HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program, is the latest federal program designed to help struggling homeowners with their mortgages. Designed to help people who are "underwater" with their mortgages due to lowered home values, it allows people who owe more on their home than it's worth to refinance their mortgages and get lower interest rates. In this sense it is a sort of emergency mortgage assistance program, but it only works for people who don't have any late or delinquent payments. If you are rejected while trying to refinance your home or go through a loan modification program, HARP may benefit. This only applies if your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and you need to owe 125% or less of your home's value in order to qualify.
If you have a hybrid ARM or an ARM and the payments will increase – and you have trouble making the increased payments – find out if you can refinance to a fixed-rate loan. Review your contract first, checking for prepayment penalties. Many ARMs carry prepayment penalties that force borrowers to come up with thousands of dollars if they decide to refinance within the first few years of the loan. If you’re planning to sell soon after your adjustment, refinancing may not be worth the cost. But if you’re planning to stay in your home for a while, a fixed-rate mortgage might be the way to go. Online calculators can help you determine your costs and payments.
It literally takes a few minutes to pull your credit report and order your credit score. But surprisingly, some future home buyers never review their scores and credit history before submitting a home loan application, assuming that their scores are high enough to qualify. And many never consider the possibility of identity theft. However, a low credit score and credit fraud can stop a mortgage application dead in its tracks.
If you do not shop multiple lenders, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Even if you are sure this is the lender you want to use, getting quotes from other lenders can help you negotiate a better deal. Not every lender will give you the same mortgage rate, or closing costs. This is why shopping multiple lenders is very important. Getting at least 3 or 4 loan offers is recommended.
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When you're shopping around, don't just check the big national mortgage lenders. Some regional or local banks may offer unique lending programs, especially for first-time homebuyers. For example, the young couple who bought a house from me a few years ago used a 100% financing program from Regions Financial that required no mortgage insurance for first-time buyers with outstanding credit.
There are several steps that homeowners can take on their own to deal with a delinquent mortgage payment or an impending foreclosure. People do not always need to rely on the government, solutions offered by their lender or a housing counselor. There are things you can do own your own. However, please always keep in mind that mortgage counselors can often help you, and they offer free or no cost mortgage advice.
If you’re behind on your mortgage, or having a hard time making payments, we want to get you in touch with a HUD-approved housing counselor—they’ve been sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Your counselor can develop a tailored plan of action for your situation and help you work with your mortgage company. They’re experienced in all of the available programs and a variety of financial situations. They can help you organize your finances, understand your mortgage options, and find a solution that works for you.
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