Pilot programs in Nevada and California will use federal funds to pay for the mortgage relief, and the two loan entities will not be required to contribute.
Up to this point, if your underwater mortgage was backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you had no chance of seeing any principal forgiven. That relief was available only to mortgages held by other lenders.
Now the two government-supported entities have signed on to pilot programs in Nevada and California and will write down up to $50,000 of principal in Nevada and $100,000 in California.
What made the difference? In those states, Fannie and Freddie will receive whatever they write down from federal funds administered through a state program.
"Principal reduction combined with mortgage refinancing will mean hundreds of dollars returning to the pockets of homeowners," Terry Johnson, director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, said in a news release. "This effort represents our continued focus on combating the worst housing crisis seen in a generation and in the state hit hardest by it."
Rate on 30-year fixed mortgage hits 3.75% as April's pending-home-sales index shows annual gain — but worst monthly drop in a year.
Another month, another set of inconclusive housing data.
Let's start with the latest: Freddie Mac announced today that the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed loan fell to 3.75% for the week from 3.78% the week prior. This marks the sixth-straight week in which that rate has touched a record low. It last ticked up for the week ending April 24.
Meanwhile, the average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate loan hit 2.97% — the first time it has been below 3% since Freddie Mac started keeping track in 1991, according to MarketWatch.
The owner of the world's first 10-figure home says he can't sleep in it, according to reports.
Maybe this will help home prices increase: In some parts of the world, a cool billion dollars won't even buy you a house in which you can sleep at night.
That's apparently the case in Mumbai, where Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India and among the 20 wealthiest people in the world, reportedly will not spend a night on any of the 27 floors of his tower, named Antilia. He, his mother, his wife and their three children instead pass their days in the building, then move to a 14-story home called Sea Wind to sleep, reports the "Architizer" blog.
By the way, when it was completed for $1 billion, Antilia was the most expensive home ever built.
The Case-Shiller Home Price Index hit a post-crisis low in the first quarter, but other signs point to growth.
The trickling of home sales from the so-called "shadow inventory" of distressed properties onto the housing market continues to play games with national home-price data.
The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, released today (PDF), registered a 2% drop in the first quarter of this year from the fourth quarter of 2011. Prices were down 1.9% from the same quarter a year earlier. They have hit their lowest point since the 2006 housing crisis, leading Forbes to dub the "double dip" as dipping further.
Meanwhile, Case-Shiller's 20-city index was "basically unchanged" from February to March; the 10-city index was down just 0.1%.
What can we glean from that? As Time's Alison Rogers notes, looking behind the numbers may yield some positives from today's report.
April's 3.3% creep up from March may be a sign of small increases still to come.
Ah, the sounds and smells of spring: birds chirping, flowers blooming, subcontractors hammering and fresh ink hitting paper.
After a decrease in March, sales of new homes increased 3.3% in April, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today. The seasonally adjusted rate of 343,000 homes sold also represents a 9.9% increase from April 2011.
Get used to the slight increases: They are “in line with our expectations for a continued, modest increase in home sales as buyers gain confidence in the economy and their jobs,” David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, told MSNBC.
Sales of existing homes increased 10% from April 2011 to this past April, spurring more talk of recovery.
In April, homebuying season begins in earnest for most regions, and last month was no exception: Existing-home sales increased 3.4% in April from March, hitting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million, the National Association of Realtors said. That was 10% higher than in April 2011.
Meanwhile, the median sale price for existing homes increased 3.1% in April from March to $177,400; that was a 10.1% jump from April 2011. Coupled with March's price increase, this marks the first two-month period of back-to-back year-to-year price increases since mid-2010, the NAR says. Earlier this month, the NAR reported that 74 of the 146 largest U.S. metropolitan areas showed a price increase from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of this year.
The most encouraging news, however, could come in the breakdown of who's paying for these homes.
Only 4% of the more than 4 million eligible homeowners have asked to have their foreclosure cases reviewed. Some say the letter is confusing, but others believe homeowners are cynical.
Nearly six months after 4.1 million homeowners were offered independent reviews of their foreclosure cases, only about 165,000, about 4%, have accepted the offer.
The reviews were part of a deal made last year involving 14 loan servicers and the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in the wake of the robo-signing scandal. If a review finds that a homeowner suffered financially because of improper foreclosure practices, the homeowner could receive compensation ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars.
Why haven't more borrowers sought reviews? Suggestions range from the form of the letters sent by federal banking regulators offering the reviews to misunderstanding to homeowner cynicism, since the reviewers are hired by the banks.
Prefab cottages are designed to be placed on a relative's property. All are equipped for the elderly and some include high-tech medical monitoring.
Sharing your property with aging parents isn't new. You can find many old houses with cottages and many new ones with two master suites or an extra living unit.
A number of companies are now selling prefab "granny pods," which you can put on your property to house parents who want to live independently but no longer want to maintain an entire home. One of the most sophisticated units for elderly parents is the MEDCottage, which was recently mentioned in The New York Times.