Fannie and Freddie Detail New HARP Guidelines

Fannie and Freddie Detail New HARP Guidelines

11/15/2011 By: Carrie Bay

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have released highly anticipated guidelines for the revised Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

Both GSEs have posted details of the program modifications and procedural changes on their respective business sites for mortgage servicers to follow (Fannie’s, Freddie’s).

Among the key program revisions, the GSEs have eliminated or raised the loan-to-value (LTV) cap, and relaxed representation and warranty stipulations – changes that officials expect to at least double the number of homeowners with a HARP-refinanced mortgage. Since the program was launched in 2009, just under 900,000 borrowers have participated.

Negative equity typically excludes a homeowner from refinancing through traditional channels. Removing previous LTV ceilings will allow homeowners who are severely underwater due to plummeting property values to take out new loans at today’s lower interest rates. There are, however, some LTV conditions depending on loan type.

There are no LTV restrictions for fixed-rate mortgages with terms up to 30 years, including those with terms of 15 years.

For fixed-rate loans with terms between 30 and 40 years, LTV is limited to 105 percent. Likewise, a 105 percent LTV cap has been placed on adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) with initial fixed periods of five years or more and terms up to 40 years.

Any borrower with an LTV ratio below 80 percent is not eligible for HARP.

As previously announced, across the board, the original mortgage must have been sold to Fannie or Freddie prior to April 1, 2009.

In the October notice announcing their intent to modify HARP to increase participation, the GSEs said they would “waive certain representations and warranties” on loans refinanced through the program. Analysts said at the time

that depending on what exceptions would be made, such a move could spark increased competition among lenders to refinance borrowers through HARP.

In Tuesday’s guidance, the GSEs provided specifics on which liabilities would be lifted and noted that the rep and warranty adjustment is one of the most important components of the new program.

The lender will not be responsible for any of the representations and warranties associated with the original loan.

The lender is also relieved of the standard underwriting representations and warranties with respect to the new mortgage loan as long as the data in the case file is complete and program instructions are followed for collecting information on income, employment, assets, and fieldwork.

The lender is not required to make any representation or warranty as to value, marketability, or condition of the subject property unless they obtain a new appraisal.

Lenders will, however, be held accountable for any fraudulent activities.

Administration officials are hoping that eliminating the risk associated with reps and warranties – whether transferred from the original loan or on the new loan – will spark healthy competition among lenders to help homeowners get into the program. And Fannie and Freddie are making it easier for the competition to flourish.

The GSEs are modifying their policies to allow lenders to solicit borrowers with Fannie- and Freddie-owned mortgages for a refinance. The only condition is that the lender “simultaneously applies the same advertising and solicitation activities” to borrowers of both GSEs, and for loans both owned or securitized by the GSEs.

In the new guidelines, the GSEs detail specific language that must be included in any borrower solicitation material.

Regarding program eligibility as it relates to delinquencies, the borrower must not have been behind on their payments at all within the most recent six-month period, and had no more than one 30-day delinquency within the last year.

The GSEs are also removing the requirement that the borrower (on the new loan) meet the standard waiting period following a bankruptcy or foreclosure. The requirement that the original loan must have met the bankruptcy and foreclosure policies in effect at the time the loan was originated is also being removed.

The new HARP program has been extended through December 31, 2013.

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