HARP is still out there -- so why aren't more borrowers taking advantage of it?

by Rachel.Norvell07 Oct 2014
Last week, Mel Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, was reminded of HARP’s complexities, when he and other U.S. housing officials visited Detroit to promote the program. The group was confronted by about 150 protesters who say the program is hard to qualify for and doesn’t go far enough, according to The Detroit News.

Yet the FHFA estimates there is as many as 800,000 U.S. borrowers who meet the general HARP eligibility requirements –  owe $50,000 or more on their mortgage and pay an interest rate that's at least 1.5% higher than current rates – have so far stayed on the sidelines.

HARP was launched in 2009 in an effort to provide distressed homeowners some relief by offering a refinance opportunity to those who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. When the housing market started to showing signs of recovery, it appeared the program’s heyday was coming to an end. However, HARP hasn’t fully maximized and was extended last year to expire on Dec. 31, 2015.
Since April 2014, nearly 3.2 million borrowers have refinanced through HARP, according to the FHFA. On average, homeowners who refinance through the program saved nearly $200 per month. That's more than $2,000 a year. So, if HARP is such a good deal, why have so many eligible homeowners not refinanced?

Despite being revised several times, the program has proved to be exceptionally complex, which has made it extremely hard for homeowners to qualify for the refinancing option. According to the FHFA, many of its servicers said that the potential savings sound too good to be true to borrowers and they suspect that the program is a scam.

The key to accessing the 800,000 U.S. borrowers who meet the general HARP eligibility requirements is through education. Watt is urging the housing community to help spread the word that those who are eligible for HARP should apply.

"[HARP] has been on the books since 2009, and we have had tremendous success, but we're down to the people who still don’t believe this is a credible program,” said Watt. “And we need your help to deliver the message to them that it is.”

Is your borrower ripe for HARP?

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