$25 Billion Settlement For Mortgage Relief: Will You Qualify?

The government's $25 billion settlement with five of the nation's largest banks could help up to one million homeowners. About $21.5 billion is earmarked for consumer relief, with the remainder going to state and federal governments.

Distressed homeowners should not expect a check or aid tomorrow, however. According to the government's National Mortgage Settlement website, it will take up to two months to select an administrator to oversee the process, identifying who is eligible to receive help, and six to nine months to start with the actual housing help.

Help could come via partial loan forgiveness or "principal reduction," refinancing or, cash payments of up to $2,000 for those who have already lost their home.

The program only applies to homeowners who have or had mortgages serviced by Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial. Those with loans owned by housing giants Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not affected by settlement. Homeowners from Oklahoma, the only state to not sign the settlement agreement, are not eligible.

Here's more detail on who's eligible for relief:

Principal reductions Servicers are required to provide at least $17 billion worth of direct relief to current homeowners, most of which will go to provide help for principal reduction for first and second mortgages. Other money will be used to facilitate short sales--where the home is sold for less than the mortgage value. The funds also cover anti-blight measures, and enhanced homeowner transition programs. Principal reductions could be anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 on average but the amount will depend on each homeowner's market. Homeowners who think they qualify should contact their lender directly.

Who is eligible? Homeowners who are still in their home, but are not current on their payments and are struggling to make them.

Refinancing Servicers will have to provide up to $3 billion in refinancing relief nationwide to help homeowners get better interest rates on home loans to reduce monthly payments. Current rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages are under 4 percent.

Who is eligible? Homeowners who owe more on their home than it is worth and are current on their mortgage payments.

Cash Servicers will divvy up $1.5 billion among 750,000 homeowners who have already lost their homes to foreclosure. That comes out to $2,000 and checks will be mailed over the next six to nine months.

Who is eligible? Homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011. For homeowners who lost their house but are concerned it could be difficult for the administrator to track you down, please contact an Attorney General's Office.

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