The government announced changes to the HARP program this morning (October 24, 2011). I know there will be lots of questions about the program and the changes, so let’s try a “Q and A” approach to this post!
* I’ve offset the updated portions of HARP with bold colored text. *
Q: What is HARP?
A: HARP is the Home Affordable Refinance Program, but like characters from the Lord of the Rings, it has many different names including Making Homes Affordable, DU Refi Plus, Freddie Relief, and some even refer to it as the Obama Refi Plan.
Like HARP, Gandalf has many names including Gandalf the Grey, Gandalf the White, The White Rider, Greyhame, Mithrandir, Stormcrow, The Grey Pilgrim, Tharkun, Olorin, Láthspell… you get the idea.
Q: Does anyone qualify for HARP?
A: No. There are two main items that each current homeowner must meet to qualify. First, either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac must own your mortgage. Second, Fannie or Freddie must have received your loan prior to June 1, 2009.
Q: How do I know if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac own my loan?
A: Great question! It is nice that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have both created a look-up tool to make it easier to find out if they own your mortgage. To use Fannie Mae’s, use this link. For Freddie Mac, go here.
Q: Are there any other criteria to meet in order to qualify:
A: Yes, there are other items that potential borrowers must meet. These include being current on your mortgage payments, no late payments in the last 12 months, a qualifying credit score, and borrowers still must qualify based on their income.
Q: NEW – Are there loan to value limits?
A: No, there are now no loan to value limits to qualify. You can be 200% underwater on your mortgage and still qualify to use HARP. This was previously a major holdup to homeowners qualifying to use this program, and it has now been eliminated.
Q: If I have less than 20% equity in my home, will I have to pay PMI on the new loan?
A: No, you will not have to pay PMI on the new loan regardless of the loan to value/amount of equity in your home.
Q: I pay PMI now, can I qualify for the HARP program.
A: Your PMI payments on the new loan will not go up, but the transfer of your PMI from your current loan to the new loan will require some extra steps. Let your loan officer know if you have PMI on your current loan.
Q: I have a second mortgage on my home. Can I still qualify? Would I have to consolidate into one mortgage?
A: Yes, you can still qualify for HARP, but not by consolidating the mortgages. HARP does not allow homeowners to consolidate loans. The second mortgage company must agree to subordinate behind the new first mortgage. The revamped HARP may allow auto-subordinations to occur, which will make it easier for homeowners to use HARP if they have a second mortgage.
Q: Can I refinance any property?
A: Yes, you can. Primary residence, second homes, and investment properties can all qualify for HARP.
Q: NEW – Can I use HARP with any lender?
A: Yes, you can use any lender to refinance your mortgage. Prior to the loan to value changes from 125% to no limit, homeowners were required to use their current loan servicer to go up to 125%. That is no longer the case.
Q: When will these changes go into effect?
A: Lenders should begin coming out with updated guidelines in the next few weeks. Homeowners can more than likely begin using the revamped HARP in December 2011. The HARP is currently extended to go through the end of 2013, so there is plenty of time to take advantage of it!
Q: I have more questions, and would like to get started. What do I do?
A: If the property is in the state of Georgia, I can help get you started with the refinance process. Contact me and we’ll get underway with the process and answering any additional questions you have about HARP. If the property is not in the state of Georgia, contact a local loan officer/lender to get started.
Like the Lord of the Rings, the HARP has a lot of names and details that go with it. Unlike the Lord of the Rings, it won’t be an grand, epic, and sometimes exhausting 1,000+ page read cover to cover… but both come with a happy ending!