Family at home

Would you like to refinance your mortgage on your home or condominium to get a lower interest rate?  Do you think that is impossible because you have little equity in your home and you owe as much or more than your home is worth?  Don’t despair.  If you are current on your mortgage payments and have a mortgage that is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible for HARP.

What is HARP? It is a government program which was first introduced in March of 2009.  It enables borrowers to get a lower interest rate, get a shorter loan term, or change from an adjustable rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage.  No minimum credit score is required.

Significant changes have been made to HARP since it was introduced in 2009.  There are now no underwater limits, usually no appraisals or underwriting, modified fees, and less paperwork now.  The program has been extended several times and now expires on December 31, 2016.  

What does it mean to be “current on you mortgage”?  This means that you have no 30-day+ late payments in the last six months and no more than one late payment in the past twelve months.

How do you find out if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns your loan?  Go to the eligibility page of HARP.gov and use the Loan Look-up Tools.  Enter basic information into the system.  You will receive an immediate response telling you whether Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns your mortgage.

For detailed information about HARP, go to HARP.gov.  The Frequently Asked Questions page is very helpful.  Call your current lender and ask if they participate in HARP.  If your current lender does not participate in HARP, there are other lenders you can contact.  Go to HARP.gov for a list.

To find out the estimated fair market value of your property, look at your most recent real estate tax bill or call your County Assessor’s Office.

Beware of solicitations you may receive to refinance your mortgage.  Valid offers will not require you to pay an upfront fee for services.  If you suspect a scam, report it as soon as possible to 1-888-995-4673.

By Karen Centowski