Local experts react to bailout plan

September 8, 2008 2:56:33 PM PDT
It's the largest financial rescue in history and its affecting the lives of millions of Americans with a federal takeover of two of the biggest private mortgage lenders.Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are responsible for $5 trillion in home loans. That's about half of the country's mortgage market.

For homeowners, experts say hopefully this will be a step toward stabilizing home values. That may still take some time though.

For home buyers, there should be a more immediate impact. Mortgage rates should fall a bit in the near future, and it should be easier to get a mortgage.

"For Sale" signs are staying up longer in Chicago, as well as nationally. Home prices are plunging. And homeowners are defaulting on their mortgages in record numbers.

So word that the federal government is taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a positive development for Chicago real estate agents like Brian Loomis, who says it's the worst housing market he's ever seen.

"I think it gives you a little bit of hope. I don't know if the bomb is here, but it is going to give you a little recovery, perhaps, going into the fall market, that you'll have more buyers out there," Loomis said.

It gives Loomis and others in the housing market hope because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac combined back nearly half of all mortgages in the U.S.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven,a failure of either of them would cause great tumouil here at home and around the globe," said Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury Secretary.

With home loans harder to come by, many buyers recently have been unable to make purchases, causing the housing market to tank further and leaving banks and other lenders with huge losses.

With the federal government stepping in, analysts say mortgages should be at least somewhat easier to get.

"Hopefully, we're going to see consumers get easier access to mortgages and to bank credit in general at banks over last several months, despite the fact the Fed eased like crazy on interest rates to two percent," said Diane Swonk, Mesirow Financial chief economist.

Swonk says that's the good news. But the bad news is, there's no guarantee the takeover will work. And now, taxpayers are on the hook. Estimates are it could cost anywhere from $20 billion to $100 billion to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


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