Below is some excerpts from the recent news release from the FHFA regarding the new HARP 2.0 “Obama” refinance program that will give you a general overview of what Utah homeowners can expect. After seeing that HARP 1.0 wasn’t expansive enough on the loans that are eligible for refinance and not enough homeowners were being helped, President Obama urged the FHFA to expand the program. An added benefit is that if more Utah homeowners have a lower mortgage payment that extra couple of hundred a month could be used to purchase items that they’ve been holding-off on for a while, thus helping to stimulate the economy, and with increased demand for products and services comes an increased demand for employees to fill those needs.
Another added benefit to Utahans who want to gain-back equity and pay their home off quicker, is the ability to refinance into a 20 year or 15 year mortgage at a much lower interest rate, making their monthly mortgage payment virtually the same as their current 30-year mortgage at a higher rate. You’ll see in the examples below that an underwater homeowner in Utah could again have equity in as little at 5 years on a 20-year mortgage and 3 years on a 15-year mortgage.
There is not much more that we know at this time. Many banks and lenders have signed-on with the program but are awaiting program guidelines from the FHFA before they write their underwriting guidelines and we have a “GO!” on HARP 2.0. Keep checking back here or call me at 801-971-7916 for updated information.
Salt Lake City, UT
Federal Housing Finance Agency
For Immediate release – October 24, 2011
Washington, DC – The Federal Housing Finance Agency, with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), today announced a series of changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) in an effort to attract more eligible borrowers who can benefit from refinancing their home mortgage. The program enhancements were developed at FHFA’s direction with input from lenders, mortgage insurers and other industry participants.
“We know that there are many homeowners who are eligible to refinance under HARP and those are the borrowers we want to reach,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “Building on the industry’s experience with HARP over the last two years, we have identified several changes that will make the program accessible to more borrowers with mortgages owned or guaranteed by the Enterprises. Our goal in pursuing these changes is to create refinancing opportunities for these borrowers, while reducing risk for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and bringing a measure of stability to housing markets.”
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 low interest rates and other refinancing benefits. This program will continue to be available to borrowers with loans sold to the Enterprises on or before May 31, 2009 with current loan-t0-value (LTV) ratios above 80 percent.
The new program enhancements address several other key aspects of HARP including:
- Eliminating certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term mortgages and lowering fees for other borrowers;
- Removing the current 125 percent LTV ceiling for fixed-rate mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;
- Waiving certain representations and warranties that lenders commit to in making loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;
- Eliminating the need for a new property appraisal where there is a reliable AVM (automated valuation model) estimate provided by the Enterprises; and
- Extending the end date for HARP until Dec. 31, 2013 for loans originally sold to the Enterprises on or before May 31, 2009.
An important element of these changes is the encouragement, through elimination of certain risk-based fees, for borrowers to utilize HARP to refinance into shorter-term mortgages. Borrowers who owe more on their house than the house is worth will be able to reduce the balance owed much faster if they take advantage of today’s low interest rates by shortening the term of their mortgage.
The Enterprises plan to issue guidance with operational details about the HARP changes to mortgage lenders and servicers by November 15. Since industry participation in HARP is not mandatory, implementation schedules will vary as individual lenders, mortgage insurers and other market participants modify their processes.
Which borrowers may be eligible for an enhanced HARP?
- In general, borrowers must meet the following criteria:
- The mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
- The mortgage must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.
- The mortgage cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously unless it is a Fannie Mae loan that was refinanced under HARP from March-May, 2009.
- The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80%.
- The borrower must be current on the mortgage at the time of the refinance, with no late payment in the past six months and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months.
Why are you encouraging borrowers to shorten the terms of their mortgage?
Borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth may be locked into their homes for years and have fewer financial options until they pay down the loan balance. A shorter term mortgage enables such borrowers to pay down the amount they owe much faster than a traditional 30-year mortgage. Furthermore, interest rates on shorter term mortgages usually are less than on thirty-year mortgages. The lower interest rate may provide borrowers the opportunity to shorten the term of their mortgages without much change in their monthly payments, and perhaps even a reduction in that payment. Such an outcome may strengthen the borrower’s financial condition and lower the credit risk for the Enterprise that owns or guarantees the loan. A few examples illustrate how this works:
- Assume a homeowner currently has a mortgage on which he or she owes $200,000 and has an interest rate of 6.5 percent – a monthly payment of $1264. If the house is worth $160,000, the homeowner has a current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 125 percent.
- If this borrower refinanced into a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 4.5 percent, the monthly payment would decline to $1013. But, by refinancing into a 30-year loan, the borrower’s loan balance will not reach $160,000 for ten full years.
- If the borrower chose a 20-year loan term at a rate of 4.25 percent (mortgage rates tend to be less for shorter term mortgages), the monthly payment would be $1238 ($26 less than the borrower currently pays) and the borrower’s loan balance would reach $160,000 in five-and-one-half years.
- If this same borrower refinanced into a 15 year mortgage, assuming an interest rate of 3.75 percent, the monthly payment would be $1454 ($190 more than the current payment), but the loan balance would be below $160,000 in a bit more than three-and-one-half years.
These examples are purely illustrative and are not meant to represent interest rates borrowers should expect to pay. They do show that some HARP-eligible borrowers, depending on their circumstances and priorities, may benefit from a shorter term mortgage. Since shorter term mortgages reduce credit risk to the Enterprises because of the faster repayment of principal, there will be no added fee for borrowers that choose shorter terms.