Monday, September 8, 2008

What Bailout of Mortgage Giants Means

The New York Times - So what does the federal takeover of two mortgage finance giants mean to consumers?

Mortgage rates may fall a bit initially but probably not enough to halt the decline in home prices anytime soon. Some delinquent borrowers may have a better shot at modifying their loans and ending up with lower fixed payments. And the rules on new mortgages could slightly change.

Oh, and the federal government will help pay for it all, using your tax money.

These themes emerged over the weekend as mortgage specialists wrinkled their foreheads to determine what the federal bailout of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will mean for consumers. They cautioned, however, that the unprecedented nature of the rescue makes it hard to know all of the ramifications immediately.

So first, what happened here, and why? In order to provide capital to banks that lend money to aspiring homeowners, Fannie and Freddie need to be able to sell the mortgages, packaged as securities, to investors around the world once the two companies have bought the loans from the banks.

All this worked fine until foreign investors got nervous about the housing market and the uncertainty over how a theoretical federal takeover might affect their holdings. When concerns emerged about the viability of Fannie and Freddie, the government thought it had no choice but to step in and take over.

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