Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac improve HARP 2.0 Underwriting Guidelines

On Friday, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced much needed updates to underwriting guidelines for HARP 2.0. The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP 2.0) has helped many Washington state homeowners with conforming mortgages (securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009) take advantage of historically low mortgage rates regardless of their home’s current equity (or lack thereof). You can learn more about the HARP 2.0 program by clicking here.

The recent updates to HARP 2.0 will allow more home owners to have access to this program by reducing documentation requirements for some borrowers. Here are some of the improvements:

  • Reduced documentation for income and assets. NOTE: Form 4506 and verification of employment will still be required. Lenders will not be required to verify large deposits.
  • Allowing borrowers with assets to not have to document income. This is available when a home owner has at least 12 months of their proposed new mortgage payment (PITI) in savings. The assets may come from checking or savings, stocks or vested retirement accounts.
  • Improvements to when a borrower is removed from the mortgage. Previously if a borrower was being removed with the HARP 2.0 refinance, guidelines required proof that the remaining borrower made the mortgage payments for the last year with their own separate funds (except in the case of death). Now with HARP 2.0, in the remaining borrower can qualify on their own (debt to income at 45% or lower and credit scores of 620 or higher) they may qualify for a HARP 2.0 refinance.

Remember, banks and lenders may layer their own underwriting guidelines to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s HARP 2.0 program.

If you have been turned down for a HARP 2.0 refinance before, it may be worth checking with your local, licensed mortgage originator to see if you are now eligible. HARP 2.0 is available for owner occupied, vacation homes and investment properties.  I can help you if your home is located anywhere in Washington State – click here for your HARP 2.0 rate quote.

Answering a question regarding HARP 2.0 and PMI

Dear Rhonda:

I currently pay PMI on my mortgage, if I refinance under HARP 2.0, after refinance, will the PMI still exists? Would the PMI premium be lower since the amount refinanced is lesser than the previous mortgage?

Dear Reader:

Yes, if you currently pay PMI on your HARP 2.0 eligible mortgage, you will also have private mortgage insurance in your new mortgage payment with your new refinanced mortgage.  It will be based on the same coverage (percentage) amount as your existing pmi. So if your mortgage balance is lower, the monthly pmi payment may be slightly lower as well.

I recommend comparing your existing payment (PIMI) to the proposed new payment, factoring in when your existing PMI may drop off.  If you’re within months from your existing pmi dropping off, it could be worth delaying refinancing, however, if t’s after December 2013 (when HARP 2.0 is currently scheduled to terminate) it’s probably in your favor to refinance now.

If your home is in Washington state, where I am licensed to originate, I’m happy to help you.

HARP 2.0 Refi Volumes Dramatically Up while Major HARP Lender Holds Off on New Applications

In a report issued earlier this month by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, it was revealed that many home owners are taking advantage of the HARP 2.0 refinance program.  From the FHFA’s Refinance Report:

“In June, borrowers with loan to values greater than 105% accounted for 62% of HARP volume, up 32% in May ad 15% in 2011. In addition, 18 percent of underwater borrowers chose shorter-term 15 and 20 year mortgages, which build equity faster than traditional 30 year mortgages.”

It hasn’t always been a slam dunk for home owners to find lenders willing to do higher loan to value HARP 2.0. Some banks have been limiting who they will help with HARP refi’s and/or have additional underwriting overlays in addition to the Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines. This causes the entire process to bog down when only a few resources are available to the hoards of borrowers who need help.

Last month, I shared with you that one of our resources, EverBank, elected to stop offering HARP 2.0 refinances to mortgages securitized by Freddie Mac. Yesterday we learned that another major lender in the HARP 2.0 arena, CMG Mortgage, has elected to to stop accepting applications effective yesterday in an attempt to get a handle on the volumes of applications they already have in their pipeline.  From CMG’s memo yesterday:

“Like you, we knew this program would help millions of Americans that have struggled to stay in their home despite their property being substantially underwater…. What we didn’t know was that so few lenders would have stopped either partially or completely offering HARP 2.0. As a result, we have become inundated with business. …our turn times do not make us happy, you happy or your borrowers happy…we feel the need to temporarily stop taking HARP 2.0 loans to allow us to catch up…. Once turn times are back in line, we will resume taking submissions of HARP 2.0 loans as we have i the past.”

We are still accepting applications for HARP 2.0 mortgages for homes located in Washington state. We are brokering most loans that are over 105% loan to value which means they do take much longer to close. Most loan to values under 105% we are able to care for through our correspondent channels.

If you’re interested in refinancing your Washington home, I’m happy to help you. 

Freddie Mac HARP 2.0 refis to get a little easier

Last week, Freddie Mac issued a press release stating they plan on improving the guidelines for Freddie Mac’s HARP 2.0 program – Refi Relief and Open Access (more commonly known as HARP 2.0).  Freddie Mac HARP refi’s have proven to be more challenging to successfully process and close than Fannie Mae’s HARP 2.0 refi program.

At Mortgage Master Service Corporation, we are closing both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac HARP 2.0 refinances. We have fewer lenders who offer Freddie Mac’s program due to their current program guidelines. This announcement from Freddie Mac is a big relief!

From Paul Mullings, Senior Vice President and Interim Head of Single Family at Freddie Mac:

“Once implemented the changes will give lenders a new measure of certainty and ease when they help borrowers with Freddie Mac owned- or guaranteed- mortgages take advantage of today’s historically low mortgage rates. This will help us build on the success of the HARP 2.0 and Relief Refinance Mortgage programs of helping more than 1.3 million Freddie Mac borrowers…”

This means that if you have been previously turned down for a Freddie Mac HARP 2.0 refinance, you may have another shot in a couple months.

Watch for an announcement around mid-September with more details to follow.  To stay informed, subscribe to my blog!

UPDATE September 18, 2012: Click here to check out  the improvements to HARP 2.0.

How Long Will PMI Stay on my HARP 2.0 Mortgage?

This is a question that I’m often asked by Washington  home owners who are considering refinancing their current conventional mortgage using the HARP 2.0 program. The answers I’ve received from private mortgage insurance companies vary from “it’s up to the mortgage servicer” to “when the new loans principal reaches 78% loan to value”.  

If your current loan to value is triple-digit because of being underwater, the thought of paying private mortgage insurance for years may not sound appealing. Here are some points I encourage my clients to consider:

  • determine when your existing private mortgage insurance is set to terminate. If it’s before December 2013 (assuming the HARP program is not terminated early, which Fannie and Freddie have reserved the right to do) you could consider delaying your HARP refi so that you won’t have PMI on the new loan.
  • compare your existing principal and interest payment (excluding the private mortgage insurance) to the proposed HARP payment including principal, interest plus mortgage insurance.  Many of my clients are saving hundreds of dollars each month – even with keeping their mortgage insurance.
  •  consider how long you plan on keeping your home and what your alternatives may be. If you are underwater and are planning on staying in your home or eventually converting it to a rental property, reducing your payment now may be beneficial. If you are planning on doing a short sale, then refinancing at this time would probably not pencil out.

With HARP 2.0 refinances, when you have private mortgage insurance, most pmi companies are transferring the pmi certificates over to the new lender without any issues. The pmi rates stay the same so if you’re currently paying private mortgage insurance monthly, you can estimate that the new pmi payment will be roughly the same with your new mortgage payment.   

If you have lender paid mortgage insurance, often times it was paid for upfront and there will be no private mortgage insurance for the home owner to pay. Sometimes the lender paid mortgage insurance (LPMI) was being paid monthly by the lender and in those cases, the pmi company may convert the policy to “paid monthly” so the borrower can assume it.

If you’re interested in a mortgage rate quote for a HARP 2.0 refinance for your home located anywhere in Washington state, contact me.

Freddie Mac HARP 2.0 Loans Getting Tougher

One of the lenders that we work with for Freddie Mac HARP 2.0 refi’s has announced today that they are not accepting applications for loans locked after July 20, 2012.

The bank states they’re doing this to get a handle on their pipeline. If you’re in the process of refinancing via HARP 2.0 and you have a loan to value that exceeds 105%, you may already know that the process seems to be taking a couple months.

If you qualify for a HARP 2.0 refinance: if you have lost equity in your home and your current mortgage is securtized by Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009 – please do not delay starting your HARP 2.0 refinance… your options may be dwindling.

If your home is located in Washington state, I’m happy to help you with your refinance.

Has your Bank turned down your refi?

IStock_000014142621XSmallIn a time when one might assume that their bank would work with them to refinance their home, many Washington homeowners are finding quite the opposite. I’m hearing from local homeowners who have made their mortgage payments on time and who qualify for refinance (income, employment and assets) yet their bank is either unwilling to provide the refinance or is taking several months to close it.

For example, several large banks will only do FHA streamline refinances on mortgages they currently service.  You can have your checking and savings accounts any of these banks, but if they don’t currently service your mortgage, it’s my understanding they will not assist you with your FHA streamlined refinance.  NOTE: We can help you refinancing your FHA streamlined mortgage from any bank as long as your home is located in Washington.  

Banks are also being very selective when it comes to HARP 2.0 (home affordable) refinances. Some are electing not to help mortgages they currently service because of lpmi (lender paid mortgage insurance) or pmi when many of these loans are eligible to refinance. 

Bottom line, if your bank or mortgage servicer has turned down your refinance (or if they’re stalling the process) and your credit, income and assets are good: get a second opinion.  

If your home is located anywhere in Washington state, I’m happy to review your scenario. I’ve been originating and closing refinance and purchase mortgages at Mortgage Master Service Corporation since April 2000. 

HARP 2.0 Questions to ask your Mortgage Originator

HARP 2.0 (Home Affordable Refi Program) was revamped late last year to remove loan to value restrictions allowing more underwater home owners to refinance. So you may be wondering, why should you need to ask your mortgage originator if they have any loan to value restrictions with the HARP 2 program. In two words: UNDERWRITING OVERLAYS.

HARP 2.0 overlays are underwriting guidelines that are in addition to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s program guidelines. Underwriting overlays are mandated by the bank and/or lender.  For example, as a correspondent lender, I work with several big banks, wholesale lenders and I can broker loans too. Currently most of the banks I work with have underwriting overlays that limit my maximum loan to value with HARP loans anywhere from 95 to 105% depending on the bank and scenario. Thankfully I also work with lenders who offer unlimited loan to values with no underwriting overlays for HARP 2.0, as the program was intended to be. 

Before you submit a loan application for HARP 2.0, ask the mortgage originator what is the max loan to value they can lend on.  If they are limited to 105% and your loan to value exceeds 105%, find another mortgage originator. HARP guidelines have an 105% ltv limit on adjustable rate mortgages and loans with a term greater than 30 years.

If you have PMI or LPMI, ask your mortgage originator if they are accepting transferred pmi BEFORE you start your application. Many lenders are not accepting HARP loans with existing pmi or lpmi (lender paid mortgage insurance). If you’ve been told this by your bank, seek another lender.

There are some scenarios where because of certain “credit enhancements” a loan may not be available for a HARP 2.0 – it’s more the exception than the norm.  And I’m hoping when (if) HARP 3.0 becomes available, those loans are allowed to take advantage of this program.

If your LO has told you that an appraisal is required, get a second opinion. Appraisal waivers are not automatically provided on all HARP 2.0 loans. It is not determined until your loan is ran through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s automated underwriting systems (DU or LP) whether or not an appraisal is required. Sometimes the smallest detail may impact whether or not an appraisal waiver is granted, such as how your address is entered into the AUS. You many not need to spend money on the appraisal and it’s possible that you may receive an appraisal waiver at a later date as the valuations that Fannie and Freddie use change.

Because of the increased refi volumes created by expanded guidelines with HARP 2.0 and the reduced mortgage insurance now available for some FHA streamlined refi’s, banks and lenders are “cherry picking” what refinances they want. One way of doing this is by creating underwriting overlays. Due to these increased volumes, large banks and credit unions have hired on loan originators (or “mortgage tellers”) who may lack experience in the mortgage industry. (Remember, LO’s who work for banks or credit unions are not required to be licensed per the SAFE Act). They’re simply hired to fill out an application and are not savvy to actual guidelines.

I’ve been helping home owners who have been told by a mortgage originator that because they have pmi or their loan to value is 108%, that they don’t qualify for HARP 2.0 when actually, they do.  I’m not sure if LO’s don’t read Fannie/Freddie guidelines or if because they cannot offer it, they prefer to portray certain features are not available when what they should do is convey that they do not have access to those features (such as ltv’s over 105%), however another lender may.

If you’re considering refinancing or buying a home located anywhere in Washington, I’m happy to help you.  Click here if you would like me to provide you with a mortgage rate quote.

EDITORS NOTE: Since this was published, most of the banks we work with as a correspondent have pulled back their LTV guidelines to 105%. Wholesale lenders where we can broker have also made changes to guidelines or policies or have stopped accepting applications due to extreme volumes. Hopefully Congress will pass HARP 3.0 to help the Home Affordable Refi become more available.