It may not feel entertaining, but distressed homeowners now can watch government-backed videos where actors dramatize the ways that people try to avoid foreclosures.
WaysHome is a new online program released Thursday by Fannie Mae, a federally controlled company that provides loan guarantees and funds for mortgage lenders.
The videos offer viewers tips by showing three families who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Viewers select a family and “walk in their shoes,” as an announcer puts it.
Short video clips are interspersed with questions that ask viewers to make choices, such as who to ask for financial help or whether to try to refinance a mortgage. Based on those choices, viewers watch different outcomes. For example, choosing to pay $500 to an intervention company doesn’t end well despite a written guarantee to save a financially distressed home.
The videos features actors who worry aloud about losing their homes, who cope with job losses and who express much frustration with their predicaments.
The program’s producers definitely have a point of view. “A strategic default,” where an underwater homeowner can pay but chooses to walk away from the home, is “a bad idea,” an announcer says.
If nothing else, the videos confirm that despite three years of pain, officials still think the nation’s foreclosure crisis is far from over.
“In 2011, millions of homes will be at imminent risk of foreclosure,” Fannie Mae Senior Vice President Jeff Hayward said in a press release about WaysHome. “As we enter a new year, the company is expanding its efforts to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.”
Fannie Mae said that in the last two years it has helped more than a half million families stay in their homes.
WaysHome is hosted at a new consumer web site,

— Robert Digitale