time on one screen with a click!

The problem in the Atlanta market today is that consumers are frustrated with trying to find a new place to live. There are simply too many apartment and house rental websites with each having different inventory. Consumers today have no choice but to search multiple rental sites having to set aside hours of time trying to find the different sites available.

The solution is to enter your search criteria once on AtlantaRentCompare.com and easily search the major rental sites at the same time on one screen with a click. Sites currently offered by AtlantaRentCompare.com are:

Apartments.com
ApartmentFinder.com
ApartmentGuide.com
ApartmentRatings.com
ApartmentSmart.com
BackPage.com
BidRent.com
CraigsList.com
EquityApartments.com
ForRent.com
HotPads.com
Move.com
MyNewPlace.com
Oodle.com
Rent.com
Rentals.com
RentSearch.com
RentSpeed.com
Reals.com/rent
Sublet.com

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fannie Mae Announces National REO Rental Policy

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) today announced the establishment of a new National Real Estate Owned (REO) Rental Policy that will allow qualified renters in Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed properties to stay in their homes. The company currently has an eviction suspension in place through the end of January which will allow for the new policy to be fully operationalized prior to the suspension concluding.

"Renters in foreclosed properties have often been a casualty of the foreclosure crisis the country is facing," said Michael Williams, chief operating officer of Fannie Mae. "This policy will allow qualified renters to remain in Fannie Mae-owned properties should they choose to do so, mitigate the disruption of personal lives that foreclosures can cause, and help bring a measure of stability to communities impacted by high foreclosure rates."

The new policy applies to renters occupying foreclosed properties at the time Fannie Mae acquires the property. Renters occupying any type of single-family property will be eligible including residents of two- to four-unit properties, condos, co-ops, single-family detached homes and manufactured housing. Eligible renters will be offered a new month-to-month lease with Fannie Mae or financial assistance for their transition to new housing should they choose to vacate the property. The properties must meet state laws and local code requirements for a rental property.

While the company markets the properties for sale, Fannie Mae will manage the properties through a real estate broker or a property management company. The company will not require security deposits to be posted in connection with this program.

Renters in the foreclosed properties will be asked to pay market rate rent under the new leases. Rates may be determined by reviewing local comparable rents, conducting a neighborhood survey, or through other relevant indicators. Rates will also be subject to any legal rent control restrictions. The company will review each instance where the market rate may require a tenant to pay additional rent and will work to reach an equitable resolution.

On behalf of the company, property managers are contacting renters in Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed properties to notify them of their options.

Fannie Mae exists to expand affordable housing and bring global capital to local communities in order to serve the U.S. housing market. Fannie Mae has a federal charter and operates in America's secondary mortgage market to enhance the liquidity of the mortgage market by providing funds to mortgage bankers and other lenders so that they may lend to home buyers. Our job is to help those who house America.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fannie Mae Extends Foreclosure Sale and Eviction Suspension

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) today announced that it would extend the suspension of foreclosure sales and evictions from single-family properties through January 31, 2009.

This action will enable the company to work with mortgage servicers to further implement the Streamlined Modification Program (SMP) announced on November 11, 2008 and initiated on December 15, 2008. The extension will also provide additional time for the company to operationalize its new National REO Rental Policy, which will allow renters in company-owned foreclosed properties to stay in their homes. Details of the new policy are expected to be announced shortly.

The temporary suspension of foreclosures will allow affected borrowers facing foreclosure to retain their homes while Fannie Mae works with mortgage servicers to implement the SMP. Foreclosure attorneys and loan servicers have been instructed to use the additional time to reach out to borrowers and continue to pursue workout options. The initiative applies to loans owned or securitized by Fannie Mae.

The SMP is aimed at the borrower who has missed three payments or more, owns and occupies the primary residence, and has not filed for bankruptcy. The program creates a fast-track method for getting troubled borrowers into an affordable monthly payment through a mix of reducing the mortgage interest rate, extending the life of the loan or even deferring payments on part of the principal. Servicers have flexibility in the approach, but the objective is to create a more affordable payment for borrowers at risk of foreclosure.

Fannie Mae's loan servicers are prepared to work with borrowers during this suspension period, even if previous workout efforts have been unsuccessful. As part of the company's "Second Look" initiative, Fannie Mae personnel have been reviewing seriously delinquent loans to determine if the borrower has been contacted and all workout options have been exhausted.

The streamlined modification program and temporary suspension of foreclosures are two of a series of steps Fannie Mae has taken to expand its foreclosure prevention efforts, which are designed to give loan servicers and foreclosure attorneys tools to find the best solution for a borrower in financial trouble. Fannie Mae and its many partners in the housing industry urge borrowers in financial difficulty to reach out to their loan servicers, regardless of whether they are facing imminent foreclosure. Solutions may be available that could make an existing mortgage more affordable.

Fannie Mae exists to expand affordable housing and bring global capital to local communities in order to serve the U.S. housing market. Fannie Mae has a federal charter and operates in America's secondary mortgage market to enhance the liquidity of the mortgage market by providing funds to mortgage bankers and other lenders so that they may lend to home buyers. Our job is to help those who house America.

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Freddie Mac Extends Suspension of Single Family Foreclosure Sales, Evictions Until January 31, 2009

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) today announced it is extending its suspension of all foreclosure sales and evictions involving occupied single family and 2-4 unit properties with Freddie Mac-owned mortgages through January 31, 2009. The suspension does not apply to vacant single family properties.

"Freddie Mac is committed to pursuing every responsible opportunity to reduce foreclosures and accelerate the return of stability to the U.S. housing market," said Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer David M. Moffett. "Today's announcement will provide Freddie Mac and its servicers additional opportunities to help put more families on the path to stable homeownership."

The extension will also provide servicers with more time to help troubled borrowers find an alternative to foreclosure and implement the Streamlined Modification Program that went into operation on December 15, 2008. Developed by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), HOPE Now and 27 mortgage servicers, the Streamlined Modification Program was designed to expedite loan modifications for eligible borrowers who have missed three or more mortgage payments.

Freddie Mac gives lenders servicing its mortgages broad authority to help troubled borrowers before they miss a payment through forbearance as well as provide permanent rate reductions, mortgage term extensions or other modifications to borrowers who are already delinquent. In 2008 Freddie Mac enabled three out of five of its delinquent borrowers avoid foreclosure. (For more about Freddie Mac workout options, see freddiemac.com)

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Georgia Housing Leaders Call on Congress to Help Main Street

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Georgia housing industry called on Congress January 7 to address the housing crisis that is at the root of the nation’s recession. Rick Porter, owner of Richport Properties, Inc.; Kenny King, president of Kingsland Corp.; and Kurt Cannon, owner of Rabun Builders, Inc. and the president of the Home Builders Association of Georgia, urged Congress to enact bold measures that will stimulate the housing market and, in turn, revive the local, state and national economies.

“Housing is central to our economy and is an engine of production that can lead us out of the recession,” said Porter. “But it is crucial for Congress to enact a major stimulus package to stop the decline in home values, stem the tide of foreclosures, stabilize financial markets and re-ignite consumer demand.”

To get the Georgia economy moving again, the housing industry is urging Congress to support enhancements to the home buyer tax credit and provide below-market, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for home purchases.

Specifically, the legislation should include:

1. A 10 percent tax credit for all qualified home buyers capped at 3.5 percent of FHA, Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loan limits (equaling $10,000 to $22,000 depending on geographic market). All primary home purchases through December 31, 2009, would be eligible. Repayment would be required only if the home was sold within three years. And the credit would be available at closing, making it easier for buyers to use it as a downpayment;

2. A below-market, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for home purchases. The second component of the stimulus plan would provide qualified home buyers with 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 2.99 percent interest on contracts closed until June 30, 2009 and 3.99 percent interest on closings between June 30 and December 31, 2009; and

3. Continued measures to reduce foreclosures and keep people in their homes.

The housing industry representatives cited a similar plan with both a tax credit and a mortgage rate subsidy that was enacted in 1975 when the nation was also in the midst of a recession. That successful stimulus plan jump-started the depressed economy, and the effects continued in communities across the country long after the measure expired.

“We’ve been in business for about 20 years, and we’re currently working on a project of 23 units which we began back in 2005,” explained Kenny King, president of Kingsland Corp., out of Snellville. “In all my years in home building, this project is probably our best product in our best location, but in this market, we can’t turn the units over. We sold three in 2007, and only four in 2008 – we’ve got 16 left and we don’t know how we’ll sell them. Consumer confidence is basically ‘zero.’ We need stability and confidence brought back to the housing market to end this extended recession.”

Kurt Cannon, owner of Rabun Builders, Inc., from Clayton, and the current president of the Home Builders Association of Georgia, builds second-home and retirement properties. “Our business is basically just shutting down. Last year we only did 25 percent of what we should have done, and now we are finishing up projects without any others lined up. Over the past three months, I’ve talked to between 70 and 80 builders around the area, and I keep hearing the same story over and over again. Builders with high credit ratings, with decades of good credit, current on their payments, are suddenly told by their banks that they have to pay off their loans in 10 days or the bank will foreclose. Of course, they end up foreclosing and the bank just ‘fire-sales’ the neighborhood. It’s the same story all around. We must stop the bleeding.”

“When the housing industry is in a crisis, the entire community is affected,” continued Porter. “Retailers, manufacturers, service providers and even the local government are affected. Most important, local residents suffer.”

“Three million home building-related jobs across the country have been lost as a result of the slowdown in housing production, which represents $145 billion in lost wages and $4.9 billion in lost purchases,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) economist Bernard Markstein. “Deterioration in these jobs has now spilled over into virtually all sectors of the U.S. job market and the economies of states like Georgia.”

"We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to convince Congress to quickly enact a robust housing stimulus program. There’s no question that stopping the decline in home values and restoring demand for housing is the fastest and most effective way of reviving the economy," Porter said.

The housing leaders in Georgia are part of a new coalition called Fix Housing First, consisting of more than 600 organizations, home building companies and manufacturers advocating for this major stimulus package to stem the decline in home values, stabilize financial markets and re-ignite consumer demand. To learn more about Fix Housing First, go to www.fixhousingfirst.com.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Economic Slump Weakens Pending Home Sales

/PRNewswire/ -- After holding fairly stable for a year, pending home sales declined in the face of job losses and an eroding economy, according to the National Association of Realtors(R).

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, fell 4.0 percent to 82.3 from a downwardly revised reading of 85.7 in October, and is 5.3 percent below November 2007 when it was 86.9. The current index is the lowest since the series began in 2001.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a weakening was inevitable. "Mounting job losses and very weak consumer confidence deterred home buyers from signing contracts in November," he said. "December's housing market activity could be comparably lower due to ongoing problems in the economy, so a real estate-focused stimulus plan is urgently needed."

Yun said the outlook will depend heavily on the stimulus package. "With a proper real-estate focused stimulus measure, home sales could rise more than expected, by more than 10 percent to 5.5 million in 2009, and easily begin to stabilize home prices in many parts of the country. Stable home prices will, in turn, lessen foreclosure pressures and lay the foundations for a solid economic recovery as the nation's 75 million homeowners regain confidence," he said.

The impact of mortgage interest rates declining to near 50-year lows in December is not reflected in current data.

The PHSI in the Northeast dropped 7.2 percent to 63.2 in November and is 14.6 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 6.7 percent to 74.2 and is 10.1 percent below November 2007. The index in the South declined 2.2 percent to 85.3 in November and is 12.7 percent below a year ago. In the West, the index was down 2.4 percent to 101.2 but remains 19.3 percent higher than November 2007.

NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said there can't be an economic recovery without a focus on housing. "It's crucial for Congress and the new administration to move quickly to remove impediments and offer home buyers the incentives they need to tap into today's historic low mortgage interest rates," he said.

"NAR advocates expanding a $7,500 tax credit to all home buyers and eliminating the repayment feature, and permanently raising loan limits to bring down interest rates for many buyers in high-cost areas. We also need to expedite short sales and unclog the mortgage pipeline," McMillan said.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage should hold fairly steady through the first half of the year and rise slightly in the second half. NAR's housing affordability index, which looks at the relationship between home prices, mortgage interest rates and family income, is on track to match a record high set in 1972.

"The unique housing affordability conditions in today's market underscore the opportunity in giving consumers the necessary incentives to stimulate our economy through a housing recovery," Yun said.

The National Association of Realtors(R), "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity from 2001 through 2004 parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months. There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Navy Federal Credit Union Commits $6 Billion for Mortgage in 2009

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Navy Federal is pleased to announce that $6 billion has been committed to new mortgages for Navy Federal members in 2009, whether they're buying a new home or refinancing. This new commitment follows 2008 mortgage originations of over $5.7 billion, the second highest year for originations in Navy Federal's history. Ample liquidity and sound financials make it possible for the credit union to continue to offer its members low-rate mortgages that feature fixed rates, no junk fees and servicing for the life of the loan.

"Navy Federal never engaged in sub-prime mortgage lending," said Cutler Dawson, President/CEO. "As a result, we saw a strong 'return to trust' in 2008, and we're committed to continuing that momentum in 2009."

Navy Federal has been serving the men, women and families of the military for over 75 years, and the credit union's foundation is built on conservative financial policies and diligent risk management. Dawson added, "At Navy Federal, we take great pride in serving the financial needs of our military community and their families who serve this great country with integrity and honor. In these challenging times, we strongly believe that our members deserve a financial partner that continues to look out for their best financial interests and we work hard everyday to operate with the highest integrity."

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