Fannie Mae's 'Mortgage Release' is a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
Fannie Mae announced new rules for distressed homeowners who want to walk away from homes that are worth less than the balance of their mortgages.
The process is called a “mortgage release,” and it allows homeowners who cannot afford their monthly payments to transfer their home’s title to Fannie Mae in exchange for the chance to live in their homes for three months for free or lease the property for up to a year. In law, the procedure Fannie Mae calls mortgage release is a deed in lieu of foreclosure.
A mortgage release / deed in lieu of foreclosure is similar to a short sale, with one significant difference. In a short sale, the lender agrees to allow the homeowner to sell the property for less than the balance of the home loan. In a mortgage release / deed in lieu of foreclosure, the homeowner signs a contract that gives the property over to the lender. In both a short sale or mortgage release / deed in lieu of foreclosure, any deficiency balance, which is the shortfall between the loan balance and the sale price, is negotiated by the lender and homeowner. In some situations, Fannie Mae will forgive the deficiency balance.
What Fannie Mae Considers an Eligible Hardship
Fannie Mae considers the following 10 events as eligible hardships:
- Reduction in income beyond the homeowner’s control
- Increase in housing expenses beyond the homeowner’s control
- Divorce or legal separation
- Death of a borrower or death of either the primary or secondary wage earner
- Long-term or permanent disability
- Distant employment transfer
- Business failure
A description of each is found in Fannie Mae’s Uniform Borrower Assistance Form 710 (PDF).
Homeowners who want a mortgage release must complete an application called a Borrower Response Package. The application is sent to the homeowner’s mortgage servicer. The servicer reviews the borrower’s financial situation and determines if the home is worth less than the balance of the loan. The servicer determines whether the borrower can afford partial payments. If the mortgage servicer finds the homeowner has more than $10,000 in savings and investments, excluding retirement accounts, the lender must request a partial payment from the homeowner.
The servicer must also calculate the homeowner’s debt-to-income ratio to learn if the borrower can afford to sign a promissory note and make lease payments or payments on the deficiency balance.
$3,000 of Good News
Under Fannie Mae's mortgage release program, servicers may offer homeowner's up to $3,000 in assistance if the homeowner is not required to sign a promissory note to repay the deficiency balance.