Refinance while Underwater? HARP Expanded to Reach More Borrowers

A ray of hope has just been offered to some homeowners with properties that are seriously upside down, according to the California Association of Realtors.

In order to help a broader range of distressed homeowners and offer relief to the housing market, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced on Oct. 24 that the mortgage relief program HARP — the Home Affordable Refinance Program — has just been expanded.

Per FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped approximately 9 million families refinance into a lower cost or more sustainable mortgage product, approximately 10 percent of those via HARP. HARP is unique in that it is the only refinance program that enables borrowers who owe more than their home is worth to take advantage of lower interest rates and other refinancing benefits.

One of the biggest hurdles for borrowers who are current on their home loans and are considering refinance is the fact that the equity on their house is too low to qualify for a refinance. Until now, Fannie Me and Freddie Mac would only allow fixed-rate mortgages if the borrower’s property stays under 125 percent loan-to-value.  This requirement prevented many upside-down borrowers from refinancing to take advantage of the current low interest rates that they desperately need.  The enhanced HARP guideline lifted that restriction.

Other HARP program enhancements effectively reduced certain fees associated with the refinance as well as eliminated the need for a new property appraisal if the FHFA has a reliable automated valuation model estimate.  Both allowed cash strapped borrowers the ability to refinance without the steep fees a refinance might require.  The HARP program, schedule to expire at the end of 2011 has now been extended until the end of 2013.  New federal guidelines for the HARP changes should be released to mortgage lenders and servicers by Nov. 15.

According to the California Association of Realtors, the basic eligibility requirements for an enhanced HARP loan are as follows:

  • Existing mortgage loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Borrowers can check whether they have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan by going to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/get-assistance/loan-look-up/Pages/default.aspx.
  • Existing mortgage loan must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before June 1, 2009.
  • Existing mortgage loan cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously (except for Fannie Mae loans refinanced between March and May 2009).
  • Current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be more than 80%.
  • Existing mortgage loan must be current, with no late payments in the past six months, and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months.

Words of Caution:  Remember my previous blog about SCAMs – Too Good To be True, Then Beware? There are a lot of scammers out there to take advantage of distressed homeowners at their most vulunable stage.  Before engaging services that promise to modify your loans or save your home from being foreclosed on, make sure you check out the FTC Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule that outlaws advanced fees and false claims and requires clear disclosures from the servicers.

More Information About HARP:

More information about HARP is available from FHFA.

Other Resources for Distressed Homeowners:

Fannie Mae Offers New Buyer Incentives on Homepath Homes

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New Buyer Incentive on Fannie Mae HomePath® Homes

Fannie Mae is offering buyers up to 3.5% in closing cost assistance on HomePath properties through December 31, 2010.

Buyers must meet the following qualifications to be eligible for the incentive:

  • HomePath property sale must close on or before December 31, 2010 and close within 60 days of offer acceptance
  • Only owner occupants purchasing a HomePath property as their primary residence will receive up to 3.5% in closing cost assistance
  • the initial offer must be submitted on or after September 23, close within 60 days of offer acceptance and close on or before December 31, 2010. No bonus will be given for investor purchases.
  • Buyers must request incentive upon submission of initial offer in order to be eligible.

Note: Offers submitted after November 15, 2010 may be difficult to close by incentive deadline of December 31, 2010.

Terms & Conditions:

  • The 3.5% seller contribution is to be used towards closing costs, including a home warranty, if desired and available.
  • Retail and public entities are eligible for the incentive however pool and auction sales, and sales to investors are not eligible.
  • Fannie Mae reserves the right to remove any property from promotion or end the promotion at any time. Any dispute over the payment of a bonus shall be resolved by Fannie Mae in its sole discretion.
  • Buyers should consult their lenders for guidance on financing. Lenders and mortgage products may impose their own limitations on the use of the 3.5% incentive. For example, the lender may consider the incentive a Seller Contribution and limit the amount to 3.0%. In those instances, the remaining 0.5% will no longer be available to the buyer.

See link to search for Fannie Mae Homepath Homes

CA State Assembly extended Anti-Deficiency Proection for Original Loan Refinances

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Unfortunately, this very logical bill, which passed both the assembly and senate was vetoed by the Governor.  But CAR (California Association of Realtor) will renew its fight next year for a similar bill – Sylvia

A relief for homeowners with deficiency on thier refinanced original mortgage loans and who are now facing foreclosure is one the way –

According to news just released by California Association of Realtors on August 19, 2010 that CA State Assembly passes SB 1178 protecting homeowners:

The bill essentially allows homeowners who defaulted on the mortgage that are part of refinance of the original purchase debt to limit their liability to the property itself; same as the treatment of the original ‘purchase money’ loan.

The bill moves to Government Schwarzenegetter for signature and if signed, will become effective June 2011.

This Only Makes Sense!

Following is the Press Release:

For release:

Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010

California State Assembly passes SB 1178 protecting homeowners

Measure protecting consumers from overreaching lenders now goes to governor’s desk for signature

LOS ANGELES (Aug. 19) – The California State Assembly today approved SB 1178 (D-Corbett) by a 49 to 14 vote, extending anti-deficiency protection for consumers who have refinanced their original mortgage loans and now are facing foreclosure. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) is the sponsor of the consumer-protection legislation.

Under existing law, if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage used to purchase a home-commonly referred to as a “purchase money mortgage”-the homeowner’s liability on the mortgage is limited to the property itself. However, homeowners who refinanced the original purchase debt, even if only to obtain a lower interest rate, were not extended the same protections. SB 1178 corrects this unfairness and extends the same protections to consumers who refinance their home loans.

“Cash-out” debt for home improvement or consumer expenses is not protected by SB 1178. Similarly, additional new debt secured by the home, such as a home improvement loan, is not protected-only original acquisition debt.

“Today’s vote was a victory for homeowners in California, but the fight is not yet finished,” said C.A.R. President Steve Goddard. “We are urging Gov. Schwarzenegger to swiftly sign into law this crucial piece of legislation. Passage of SB 1178 will ensure lenders underwrite refinance loans at least as carefully as purchase money mortgages and will provide much-needed consumer protection.”

SB 1178 now moves to Gov. Schwarzenegger for his signature. If signed, SB 1178 will become effective June 2011.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States with nearly 160,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles. ###