Freddie Mac Rolls Out a Program for the Unemployed

Here's a newsflash - unemployment remains a concern.

In Arkansas, the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in November - that's down from 9.3 percent, but is still high for Arkansas. What that number means is that 106,500 people in the Natural State want jobs but don't have them. That's a large number, roughly equal to the population of Saline County.

That's a major problem for the economy for the economy for a number of reasons, but we'll just deal with one since this column focuses on real estate issues - how can people who are unemployed make their mortgage payments? It's clear that one of the things slowing down homes sales is the persistently high mortgage rate, but a more basic problem has to do with people who have homes and were meeting their obligations well enough until they lost their jobs.

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Freddie Mac - the mortgage giant and government sponsored entity - has come up with its answer to that question. Starting on Feb. 1, Freddie Mac will make it possible for unemployed homeowners to apply for short-term and long-term forebearance programs.

The short-term program makes allowances for six months for people who are unemployed. If borrowers don't have a job after six months, then a separate, extended forebearance program may be available.

Bear in mind the programs are available to all mortgage servicers dealing with mortgages backed by Freddie Mac. It's hard to tell on a loan's surface whether Freddie Mac backs it, but there's a good chance your residential mortgage is covered by the entity.

To find out for sure if your mortgage is backed by Freddie Mac, go to, click the "About Freddie Mac" tab at the top of the page and then click on the FAQs (frequently asked questions) link. From there, you'll be led to a page where you can type in your mortgage information and find out for yourself if Freddie Mac backs it or not.

If it is backed by Freddie Mac, then it's time to get in touch with your mortgage servicer - the company to which you pay your loan - and see if you are eligible to participate in a forebearance program. The guidelines established by Freddie Mac are pretty well uniform and established a set of criteria which servicers are directed to follow.

Of course, the federal government and related entities have tried for a few years now to help home owners struggling to meet their payments. Those programs have met with limited success. However, it is encouraging to see continuing attempts to bring meaningful help to Americans in need of it.

It can be difficult, however, to keep up with those programs as new ones are announced regularly and it seems we're always hearing about people tinkering with programs in place. To step through that maze and see what programs are out there and which ones might help, it's a good idea to put in a call to your local mortgage banker. They keep up with various policies floating around out there and are willing to steer borrowers toward the programs that could work best for them.

Home Sweet Home is written by Ethan C. Nobles and is sent weekly to publications throughout the Natural State on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas.

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