Editor’s Note: The HARP program expired Dec. 31, 2018, but most homes have increased in value considerably since HARP rolled out. This means many homeowners may currently be eligible for a standard conventional refinance.
Recently I received a question from a MyMortgageInser reader about HARP 3.0 and the current HARP program:
Q: If my mortgage is not owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, can I still get into the HARP program?
I got into my home before everything went south in the job and housing markets and received a rate higher than is offered with HARP. But my loan isn’t a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. It kind of sucks knowing that I’m probably paying $300 more a month than I would have to if I could use this program.
A: You have a great question, Ed – one that thousands of homeowners across the country are asking. And I wish I could answer it differently than I have to. However the rules state that your loan has to be owned by either Fannnie Mae or Freddie Mac to be eligible for the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP.
However, that’s not to say that HARP rules will never change. In fact, opening up the program to everyone is one of the big changes I’m hoping for in 2014.
This change to the program would be called HARP 3.0.
A little HARP history: HARP 1.0 allowed underwater homes to refinance, but only if the loan balance was at 125% or less of the home’s value. Then HARP 2.0, the current program, was rolled out. HARP 2.0 does not have a limit to how underwater the home can be. But with HARP 2.0, it still has to be a Fannie or Freddie loan.
What many in the industry, including me, are hoping for in 2014, is that HARP 3.0 will be rolled out. This program would allow countless underwater homeowners who don’t have a Fannie or Freddie loan to refinance into today’s rates.
Millions of homeowners in the last decade used home loans that did not comply with Fannie or Freddie guidelines. Some examples of popular loans back then were:
- Alt-A loans
- Subprime loans
- Stated Income and stated asset loans
- Washington Mutual option ARMs
- Wachovia and World Savings option ARMs
- Countrywide PayOption ARMs
- NINJA loans (No income, no job or assets)
- Some types of interest-only loans
Just about everyone who used one of these loans ended up with sever negative equity, because most of these loan types did not require a payment to the principal loan amount. Then when home values crashed, many homeowners quickly found that they owed more than double what their home was worth.
But not all of these homeowners defaulted on their loans. To this day, many are paying their loans faithfully, in hopes of some help. I gather, Ed, that this is your situation, and I applaud your perseverance when so many have defaulted on their home loans during the housing crisis.
HARP 3.0 Here Soon?
What I can say is that many in the industry are pushing for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie and Freddie, to change HARP and allow faithful homeowners like you to take advantage of the same benefits that Fannie and Freddie loan holders have enjoyed.
There are many feasible ways to make this happen, as I discuss in my article “Here’s How we can Make HARP 3.0 Happen in 2014.” One real option is to roll out HARP 3.0 changes slowly, which could result in a program called HARP 2.1 or HARP 2.5.
However it might happen, I welcome any positive changes to the program so we can see HARP 3.0 become a reality before rates rise too much. I want to see people who opted for less-than-ideal loan terms upwards of 10 years ago finally see some mortgage relief, start building equity, and get into long term loan types. People like you, Ed, deserve an affordable home for years to come.