During the height of the housing crisis, Freddie Mac was answering 40,000 calls a month from struggling borrowers, house hunters with questions, real estate professionals looking for help, and even banks and credit unions needing advice. That's more than 1,300 calls a day.
With the crisis receding, call volume today is about a tenth of what it was back then. That's a clear sign to us that the housing market – and the families that depend on it – are regaining their footing.
But that doesn't mean the calls we're getting today are any less urgent. Many borrowers are still facing long- and short-term financial setbacks. Many of them hope Freddie Mac has a solution that helps them keep their homes – or at the very least, exit homeownership with dignity.
When a struggling borrower is looking for help, we don't necessarily recommend they call Freddie Mac first. Most borrowers' very first call should be to their lender (the company where they send their monthly mortgage payment) because lenders and their servicers are best equipped to help borrowers directly. That being said, we continue to field a wide range of calls on a huge variety of topics, some involving borrowers having trouble making their payments, but many that don't.
This week, we've invited our Freddie Mac consumer response specialists to answer some of the questions they're hearing most often today. We're sharing this information with our readers in the hope that you'll find it useful, too.
Question: I'm behind on my mortgage payments. What options do I have?
Answer: If you need help making your mortgage payments more affordable and sustainable, don't wait until the last minute. Reach out to your lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation and potential solutions. They'll work with you to see if you're eligible for any of the following workout options:
- Refinance (including the Home Affordable Refinance Program® – better known as HARP – which was just extended through 2016)
- Repayment plan
If none of those options will work, there are options to help you exit gracefully from your home:
- Short sale
We've devoted an entire section of our FreddieMac.com website to defining and discussing each of those options. Please visit Mortgage Help: Understanding Your Options to learn more.
Question: I received a letter in the mail saying that Freddie Mac bought my mortgage. What does this mean?
Answer: The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 requires certain persons, including financial institutions, to notify borrowers in writing when they buy a mortgage loan. You received this letter because Freddie Mac has purchased your loan. But this doesn’t change anything about the terms of the mortgage or the way you’ve been making your payments. It’s important that you continue sending your monthly payments directly to the servicer of your mortgage, at the address on your mortgage statement, and not to Freddie Mac.
Question: I don't recall getting a letter like that. How can I find out if Freddie Mac (or Fannie Mae) owns my loan?
Question: How do I go about purchasing a property that Freddie Mac owns, or find out more information on a particular property for sale?
Answer: Many prospective homebuyers consider buying a real estate owned (REO) home – one that has gone through the foreclosure process and is owned by a bank or other institution. Information about Freddie Mac-owned properties currently listed for sale can be found on our HomeSteps website. If you don't see the property you're interested in right away, you can register on the website and have new listings emailed to you as they become available.
While the process for buying an REO home is a lot like buying any other home, it's important to understand what you should know before you buy. One other point to be aware of: the number of REO properties owned by Freddie Mac has dropped considerably, and is even approaching pre-crisis levels in some states. There may be more competition for that REO home you're interested in than you might suspect.
Question: I'm a real estate agent working on a short sale and would like to dispute the property value the servicer is using.
Answer: Understanding market value is a critical piece of short sale evaluation, so we really appreciate the feedback we get on market conditions from local agents. Freddie Mac's requirements for short sale consideration and approval include a property's market value and other components. If you want to dispute a market value, you should reach out to your point of contact at the servicer and provide three listed comparables, three sales, and a justification for the change in value. The comparables and sales should not be foreclosures or short sales, and should be within the last 90 days.
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