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RISMEDIA, Nov. 24, 2008-As December approaches, the saying “home for the holidays” may hold more meaning to those facing foreclosure right now, and that spirit, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced a suspension on foreclosures and evictions through January of 2009.

The two mortgage giants have issued a notice to its loan servicing organizations and retained foreclosure attorneys directing them to suspend foreclosure sales on occupied single-family properties as well as the completion of evictions from occupied single-family properties scheduled to occur from November 26, 2008 until January 9, 2009. The effort was made to support the streamlined modification program that was announced on Nov. 11.

The suspension will help servicers implement the Streamlined Modification Program recently announced by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), HOPE Now and 27 mortgage servicers, scheduled to launch December 15.. The temporary suspension is also expected to give servicers more time to help borrowers avoid foreclosure.

Fannie’s streamlined modification program is aimed at the highest risk borrower who has missed three payments or more, owns and occupies the primary residence, and has not filed for bankruptcy. The program creates a fast-track method for getting troubled borrowers into an affordable monthly payment through a mix of reducing the mortgage interest rate, extending the life of the loan or even deferring payments on part of the principal. Servicers have flexibility in the approach, but the objective is to create a more affordable payment for borrowers at risk of foreclosure.

Freddie Mac servicers and foreclosure attorneys were told to contact as quickly as possible an estimated 6,000 borrowers with foreclosure sales scheduled between November 26, 2008 and January 9, 2009. If the property is occupied, the servicers and foreclosure attorneys will halt the sale. This temporary suspension of foreclosure sales will not apply to vacant single family properties. Additionally, no evictions will be completed between November 26 and January 9.

“The streamlined modification program by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Hope Now and 27 mortgage servicers is an important step forward in addressing the systemic issues driving the increase in foreclosures,” said Fannie Mae President and Chief Executive Officer Herb Allison. “Until the streamlined modification program is fully implemented, we felt it was in the best interest of both borrowers and Fannie Mae to take this extra step to ensure that homeowners with the desire and ability to prevent a foreclosure have an opportunity to stay in their homes. We encourage other servicers of non-GSE mortgages to participate in the streamlined modification program to bolster our collective efforts to stem the foreclosure crisis.”

“By working closely with FHFA and our servicers, Freddie Mac is on track to help three out of every five troubled borrowers with Freddie Mac-owned loans avoid foreclosure this year,” said Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer David M. Moffett. “Today’s announcement builds on this momentum and provides a new measure of certainty to many of these families during the holidays.”

Moffett also emphasized that lenders servicing Freddie Mac-owned mortgages will continue to work with borrowers to consider all workout options Freddie Mac employs to help distressed borrowers who can and want to stay in their homes, such as permanent rate reductions and mortgage term extension modifications.

This year, Freddie Mac expects to approve 84,000 workouts for the estimated 140,000 who are delinquent on Freddie Mac-owned mortgages. (For more about Freddie Mac workout options, see freddiemac.com/avoiding_foreclosure.)

Freddie Mac’s temporary suspension of foreclosure sales is the latest in a series of efforts to help troubled borrowers. Other recent initiatives have included, delegating expanded workout authority to servicers, doubling the amount of money servicers are paid for successful workouts, and paying non-profit organizations to reach out to worried borrowers.

Fannie Mae will be working with foreclosure attorneys and servicers to reach out to the more than 10,000 borrowers the company estimates would be affected during this period. Borrowers who have Fannie Mae loans that are scheduled for foreclosure between November 26, 2008 and January 9, 2009, will be contacted directly by the attorney handling the foreclosure. If the home is occupied, Fannie Mae has instructed servicers and attorneys to suspend the foreclosure.

Allison also said Fannie Mae’s loan servicers are prepared to work with borrowers during this period, even if previous workout efforts have been unsuccessful. As part of the company’s “Second Look” initiative, Fannie Mae personnel have been reviewing seriously delinquent loans to determine if the borrower has been contacted and all workout options have been exhausted.

The streamlined modification program and temporary suspension of foreclosures are two of a series of steps Fannie Mae has taken to expand its foreclosure prevention efforts, which are designed to give loan servicers and foreclosure attorneys tools to find the best solution for a borrower in financial trouble. Fannie Mae and its many partners in the housing industry urge borrowers in financial difficulty to reach out to their loan servicers, regardless of whether they are facing imminent foreclosure. Solutions may be available that could make an existing mortgage more affordable.

“Fannie Mae is committed to working with FHFA to implement the streamlined modification program as quickly as possible to help prevent unnecessary foreclosures,”

Allison said. “We must and will do more.”

Fannie Mae exists to expand affordable housing and bring global capital to local communities in order to serve the U.S. housing market. Fannie Mae has a federal charter and operates in America’s secondary mortgage market to enhance the liquidity of the mortgage market by providing funds to mortgage bankers and other lenders so that they may lend to home buyers. In 2008, we mark our 70th year of service to America’s housing market. Our job is to help those who house America.

Freddie Mac was established by Congress in 1970 to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the nation’s residential mortgage markets. Freddie Mac supports communities across the nation by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Over the years, Freddie Mac has made home possible for one in six homebuyers and more than five million renters

Grounded for the Holidays- 5 Tips for Celebrating at Home

by Alexandra Zega

nov17homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, Nov. 17, 2008-You know the saying, “There’s no place like home for the holidays”? Well, this year, it’s about to take on a whole new meaning. A whopping 63% of newlyweds on TheNest.com have to change their holiday travel plans because of the economy, meaning that they may not be able to celebrate with family and close friends. But before the “bah humbug” kicks in, The Nest suggests these tips for making this holiday season one to remember-even if you can’t be with all of your loved ones.

1. Over-Decorate & Start Your Own Traditions. Ditch the attitude that “no one will see it anyway.” Whether you’re decorating for two, or your family of six, this is the perfect time to go over the top with your holiday decor, from Thanksgiving through the New Year. Take it one step further and make decorating a full-day event-something that you’ll really look forward to. So start your own traditions and incorporate some favorites from your childhood.

2. Host a Party. It’s a safe bet that you’re not the only one skipping the holiday travel this year. See which friends will be in town, or even work colleagues, and invite them over for a potluck dinner to celebrate the holidays. Along with being budget-friendly, a potluck dinner also allows for everyone to bring their own special dish, perhaps one that they enjoyed while growing up, thus avoiding the feeling of missing Mom’s famous holiday specialty.

3. Volunteer. Since you won’t be wasting time sitting in an airport or stuck in a car, use those extra hours to help someone in need. The holidays are the ideal time to make life easier for those who are less fortunate by volunteering at a local charity. Not only will you be helping your community, it’s also a great way to bond with your partner and meet others. Volunteering is such a meaningful thing to do with your family, you’ll want to make it a holiday tradition; after all, it’s what this time of year is about.

4. Play Tourist in Your Own Town. Instead of looking at staying home as a punishment, look at it as a mini vacation! Enjoy all of the perks of a vacation, from acting like a tourist (remember that museum you’ve been meaning to visit for the past year?) to unplugging the TV and computer and pretending you’re at an exotic locale (feel free to turn up the heat and break out the Pina Coladas) to the best part of a vacation: sleeping in!

5. Dress the Part. You might be tempted to throw on your college sweatshirt and sweatpants with those fuzzy slippers you wear every night in front of the TV, but a dress code is required. This is a special occasion! Dress up as though you were going out to a swanky holiday party, even if it’s only a party of two!

How to Surf for the Real Deal

by Alexandra Zega

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RISMEDIA, Nov. 13, 2008-(MCT)-ShopSmart, a Consumer Reports publication, has compiled a list of seven websites to help you skip the surfing and get to the real deals quickly. Their picks, which appear in this month’s issue, are:

Buzzillions.com
This user-review site has more than 3 million consumer entries on everything from electronics to shoes. ShopSmart likes that this site offers a broad and changing list of keywords to click on for searching. The magazine also suggests sorting your search by the lowest ratings first to get the scoop on what not to buy.

Ebates.com
After registering your e-mail address, you can shop at more than 900 retailers. After you check out, the site credits your account with a rebate, which can be as high as 26%, although most are in the 1% to 4% range. ShopSmart suggests clicking on the “Daily Double” tab, where rebates for one retailer are doubled each day.

Freeshipping.org
Choose a product category or a specific store to get the lowdown on free shipping offers. Most have minimum purchase amounts.

Heyitsfree.net
This blog was started by Ryan Eubanks, who scours the Web daily to find free offers. You can search by product category, or check out a long list of other freebie sites.

Pricegrabber.com
There are more than two dozen price comparison engines, but ShopSmart liked this one for its ability to calculate the total cost of an item, including shipping and tax.

Retailmenot.com
Many sites gather online coupons, but weeding through expired or invalid codes takes time. ShopSmart says the codes on this site are reliable, and liked the comments section that lets users share their money-saving tips.

Shopittome.com
This site is for the true shopaholic. After choosing from a list of clothing, shoe and accessory brands, entering your sizes and registering your e-mail address, you’ll receive a daily or weekly e-newsletter about sales you’re interested in. ShopSmart suggests signing up to receive the e-mail on Fridays, when most online retailers mark down clothing.

© 2008, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).By Nicole Paitsel
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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