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.
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No. The purpose of the Keep Your Home California Program is to keep struggling homeowners in their home and prevent avoidable foreclosures. This program is not available for second homes or investment properties, which includes using the home as a rental property. If you lease or rent your home after you receive Keep Your Home California assistance you will be ineligible to receive further assistance and may be responsible to repay the benefit proceeds if you sell your home in the future. If during the active benefit period of any Keep Your Home California program it is determined that your home is vacant, non-owner occupied, and/or rented, Keep Your Home California reserves the right to terminate benefit assistance.
The United Way's 2-1-1 hotline connects people with local assistance programs. By dialing 2-1-1, you can receive referrals to organizations that help with food, housing, employment, health care, prescriptions and more. If you are a struggling homeowner, the United Way can help you find a foreclosure prevention counselor and refer you to available mortgage assistance programs. Trained specialists take calls day or night. The United Way may also provide emergency financial assistance to households in danger of losing their homes. Programs vary among locations.
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Grants are awarded through a rather competitive application process. The applications themselves are quite complex and failing to answer any question could result in a denial. The good news is that there is literally millions of dollars in grant money made available each year. Many grants are offered only to minorities or to applicants meeting certain qualifications, such as earning a low income. These restrictions reduce the number of applications, meaning that there is less competition for the award. There is also no limit to the number of times an applicant can apply for a grant, which even further increases the odds of receiving the offered funds.
In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent's commission. Calculate your expected closing costs to help you set your budget.
Conforming loan. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-controlled corporations that purchase and sell mortgage-backed securities. Conforming loans meet their underwriting guidelines and fall within their maximum size limits. For a single-family home, the loan limit is currently $424,100 for homes in the contiguous states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, or $636,150 for homes in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, in certain high-cost counties, loans limits can go as high as $954,225.

You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it's willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.


A mortgage is essentially a loan for purchasing property—typically a house—and the legal agreement behind that loan. That agreement is between the lender and the borrower. The lender agrees to loan the borrower the money over time in exchange for ownership of the property and interest payments on top of the original loan amount. If the borrower defaults on the loan—fails to make payments—the lender sell the property to someone else. When the loan is paid off, actual ownership of the property transfers to the borrower.
Loan modification: You and your loan servicer agree to permanently change one or more of the terms of the mortgage contract to make your payments more manageable for you. Modifications may include reducing the interest rate, extending the term of the loan, or adding missed payments to the loan balance. A modification also may involve reducing the amount of money you owe on your primary residence by forgiving, or cancelling, a portion of the mortgage debt. Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, the forgiven debt may be excluded from income when calculating the federal taxes you owe, but it still must be reported on your federal tax return. For more information, see www.irs.gov. A loan modification may be necessary if you are facing a long-term reduction in your income or increased payments on an ARM.
In today’s competitive market, many buyers skip this important step when they start looking for a home. A pre-approval allows you to confirm how large of a loan you can qualify for based on several factors. It also positions you to make a serious offer when you find the home you want to buy. For a pre-approval, the lender verifies the buyer’s application information through income and asset documents provided by you or retrieved directly by the mortgage company. Many lenders can also provide a “prequalification” online, based on unverified information provided by the buyer. However, most sellers don’t give much value to a letter that doesn’t state the information has been validated. The most important thing is to take the time to provide what is needed for a thorough pre-approval process.
This is the full price you will pay for the home. Some of that price will come from your down payment and the balance will come from the mortgage. To make sure you are paying the right price for the home you want, consult real estate websites and talk with your real estate agent to compare the price you are considering to similar properties in the neighborhood where it is located.

You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it's willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.


If you are thinking about buying a home in the near future, it’s a good idea to check your credit report and find out what your credit score is early on.  You are entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, which you can access at www.annualcreditreport.com. Check for mistakes on your credit report. A mistake on your credit report can cost you when trying to secure a home loan. Mistakes do happen, so review your credit report closely to ensure everything is correct and dispute any errors you might find with the appropriate credit bureau.
Mortgages and home equity loans are two different types of loans you can take out on your home. A first mortgage is the original loan that you take out to purchase your home. You may choose to take out a second mortgage in order to cover a part of buying your home or refinance to cash out some of the equity of your home. It is important to understand the differences between a mortgage and a home equity loan before you decide which loan you should use. In the past both types of loans had the same tax benefit, however the 2018 tax law no longer allows homeowners to deduct interest paid on HELOCs or home equity loans unless the debt is obtained to build or substantially improve the homeowner's dwelling. Interest on up to $100,000 of debt which substantially improves the dwelling is tax deductible. First mortgages and mortgage refinance loans remain tax deductible up to a limit of $750,000.
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“Get pre-approved early, and know your numbers. Make sure you understand the monthly payment that goes along with your price point. Your expectations and your reality need to sync up. Also, rely on your professionals like loan officers and real estate agents. Never feel like you’re bugging them with questions, they should want you to bug them with questions. They’d certainly rather you get the correct info from them than the incorrect info from Google. Also, I think it’s ok to overpay a little for a house you love. If the market isn’t giving you many options to buy and you find a house you love, don’t get hung up on a couple thousand bucks, especially if you’re going to stay in the house long-term. If you can afford it, make it happen.”–Tyler Baker, Branch Manager, Olathe, KS

Once you find a home you want to put an offer on, you have to obtain the actual mortgage loan. Apply for a loan with your chosen mortgage lender. Within three days of your application you should receive a loan estimate that includes closing costs, the interest rate, and the monthly amount you’ll pay for the principal, interest, insurance, and taxes. After that, it’s off to the underwriter, who will review all of your financial information and make the final call to approve or deny your loan.
Mortgages and home equity loans are two different types of loans you can take out on your home. A first mortgage is the original loan that you take out to purchase your home. You may choose to take out a second mortgage in order to cover a part of buying your home or refinance to cash out some of the equity of your home. It is important to understand the differences between a mortgage and a home equity loan before you decide which loan you should use. In the past both types of loans had the same tax benefit, however the 2018 tax law no longer allows homeowners to deduct interest paid on HELOCs or home equity loans unless the debt is obtained to build or substantially improve the homeowner's dwelling. Interest on up to $100,000 of debt which substantially improves the dwelling is tax deductible. First mortgages and mortgage refinance loans remain tax deductible up to a limit of $750,000.
How much you can afford. Lenders will be happy to tell you how much they’re willing to lend you, but that’s not actually a good indication of how much house you can afford. Check out our affordability calculator to get an idea of where you stand before you start looking for houses. Remember that your monthly payment will be more than just principal and interest. It will also include homeowner’s insurance, property taxes and, potentially, mortgage insurance (depending on your loan program and down payment). You’ll also need to factor in utilities and maintenance.
After you have applied for a home loan, it is important to respond promptly to any requests for additional information from your lender and to return your paperwork as quickly as possible. Waiting too long to respond could cause a delay in closing your loan, which could create a problem with the home you want to buy. Don’t put yourself in a position where you could end up losing your dream home, as well as any deposit you may have put down.
Find information on mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention programs from various companies, federal government agencies, non-profits, HUD counseling agencies, banks and states. Numerous organizations have pledged to provide loan modification and other forms of mortgage help to millions of Americans. Resources are available that can help prevent or stop foreclosures as well as assist homeowners with paying their current and back mortgage payments.
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