Want to Refinance Your Mortgage But You’re Being Turned Down?

Can HARP help you refinance your mortgage?

Especially with the current record-low interest rates, many homeowners would like to refinance their mortgage.

Are you having difficulties? The federal program HARP might be able to help you. Here’s how it works.

Is your mortgage rate above today’s rates?

Is your house worth less than your current mortgage amount?

Are you unable to refinance into a lower-rate mortgage or convert your adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage?

Then the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is an option you should explore.

HARP is one of two components of the federal Making Home Affordable Program for struggling homeowners. Its counterpart, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), offers loan modifications if you’re behind on your payments or need help exiting gracefully if you can no longer afford your home.

HARP, on the other hand, helps you refinance your home with a brand new mortgage.

What Are the Benefits of HARP?

Your savings from refinancing using HARP could be substantial. The White House says the typical homeowner using HARP could reduce their mortgage payments by about $2,500 a year. Like any refinance transaction, HARP loans come with fees, so you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits for your specific situation.

The good news is that HARP’s fees are less than the fees for typical refinances. For instance, you won’t have to pay for a full appraisal if the lender can get a reliable automated appraisal for your home. And Fannie and Freddie will waive for borrowers some fees they usually charge lenders (which lenders would normally pass on to you).

What Are the Qualifications?

Your mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
Your current lender had to sell your mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before June 1, 2009. Check with your lender to make sure that happened.
This must be your first HARP refinance. You only get one Home Affordable refinance, so if you’ve used the program before, you can’t use it again (although there’s a loophole for those with a Fannie Mae loan refinanced between March and May of 2009).
You need the right balance between what you owe and your home’s value. The minimum is that you owe 80% of your home’s value (for example, owing $80,000 on your $100,000 home). If you owe less than 80%, you can’t use HARP. If you owe up to 105% (say your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $105,000), you can refinance into an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you owe above 105%, you have to go with a fixed-rate mortgage. There’s no cap on how much you can owe above what your home is worth.
If you’ve paid your mortgage late even once during the past six months, you can’t use HARP, but if you had a late payment between 7 and 12 months ago, you’re fine.
If you can meet those criteria, you have until Dec. 31, 2015, to apply for a HARP refinance through either your current lender or a new lender.

Should You Apply?

HARP makes sense if you owe more than your house is worth, which is preventing you from refinancing, according to Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans. You’ll still pay full-market rates for a HARP refinance, not a discounted rate or payment that you might get with a loan modification.

As a rule of thumb, for fixed-rate mortgages, you’ll want your new rate to be at least a half-point better than your old one.

Lowering your interest can pay off immediately. Let’s say you took out a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 6.5% for $176,800 at a monthly payment of $1,117.50 five years ago.

Today, you’d still owe $168,065. If you refinance that balance into a new 30-year loan at 4.5%, your monthly payment would drop to $851.56, saving you about $266 a month. Or, you could refinance into a 15-year fixed-rate loan, pay about $168 a month more, and pay your loan off about 10 years earlier.

HARP might also make sense if you can convert an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage. Even if an ARM’s monthly payment is low now, it’ll go up if rates rise.

When applying for HARP, you need paperwork just like any other mortgage application:

  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Mortgage statements
  • Account balances
  • Debt totals (for credit cards, student loans, car loans, and such)
  • Details about any second mortgages or home equity lines of credit

Pay attention to the fees associated with the refinancing, which the lender must disclose up front, and ask if those costs can be rolled into the new loan if you’re strapped for cash.

Tips to Make the Process Go Smoothly

To keep the process moving, ask your lender for a list of the documents it will need. Give yourself two weeks to collect everything.

If possible, submit the entire packet together via certified mail. Sending in documents piecemeal could result in lost paperwork and your loan application falling to the bottom of the pile, says Nicole Hall, editor of LendingTree.com. Keep detailed records of any phone calls you make, and dates you mail or fax correspondences.

There are companies that will offer to take care of the paperwork for a fee, but you don’t need to pay. You can access free help through a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Counselors will help you understand the Making Home Affordable program and aid in gathering the documents needed for your loan servicer.

Don’t qualify for HARP? Then maybe its sister program, HAMP, is for you.

By: Donna Fuscaldo


Need help? Give me, Lucy Garber a call at (310) 293-4866.  I can refer you to some great mortgage brokers I’ve worked with over the years.

Should You Be Worried if Your Mortgage Is Sold?

has your mortgage been sold?

You open your mail and you receive a (another?) notice that the mortgage for your home has been sold to another financial institution. You know to send your monthly payment to another address and your mortgage statements now come from a different company. But should you be worried?

The process of applying for and maintaining payments on a mortgage can be complex — primarily because of what happens behind the scenes. To make it even more confusing, the company that originally lent you the money to buy your new home will likely sell your mortgage to an investor. This is called the secondary mortgage market.

What’s the secondary mortgage market?

This is where investors — such as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, pension funds, hedge funds, other mortgage companies, and banks, for example — purchase assets or loans, including mortgages, as well as the bonds that finance these assets.

While lenders tend to hold high-balance loans in their portfolio, they usually sell most mortgages because that’s the easiest way a lender can generate cash to make new mortgages. Without the secondary mortgage market, lenders wouldn’t be able to originate as many mortgages as they do.

Investors like snapping up mortgages because they’re backed by a tangible asset that you can see and touch, and that builds value over time — your home. Generally, house values go up, but in the event that they don’t and a borrower defaults, the equity in the home, or your down payment, is intended to cover this loss. This is why most lenders restrict a mortgage’s loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, to 80% of the house value.

Does this sale affect me, the borrower?

Yes, and it starts at the application process. But you shouldn’t be worried; it’s nothing you haven’t probably already heard about, especially if you’re been doing your homework. (And law protects you from abuses by the new owner of your loan).

For a lender to be able to sell in the secondary mortgage market, the loans need to meet the requirements of the investor buying them; it makes sense that investors are willing to pay more for higher-quality mortgages.

In essence, mortgages are underwritten so that they can be sold for the best possible price. This is why underwriting guidelines can be strict and why lenders want to see proof of employment and income to make sure you can afford to repay the loan without stretching your budget.

The interest rate you’re offered also reflects the price that investors will pay for your mortgage — and lenders use all kinds of info such as credit score and debt-to-income ratios to determine your overall mortgage-worthiness (read: likelihood of repayment). It’s easier to sell a mortgage in the secondary market when an investor is confident the borrower is unlikely to default.

What happens to borrowers who can’t repay?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) works to protect someone who is struggling to pay the mortgage. Even though a new company now owns the loan, this company still has to follow standards to collect on a delinquent mortgage. To prevent servicer abuses, servicers are required to reach out to borrowers to help them solve the problem through options such as a loan modification or short sale before foreclosing on a loan. Servicers are also required to inform borrowers about interest rate changes and balances, for example, so that there are no surprises.

Will the terms change once my mortgage is sold?

Mortgages can be modified, but not unless the borrower and lender both agree on the new terms. The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which also is enforced by the CFPB, prohibits lenders and servicers, as well as any subsequent companies that own your loan, from changing the terms of your mortgage without your consent.

Unless you ask that the interest rate or another term on the note be changed and the lender or new owner agrees, or you agree to a change the lender or new owner proposes, the new owner of your mortgage can’t make any changes.

Still confused?

Call or text me, Lucy Garber, at (310) 293-4866. With over 20 years in the real estate industry, I understand how real estate financing works.

Not Too Late: Get Positioned to Buy South Bay Home

Federal Open Market Committee Keep Rates Loan through 2014

If you aren’t a homeowner yet, there’s still time for you to get positioned to buy. Ready to buy but haven’t started got started yet, now’s a great time to contact me to buy your South Bay home. Why? The Fed plan to keep interest rates low through 2014.

As reported on HousingWire, The Federal Open Market Committee said it will keep interest rates low at least through 2014 but will not yet act on further stimulus to a slow-growing economy.

“The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments and will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability,” according to the FOMC release 8/1.

The target rate of funds will remain between 0% and 0.25% for the next two years, unchanged since the Fed lowered it coming out of the financial crisis in 2008.

The central bank will continue a program to extend the average maturity of its holdings. In June, the Fed extended the so-called Operation Twist through the end of the year, by using principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities to buy more agency mortgage bonds.

Committee members said household spending has been rising somewhat, but economic growth will remain only moderate “over the coming quarters and then pick up very gradually.”

What does this mean for you? The next two years will continue to be a good time to refinance if you haven’t already done so, so get your credit in shape and refinance your mortgage. Not a homeowner yet, save up for down payment and get your credit in shape, and buy a home with a low mortgage rate. Ready to buy in the South Bay now or want to know more how to get yourself positioned to buy? Give me a call at (310) 293-4886 or email me.

Home Buyers:
Tips for Financing Your Home Purchase

Click here to read this guide* for Home Buyers with tips on how to finance your next home purchase. Included are things you can do to:

1) Improve your credit score
2) Save for a down payment
3) Ask your mortgage professional

I have over 20 years living in and selling homes in the Los Angeles South Bay, so if you have further questions, please call me or email me at (310) 293-4886 | LucyGarber1@yahoo.com. My goal is to provide you the best in service so that you will refer me to all your friends and neighbors with confidence.

Lucy Garber

*Guide by Trulia