Fannie Mae has changed one of its policies for disposing of foreclosed homes in a way that could force servicers to take their lumps sooner.

Typically when a home is repossessed, the government-sponsored enterprise will put the property on the market and around the same time ask the servicer for the loan files for Fannie to review. If the review finds the mortgage was not underwritten to the GSE's requirements, Fannie can make the lender reimburse it for any losses on the sale of the home.

In a Dec. 24 notice to servicers, Fannie said that from now on it reserves the right to accept offers for repossessed homes without notifying the servicer and regardless of whether the loan review has been completed.

Previously, if the servicer provided the files within 15 days of Fannie's request, the GSE would hold off on accepting offers for a house. In such cases, if the servicer thought it could get a better price for the house, it had the option of buying the home from Fannie rather than indemnifying the GSE for any losses. (Servicers that took more than 15 days to provide the files did not have that option; they were on the hook to make the GSE whole for any losses.)

A spokeswoman for Fannie said it made the change "to streamline the foreclosure sale process."

Fannie's inventory of repossessed properties climbed 7% from a year earlier, to 72,275 on Sept. 30, according to a securities filing. Foreclosed homes made up 0.72% of Fannie's single-family portfolio, up 18 basis points. The GSE estimated that 14% of the mortgages it guaranteed were bigger than the homes were worth.

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