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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac foreclosures double modifications in 3Q

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Servicers started 339,000 foreclosures on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages in the third quarter, more than double the 146,507 modifications completed, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Counting short sales, deeds-in-lieu, forbearance, repayment plans and other actions, servicers kept 227,300 homes out of foreclosure during the three months ended Sept. 30, but that's down 16% from the second quarter. Foreclosures starts, however, increased 23% in the same period for the most the FHFA has ever reported. Meanwhile, modifications dropped 14% in the third quarter with more than two-thirds of those coming from outside the Treasury Department's Home Affordable Modification Program, which has been on the decline on bank portfolios as well. The Obama administration has applied more pressure on Fannie and Freddie to writedown more loans in recent months, an effort some analysts believe the two companies will remain reluctant to do. But the GSEs boosted their numbers in the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which allows borrowers who are current on their mortgage to refinance and reduce monthly payments at loan-to-value ratios up to 125%. Fannie and Freddie servicers put 45,000 loans through HARP in September alone, up 55% from the previous month and highest total of any month since the program began in March 2009. While foreclosures outnumbered prevention methods, the overall health of the government-sponsored enterprises' portfolios has improved. Mortgages in the 60-plus day delinquency bucket declined for the third-straight quarter, this time by 6.8% to roughly 1.5 million loans. Write to Jon Prior.

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