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The Latest News in Home Mortgage Refinancing

With a sluggish economy, static home sales and record foreclosures, the federal government has begun forcing banks to help homeowners refinance their home mortgages and keep their homes to get the economy moving again.

Recently, the U.S. Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and 49 state attorneys general announced a $25 billion agreement with the nation's largest mortgage lenders. As the result of this multi-billion dollar settlement in the government's investigation of questionable foreclosures and abuses, the federal government is now requiring five of the nation's largest banks to refinance certain underwater borrowers. These five banks include: Bank of American, Ally Financial, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Under the agreement, $20 billion will be dedicated to providing financial relief to homeowners and help them avoid foreclosure. Most of that money will go toward reducing the principal on loans for about 1 million of the 11 million people who are delinquent on their mortgage or those who are under water, as well as providing transitional assistance and providing benefits for service members.

According to the agreement, the banks must complete 75 percent of these relief obligations to consumers with two years. Within three years, they must have completed 100 percent of their obligations.

The banks will also have to pay $5 billion to the federal and state governments. About $1.5 billion of these monies will be used to establish a Borrower Payment Fund. This fund will provide cash payments to borrowers whose homes were foreclosed or taken between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2011.

In addition, as a result of the investigation and the court agreement, lenders or mortgage services will be required to implement new servicing standards that will prevent the foreclosure abuses that had previously taken place. The new standards provide for strict oversight of foreclosure processing; will prevent some practices that allowed the past foreclosure abuse such as robo signing, lost paperwork and improper documentation; will provide consumer protections and will make foreclosure a last resort. In addition, loan servicers will also be required to create a single point of contact for borrowers who want information about their loans. Banks will not be able to foreclose on a borrower who is being considered for a loan modification.

This agreement only applies to borrowers who obtained loans from private lenders. It does not apply to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae loans.

Home sales help drive the nation's economy and home ownership provides communities with stability. Be sure to continually research information online to look for new and existing government programs which can benefit you and help you get help refinancing your mortgage and keep your home.

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