HARP 2.0 Refinance – Quick breakdown of underwriting guidelines

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), who oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released the HARP 2.0 “Obama Refinance” guidance to lenders this week. The new HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) program is a concerted effort by the government to refinance more homes and reduce monthly payments for home owners that are underwater and can’t obtain a traditional refinance. This is being accomplished by expanding the guidelines to more accurately reflects the current state of the real estate market.

Now that lenders have guidance from FHFA they will develop their own guidelines, or “overlays”. An example of an overlay is Fannie Mae says an appraisal is not needed but the lender requires it to reduce their risk, or Fannie Mae says “this loan program is available to borrowers with credit scores down to 580” but the lender sets their threshold at 620.

This means while the program is “available” as of Dec 1, 2011, no lender has actually provided their guidelines – and the loan product is NOT officially available anywhere just yet.


So here are the highlights of the new HARP 2.0 program as told by FHFA. These could change and requirements could be different from lender to lender, though.

  • Applications for HARP 2.0 refinancing will be accepted after December 1, 2011.
  • Deadline for application for a refinance under HARP has been extended to December 31, 2013.
  • Most loans owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be eligible for a HARP 2.0 refinance. Loans that are not are subprime loans and those that allow negative amortization, such as Option ARMS.
  • Loan-to-value limits for all occupancy types:
  • No maximum LTV for fixed-rate mortgages with terms up to 30 years.
    105% for fixed-rate loans with terms greater than 30 years and up to 40 years
    105% LTV for ARMs with initial fixed periods greater than or equal to five years and terms up to 40 years (as permitted by the ARM plan).
  • Borrowers must not have any late mortgage payments in the past 6 months.
  • One 30-day late mortgage payment is permitted in the prior 7 to 12 months.
  • The waiting period to refinance after a bankruptcy and for reestablishment of credit has been lifted.
  • The borrower must receive a benefit in the form of either a reduced monthly mortgage payment or a more stable loan product, such as refinancing a adjustable-rate mortgage into a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • If the current loan has mortgage insurance, mortgage insurance will also be required on the new mortgage.
  • If the current loan does not have mortgage insurance, mortgage insurance will not required on the new loan.
  • Loans that currently have lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI) are eligible for HARP 2.0 based on some restrictions. I found under HARP 1.0 that loans with LPMI are eligible on a case-by-case basis determined by the terms of the loan set by the lender Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac bought the loan from. So check with a mortgage professional who will have to contact Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in regards to the eligibility of your loan with lender-paid mortgage insurance being refinanced under HARP 2.0.
  • Unless the payment is increasing by 20% or more (such as could happen by moving to a 20 or 15 year loan) or funds must be brought-in to the closing for some reason or another, the borrower should not have to re-qualify in regards to credit, income and assets to receive the mortgage refinance. In other words, no income and asset documentation will be needed in most cases. This could change by lender based on their overlays.
  • An appraisal may not be needed, but as noted above, each lender will detail their guidelines for items such as this.
  • Fannie Mae is significantly reducing the maximum amount of loan-level price adjustments that apply to “HARP” mortgage loans. Loan-level price adjustments, or LLPAs, are those factors that result in a borrower with lower credit scores and/or higher loan-to-value’s receiving a higher interest rate than borrowers with higher credit scores and/or lower loan-to-values. In short, they are “risk-adjusters”: The higher the risk to the lender, Fannie, Freddie and Wall Street, the higher the interest rate for the borrower. What this all means to you is that although you may qualify at a higher interest rate because of a lower FICO score, that rate won’t be as high as it was under HARP 1.0.

We’ll see how all this shakes-out with the loan servicers, banks and lenders in a couple of weeks.

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