Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have announced plans to help borrowers who have suffered from last weeks terrorist attacks avoid foreclosure, asking lenders to invoke the disaster-relief provisions in their mortgage servicing guidebooks on distressed loans.
Fannies disaster-relief provisions state that servicers should not start foreclosure on any homeowner within 90 days of a disaster. The provisions also give servicers the discretion to temporarily suspend or reduce mortgage payments or, in some circumstances, create longer loan payback plans to reduce monthly payments. Changes are to be made case by case, Fannie said. Freddie has similar provisions.
In addition the mortgage industry has responded to last weeks attacks by raising millions of dollars for victims families and starting efforts to keep the home-lending market liquid and stable.
The GSEs and a coalition of industry trade groups have pledged $25 million to assist the victims, their families, and the rescue workers. In addition to Fannie and Freddie, which have pledged $10 million each, coalition members include the Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders, National Multi Housing Council, Independent Community Bankers of America, and Home Ownership Alliance.
The Realtors group has raised $1.74 million in donations and pledges, which will be used to help pay mortgage and rental costs for the families devastated by the attacks in New York and Washington and the crash of a hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.
Officials of Fannie and Freddie also said they are working with Wall Street firms to buttress the secondary mortgage markets in order to forestall lender liquidity problems. David W. Glenn, president and vice chairman of Freddie Mac, said the company continued buying mortgages last week and that that no mortgage lender needing financing was turned away. When many of the mortgage-backed security dealers were not in a position to operate, we continued to make bids and buy the securities, he said.
Lenders said their businesses were operating smoothly; moving documents around the country was the biggest problem, they said. Some [loan] closings were delayed because overnight packages with loan documents could not be delivered, said Gary Bettin, consumer real estate loan servicing executive at Bank of America.
Franklin Raines, chairman and chief executive of Fannie Mae, said its employees and business partners rose to the occasion last week to keep mortgage funds flowing.
Business operations at Fannie Mae remained open throughout the weeks events, providing essential liquidity to the mortgage market, Mr. Raines said in a statement prepared for American Banker. Were glad that once again the mortgage finance system helped reduce systemic risk during a national crisis.
Mortgage applications through Freddies Loan Prospector automated underwriting system dropped by as much as 50% Sept. 11 and 12 as a result of the crisis, Mr. Glenn said. But volume picked up and reached nearly normal levels by last Friday, he said. Freddie also continued with a $5 billion offering of two-year Reference Notes, which he said drew greater than normal demand.