The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is part of the federal government's Making Home Affordable initiative. Making Home Affordable's goal is to help homeowners stay in their houses and avoid foreclosure. HARP is the refinace option under the initiative. If your loan is owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and you’re current on your mortgage, you may be able to refinance (even if your home has lost value) and get a mortgage with a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, a fixed-rate, or a shorter mortgage term.
History of HARP
The Home Affordable Refinance Program was intended to transform millions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans into stable, 15- or 30-year fixed-rate, low-interest mortgages. Payments under the refinanced loans increased in some cases, if the homeowner could afford them. The tradeoff for higher payments in the short term was that the amounts were stable in the long term -- no more worrying over interest rate resets. The refinance program applies only to mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- about half of the nation's mortgages.
Although the program was intended to significantly decrease the mortgage default rate and stabilize home prices, after two years it was clear that it was falling far short of expectations. Of the four million to five million homeowners the plan was supposed to help, only 900,000 borrowers successfully refinanced through the program. As a result, in November 2011 the federal government announced changes to HARP that loosened the eligibility requirements in the hopes of helping more homeowners. The government hoped that the expanded program, known as “HARP 2,” would double the number of refinancings.
Eligibility for HARP 2
To qualify for a refinance under HARP 2, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Your loan is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. (If you’re not sure whether Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns your mortgage, use the look-up tools at www.fanniemae.com/loanlookup and https://ww3.freddiemac.com/corporate.)
- Your loan was sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.
- You did not previously refinance your mortgage under HARP, unless you have a Fannie Mae loan and refinanced under HARP between March and May 2009.
- Your current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is 80% or greater.
- You are current on your mortgage and have not been more than 30 days late in the past 6 months, and have been 30 days late only once in the past 12 months.
- The mortgage you want refinanced secures your principal residence.
If you think you’re eligible for a HARP 2 refinance, contact your mortgage servicer. To learn more about this program, visit the federal government's Making Home Affordable website at www.makinghomeaffordable.gov.
HARP 3 Expected
The government is expected to release the next version of HARP (HARP 3) in 2014 to help homeowners whose mortgages are not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac refinance their loans. (This is significant because while the majority of mortgage loans taken out today are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, this was not the case during the lending boom from 2001-2007.) Stay tuned for more details.