Senator introduces bill to expand HARP Refinance program

HARP refinance in MNSenate bill S.1375, the “Rebuilding American Homeownership Act” has been introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley, D-OR to try and expand the existing HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program”.

This has been called by many as “HARP 3“, and is designed to allow loans not currently owned by Fannie Mae of Freddie Mac to be refinanced through the HARP program.

Under the current HARP underwater refinance program, in order to qualify, your existing mortgage loan must be owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

If passed, the bill would force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance non-Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans, and to price in the additional risk into the interest rate so that the program would not cost taxpayers anything.


Merley was quoted as saying the “It shouldn’t matter which financial institution owns a loan…” and that “all responsible homeowners should have the option to refinance and save money.”

Merkley also introduced another bill that would encourage people to refinance into loans terms of less than 20-years, which builds equity faster, by paying $1,000 of underwater homeowners closing costs.

Previous attempts at a HARP 3 program, or modifying the current HARP 2 program have not gain much traction in Washington, and these two new bills have no other sponsors.

HARP 3 on the horizon?

Minneapolis, MN: As anticipated, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez, NJ, and Barbara Boxer, CA, this week reintroduced a bill that could spur more refinances.

underwaterThe Responsible Homeowner Refinancing Act, (AKA HARP 3) among other things, has a stated goal of relaxing requirements for borrowers to refinance and would extend the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) for an extra year through 2014.  It is currently set to expire December 31, 2013.

Currently, the HARP Refinance program only allows people who have a loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance an underwater home.  HARP 3 would allow ALL underwater homes to be refinanced.

Stay tuned for more details.


Can’t refinance – Maybe you can with HARP – Find out here

HARP 3.0 ???  Help for underwater home owners

St Paul, MN:  Virtually, all homeowners have lost value on their homes in recent years.  For many, this has created some challenges to refinancing and taking advantage of today’s super low mortgage interest rates.

There are a few programs with can help, depending on what type of mortgage loan you have today.  May people have successfully used program like HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program), the FHA Streamline Refinance, or even the VA Streamline refinance known as an IRRRL loan.

Sadly, not everyone fits the criteria.  Therefore Washington has been floating the idea of an expanded HARP 3 Refinance ProgramIt doesn’t exist yet, and may never exist…  But if it does, here is what it may look like:

There are some basic criteria for the #MyRefi or HARP 3 refinance program:

  • Current loan is NOT backed by FHA, USDA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
  • Primary home only. No second homes or investment home
  • Loan less than $750,000.
  • On time mortgage payments for the past 6 months, with no more than one 30-day late payment in the past year.
  • Credit score above 580

This new HARP 3 refinance program proposal mirrors the current HARP 2.0 refinance loan program (possible no appraisal, less document, etc), except it would potentially also allow any underwater home owner, not just those who have a loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Try out the governments “Would I qualify for a refinance” below..

Can a HARP refinance help you?

Can a HARP refinance help you?

Minneapolis, MN:  A HARP refinance, in short, allows you to refinance with expanded eligibility requirements in regards to loan-to-value, or debt-to-income. That could mean that you are allowed to refinance, even though your home may have lost value., or the payment is a bit higher than normally allowed for your income. That flexibility allows many homeowners to refinance when they otherwise would not be able to. The idea is that even though the new loan might be a risky loan compared to other loans files with lower ratios it is still less risky than just leaving the home owner in their current position. Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is on the hook for your loan if it’s a HARP refinance, so they want to allow you to get a lower payment and be in a position where you are less likely to default on your mortgage.

What do I mean exactly by expanded eligibility?

Well, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have what we call Automated Underwriting Systems. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each have their own system and they have certain thresholds that are known in the industry. For instance, we know that a total debt ratio of 45% is a very important number. Why? Normally, if your total debt ratio is over 45% then you are denied. On new loans, these systems will both issue approvals up to a 50% total debt ratio but if you are over 45% you need to have what we call “compensating factors” to get approval. With a HARP loan this 45% number is basically thrown out the window and the Automated Underwriting Systems are much more flexible with their approvals.

Loan to value ratio is also very important in any loan transaction. The normal rules are if the property is your primary residence then you can have as little as 3.5% equity and you can refinance. If the property is a rental then you’ll need 25% equity to get a refinance.  HARP allows you to be significantly underwater and still get the loan done. That means instead of having to have equity in the property you can have a property that is worth less than what you owe and still refinance.


Understand this important fact, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do NOT do loans. They BUY loans from lenders. Not all lenders feel the same about the risk to them about doing HARP refinances. Most lenders are very conservative today.  Keep in mind that lenders can have “overlays” to the basic HARP guidelines that restrict what that company decides to refinance. You don’t have to go through your current lender to get a HARP 2.0 refinance done.  Shop around to find the best HARP mortgage interest rate just like you would with any other refinance. And good luck!

An original article by Joe Metzler (C) 2012 Metzler Enterprises, LLC for

Dealing with an Underwater Mortgage

Nearly 11 million Homeowners are Underwater, which means they owe more on their mortgage than their property is worth. Below are some of your options for dealing with an underwater mortgage.

Wait It Out:  If you are just depressed at the thought of owing more than it is worth today, but really don’t have any intentions of moving. Stop worrying about it. You have to live somewhere. Although short sales and foreclosures have brought down values, the housing market is slowly recovering, especially here in the Minneapolis, St Paul metro area. If you are able to continue to make payments – do it. It will save your credit score and keep your morale intact.

Refinance: If your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and that loan was taken out before June2009, you have no late payments in the past six months and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months, you may qualify for the HARP – Home Affordable Refinance Program. If you have an FHA loan, or a VA loan

, you may qualify for a FHA streamline refinance, or a VA IRRRL streamline refinance. Both of these program may not need an appraisal.

Short Sale: If you truly cannot pay your bills, or need to move, you may need to consider a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure. Work with an experienced short-sale Realtor to get the best offer.

Become a landlord: A popular option is to turn the property into a rental. Being a landlord isn’t overly difficult. If you don’t want to deal with it, there are plenty of reliable rental companies that will take care of everything for you. There are special requirements for getting a new home mortgage loan when turning your existing home into a rental, so be sure to discuss this with a licensed mortgage professional, not just a bank application clerk,


HARP 2 refinance program in MN and WI

HARP 2.0 refinance program details in MN and WI.

St Paul, MN: The much anticipated revised HARP Refinance Program (HARP 2) is now in effect, making it much easier for underwater home owner to refinance their mortgage into today’s low mortgage rates.

The two biggest guideline changes to the HARP 2 program include the POSSIBILITY of unlimited Loan-to-Value and the POSSIBILITY to refinance even if you have Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This opens up financing opportunities for seriously upside home owners who have kept up with their current mortgage obligations.

There is a LOT of misinformation out there... The reality is NO LENDER ANYWHERE can promise you a HARP 2 refinance approval WITHOUT having a full application and submitting that application through either Fannie Mae or Freddie Macs automated underwriting computers (AUS).


Who owns my mortgage loan?

Who owns my loan?

Minneapolis, MN: Until recently, no one really needed to know, and no one really cared who ultimately owns their mortgage loan. Home owners receive their monthly statements, and make their monthly payments, to their mortgage company (or mortgage servicer).

With numerous program available to assist homeowners, including HARP 2, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which require the loan be owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, it is very important to know who, and if they own your mortgage loan.

There are usually a few people involved in your loan process:

  • The Originator: The company who did the original loan. This could be a bank, broker, or direct mortgage company
  • The Servicer: The company now providing the statements and accepting the payments is only providing the service of billing, statements, customer service, etc. This company could also have been your originator.
  • The Investor:  This is usually not the company that provided the funds originally to make the loan, but a company that may hold your loan permanently, or sell it off to someone else, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Many times this company also becomes your loan servicer.
  • Actual Owner / End Owner: This could be a bank, mortgage company, or some kind of investor group. For a large number of homeowners, this is Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Who owns my mortgage loan? – Click to find out

 Click here for a HARP 2.0 Lender in MN and WI


Why you should wait for HARP 2.0

Why you should wait until April to get a HARP 2.0 Loan

Just a few years ago, consumers with weaker credit getting a conforming mortgage loan (one designed to be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) got a great deal.  If you barely qualified with a low 620 credit score, you got the exact same rate as someone with an excellent 800 credit score.

Wait for better HARP 2.0 Interest Rates

When the mortgage markets collapsed and the housing agencies started hemorrhaging cash, they instituted new fee policies known as Loan Level Pricing Adjustments (LLPA) and Adverse Market Delivery Charges (AMDC) as a means to fix their balance sheets on the backs of homeowners that were still able to obtain loans.

The fees were intended to price loans based on the risk inherent in each loan. LLPA is the more significant of the two fees. It adds fees to a loan based on loan type (purchase, rate and term refinance or a cash out refinance), loan to value, and credit score. To illustrate the impact of the LLPA, a borrower with a 620 credit score will pay a rate nearly 1% higher than a borrower with a 740 credit score.

Because of the inherent risk of HARP refinance, most consumers over 80% loan-to-vale have been hit hard by AMDC and LLPA requirements

HARP 2.0 – Best Change Worth Waiting For

As part of HARP 2.0, AMDC and LLPA rules have been changed, providing consumers who wait a potentially much better interest rate.

  • Reduced fees charged by the agencies on loans with a loan to value in excess of 80%.
  • On loans with amortizations of 20 years or less, the LLPA and AMDC are eliminated.
  • On 25 and 30 year loans, the cap is reduced, which means the borrower with the lower score in the example above saves another .25% in rate.
  • Removal of loan to value cap on fixed rate mortgages (effective March 17th 2012) – no equity, no problem. In fact, negative equity refinances will be allowed.

Eliminating the fees on 15 and 20 year loans is significant. Rates on those loans are already well under 4%, so this should open up HARP refinance opportunities for borrowers that are interested in the rapid principal reduction that comes with shorter amortization mortgages.

Not Until After March

When lenders underwrite loans, the first step is to log into Fannie Mae or Freddie Macs computers to get an underwriting decision. These two agencies have indicated lenders won’t be able to do that until sometime around March 17th. To get the better mortgage rates from HARP lenders, you need to wait!

One caution about the changes to the loan to value cap; sometimes lenders do not adopt changes announced by the agencies word for word. Some overlay their own underwriting guidelines and they are always more conservative. While Fannie and Freddie may state they don’t have a loan to value limit for fixed rate HARP loans, many lenders will have a cap.

The agencies continue to tweak their programs with the goal of improving the performance of the loans in their portfolio. If you haven’t refinanced yet, maybe this change is the one that will benefit you.

HARP 2 not ready until March 15th – Why?

HARP 2 – Not ready until March 15th, 2012
Minneapolis, MN: There is a lot of consumers interested in a HARP refinance in MN and WI. The Home Affordable Refinance program allows home owners who have lost value to still refinance their homes are today’s low HARP  refinance rates.  HARP has been available since mid 2009.  HARP 2, which was announced in November 2011 removes some restrictions, and should help many more home owners refinance their home loans.

Officially, the the HARP 2 program started December 1. Unofficially, most lenders won’t be offering it until after March 15th, 2012. Let’s explore and understand why?

The original HARP program, which allows a home owner to be underwater on their home mortgage loan up to 125% loan-to-value is available today.

THE BIGGEST DELAY: Simple. Software. When a lender “underwrites” a loan, they actually do so through an AUS, which stands for Automated Underwriting Systems. The computer software evaluates the application, and gives an answer. The underwriter then verifies the computers decision. For example, the software may give a YES answer, then ask for pay stubs to verify income. The underwriters job is to then review the pay stubs to make sure the submitted income is the actual income.

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to reprogram their computers, and they’ve indicated this will become effective March 15th.

BENEFITS TO LENDERS OF AUS: Can a lender “manually” underwrite a file?  Sure, but the biggest benefit of submitting a file through the automated systems is all about liability. Contracts with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac protect a lender against liability for underwriting mistakes made by the lender of the original mortgage if the software said YES. Therefore smart lenders are not likely to take on the additional risk of a manual underwritten file.

THE RULES: Another major issue is simply getting the rules written, and distributed up and down all the lender channels. While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have indicated what their rules are, remember that they don’t actually lender to consumers. Lenders lend. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac simply buy loans from lenders. Therefore there is still a large amount of risk to lenders. Each individual lender needs to review new rules, consider the risk, decide if they even want to participate in the enhanced HARP 2 program, then write their rules and push them out to the Loan Officers on the street.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Look for most lenders to start pushing out HARP 2 Refinance rules about the middle of February 2012, but not actually doing them until after March 15th, 2012.  Furthermore, expect a huge rush of customer looking to take advantage of the program, creating massive delays with the banks.

HARP II Guidelines Released

HARP II – The Home Affordable Refinance Program has released the updated program guidelines.

St Paul, MN:  The HARP program, while not perfect, has been one of the few success stories in the governments attempt to help home owners.  HARP has helped close to 1,000,000 homeowners refinance, and a few tweaks to the program have just been announced. No one who closely follows the mortgage industry is expecting HARP 2.0 to generate much in the way of additional refinance opportunities in the real world over the existing HARP program – but HARP IS STILL AN AWESOME PROGRAM for those who qualify.

That view seemed to be reinforced after yesterday’s release of the specific program guidance from both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lenders (see links to release below)

It appears the updated HARP programs latest program changes and enhancements aimed at allowing underwater borrowers with Fannie / Freddie mortgages to take advantage of low mortgage rates don’t appear to represent a major departure from the old requirements.

The updated basics are that the loan to value cap has been lifted, certain fees in certain situations have been removed and for borrowers who have loans owned by Fannie or Freddie and who have not been delinquent more than 1 x 30 days in the past twelve months (0 x 30 in the most recent six months) they may find refinancing available to them even if they are underwater on their mortgage to equity ratio.

However, until March 2012 Fannie and Freddie will not even accept delivery of any loan with an LTV > 125%.  And, the new loan program continues to be available only to borrowers whose loans are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.

Given the lifting of the Loan-to-Value cap as a major selling point, it appears that since nothing above 125% can be delivered before March this will hamper a program that already has performance characteristics that may make it unavailable to many who could really use the program.

While a handful of lenders who offer HARP already have started to promote HARP refi opportunities, it seems a bit premature as it remains to be seen who lenders will actually implement the new guidelines.  Remember, lender overlays play a huge rule in today’s mortgage world.  Just because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, or any other program says lenders can, doesn’t mean they will.

View the actual HARP 2 release information in PDF format:

Time will tell over the next few months as lender roll out their actual guidelines.  Stay tuned.

 Click HERE to apply for a HARP Refinance on properties in MN or WI


HARP 2: Another Obama Housing Refinance Failure?

The Federal Housing Finance Agency plan to revamp the Home Affordable Refinance Program will result in just 17% of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 30-year loans qualifying for refinancing, according to one analyst.

Sarah Hu said there are some benefits of HARP 2.0, which is how bond investors refer to the plan, but also believes hurdles remain.