The Home Affordable Refinance Program (or HARP) was instituted in 2009 to allow homeowners with negative equity to take advantage of today’s low interest rate environment. Before HARP, banks wouldn’t lend more than the home’s value. In real estate jargon, they won’t underwrite loans with a loan-to-value ratio (or LTV) greater than 1.0. So if a homeowner bought their home in 2006 with a 6.5% mortgage rate, they’d be unable to refinance if they owed more than the home was worth. The government created HARP with these people in mind. Since its inception, the HARP program has refinanced 2.5 million mortgages.
To be eligible for HARP, the borrower must have a loan guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, have an LTV ratio above 80%, and be current on their mortgage. The program was designed primarily to help people who wanted to stay in their home and who had adjustable-rate mortgages where they could afford the initial “teaser” rate but wouldn’t be able to afford the payment once the mortgage adjusted upward. The program gave them a new 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at the initial teaser rate. Homeowners can check if they have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan by checking the respective company websites or by checking with their servicer.
HARP refinances decrease as rates climb
HARP refinances fell to 30,000 in December from 38,700 in November. Refinance activity has dropped across the board, so this result isn’t a surprise. Overall, HARP activity started falling off a cliff early last year as rates began to rise.