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Monday, February 23, 2009

How will the Obama Financial Stability Plan Benefit Me?

By Bob Boog

The president's 75 billion dollar Housing Fix-it Plan has arrived and because people are asking what its all about, here is my expert analysis. In a nutshell, the plan offers to make house payments more affordable for hard-pressed homeowners and contains five major benefits. Here they are:

1. The main benefit is that it provides assistance to homeowners who wish to stay in their homes. The sour economy has made it tough for many homeowners to refinance because for most, their equity has dried up and they are unable to do so. This plan also helps those who may have lost income due to the current recession.

2. No help for flippers. Remember those TV shows where investors boasted of making massive profits by fixing up houses and then reselling them? Those days are mostly gone and in addition, the Obama plan provides no assistance for real estate speculators with homeowners receiving all the funds.

3. It Helps to Protect Neighborhoods: This plan helps to stabilize home prices for all homeowners in a neighborhood. After all, a foreclosed home often reduces the value of the entire neighborhood. The average homeowner could see his or her home value stabilized against declines because fewer homes will fall into foreclosure relative to what would happen absent the Homeowner Stability Initiative.

4. The Plan Proactively Assists Homeowners Not Yet Late on Payments. Oftentimes responsible homeowners who know that their jobs are in jeopardy due to the recession will call their mortgage lender(s) hoping to make some kind of arrangement, only to be told that there is nothing that can be done. Unless a homeowner is in arrears, banks will not listen to their plea for help. This plan offers assistance to homeowners at risk of default despite being current on their mortgage payments.

5. It helps Bring Monthly Payments to Sustainable Levels: The goal of the Homeowner Stability Initiative is to reduce debt for a family to a sustainable (31% of debt to income) level. The Treasury Department will standardize the loan modification guidelines and implement them through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The goal is to create monthly debt payments that will be able to be kept for a long time.

The Financial Stability Plan's goal is to bring back a sense of security to the struggling real estate market. The plan has been designed to discourage lenders from opting to foreclose on mortgages that could be viable now out of fear that home prices will fall even further later on. Plunging house prices, for example, make it harder for purchasers to obtain new loans " even with good credit, because lenders concerned about the true value of homes, simply refuse to extend credit for fear that they may be in the same situation five years down the road.

The Obama Housing Fix-it Plan has much more to it. Parts of it involve granting incentives to lenders who postpone foreclosures, paying down principal for owners who stay in their property for five years, and even giving incentives to people who successfully modify loans.

The Treasury Department will be using the full power of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to standardize guidelines for loan modifications. And the benefit not talked about to consider is this one: by pumping 75 billion into the economy, the administration is giving the economy a sudden jolt that might be felt as quickly as June. The word on the street is that purchasing a home now and renting it out may prove to be a much safer bet than keeping the money in the bank!

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