HARP Basics

The HARP Basics page will have the most updated outline for what is needed to qualify for the HARP program, based on HARP qualifications and the experience of my own documented process to refinance via the HARP program.

What Is the HARP Program?

The intent of the HARP program is to allow homeowners who do not have enough equity to refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates. These are homeowners who are current on mortgage payments, or have missed one payment in the last 12 months.

The HARP program will only allow refinance of your primary loan (2nd mortgages will not be refinanced or rolled in).

HARP Qualifications

Your original loan must have been financed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before May 31, 2009.

Freddie Mac Lookup
Fannie Mae Lookup

You can only refinance once per property under the HARP program.

Mortgage Payment Status

You can have no more than one late payment in the last 12 months, with no late payment in the last 6 months.

Mortgage Insurance

You must not have LPMI (Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance) on your original loan.

Equity

The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 125%. (HARP 2, formerly 80%)

Documentation

*Note: Documentation requests may vary dependent on your lender. Many experts agree that gathering as much of this as possible is good practice to move things forward quickly and expedite the loan process. However, I will also note that this can take many days and phone calls, and it’s not a bad idea to ask your lender what documentation they will require before gathering. I spent an entire day producing year-to-date income for each month of this calendar year, only to find out that my lender won’t require it.

  • Pay stubs, including ones from the last two months
  • Two years of W-2 forms
  • Two years of federal income tax returns
  • Homeowners insurance statement

Self-Employed

  • Year-to-Date profit and loss statement and current balance
    (In place of pay stubs or W-2 forms)

Divorced

  • Divorce decree

What my lender requested:

  • A letter from my accountant attesting to my self-employed status
    (I was not required to produce this, they asked for contact info for my accountant)
  • Home insurance statement
    (I was not required to produce this, they asked for contact info for my insurance agent)
  • Checking and savings account numbers
  • Information about my 2nd mortgage and the loan holder

HARP Facts

2nd Mortgage

Having a 2nd mortgage should not deter you from the HARP program.

  • Up to 125% can be owed on the value of your home. (HARP 2)
  • Your 2nd mortgage must be subordinated by that lender. (It’s encouraged, but not required. If your 2nd mortgage lender does not subordinate and you meet all qualifications, make noise. Take it to the media or your local government.)
  • Beware of mentions of 105% LTV – this qualification is for ARMs only.

Interest Rates

These should be competitive with current rates (within .5 to 1 percent). If the rate seems too high, keep searching, or get another rep within the same lending organization.

The rate will be based on market rates in effect at the time of the refinance and the homeowner will be subject to any associated points and fees quoted by your lender. Interest rates may vary across lenders and over time as market rates adjust. The refinanced loans must have no prepayment penalties or balloon payments.
– From the Official HARP website

Tips

Call Back Until You Get the Right Person

Every customer service rep will all tell you that they are an expert, but few are. Do your homework, so that you can spot inconsistencies. When you find an inconsistency, ask for clarification. If the answer isn’t making sense with your research, don’t try to negotiate. End the call and call back until you get someone who understands every aspect of the program. If you connect with a customer service rep who is also a broker, hang onto that name and number.

Keep records of each call with exact date, representative name, direct contact number and extension and a detailed list of what they say.

Current Lender vs. Shopping Around

You can use any lender to refinance through the HARP program, however, there are advantages to using your current lender. After mid-March, 2012, all lenders will likely (but may opt not to) waive a home appraisal. Keep in mind that this is not mandatory and that your current lender may be more likely, in some cases, to follow through with the “No Appraisal” procedure. If your current lender requires an appraisal, there is zero reason to refinance through that lender.

Keep trying different reps at your current lender until:

  • You qualify (if you think you should)
  • They offer a competitive interest rate with reasonable closing costs

HARP Resources

HARP Documentation

Official HARP Documentation at the FHFA Website

Download all 3 PDFs from The Federal Housing Finance Agency to help make sense of HARP. The Q&A shows real-world examples about who the loan is for, and has a bullet point list of criteria that borrowers must meet in order to be eligible for the HARP program.

  • HARP Phase II News Release
  • HARP Phase II Fact Sheets
  • HARP Phase II Q&A

Official HARP Program Website

This page can help you assess if you have enough equity to qualify for a loan. Here you will learn that you don’t have to use your current lender to qualify for the loan.