April 2, 2023

To Stem Foreclosures, Federal Housing Agency to Sell Off Loans

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Bucks Blog: New Refi Rules Offer Help to More Underwater Borrowers

A home sale after foreclosure in Tigard, Ore.Associated PressA home sale after foreclosure in Tigard, Ore.

The federal government on Monday announced changes that could make it easier for many borrowers who owed more on their home loans than their houses were worth to refinance into lower-cost mortgages.

The changes are aimed at helping homeowners who are current on their loans, but who have been unable to take advantage of historically low interest rates by refinancing because they are “underwater” on their mortgages. Ultimately, the government hopes the move will help stabilize the housing market, which has been stagnant due to falling prices and foreclosures.

Previously, to refinance under the two-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, borrowers could owe no more than 125 percent of their home’s value. But the Federal Housing Finance Agency is eliminating that cap, making the program available to many more underwater homeowners. Other changes include eliminating the need for most appraisals and scrapping many refinance fees.

Lenders are expected to get detailed information on the changes by Nov. 15; some could begin offering refinancing under the new rules as soon as December. Borrowers who owe more than 125 percent of their home’s value, however, likely will have to wait until early 2012, according to the housing agency.

As of Aug. 31, about 894,000 borrowers had refinanced under HARP; at least that many are expected to be able to refinance under the updated program, the agency said.

To qualify, your home loan must be owned or guaranteed by either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the quasi-governmental mortgage outfits; you can check this here for Freddie and here for Fannie. I found the Fannie site a bit frustrating to use, so another option is simply to call: 800-7FANNIE , or 800-FREDDIE. (Freddie and Fannie own or guarantee roughly half of all home loans in the United States).

Here’s some other details:

  • Your loan must have been sold to Freddie or Fannie before May 31, 2009.
  • You must be up-to-date on your mortgage payments, with no more than one late payment in the prior 12 months.
  • Your current loan-to-value ratio (the amount of your loan, divided by the value of your home) must be greater than 80 percent.

Think the new rules will help you refinance your home? Or is this just the latest federal mortgage effort that will fall short of its goals?

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