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The Presidential Debates and the Housing Question

National Mortgage Settlement: The five largest banks in the mortgage market paid a $25 billion settlement due to their reckless foreclose procedures during the financial crisis. These settlement monies were earmarked to help homeowners lower mortgage rates, approve a short sale or reduce principal for underwater homeowners. This plan helps only homeowners who are in arrears on payments, not underwater homeowners who are current on payments. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2013.

New Short-Sale Rules from Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac: This is another program that only applies to mortgages guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie. If you can prove a hardship, a home can be sold below the mortgage principal even if you have been making all payments. This new program takes effect on Nov. 1, 2012 and covers more than 4.5 million Fannie & Freddie underwater mortgages, of which 80% are current. A short-sale allows the homeowner to sell below the mortgage principal and move out debt free.

Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA): This program applies to homeowners who are behind on their mortgages and looking to sell. A HAFA short-sale erases the debt and puts $3,000 in your pocket to move out. You will need to prove hardship and have your mortgage signed before 2009.

Renting Instead of Foreclosure: Some banks are offering to buy your home instead of foreclosure and allows the owner to stay in the home by paying the rent to the bank. Sounds great, but you lose control of the home. If the bank sells your home to someone else, you risk eviction.

Keep in mind that I summarized these programs to the best of my ability. There are other iterations of these programs. My main concern is that there is not a simple plan for all Americans. I do not like the stipulations about the date you signed your mortgage. For HARP and FHA, it's before June 2009. For FHA and HAFA, it's before 2009. I signed my last mortgage in June 2009, and that's a big ouch!

On July 13, I wrote about my personal experience in trying to refinance my mortgage in Refinancing? Would Be Nice if It Weren't Impossible. This article explains the difficulty many homeowners have in getting an advertised deal.

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