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Fannie, Freddie boost effort to minimize foreclosures - some NE Tenn. communities see up tick in foreclosure activity

Don Fenley • Nov 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Bloomeberg.com reported Tuesday evening that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies, will accelerate anti- foreclosure efforts by streamlining loan modifications to lower monthly payments for more struggling homeowners.

Fannie and Freddie, operating under a government conservatorship, will target loans in which borrowers are at least 90 days delinquent and have high loan-to-income ratios. The companies may offer homeowners reduced interest rates and longer terms of as much as 40 years to trim monthly payments. The initiative expands efforts by the Hope Now Alliance, a group of investors, advocacy groups, and mortgage lenders and servicers such as Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson helped create last year. The success rate in the past for ''curing'' delinquent loans with modifications similar to what the government proposes was about 50 percent for both prime and subprime borrowers with damaged credit, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. California, Florida and other high-cost real estate markets where borrowers have larger debt loads or nontraditional mortgages will likely reap the most from the program, he said. U.S. foreclosure filings increased 71 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier to the highest on record as home prices fell and stricter mortgage standards made it harder for homeowners to sell or refinance, RealtyTrac, a provider of real estate data based in Irvine, California, said on Oct. 23. Paulson has said a housing market recovery is central to the economy's revival and urged Fannie and Freddie to play a bigger role. ''If housing doesn't get stabilized, it's really going to continue to bleed the economy,'' said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. in Holland, Pennsylvania, and Bloomberg's most-accurate economic forecaster for 2008. CLICK HERE the full report. To put some context to this ongoing financial mess remember that Northeast Tennessee's housing economy has not been hit as hard by the subprime mess as some other states. In fact, most of the so-called subprime crisis centers on six states - California, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Michigan and Nevada. Those states accounted for more than 60 percent of all foreclosure activity in the third quarter, with California alone making up more than a quarter of all U.S. foreclosure filings. According to NE Tenn. Board of Realtors data, home sales in Sullivan and Washington counties have slowed considerably since 2006, but the medium sales prices of the homes that have sold have increased from their 2006 sales totals. That data was made for a Sept. '06 to Sept. '08 comparison and we should have October data before long. Some news reports say there will be another surge of foreclosures as we get closer to the first of the year extending the 70% increase logged nation wide in third quarter. During the third quarter Tennessee ranked 15th in the nation in the foreclosures. According to RealtyTrack, Tennessee's year-to-date data show 48,914 foreclosure filings and 6,514 foreclosure sales at an average price of $87,553. The local November data from RealtyTrack shows a up tick in foreclosure pressures in several communities. In pure numbers Johnson City, Jonesborough, Elizabethton, Greeneville and Morristown are most affected. The number of bank owned homes in those areas are back to the May and June '08 peak levels. And, while the number of bank owned homes is not as great as in some other areas, Rogersville and Church Hill are also showing high levels of foreclosure pressure when compared to other regional communities. Here's what the March - Nov. '08 data from RealtyTrack looks like for selected NE Tenn. and SW Va. communities.

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