Home Affordable Refinance Program
What Is The HARP Mortgage Program?
Known as HARP 2.0, DU Refi Plus or the Obama Refinance Program, the Home Affordable Refinance Program is designed to assist homeowners in refinancing their mortgage when the value of their home has declined, making traditional refinancing no longer an option.
HARP stands for the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which is a government loan program that was recently updated to help more people who have underwater mortgages.
You May Be Eligible For HARP If:
Verify Ownership- Your home loan is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Sold Date- Your loan was sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before May 31, 2009.
Current On Mortgage- You are current on your mortgage payments.
Payment History- You have made all of your mortgage payments on time in the last 6 months.
No Mortgage Lates- You have had NO sixty (60) day late payments in the past 12 months.
Loan-to-Value- You owe more than 80% of your home's estimated value.
You can check to see if your loan is eligible for HARP by CLICKING HERE, or feel free to call our HARP Approval Hotline at (888) 460-2939 to speak with an approved HARP Mortgage Lender near you.
Keep in mind that with the new updates to the Home Affordable Refinance Program, the government has made it possible for you to shop around for the best interest rate and deal vs. having to be tied down to your current lender.
Benefits Of Getting Your Refinance With A HARP Mortgage
There are several updates to the HARP Refinance Program that the Obama Administration anticipate will open up mortgage refinancing opportunities to 4-7 million underwater homeowners.
According To Fannie Mae's website:
Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) Enhancements:
In October 2011, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac announced enhancements to the Home Affordable Refinance Program that make it easier for lenders to refinance HARP-eligible mortgages. Fannie Mae released details about the changes on November 15th, 2011.
A critical part of Fannie Mae's role in the Making Home Affordable Program is the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), available for refinances of existing Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac) loans. The goal of the refinance effort, as announced by the President, is "to provide access to low-cost refinancing for responsible homeowners suffering from falling home prices."
The expectation is that refinancing their mortgage will put responsible borrowers in a better position by reducing their monthly principal and interest payments or moving them from a more risky loan structure (such as interest-only or short-term ARM) to a more stable product. Our solutions provide mortgage refinances with no limits on LTV, and mortgage insurance flexibilities.
Key HARP Mortgage Program Benefits Include:
Unlimited Loan-to-Value Restrictions- to allow more people to refinance, regardless of their home's appraised value.
- Lower Banking Fees & Rates - by allowing lender participation, homeowners can shop around for the best deal vs being stuck with the bank that they are currently making their mortgage payments to.
- Owner, Investment, Second Homes OK - not just limited to owner occupied properties, investors and landlords can benefit with a HARP Mortgage Refinance as well.
- Less "Red Tape" - removing many of the barriers that have previously prevented people from refinancing, such as appraisals, complicated subordination agreements with second lenders and mortgage insurance transfers.
In proposing the new plan, President Obama acknowledged that efforts initiated in February 2009 hadn't worked as planned:
"The housing plan we launched a couple years ago has helped nearly 1 million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages and save an average of $300 on their payments every month. I'll be honest -- it didn't work at the scale we'd hoped. Mortgage rates are as low as they've been in half a century, and when that happens, homeowners usually flock to refinance their mortgages. But this time, too many families haven't been able to take advantage of the low rates. Falling prices locked them out of the market."
Home values have declined in many states since the peak in the housing market. According to CoreLogic, over 10.7 million mortgages were underwater at the time the HARP 2.0 program was updated with new program guidelines.
Since many homeowners were caught in a time period of rapidly declining property values, there was a need to create a refinancing opportunity for those that lost significant value in their properties but made their mortgage payments on time.
Recent changes to the HARP Program removed the maximum percentage amount that a property can have an underwater mortgage. Prior to December 1, 2011, the maximum amount that a property could be underwater was 125% of the loan balance.
This means that if a property is valued at $100,000, the maximum that the mortgage being refinanced would be $125,000 or 125% of $100,000. This would also be referred to as 125% LTV or loan-to-value.
In addition to eliminating the cap on Loan-to-Value, the program has reduced or eliminated many additional fees to refinancing that were previously in effect.
Getting Started With The HARP Refinancing Program
This new refinance program is intended to be as easy and streamlined as possible through the entire process. Even second mortgage subordination agreements and Mortgage Insurance contingencies are not posing as major road blocks.
Step 1) Determine if your loan is with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer loan lookup tools on their websites to help you determine if your loan is owned or guaranteed by one of the companies.
Step 2) Contact a HARP Mortgage Lender to submit your initial HARP Application and obtain an initial approval based on your eligibility status:
The Making Home Affordable Refinance Program was opened to all participating mortgage brokers, bankers and lenders on March 19, 2012.
This significant change is extremely beneficial to homeowners because it means you have the ability research your options with other mortgage companies for help with the HARP program, vs being restricted to having to exclusively deal with your current servicer or bank.
- Option A) Contact a HARP Lender at (888) 460-2939
- Option B) CLICK HERE to check your eligibility online.
- Option C) Research your options on our HARP Frequently Asked Questions page.
Info) Some Friendly Professional Advice About Starting The HARP Mortgage Program:
There has been a flood of new HARP applications overwhelming underwriters, which will obviously slow the process of HARP Lender approval through the time when your HARP mortgage funds.
Retail and Wholesale lenders are also adjusting their guidelines on a regular basis as this new underwater mortgage program evolves. For example, the new pool for HARP Mortgage Backed Securities didn't take effectg until June 2012.
The good news is that HARP 2.0 has proven to be successful with over 1.5 million closed loans within the first 6 months of 2012.
In comparison to the FHFA January 2012 Foreclosure Prevention Report that mentions about 100,000 HARP 1.0 refinances, with only 72,000 loans that had a Loan-to-Value up to 105%, it appears that this new HARP 2.0 program has the potential to positively impact the millions underwater homeowners that the Obama Administration is intending to help.
Our advice is to be patient once you have completed the initial application with a HARP approved mortgage company and your full loan package has been submitted for underwriting.
Depending on your unique scenario, Loan-to-Value, credit profile and documentation requirements, it may take several weeks before a final underwritten bank approval is provided.
While you're shopping for the best HARP Rates, keep in mind that most lenders are requiring that a particular file is further along in the process before an interest rate can actually be locked.
And finally, don't be afraid to Contact Us if you are unsure about whether or not your refinance is going in the direction that you originally anticipated.
We will continue to update http://harpmortgagelender.com with the most recent news and information about the Home Affordable Refinance Program, so please bookmark this site as you are researching your options.
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Shopping HARP Lenders
Simply crossing your fingers and hoping that the HARP Mortgage Lender that you're speaking with has the ability to actually close your loan is not a strategy that will likely end with a positive experience.
While the Home Affordable Refinance Program's eligibility requirements outlined on the official MakingHomeAffordable.gov site may seem easy to understand.
However, many homeowners applying for the HARP Program have expressed their frustrations over the long underwriting period and different bank qualifying criteria.
There are several factors that can determine the final approval of your new HARP Loan, such as Credit Scores, Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratios, Loan-to-Value (LTV), occupancy types… and so on. To complicate what should be a streamlined program for borrowers, each mortgage banking institution has their own set of lending guidelines or bank overlays that they generally follow without exception.
The good news for underwater homeowners is that there are plenty of HARP Lenders who specialize in new loan program and have the internal systems in place to effectively communicate with borrowers.
If you or someone you know was unsuccessful in getting their mortgage refinanced with the first lender you speak with, have peace of mind knowing that HARP 2.0 could still be an option for helping you cut your monthly mortgage payment and/or interest costs.
Important Questions To Ask Your HARP Lender:
Knowing what to be prepared for ahead of time when shopping multiple HARP Lenders will save you money and relieve any additional anxiety.
1. Does your company have any servicing restrictions on who you can originate HARP 2.0 loans for?
Many big banks will do HARP 2.0 loans, but only for loans where the payment is still being made to them. And it is important to realize that bank tellers may not have access to your servicing information at the time that they recommend you check out the new HARP program.
In many cases, even though your loan may have started with the bank where you do business, the servicing may have been sold to another company which could prevent the original lender from refinancing your loan.
Bottom line, there are lenders that will do your loan regardless of who the present servicer is.
Just make sure before you submit your application that you ask if they have any restrictions in the event your loan is serviced by another company.
2. Do you have any Loan-to-Value (LTV) caps in effect that would prevent my loan from being approved?
Some lenders are currently originating HARP 2.0 loans, but only at a maximum LTV of 105%, 125% or 150% limits.
For example, a loan amount of $125,000 with a home value of $100,000 would represent a Loan-to-Value of 125%. If your loan amount exceeded this and your lender had a cap of 125%, your loan would not be approved with that particular lender. Call us at (888) 460-2939 if you are concerned about your LTV and whether or not your current bank may have an issue that they're not telling you about up-front.
Some lenders have no LTV restrictions and if you believe your new loan would exceed 105%, you would be wise to ask in advance before proceeding if this could be a problem for you.
Note - The higher the LTV, the longer it may take to close your HARP loan due to the limited number of lenders that are funding these higher Loan-to-Value transactions. For mortgages with 150% or greater LTV, it is not uncommon to wait 60-90 days for a full underwritten approval and final loan documents.
3. Do you have any FICO score caps in effect that could prevent my loan from being approved?
Some lenders have instituted credit score restrictions for HARP 2.0 loans that may exceed their normal guidelines.
This is particularly true when the loan to value exceeds certain levels. If you know that your FICO score may fall below 720, you should ask the lender you are speaking with if they have any credit overlays involving FICO scores that could impact you.
Note - One of the updated guideline changes with HARP involves placing a ceiling on Loan Level Price Adjustments (LLPA), which would have normally disqualified a borrower from refinancing due to the higher interest rates.
4. If my mortgage has Private Mortgage Insurance in effect, will that be a problem with obtaining an approval?
Some lenders will not originate a new HARP 2.0 loan if your current mortgage has Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) currently in place. This could be either PMI that you currently pay monthly or is paid by the lender.
Many lenders will work with you if your mortgage has PMI, just make sure you discuss this with your lender before you make application.
5. Do you have any occupancy restrictions if my property is not my primary residence?
If your property is a used as a second home or investment property, some lenders will not work with you, preferring to originate HARP 2.0 loans only for properties that are used for a Primary Residence.
6. Do you have any restrictions on property type that could prevent my loan from being approved?
Property types can be described as detached and attached single family residences, including town homes and condominiums. There are also multi-family properties including duplexes, triplexes and quadruplexes. HARP 2.0 allows for all property types to be refinanced although many lenders have restrictions that do not include all.
7. What are your interest rates?
We have a complete section about how to shop for the best HARP Interest Rates, which will give you more than enough ammunition to have detailed conversations with various lenders for the purpose of getting the best deal.
It is important to keep in mind that shopping for a HARP lender based on interest rate quotes generally results in a negative experience.
Due to the demand for the Home Affordable Refinance Program in , most banks are requiring extended loan lock periods unless a file has been fully underwritten and approved. The longer a rate is locked for prior to funding, the higher the interest tends to be.
So, if a loan originator or bank teller is quoting specific low interest rates before finding out key details about your unique refinance scenario, then it is likely that the mortgage rates they are talking about may not materialize by the time you receive an initial Good Faith Estimate.
If you encounter an obstacle, this doesn't mean that you cannot obtain financing, it may simply mean you have to ask the right questions to find the right lender.
You just might find that HARP 2.0 is exactly the loan program you were looking for to help you out.
Obama Mortgage Program Overview
If you are interested in reading a detailed overview of the HARP Mortgage Program, the following article will cover the history and purpose behind the Obama Administration's Home Affordable Refinance Program initiative.
Referred to as HARP, DU Refi Plus or the Obama Refinance Plan, the Home Affordable Refinance Program is a federal program of the United States, that was originally set up by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in March 2009 under President Obama's Making Home Affordable Program to help underwater and near-underwater homeowners refinance their mortgages.
Explanation Of How The New HARP Program Will Help Homeowners Duration : 0:4:35
Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan talks about changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, that will allow homeowners to refinance regardless of how much their houses have dropped in value. Donovan speaks with Lisa Murphy on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg)
There were high hopes for the initial HARP Mortgage program that was launched under the Making Home Affordable Program in 2009 by the Obama Administration and set up by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) as a means to help underwater and near-underwater homeowners refinance out of high interest rate loans or risky mortgage programs.
While it did help several thousand borrowers who fit the strict criteria to reduce their interest rates, lower their payments and get out of loans that could suddenly adjust the monthly payments upwards, the 125% negative equity ceiling did not allow millions of homeowners that had greater losses in property values to take advantage of the program.
In theory, the original HARP Mortgage Program was a good idea, except the massive decline in property values that followed the foreclosure and real estate crisis of 2006 - 2008 did not help the millions of struggling homeowners that the program was intended to. The 125% loan to value restriction left a lot of good paying mortgage holders out of the opportunity to refinance at the low market interest rates. If there are any knocks on the way the program was originally written it would have to be that the equity ceiling was a little short sighted.
The HARP Mortgage Program was updated in October 2011 to elimiate previous roadblocks that prevented otherwise qualifed borrowers from taking advantage of the refinance boom.
The most important change to the Home Affordable Refinance Program for homeowners who were underwater on their mortgages or had little equity and were bound by mortgage insurance challenges was the elimination of the equity requirement. This change could help as many as 4 - 7 million more homeowners get payment relief while taking advantage of the historically low interest rates. The belief is that homeowners will be able to add to an average savings of $3,500 a year and spend more on goods and services to directly impact the economy.
Who Qualifies For The HARP Program?
- The existing home loan must be purchased or guaranteed by fannie mae or freddie mac prior to May 31st, 2009.
- Existing home loan cannot be a loan that was previously refinanced through HARP.
- Mortgage payment history for 12 months may include one 30 day late payment over 12 months but no late payments over the last 6 months.
- The new HARP mortgage must provide benefit that includes: lower interest rate, lower interest rate and payments, reduced mortgage term and change from adjustable rate and interest only loans to a more stable fixed rate loan.
- When the new HARP mortgage payment is greater than the existing mortgage payment by more than 20%, income and credit are more important and will be factors in the electronically underwritten loan. The debt to income ratio cannot exceed 45%.
- All property types qualify. Single family residences, condos, townhomes, planned unit developments, manufactured homes and attached multi-family 1-4 units.
- All occupancies qualify. Primary residences, second homes and non-owner occupied investment and rental properties.
- HARP mortgages will be restricted to the new conforming limit for the county that the property is located in. Homeowners that last financed at 100% loan to value at the previous conforming limit will need to pay down the loan at close of the HARP mortgage to qualify.
- Homeowners with second mortgages qualify as long as the second mortgage holder agrees to re-subordinate and the new 1st position HARP mortgage does not exceed 125% loan to value. Second mortgages are not allowed to be paid off with the proceeds of the new HARP mortgage.
- Homeowners with private mortgage insurance qualify for the HARP mortgage. If the existing loan to be refinanced does not have private mortgage insurance the new loan will not require private mortgage insurance. If it does have private mortgage insurance the homeowner will need at least the same coverage that was on the existing mortgage. Lending professionals will help homeowners with the private mortgage insurance details and determining whether or not a homeowner has it currently. They will walk you through the HARP mortgage private mortgage insurance procedures.
With the elimination of the equity requirement for the HARP Mortgage, the most important factor in qualifying a homeowner for the program is the mortgage payment history. In the most recent 12 month period the HARP Mortgage allows one 30 day late mortgage payment with no mortgage late payments in the last 6 months. The HARP Mortgage is geared to reward responsible homeowners that have made their mortgage payments on time but were caught up in a period of significant losses in property values and unable to refinance based on traditional underwriting guidelines.
The spirit of the HARP Mortgage and the recent guideline changes is to provide benefit to homeowners that lost a ton of value in their properties and now find themselves at above 80% loan to value for principal residences and above 75% for second homes and rental properties. The new HARP Mortgage has to benefit the homeowner in one of the following ways:
- The HARP Mortgage Lowers The Monthly Interest Rate
- The HARP Mortgage Lowers The Monthly Interest Rate And Payment
- The HARP Mortgage Reduces The Mortgage Term
- The HARP Mortgage Provides A More Stable Loan Than The Existing Adjustable Rate Or Interest Only Loan.
As a reminder to homeowners that are applying for the HARP Mortgage it is important that they make all of their scheduled mortgage payments on time while they are waiting for their new loan to be funded. Whether it is a first or second mortgage those payments must be made on time and any lending professional that advises a homeowner to hold off on making scheduled mortgage payments is not advising homeowners properly and nor are they protecting the homeowners ability to qualify for the HARP Mortgage.
There are other noteworthy aspects of the new HARP Mortgage. Homeowners with second mortgages will still qualify when the existing first lien is refinanced with a new HARP Mortgage and the second loan holder agrees to re-subordinate. The homeowner is not required to work with their existing lender to get the HARP Mortgage. It seems that some mortgage professionals are communicating this to borrowers which may be an attempt to keep the loans with them. Homeowners are free to choose whatever lending institution they want for the HARP Mortgage and are encouraged to compare mortgage lenders, interest rates and costs to determine the what company is the best fit for them.
Those homeowners with private mortgage insurance are eligible for the HARP Mortgage as well. It seems that some lenders and mortgage people have told homeowners that if their existing loans have private mortgage insurance they will not qualify for the HARP Mortgage. If any lender that a homeowner is talking to says that they have to work with their existing lender or that private mortgage insurance disqualifies the homeowner from getting the HARP Mortgage, it is advised that they immediately find a new mortgage lending institution.
HARP Mortgage Basics:
This program was created under President Obama and is a program tailored to help homeowners that have negative equity in their homes due to the housing market crash. Unsure about what “negative equity” means? Negative equity means that you owe more on the mortgage than what your home is valued at. It’s a scary situation, but many borrowers found themselves in this situation with the financial crisis.
The HARP program specifically helps borrowers who owe more than 80% of the value of their home (this is referred to as LTV or loan to value). Refinancing with such a high loan to value under conventional or traditional loan programs would be difficult if not impossible by today’s lending standards. The HARP program that is specifically tailored for borrowers suffering from negative equity does not have the same set of requirements or criteria as traditional or conventional loans.
Refinancing under the HARP program allows borrowers to get into the low rates of the current market. Did you know that rates have not been lower than where they are right now? Traditional mortgages make refinancing virtually impossible for homeowners that don’t have equity, but the HARP Program can help.
Traditional 30 year mortgages are great for many borrowers, but the downfall of these programs are that they pay very little of the loan balance down in the first ten years. Most of the monthly payment that you’re sending in gets applied to interest, meaning that after ten years on a 30 year mortgage your loan balance is going to be close to where it started. The same is not true for 20 and even 15 year mortgages. In the shorter term mortgages the borrower will start to see a difference in the remaining loan balance in as little as 3-5 years; which puts them in a powerful position to start gaining equity in their homes.
The HARP program understands the benefit to short term loans and actually encourages borrowers to refinance into these programs. Usually the programs have lower interest rates than the 30 year mortgages, are fixed rate loans to provide stability, and will have the homeowner out their negative equity position much faster than a 30 year mortgage.
Occupancy And Property Types Accepted By HARP
One amazing benefit of the program is that the HARP Mortgage Program allows for non-owner occupied investment homes and second homes in addition to primary residences. The only difference is that the loan to value ratio for the HARP Mortgage Program on investment properties and second homes is that LTV ratio starts above 75% as opposed to above 80% for owner occupied properties.
This is a really good thing for not only the borrowers but also the housing markets. Non-owner occupied properties whether it is a second home or investment property will always be walked away from before primary residences. From a homeowner psychology standpoint, there is no questioning this mentality. People will always protect the homes they occupy over their vacation and rental properties. Although there is some evidence of lenders working on loan modifications for second home and investment property loans it does not seem to be as common as with homeowners living in their primary residences and experiencing financial hardships. Whether it is an owner occupied, second home or investment property, loan modifications are considered on the basis of documentable hardship and ability to repay the loan.
Investors and second home owners will not get the help they are looking for simply on the basis of being underwater on the mortgage. This makes the acceptance of non-owner occupied and second homes by the HARP Mortgage Program significant because they will be able to take advantage of lower rates and a reduction in monthly outflow. This may serve to protect renters living in properties that have a greater likelihood of slipping into foreclosure and may slow the numbers of investors and second homeowners that come to the decision to simply walk away from their homes. The inclusion of the non-owner occupied properties by HARP addresses the situations of investors and second home owners that are also upside down on their mortgages and needing payment relief. It is advantageous to the housing market to not have a bunch of these mortgages walked away from and the houses abandoned. The costs to the bank would be huge if they all walked away. This decision only further contributes to depressed property values.
The property types that are accepted by the HARP Mortgage guidelines are consistent with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines. That includes detached single family residents, attached 1-4 units, condos, townhomes, planned unit developments, and manufactured homes.
There is no limit to the number of properties financed under HARP Program Guidelines when the loan is underwritten electronically with the Desktop Underwriting System. In an alternative underwriting system called Loan Prospector also known as LP, there is a limit to 4 multi-family residences (1-4 units) when the property being financed as a HARP mortgage loan is a second home or investment property. The enhanced HARP Mortgage Program goes a long way to help both homeowners looking for payment relief on their primary residences and investors on their second homes and rental properties.
Who Is Not Eligible For a HARP Mortgage?
Given all that is known about the Obama mortgage plan, here are a few instances where a loan is not eligible under the HARP Program:
- homeowners that do not currently have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac Loan are not eligible for the HARP Mortgage. You can check with your current lender or competing lenders to see if your loan is owned or guaranteed by the two organizations above. Additionally, your loan must have been funded and delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to May 31st, 2009.
- Homeowners that have already refinanced with HARP are not eligible to be refinanced HARP again.
- Homeowners must have a most recent 6 months of no mortgage late payments and a maximum of one 30 day late payment over the last 12 months.
- FHA, VA and USDA loans are government sponsored loans but are not eligible for refinance under the HARP Mortgage Guidelines.
- Homeowners that are in foreclosure are not eligible for a HARP Mortgage. The HARP program is not intended to put a stop to the foreclosure process that has already started.
- The result of the loan must be one of the following or it will not qualify: 1) Lower interest rate 2) Lower monthly interest rate and payments 3) Shorter mortgage term 4) Refinance into a more stable loan from an interest only or adjustable rate mortgage.
- When mortgage payments increase by 20%, debt to income ratio must not exceed 45% or whatever the electronic underwriting system determines.
If you need help determining whether or not your loan is owned Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the following pages will connect you with a ((city) HARP Mortgage Lender who will be willing to assist you: