It was recently announced that Fannie Mae (NASDAQOTH:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTH:FMCC) will be suspending foreclosure-related evictions from December 17 until January 2. JPMorgan Chase has joined in, and there is reason to believe the other big banks will do the same.
Not only could this mean struggling homeowners could spend the holiday season in their own homes, but it could also mean a little extra time to find a solution to the problem.
What the lenders are doing (or not doing)
The rate of lender repossessions is about 20% lower than it was last year, but there are still nearly 30,000 homes per month being taken back by lenders.
So, as they have done for several years now, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac decided to put a halt to evictions during the holidays. The moratorium covers single-family homes that are already foreclosed, and also stops residents from being locked out of their homes.
However, other foreclosure actions such as filing default notices and selling homes at auction will continue. The only difference is that the affected homeowners won't have to move until after the New Year.
JPMorgan has also announced a similar halt on evictions. The rest of the "big four" banks -- Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo -- have done the same in recent years and might announce the same thing in the days to come.
Homeowners: take advantage!
While it may be too late for homeowners whose homes are already sold at auction, the agencies are being rather vocal at encouraging struggling homeowners to get help and avoid foreclosure.
Fannie and Freddie both offer a variety of options to help borrowers avoid foreclosure. There are options to help people stay in their homes such as refinancing, forbearance, and mortgage modifications. For homeowners who can't afford to stay in their homes, there are options such as short sales and mortgage releases, both of which are better choices than foreclosures.
Options may be available even if you are already in foreclosure. Even if the eviction process has started, you may be able to work something out where you can stay in your home.
What's your next step?
If you are already in foreclosure, the clock is ticking -- fast. Now is as good a time as any to research your options.
If you are not in foreclosure but are struggling with your mortgage payments, now is a great time to plot your next move. Look into your refinancing and forbearance options, and see if you might qualify for a mortgage modification. It doesn't hurt to do a little research, so see what you can do to make sure you'll enjoy the holidays in your home for years to come.
Matthew Frankel owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.