The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), also known as the Obama Refinance Program, was set up by the federal government in 2009 in response to the widespread collapse in home prices that had occurred as a result of the 2007-08 credit crunch. Lower home prices saw millions of homeowners plunged into negative equity (a.k.a. having an “underwater” or “upside down” mortgage), and that stopped them from reducing their monthly outgoings by refinancing to lower mortgage rates. Since then, home prices have risen in many areas, but the recovery has been geographically patchy. And as recently as the second quarter of 2016, 3.6 million Americans still had underwater mortgages.
HARP has evolved since it was first introduced, and many of its original eligibility rules have been loosened. As its official government website suggests:
To date, the program has helped more than 3.4 million homeowners. In August 2016, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it was working with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to develop a new streamlined refinance offering, which is due to be introduced in October 2017. In the meantime, the current version of HARP will continue to be available up until September 30, 2017. At the time it made that announcement, the FHFA reckoned around 300,000 homeowners remain eligible to refinance under HARP, but are yet to do so.
Turned down before? Now’s the time to try again.
HARP has been significantly enhanced since it launched in 2009. The program now requires less documentation and has simpler guidelines, all designed to approve more loans.