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More Homeowners Can Refinance

This article was written by in Real Estate and Home. 5 comments.

Thanks to some changes to the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), more homeowners can qualify for government-endorsed refinancing. Previously, the program only offered refinancing options for households where the mortgage value was up to 97% through 125% of the home’s market value. This did help families who have become underwater, having more left to pay on their loans than their houses are worth. Given the continued depressed real estate market in much of the country, this hasn’t been enough. HARP 2, the expanded program, will allow a family who owes more than 125% of its home’s value to qualify for refinancing.

This program is different than the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which encourages lenders to change loans to restructure monthly payments. Each program has different requirements for qualification.

Many people are in financial trouble due to the combined effects of unemployment, increasing expenses, and accepting a mortgage that carried too much risk for a family. Some are ready to walk away from the house and the mortgage, accepting the consequences such as destroyed credit. Others want to take every option available to stay in the house and pay the mortgage in some form. Programs like HARP can now reach more people who want to keep their homes.

In order to qualify, the mortgage must be owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the mortgage must have originated on or before May 31, 2009, you must be current with your mortgage payments, you must have had no more than one late payment in the last year, and your loan most be at least 80% of the value of the house.

In the past two years, fewer than 450,000 homeowners have taken advantage of HARP each year. With this adjustment to allow households deeper underwater to qualify, the number of families taking advantage of the program could increase to one million in each of the next two years.

HARP and HAMP are sponsored by the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The programs come from generally good policies designed to help homeowners when mortgage lenders have been more apt to take advantage of consumers. Just this weekend, I spoke with a firmer loan officer who left the business due to the shady ethics in the industry; her large corporation was issuing mortgages with the full knowledge that the borrowers would eventually default. There’s more to the story — the bank was selling the mortgages, so they had no inclination to worry about what would happen to the borrower in the future, and the government was subsidizing and encouraging risky mortgages, and every lender was taking advantage of this “free” money.

Nevertheless, HARP and HAMP can help correct these problems from a systemic perspective as well as a homeowner’s perspective.

Would you take advantage of the new and improved Home Affordable Modification Program?

New York Times

Published or updated December 18, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

We took advantage in October of the low rates. We are going to save over $80k over the remaining life of the loan after going from a 5.875% 30 year loan to a 3.375% 15 year loan. Nothing at all can be wrong with that :)

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avatar 2 wylerassociate

Since i’m not a homeowner this program doesn’t impact me.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

If your mortgage was for more than 80% and you have PMI insurance are you not eligible for HARP2? And if not what are we eligible for? We are underwater and ARM refi will be required soon.

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avatar 4 qixx

This program seems to be more a kludge to push these problems into the future for most people. I just hope the lucky few that this program will really help will take advantage of this program. I’m just glad i don’t need a program like this.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Yes, I would participate in this program. The problem is that my servicer do not originate loans and most banks I’ve contacted do not want your business if you do not have an existing loan with them. They are not willing to take on new client because it seemed they have to take care of their own first. So, I’m stuck.

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