mortgage

Can you get an Obama loan modification?

Highlights
  • Government program cuts mortgage payment to 31 percent of income.
  • Borrowers must be delinquent or in imminent danger of default.
  • Borrowers must contact loan servicer to apply.

Borrowers who can't afford their mortgage payment may want to take a look at the Home Affordable Modification program, which is part of the Obama administration's Making Home Affordable plan.

The Home Affordable Modification program creates a uniform process for loan servicers to modify existing mortgages for homeowners who meet the following two conditions:

  • They spend more than 31 percent of their income on monthly housing costs.
  • They already are delinquent or in imminent danger of default because of a major change in their financial situation.

The rules are complicated. The federal government has issued top-level guidelines, but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own specific guidelines. In addition, lenders, loan servicers and mortgage insurers may have their own requirements as well.

The program was introduced primarily for mortgages owned or secured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; however, other mortgages may also qualify if the loan servicer chooses to offer this program.

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Borrowers are advised to call their loan servicer to discuss their situation. Many of these servicers are overwhelmed with customer inquiries, so you'll need to be patient and persistent.

While you're on hold, read our summary of the guidelines from the government and Fannie and Freddie.

Borrower requirements

  • The borrower must have missed a mortgage payment or be at risk of imminent default because of a significant increase in the payment or other household expenses, a significant reduction in income, or another type of hardship that makes the payment unaffordable.
  • Borrowers whose mortgage is in foreclosure are eligible, according to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines. Foreclosure will be stayed on loans owned or secured by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac during the loan modification process, subject to state law.
  • Borrowers who are in bankruptcy may be eligible.
  • Borrowers must document their income and expenses and provide evidence of hardship or a major adverse change in their financial situation.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require a credit report, but no minimum or maximum credit score.
  • The borrower must sign a loan modification agreement, hardship letter and other documents.
  • Misrepresentation of the borrower's qualifications is a federal crime.

Property requirements

  • The property must be a detached home, duplex, triplex or four-unit residential property. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines allow condominiums, cooperatives and manufactured housing units.
  • The owner must occupy the property. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require documented evidence of owner occupancy.
  • Second/vacation homes, rental properties and vacant homes are not eligible.
  • The property is subject to a value test to determine if the loan modification makes sense for the investor. A borrower who has a lot of equity in his or her home or whose income is very low relative to the home's value may not pass this test.

Existing mortgage

  • The borrower's monthly mortgage payment, property taxes, homeowners insurance and homeowner association dues must be more than 31 percent of the borrower's monthly income before income tax.

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