Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Partnership With Fannie Mae Launches In Minnesota

There's an expression in Spanish that's usually used when describing politicians:  "Los mismos perros, distintos collares"  (Same dogs, different collars).  Many homeowners struggling with mortgage payments have felt the same way about program announcements and offers of help they've heard during the housing crisis.  "It may get headlines... but can it really get me help?"

Today, the Minnesota Home Ownership and Fannie Mae announce a partnership that really is a game-changer.  This new partnership will accelerate the response time for struggling Minnesota families with loans that are owned by Fannie Mae.

Homeowners that are struggling with mortgage payments will meet with experienced foreclosure prevention counselors throughout the state that are members of the Homeownership Advisors Network to discuss their mortgage situation and determine options to avoid foreclosure. These counselors in turn will work directly with dedicated LOCAL Fannie Mae staff to find sustainable and affordable solutions for Minnesota’s homeowners.

As always... this assistance is FREE.

One of the unique aspects of this partnership has been the creation of a standardized document collection process for ALL possible loss mitigation options. Streamlining the documentation process reduces homeowner frustration and improves response times from servicers.  No longer will homeowners have to submit (and re-submit, and re-re-submit) different versions of the same documents.  This all happens ONCE - on the front end and with the assistance of a Foreclosure Counselor, and is then submitted electronically to Fannie Mae staff right here in Minnesota.  Fannie Mae staff then leverage their relationships with lenders and servicers (as the investor) to find long-term solutions.

The Center knows that one of the greatest advantages to working with a certified non-profit Housing Counseling is that homeowners  are more successful when they have access to information and the tools necessary to get a quick response to their mortgage situation.  This new partnership takes this advantage to a whole new level.

The services offered through this new partnership are only for borrowers who have a mortgage held by Fannie Mae. Homeowners can determine if Fannie Mae owns their loan by visiting or by contacting Fannie Mae (Toll-Free) at 1-800-7FANNIE. Homeowners who do not have loans owned by Fannie Mae are still encouraged to contact a member of the Homeownership Advisors Network to learn more about their individual options to avoid foreclosure or to learn more about the foreclosure process by visiting or calling us at 866-462-6466.

Plus:  the Center will be launching this exciting new partnership with the assistance of Fox-9 news!  Julie Gugin from the Center, and Jeff Hayward, Sr. VP from Fannie Mae, will be on the Fox-9 Morning Show from 7-9am on the Wednesday the 27th.  Other Center staff will also be featured on both the 5:00 and 9:00pm newscasts.  (Check us out after American Idol!)  We'll update this post with links to videos as soon as they are online.

UDPATE:  Here's the piece from this morning's Fox-9 news:

(If the embedded video doesn't work... click here to view on the Fox-9 Website.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Successful homeownership - There is a path

Even though it might still be snowing, it really is spring in Minnesota and the only thing that appears faster than our potholes is the number of "For Sale" signs that pop up in front of homes across the state.

Thanks to our prolonged foreclosure issues... both prices and interest rates are low.  Homeownership is more affordable now that at any other time in recent memory, and many people are thinking about becoming homeowners.  Venturing into the world of home ownership can be VERY exciting! However, it can also bring some unwelcome surprises if you're not fully prepared.

Now, the Minnesota Home Ownership Center has prepared a new online tool that helps outline the path to successful homeownership.

Give it a try here, and let us know what you think in the comments!

If you're thinking about buying your first home in Minnesota... make sure you're on the right path - the path to successful home ownership.  There is tons of helpful information on the Center's website about buying your first home including information about affordable mortgages, down payment assistance and finding someone to help you through the process.  For more information, visit our website, here.

If you're not sure what YOUR path to successful homeownership should be... or would like to speak to a FREE non-profit Housing Advisor (Housing Counselor) about YOUR next steps... visit the Center's website to connect with the agency closest to you that offers these services.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

6 Days Left To Pay Your Taxes

2010 Taxes Are Due on April 18th

So… why are we talking about taxes on a HOUSING blog? It’s not just a simple reminder to pay your taxes - it’s a reminder that if you took advantage of the (up to) $7,500 “tax credit” on a home purchased between April 9th 2008 and July 1st 2009, your first repayment of that “tax credit” is due on your 2010 return.

Here’s a link to our original fact sheet (created in 2008, no longer available on our website).

Here’s the important text:
Homeowners will have to pay it back. While these funds have been labeled a tax credit, it's really a 15 year, zero interest loan that must be paid back in equal installments over 15 years, starting in the second year after the home is purchased. If you buy a house this year and claim a $7,500 credit on your 2008 tax return, you'll have to pay an additional $500 a year in taxes for 15 years, starting in 2010.

Time to start paying the piper.

The SECOND tax credit, which was a maximum of $8,000 for first-time buyers who purchased between January 1st, 2009 and April 30th, 2010 (last year’s tax credit) does NOT have to be paid back via your tax returns, unless you:
  1. Sell the home within three years of purchase or the home is no longer your primary residence.
  2. If you sell within three years, and the amount you make on the sale is less than the tax credit, you only have to repay up to the amount of the gain… not the full amount.
  3. If you make MORE on the sale, or the home is no longer your primary residence, then you do owe the entire amount.
Confused? Many people are… so make sure you speak with a qualified tax professional if you have any questions about the Homebuyer Tax Credit(s) or any amounts you may owe.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Help With Foreclosure Postponement

New online tool can help homeowners with foreclosure postponement

Minnesota is one of the only states in the country where struggling homeowners have the ability to legally postpone their foreclosure sale (Sheriff's Sale).  Minnesota state law has allowed homeowners the right to delay their foreclosure sale on their home by five months (11 months in certain rural/agricultural areas) since mid-2009. 

However, knowing the steps to take and how to fill out the legal documents necessary to postpone the sale has been an obstacle for many Minnesota homeowners.  That changes today with the announcement that the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services and the Minnesota Home Ownership Center have partnered on the creation of a free online tool that assists homeowners with the process.

How does it work?
The Foreclosure Postponement Tool, here, asks homeowners a series of simple questions, then automatically fills out the legal form they need, known as the "Foreclosure Sale Postponement Affidavit." Along with their finished form, users also receive a set of simple, yet detailed instructions on how to file the form properly. Once the form has been filed and the proper parties have been notified, the postponement takes effect.  If you choose not to set up a username, the system will NOT save any personally identifying information... so you can be assured of confidentiality.

Should I postpone?
Before deciding to delay or postpone a Foreclosure Sale, homeowners should consult with a non-profit housing counselor that specializes in foreclosure prevention to understand the pros and cons of a postponement.  To find your local foreclosure counselor, click here.

Make the Most of the Extra Time
After you've submitted the necessary documentation, and your sale has been postponed, what happens next?

Homeowners should start by finding a free, non-profit foreclosure counselor - while always staying wary of scams. Some web sites offer to "save your home" by charging premium prices for services that are available for free.  To mitigate this problem, the Foreclosure Postponement Tool encourages users to contact the Minnesota Home Ownership Center. The Center offers referrals to reputable non-profit counselors via the Homeownership Advisors Network.

Try it out!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Foreclosure Scams Are Still An Issue


On April 6, 2011, a coalition of fair housing non-profit organizations released their findings of a year-long undercover investigation of 80 "loan modification" (foreclosure rescue) companies, which reveals that the industry is rife with unethical, corrupt and even illegal practices.  These practices include over-promising & under-delivering, charging fees for services that are available free from nonprofit organizations and even advising clients on how to commit acts of fraud against their lenders.

The report - which has a GREAT title: “Have I Got a Deal for You! An Undercover Investigation of Mortgage Loan Modification Scams,” was released by The National Fair Housing Alliance, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc., and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center.  It documents some of the tactics mortgage modification scammers use to take money from struggling homeowners.

Here are just a few of the results of the report: 
  • 55% of the scammers required an upfront fee to start work or required a low initial fee to conduct minimal work on behalf of distressed homeowners, such as reviewing loan documents;
  • 43% guaranteed or promised they could secure a loan modification even before learning about the homeowners’ financial limitations;
  • 24% advised or encouraged homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments or to stop contacting their lenders;
  • 16% guaranteed a new, much lower interest rate ranging between two and 6 percent on modified loans;
  • 12% discouraged homeowners from seeking free help from government-approved housing counseling agencies;
  • 8% encouraged homeowners to provide fraudulent information to their lenders.
The full report is available here.

None of these findings surprise us here at the MN Home Ownership Center.  We hear from homeowners repeatedly that have spent money, lost time and been taken advantage of by less-than-scrupulous mortgage "rescue" operations.  If you are struggling with your mortgage, THERE'S NO NEED TO PAY FOR HELP.  There is a network of FREE, non-biased housing counseling agencies that can assist.  To find your local non-profit foreclosure prevention counselor, click here.

For more information on what's being done in Minnesota to fight foreclosure rescue scams, visit the Center's "Look Before You Leap" website.  You can help us fight these scammers in Minnesota!