Seattle Rising Home Prices is Good News for Refinancing

If you have been waiting for Congress to pass HARP 3.0 or have been previously turned down for a refinance because of lost equity in your home, you might consider trying to refinance again.

[Read more…]

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.

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.

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. 

HARP 2.0 and Private Mortgage Insurance

The Home Affordable Refi Program (HARP 2.0) is a refinance program to help home owners who have lost home equity take advantage of today’s historic low interest rates.  In order to qualify for this program, the existing mortgage must have been securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009.  Learn more about the HARP 2.0 program here.

Loans with private mortgage or lender paid mortgage insurance (LPMI) who meet the securitization requirement are also eligible for HARP 2.0. The terms of the private mortgage insurance, as far as the rate, remains the same as what the home owner has on their existing loan. The existing coverage is transferred to the new HARP 2.0 mortgage if the coverage is still in effect.

Borrower Paid Mortgage Insurance (bpmi) is the most traditional form of mortgage insurance. Homeowners will see this in their monthly mortgage payment. If you currently have private mortgage insurance included in your monthly mortgage payment, you will have it in your new HARP 2.0 mortgage payment too. 

Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance (lpmi) is not “seen” in your mortgage payment. LPMI is essentially financed into your loan. Homeowners who have LPMI probably traded the monthly pmi payment for a slightly higher interest rate when they obtained their last mortgage with a loan to value greater than 80%. Often times, LPMI scenarios offered lower payments than bpmi or combo loans at the time they were originated.

Some mortgages with LPMI were “single premium” meaning the coverage was paid for in one lump “single premium”.  Single premium LPMI may be transferred to a new HARP 2.0 mortgage. 

It’s also possible that the existing LPMI may be paid monthly by the lender. In this case, the private mortgage insurance company may be able to convert the “LPMI” from “lender paid” to “borrower paid”.  The borrower is trading their higher rate mortgage with LPMI for a much lower rate with monthly pmi in their mortgage payment. The monthly savings has been significant.

It’s my understanding that once PMI is transferred to a new HARP 2.0 mortgage, private mortgage insurance companies consider this a new loan. This means that when the pmi may drop off is reset. Typically pmi drops off your mortgage when your loan to value reaches 78% of the mortgages loan to value based on the appraised value.  If your home is significantly underwater, the private mortgage insurance will likely remain until you can refinance.  PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU FROM GETTING A HARP 2.0 QUOTE. Mortgage rate quotes are free and it’s doesn’t hurt to find out what your options are.  Click here for your HARP 2.0 quote for your home located anywhere in Washington state.

Here are two scenarios from quotes I provided yesterday, May 10, 2012, for HARP 2.0 mortgages with existing lender paid mortgage insurance (both borrowers have excellent credit):

Owner occupied home in Federal Way with a loan amount of $283,000 and an estimated value of $186,000 with LPMI single premium. With 30 year fixed mortgage and a rate of 4.375% (apr 4.515) they are reducing their monthly mortgage payment by $459 per month!

Owner occupied home in Renton with a loan amount of $311,000 and an estimated value of $215,000 with LPMI that was being paid monthly by the lender. 30 year fixed mortgage and a rate of 4.500% (apr 4.569%) they are reducing their monthly mortgage payment by $422 even with the lpmi converted to borrower paid.

NOTE: The difference in rate above due to having a mortgage priced with discount or rebate. How you have your mortgage priced (with discount or rebate credit) is up to you!

If you would like me to provide you a quote for your HARP 2.0 refinance on your home located anywhere in Washington, please click here.

I am required to have the language below if I am soliciting your Home Affordable Refi for your home in Washington…and yes, I would love to help you with your HARP (or any) refinance:

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have adopted changes to the Home Affordable Refinance program (HARP) and you may be eligible to take advantages of these changes.  

If your mortgage is owned or guaranteed by either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, you may be eligible to refinance your mortgage under the enhanced and expanded provisions of HARP.

You can determine whether your mortgage is owned by either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae by checking the following websites: or

Private Mortgage Insurance Options

Private mortgage insurance is what lenders may require when a borrower has less than 20% equity in a property. Private mortgage insurance (pmi) protects the lender against default, it does not protect the property owner. 

Private mortgage insurance (pmi) is often something that borrowers do their best to avoid because of the additional cost. However if the 20% down payment (or 15% down payment with a “piggy back” second mortgage) is not possible, a home buyers or home owner who is refinance may opt for pmi or an FHA insured mortgage. Over the past couple years, FHA insured mortgages have become more costly to the point where if a borrower can qualify with pmi, it is probably a more cost effective option. Private mortgage insurance is not only for home purchases, refinances may benefit from pmi considering how low mortgage rates are at the moment.

Many are aware of private mortgage insurance premiums being paid as part of their monthly mortgage payment, however I find that Seattle area home buyers often do not know about the “split premium” option which dramatically reduces the amount paid in a monthly premium.

Let’s compare scenarios based on a sales price of $444,500 with 10% down payment with excellent credit scores of 740 or higher and debt-to-income ratios under 45%.

  • The traditional pmi with the borrower paying monthly in their mortgage payment would be approximately $160 per month (0.48% of the loan amount/12). 
  • A borrower could also opt to pay for the mortgage insurance premium in one lump sum (single premium) and not have it included in their mortgage payment.  Based on this scenario, the cost would be $4,680 (1.17% of the loan amount). A seller can pay for this closing cost or a lender can use rebate pricing to help pay this cost.
  • Another option is the split premium borrower paid mortgage insurance. Similar to an FHA loan, there is an upfront mortgage insurance premium and a reduced monthly mortgage insurance premium. The amount of the upfront premium can vary and the lower it is, the higher the monthly premium will be (and vice versa). For this scenario, if we assume an upfront premium of 1% or $4000, the monthly premium would only be $43.33 (0.13% of the loan amount/12). Just as with the single premium option, the upfront premium may be paid for by the seller as a closing cost or with rebate pricing

Private mortgage insurance has risk based pricing that factoring various charactors of the borrowers such as:

  • credit score
  • loan to value
  • program type and term of mortgage
  • occupancy
  • self employed
  • previous bankruptcy
  • location of property

If you have less than 20% down payment saved up to buy your next home or are considering refinancing anywhere in Washington, I’m happy to help.  I’ve been originating mortgages at Mortgage Master Service Corporation for the past 12 years and have been licensed since 2007. If you would you like a FREE rate quote for a home located in Seattle, Redmond, Bellingham or beyond, click here.

Private Mortgage Insurance Termination

Private mortgage insurance (pmi) is used when a borrower has less than 20% down or home equity in their property.  PMI insures the lender in the event of a borrower defaulting on a mortgage–it does not provide insurance to the home owner.

[Read more…]