Foreclosing on a Freddie Mac mortgage takes an average 15 months to complete, according to the company's blog Monday, adding that the secondary market giant pays billion of dollars a year to mortgage servicers to ensure this is the option of last resort. The government-sponsored enterprise answered questions from homeowners on its Executive Perspectives blog, addressing concerns that servicers weren't doing enough to keep homeowners out of foreclosure. "Freddie Mac is taking extraordinary steps to keep families in their homes. Depending on occupancy and the cooperation of the borrower, we don't require our servicers to begin the foreclosure process unless it's been at least four months since that borrower first missed a payment," Freddie Senior Vice President of External Relations Hollis McLoughlin said. Timelines are even longer at the nation's largest lender, Bank of America (BAC). According to its fourth quarter earnings report, the average BofA foreclosure has spent 19 months in delinquency. Since 2009, Freddie Mac's more than 3,000 servicers have helped roughly 370,000 families avoid foreclosure. McLoughlin added that the typical borrower in foreclosure has already missed payments for more than a year. "For families that can't afford to be homeowners under any scenario, foreclosure may be the only option," McLoughlin said. Still, foreclosures are outpacing loss-mitigation efforts. Servicers for both Freddie and Fannie Mae foreclosed on 339,000 homes in the third quarter of 2010, compared to the 227,300 that avoided foreclosure either through modifications, short sale or some other alternative, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. But McLoughlin said their servicers are still under a lot of pressure to do everything they can. "While we understand the sheer number of borrowers looking for help has overwhelmed some servicers, we pay the industry about $5 billion annually to service our loans and we have very high expectations of them," McLoughlin said. In January, the FHFA announced that Fannie and Freddie would be working with regulators and these servicers to develop a new national standard for how mortgages will be serviced in the future, addressing several problems with documentation and fees. "We're frustrated when we hear reports of unreturned phone calls, lost documents or other delays — and we take action when servicers don't meet our requirements," McLoughlin said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior