Can a HARP refinance help you?

Can a HARP refinance help you?

Minneapolis, MN:  A HARP refinance, in short, allows you to refinance with expanded eligibility requirements in regards to loan-to-value, or debt-to-income. That could mean that you are allowed to refinance, even though your home may have lost value., or the payment is a bit higher than normally allowed for your income. That flexibility allows many homeowners to refinance when they otherwise would not be able to. The idea is that even though the new loan might be a risky loan compared to other loans files with lower ratios it is still less risky than just leaving the home owner in their current position. Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is on the hook for your loan if it’s a HARP refinance, so they want to allow you to get a lower payment and be in a position where you are less likely to default on your mortgage.

What do I mean exactly by expanded eligibility?

Well, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have what we call Automated Underwriting Systems. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each have their own system and they have certain thresholds that are known in the industry. For instance, we know that a total debt ratio of 45% is a very important number. Why? Normally, if your total debt ratio is over 45% then you are denied. On new loans, these systems will both issue approvals up to a 50% total debt ratio but if you are over 45% you need to have what we call “compensating factors” to get approval. With a HARP loan this 45% number is basically thrown out the window and the Automated Underwriting Systems are much more flexible with their approvals.

Loan to value ratio is also very important in any loan transaction. The normal rules are if the property is your primary residence then you can have as little as 3.5% equity and you can refinance. If the property is a rental then you’ll need 25% equity to get a refinance.  HARP allows you to be significantly underwater and still get the loan done. That means instead of having to have equity in the property you can have a property that is worth less than what you owe and still refinance.


Understand this important fact, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do NOT do loans. They BUY loans from lenders. Not all lenders feel the same about the risk to them about doing HARP refinances. Most lenders are very conservative today.  Keep in mind that lenders can have “overlays” to the basic HARP guidelines that restrict what that company decides to refinance. You don’t have to go through your current lender to get a HARP 2.0 refinance done.  Shop around to find the best HARP mortgage interest rate just like you would with any other refinance. And good luck!

An original article by Joe Metzler (C) 2012 Metzler Enterprises, LLC for www.MnRealEstateDaily.com

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