Million of homeowners across the country have taken advantage of a government program called Home Affordable Refinance Plan (HARP). By taking advantage of this plan, they have been able to reduce their monthly payments a significant amount. However, many people do not know that their time to take advantage of this program is running out. The United States government is putting an end to HARP at the end of 2016, so the coming year is the last year to take advantage of the benefits.
What is HARP?
When a homeowner has little equity in their home or they owe as much (or more) than their home is worth, it is often difficult to find a bank that is willing to assist in refinance. Refinancing helps lower monthly payments and helps the homeowner be able to better afford their home. HARP has been put into place to help those who are unable to refinance through traditional lenders.
HARP was introduced in March 2009. It helps homeowners who have difficulty finding a lender to refinance. HARP helps them into more affordable mortgages without new or additional mortgage insurance. The program targets people with loan-to-value ratios equal to or greater than 80 percent.
Since it was first introduced, HARP has had some significant changes to widen the scope of eligible homeowners. The program has also been extended several times. HARP, scheduled to be done at the end of 2015, has now been extended (yet again) to the end of 2016. Government officials are urging Americans to see if they qualify to take advantage of the benefits of HARP.
What Does It Include?
There are a few things to keep in mind. To be eligible, you have to be current on your mortgage (not in foreclosure). You also must have a mortgage owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and you have to owe more than your home is worth. If you meet these qualifications, you may be eligible for refinancing through HARP.
If you are eligible, you can reap the benefits of the following:
- Lowering your monthly payment
- Reducing your interest rate
- Securing a fixed-rate mortgage that won’t change over time
- Building equity faster—shorter term options may be available
- Lower closing costs because an appraisal is not usually required
The program also includes some great perks and refinance capabilities which make it easier for the people who are trying to get “back on top” of their mortgage. HARP offers the following to people who are refinancing through the program:
- No underwater limits: Borrowers are able to refinance regardless of how far their homes have fallen in value
- No appraisals or underwriting: Most homeowners will not have to get an appraisal or have their loan underwritten.
- Modified fees: Certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term loans are reduced.
- Less paperwork: Lenders now need less paperwork for income verification, and have the option of qualifying a borrower by documenting that the borrower has at least 12 months of mortgage payments in reserve.
- Program Deadline: The end date to get a HARP refinance is December 31, 2016.
How to Get Started
If you think you could benefit from the HARP program, there are a few quick steps you can follow to apply for a HARP refinance.
- Gather all of your information. Make sure you have your mortgage statements as well as income details.
- Contact your mortgage company. Ask your mortgage company if they are a HARP lender. If they are not, contact a HARP lender and ask about eligibility.
- Go through the application process. If a lender says that you qualify for HARP, you can apply and get approved and go through a closing process, and then you will have refinanced your home.
If HARP sounds like it may benefit you, don’t wait too long! There is not much time left to apply for a HARP refinance. Check out the program’s website for more information.