The government is changing its Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), making it easier for homeowners to refinance their underwater, high-interest mortgages.

Making sense of the story

  • Although HARP has helped more than 890,000 homeowners nationwide by reducing their monthly mortgage payments, there are still millions of homeowners who are too far underwater to participate.
  • Under the new rules, homeowners who owe more than 125 percent of the market value of their homes will be allowed to refinance into new loans.
  • The program also streamlines the refinancing process for homeowners who are current on their mortgage payments and reduces or removes fees that previously hindered them from refinancing.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also will reduce the fees they charged in the past to enable borrowers to better afford the new loans.  Among the fees that will be reduced or eliminated are those for appraisals, title insurance, and closing costs.
  • Fees also will be waived for some underwater borrowers who are refinancing into 20-year or shorter-term loans.
  • HARP is only open to borrowers who are current on their payments for the past six months with no more than one missed payment in the past 12 months.  The loans must have been originally issued before May 31, 2009, and purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

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