The FHFA Just Launched a National Campaign for HARP Four Years After the Program Was Created

September 23, 2013 No Comments »
The FHFA Just Launched a National Campaign for HARP Four Years After the Program Was Created

This morning the FHFA launched a national campaign to educate homeowners about the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

While that sounds like a sensible move to promote the underwater refinancing program, it comes four years after the initiative was originally announced back in 2009.

And that’s why it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Why now? We’ll get to that in a moment.

A New HARP Website That Doesn’t Work, Yet

As part of the campaign, the FHFA has launched a website (www.HARP.gov), which doesn’t actually work at the moment. Oops.

Hopefully it will work sometime in the near future, but right now, it’s not a live website.

However, there’s already a pretty solid overview and eligibility matrix for HARP over at MakingHomeAffordable.gov, which makes you wonder why they’re launching another website.

I suppose it’s important to dedicate a single website to an important program like HARP, but you still have to question why now?

The website issues aside, the FHFA said it also “working with mortgage companies across the U.S.” to promote the program, and has partnered with HGTV personality Mike Aubrey to get the word out.

Again, that all sounds great, except for the fact that mortgage companies have been heavily promoting the program for years now.

And more than 2.8 million homeowners have already refinanced via HARP since its inception.

Oh, and the HARP-share of refinance applications hit a record high 40% during the week ending September 13, according to the MBA, up from 38% a week earlier.

So Why the Late Push for HARP?

It sounds like everything is going swimmingly for HARP, so why is the FHFA pushing the program in 2013, now that interest rates have risen from their record lows

Well, there are a couple hypotheses here. The obvious guess is that the mortgage market is coming to a crawl, and the only sector that seems to be growing is HARP.

So in order to get even more refinance applications through the door, the FHFA is making a final push for the program, which is slated to come to an end on December 31, 2015.

After all, there are still plenty of homeowners out there that somehow haven’t heard of HARP, which while hard to believe, is true. I’ve personally encountered tons of people who had no idea the program existed.

But could it be something bigger? Is it possible that new changes are coming to HARP finally? Is “HARP 3” about to arrive?

That’s uncertain, though now that refinance volume has plummeted, there’s a real possibility that the program could be expanded to help more borrowers take advantage of mortgage rates that are still relatively low.

And if you’re wondering how many borrowers could benefit from expanded guidelines, the number is close to half a million.

In case you missed it, back in July a pair of Fed researchers determined that removing the HARP cutoff date and allowing reHARPing would put roughly 452,000 borrowers back “in-the-money.”

So maybe, just maybe, this new campaign will be accompanied by new guidelines for HARP, which would certainly be good news for both lenders and struggling homeowners.

Stay tuned. And keep checking that HARP website…it’ll work eventually.

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