Obama Announces Expanded HARP Program

Two years later after its debut, how has the Home Affordable Refinance Program changed?

Last month, President Obama announced that the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was being revised and expanded.

HARP was introduced in 2009 as a measure intended, according to a statement by the President, to “make it possible for an estimated four to five million currently ineligible homeowners who receive their mortgages through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance their mortgages at lower rates.” In the two years since HARP’s debut, not quite one million homeowners — or 20 to 25 percent of the intended beneficiaries — have received HARP assistance.

As reported on HSH.com, there are two notable changes in the HARP guidelines, impacting borrower qualifications and lender obligations.

Elimination of LTV caps — The original guidelines for qualifying borrowers capped the loan-to-value (LTV) ration at 125 percent. The revised guidelines eliminate this cap, which is good news for borrowers in hard hit states including Nevada and Arizona, where some LTVs exceed 200 percent.

Elimination of Reps and Warranties — The other significant change is the elimination of some representations and warranties for HARP-participating lenders. By transferring certain lender obligations in the case of a loan going bad from the lender to the government, the government is encouraging more banks to participate in HARP, offering homeowners more options and access to loan modification choices.

Tim Manni, managing editor at HSH.com, comments in his post that he anticipates these changes helping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (as only mortgages through either of these institutions are eligible for HARP) as well as the loan orginators, who are now able to take on more debt with less risk. Manni does not, however, see these revisions having a noticeable impact on the housing market’s biggest problem: distressed borrowers and shadow inventory. Borrowers who are behind or seriously delinquent are not eligible and REO held out of the market will not be impacted by the expanded guidelines.

By sharonshawflores

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