Avoid foreclosure: Rent your own home

Fannie Mae implements deed-for-lease program that allows troubled borrowers who don't qualify for loan modifications to stay in their homes.

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By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Giving troubled borrowers yet another way to avoid foreclosure, Fannie Mae said on Thursday it would allow eligible homeowners to rent their own homes.

The Deed for Lease program lets homeowners transfer the deed back to their lender and then sign a lease to remain in the home. The effort is aimed at borrowers with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae who do not qualify for or cannot sustain a loan modification. Borrowers must live in the home as their primary residence and must be released from any subordinate liens.

The program aims to reduce the number of foreclosed properties being abandoned because they often fall into disrepair and hurt the surrounding homes' values. Also, it keeps a roof over troubled borrowers' heads and a steady stream of income coming from the property. Tenants of homeowners may also be eligible for leases.

"This new program helps eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities," said Jay Ryan, vice president of Fannie Mae, a mortgage-guarantee firm under federal government control.

Homeowners must show they can afford market rent, but that payment cannot be more than 31% of the borrower's pre-tax income. Leases may be up to 12 months, with the possibility of renewal or month-to-month extensions. If the property is sold, the new owner picks up the lease.

"It really buys them time," said Paul Habibi, real estate professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

Stopping foreclosures

But in the long-run the program only delays the inevitable sale of the distressed properties.

While this initiative is not part of the Obama administration's loan modification program, the White House is leaning heavily on Fannie Mae and its sister firm, Freddie Mac, to assist in stemming the foreclosure crisis.

Freddie Mac launched a program in January that allowed borrowers to stay in their homes on a month-to-month basis after they go through foreclosure.

Despite the government and financial industry initiatives, foreclosures hit an all-time high in the third quarter. During that time, 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter -- whether a default notice, auction notice or bank repossession, according to RealtyTrac.

Last month, Treasury officials announced that 500,000 troubled borrowers have been put into trial modifications under the president's plan. The program calls for eligible homeowners to pay no more than 31% of their pre-tax income toward their mortgages.

At the same time as it tries to ramp up its loan modification program, the administration is looking for ways to help those not eligible for adjustments. In May, officials unveiled a program to incent borrowers and loan servicers to participate in short sales and deeds in lieu. Under that initiative, borrowers get up to $1,500 to assist with relocation expenses and Treasury pays servicers $1,000 when the deal is completed.

Short sales, in which the home is sold for less than the mortgage balance and loan servicers may forgive the difference, and deeds in lieu, in which borrowers voluntarily forfeit the deed and the debt may be erased, are faster and cheaper than foreclosure. To top of page

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