Fannie Mae announced steps Wednesday to discourage borrowers from abandoning their homes if they can pay their mortgages and they don't seek workouts.
Under Fannie's current guidelines, such borrowers must wait seven years after a foreclosure to apply for a mortgage backed by Fannie — unless they meet certain criteria, such as a minimum down payment and credit score, in which case they need wait only five years.
Starting in October, Fannie said, the seven-year probationary period will apply to all borrowers who did not make an effort to work with their servicers and cannot document extenuating circumstances, like the loss of a job. (Those who can prove such hardships will remain eligible for shorter waiting periods.)
"We're taking these steps to highlight the importance of working with your servicer," Terence Edwards, Fannie's executive vice president for credit portfolio management, said in a press release. "Walking away from a mortgage is bad for borrowers and bad for communities and our approach is meant to deter the disturbing trend toward strategic defaulting."
At Freddie Mac, the current policy is a five-year waiting period for borrowers who default as a result of "financial mismanagement," said spokesman Brad German.
"We are studying the latest change from Fannie and will consider additional changes to our policies as needed to responsibly manage risk in the current market," he said. (Fannie and Freddie operate under the conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.)