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Qualifying for mortgage relief can be tricky

Posted March 5, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Qualifying for help President Barack Obama's housing plan can be tricky, even though it is designed to help up to 9 million Americans struggling with mortgage payments.

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The mortgage-relief program targets homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and offers help in two ways: refinancing into a more stable, fixed-rate loan or modifying loan terms.

"The whole idea is to keep people in their homes," said Jeff Burgess, founder of the Raleigh-based mortgage banker, Equity Solutions.

To qualify, homeowners must have a mortgage owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which hold many U.S. mortgages. To find out if you're in that group, call your mortgage servicer or lender. They usually list a toll-free number on your mortgage statement or on their Web site.

Other criterion include:

  • You must have a solid payment history.
  • Your house payments must exceed 31 percent of your gross monthly income.
  • The house must be your primary residence.

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Other qualifications are more complicated, experts said, such as whether a homeowner has to be behind on payments.

"You're modifying an existing loan, and there are some legal ramifications and logistical complexities that go with that simply because of the way loans are currently set up," said Jeremy Salemson, CEO of the Corporate Investors Mortgage Group.

"Each loan scenario is kind of like the DNA of each individual. It's specific to them, so we have to go through step by step ... to figure out what the solution is" for each borrower, he continued.

While details of the mortgage-relief plan remain sketchy, experts say the best advice is to start with a call to your lender.

"It's going to take a long period of time to sort this all out. People are going to need to be patient," Burgess said.

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  • AtALost Mar 5, 2009

    I thought there was going to be some assistance for those of us who used some common sense when we made our home purchase. Hopefully, we'll at least have access to the lower interest rates they'll be offering those who qualify under these terms.