The Home Affordability Refinance Program (HARP loan) was started by the U.S. Government in 2009 to help out homeowners who had very little or no equity in their homes.
Even people whose homes are underwater — meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is actually worth — can refinance through HARP.
Back in 2009, there were some restrictions on who could apply. Now, restrictions have been lifted, allowing more homeowners to take advantage of this program.
Elliot Bloch is a senior loan officer for Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation and CEO and Founder of LoanBot. He says, “There are still about 1 million outstanding mortgages that are HARP eligible but won’t take advantage of the program. No one knows why we can’t reach these customers.
I recently worked on a door-knock campaign locally where we physically went to the borrowers’ houses. It worked, but it’s obviously very labor intensive relative to other loan programs.”
If you’re reading this and you have a mortgage that is owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and originated on or before May 31, 2009, check with a lender to see what your options are.
Are you eligible for HARP under the new rules?
Here are the basic requirements to qualify:
- Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae owns your loans
- Your home loan originated on or before May 31, 2009
- The loan-to-value ratio of your loan is greater than 80%
- Your mortgage payments are current
- You have no mortgage payments later than 30 days during the past six months
- You have no more than one late payment during the past 12 months
Bloch suggests anyone who has a higher-than-market interest rate (greater than 4.25% APR) and has a loan from before 2009 should at least review their situation with a licensed lender.
How has HARP loan changed?
No more cap: The primary change to HARP is that there are no longer any limits as to how underwater your home can be. Loan-to-value ratios were once capped at 125%, but today there is no longer a cap.
Easier to verify: Another change? In lieu of income verification, applicants can now prove they have at least 12 months of mortgage payments in reserve instead.
Less paperwork: Documentation requirements have also decreased.
Because the HARP 2.0 guidelines are newer, simpler, and designed to approve more loans, make sure you apply, even if you were turned down the first time around.
Compare the pros and cons to make a better decision.
Since the recession, many homeowners have been bombarded by scams and companies offering false promises. How do you know if a company offering to help you refinance through HARP is legitimate?
Legitimate offers should include specific information about your current loan, including the loan number and current mortgage company or bank. You should not be asked to pay any upfront fees. If you are, the offer is most likely a scam.
It’s always a good idea to check with your current mortgage company, before responding to offers from third party companies or mortgage brokers.
If you suspect a scam at any time, harp.gov recommends you report it immediately by calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).
If you meet all of the requirements listed above, check and see if refinancing through HARP is a good idea for you. Remember, you can check your eligibility quickly at harp.gov.
After checking to make sure you qualify for the HARP program, contact your lender and see if the HARP program is available for refinancing through them.
If you want to go with a new lender, you can start researching mortgage refinance lenders here, then check to see if they will work with you on a HARP refinance.
The deadline for HARP 2.0 is December 31, 2018. So don’t wait around. Get started today, and get a home loan that feels more comfortable for you and your family’s budget.