Fannie Mae, banks halt foreclosures for the holidays

By Les Christie @CNNMoney December 1, 2011

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Happy holidays struggling homeowners! Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and several large mortgage lenders have pledged not to foreclose on delinquent borrowers during the Christmas season.

For homeowners with loans through Fannie Mae (FNMAFortune 500) and Freddie Mac (FMCCFortune 500), the moratorium will run from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2. During this time, legal and administrative proceedings for evictions may continue, but families will be allowed to stay in their homes, Fannie said in a statement.

“No family should have to give up their home during this holiday season,” said Terry Edwards, an executive vice president for Fannie Mae.

Among some of the major banks that offer mortgage loans, Chase (JPMFortune 500) Mortgage said it will not evict anyone between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2. Wells Fargo (WFCFortune 500) will also suspend evictions during that period, but will not shut down its eviction machinery entirely.

The bank said it will observe the moratorium on foreclosed properties in its own portfolio but for loans it services for other lenders “foreclosure-related actions may still occur.”

Bank of America (BACFortune 500) said that it would “avoid foreclosure sales or displacement of homeowners or tenants around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

However, that policy only applies to loans the bank itself owns. Like Wells Fargo, it will also honor the wishes of the owners of the loans it services, which could mean moving forward with certain foreclosures.

A holiday halt on foreclosures by the major mortgage lenders could affect tens of thousands of homeowners. An average of 89,000 foreclosure auctions a month have been scheduled this year, according to RealtyTrac. Once a home has gone through that process, eviction is the next step.

There could be a small handful of borrowers who might benefit permanently from the suspension, according to Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for RealtyTrac.

Sometimes, albeit very rarely, a Christmas miracle will occur where a borrower finds the cash to get current on their mortgage again and keep their home.

For the overwhelming majority of borrowers in default, however, “[i]t’s a temporary reprieve, a symbolic gesture to help people out during the holidays,” said Blomquist.

Then, come the New Year, everyone gets back to business, including mortgage lenders.

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