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UPDATE 1-Countrywide sees modifying 25,000 mortgages in '07

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NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Countrywide Financial Corp CFC.N, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, said on Monday it expects to modify terms on nearly 25,000 home loans this year to help people avoid foreclosures.

The company said it has already modified more than 17,000 home loans this year, and provided assistance on about 35,000 mortgages, including through repayment plans, postponements of payments and refinancings.

Modifying loans can help Countrywide limit foreclosure actions, which can be costly.

The congressional Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, in April said a typical foreclosure can result in up to $80,000 of losses for the homeowner, lender, local government, and neighbors whose homes fall in value. Preventing a foreclosure costs $3,300, it said.

Countrywide, based in Calabasas, California, overhauled its lending practices to focus on smaller, safer loans that mortgage companies Fannie Mae FNM.N and Freddie Mac FRE.N will buy.

The company’s shares have fallen by more than half this year as Countrywide struggled with rising foreclosures and investors’ refusal to buy many loans it makes.

Its rate of pending foreclosures as a percentage of unpaid principal rose to 1.2 percent in August from 0.48 percent a year earlier. Write-downs could result in a $2.4 billion third-quarter loss, Morgan Stanley analyst Kenneth Posner has estimated.

On Friday, Moody’s Investors Service said banks eased terms on just 1 percent of subprime mortgages with rates that reset higher in January, April and July. “Only recently,” Moody’s said, had lenders begun to modify more loans.

The study was based on 16 servicers that handle $950 billion of subprime mortgages, or 80 percent. Moody’s did not say which servicers it evaluated. Servicers collect loan payments and pay such things as insurance and property taxes.

Countrywide, which services $1.45 trillion of home loans, said one in five borrowers are unreachable during the foreclosure process. (Editing by Brian Moss)