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April 27. 2012 6:59PM

Real Estate Q&A: Help for struggling mortgagees

Q.: Is there anything to help homeowners who actually pay their loans on time but need some help?

A.: Yes, there is a great new program, the Harp 2.0, a revamping of the Harp 1.0 that was set to expire on Dec 31, 2013. The HARP 1.0 had limitations that made qualification difficult, so the program has been revised and extended. The new Harp 2.0 (Home Affordable Refinance Programs) introduced on Oct. 24, 2011, by the Obama Administration announced changes designed to expand borrower eligibility for HARP.

This is forecasted to help (nationally) 2,274,999 eligible homeowners; New England has 126,481 eligible for the Harp 2.0, and here in New Hampshire we have just under 12,000 homeowners who can find payment assistance with 11,959 eligible. One of the bigger fallbacks of this program was the ability to find and convert borrowers who qualified.

If you feel you may qualify, a call to your lender or Realtor is in order. And the HARP 2.0 program usage does not affect your credit rating.

Objectives of Harp 2.0 are to reduce the limitations of the former 1.0 program, by assisting responsible borrowers who have consistently made on-time payments. This can be accomplished by one of four methods:

-- Reducing borrowers' monthly principal and interest payments;

-- Reducing borrowers' interest rate;

-- Extending the length of the loan (amortization period);

-- Moving borrowers from a more risky loan structure, such as an interest-only mortgage or a short-term ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) to a more stable product such as a fixed-rate mortgage.

Enhancements of the 2.0 program include elimination of certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter term mortgages and lowering fees for other borrowers. The current 125 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ceiling has been removed for fixed rate mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Also, it eliminates the need for a new property appraisal where there is a reliable automated valuation model in place that can be used to save that expense for borrowers. To qualify, among other criteria, borrowers must have paid their mortgage on time for the last six months and have no more than one 30-day late payment in the last 12 months. These modifications also include an extension of the HARP Program for loans originally sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.

To determine if you meet the borrower requirements, contact your lender or Realtor today to determine if your loan type and payment history make you a candidate for HARP 2.0.

This information has been provided by the Greater Manchester/Nashua Board of Realtors in conjunction with the New Hampshire Union Leader's Advertising Department. Readers with questions about the content, or who wish to pose a question for a column, can contact the realty board at 166 S. River Road, Bedford 03110 or email: communications@gmnbr.org.

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