How will Fannie/Freddie bailout affect you?

September 8, 2008 5:16:23 PM PDT
The government has announced it is taking over troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. How will that affect you?

If you have a home loan , there's a fifty-fifty chance that either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is involved.

They own or guarantee about half the nation's mortgages, which means this really has implications for all of us: homeowners, investors, and taxpayers.

The government's takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac represents its largest-ever intervention of a financial institution.

It's expected to cost taxpayers between 25 and 50-billion-dollars.

But the feds say they had to take control.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in the financial markets here at home and around the globe," said Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson.

The two companies will be placed in a government conservatorship. That means, for a limited time, the Treasury Department will provide as much money as Fannie and Freddie need to cover any losses and continue guaranteeing new mortgages.

Financial experts say the government bailout will allow the mortgage financing giants to continue to buy mortgages from lenders and inject cash in to the system, thereby stabilizing the markets and removing a large degree of uncertainty.

That will likely translate into lower mortgage rates and greater availability of credit.

Some experts say rates could drop by as much as one percentage point from the current high 6.39% percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

That's great news if you have a variable rate, or if you're looking to get a mortgage or refinance.

"If interests do come down, and you have a fixed rate that's higher than what the rates go down to, it could be a good opportunity for you to check with your mortgage consultant to see if you should refinance," said financial expert Al Heaton.

Here's the bad news: Many financial experts predict tight lending standards and fees won't go away anytime soon, particularly for borrowers with bad credit.

Also, if you have mutual funds invested in Fannie or Freddie, those funds are likely to take a big hit... at least, temporarily.

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