HARP 2, FHA streamline refinances kicking into gear


People who’ve stayed current on their home mortgages in spite of being way upside down have some rays of hope on the horizon.

One of the untold stories in American housing is that people have overwhelmingly keep up with their mortgages unless they lost a job or had a medical emergency.

For all the fuss about strategic defaults — where people just choose to walk away from their homes based on their financial picture — they have been relatively few in number.

In late 2011, I told you about a program called Home Affordable Refinance Program 2 (HARP 2) designed to help underwater homeowners who stayed current on their mortgages through thick and thin. Now HARP 2 has finally started up.

To qualify for HARP 2, your mortgage must have been sold by June 1, 2009 to either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Find out if your loan is held by either by contacting Fannie online or at 1-800-7-FANNIE and Freddie online or at 1-800-FREDDIE.

In addition, you must be current for the last six months with no more than one missed payment during the last 12 months. Plus, you have to owe at least 80% of your home’s current value, and this must must be your first HARP refi.

If you qualify, exactly how fast you’ll receive help from your lender can vary widely. But you also may be able to find a new lender willing to do your refinance if you’ve remained current.

Meanwhile, another program I told you about earlier this year — the Federal Housing Administration’s streamlined refinance program — has now begun. Here’s a quick overview of this program:

  • Lowers your interest rate by a meaningful amount
  • No verification of income or employment necessary
  • No credit check and no appraisal of your home necessary
  • Must have a timely mortgage payment history for the last 12 months

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