Last updated: September 04. 2014 5:34PM - 1011 Views
By - egodin@timesleader.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Homeowners struggling to meet monthly payments still have time to refinance through the Home Affordable Refinance Program, but many are not fully aware of the program.

The Home Affordable Refinance Program was implemented in May of 2009 by the Obama Administration to help home owners refinance mortgages and establish lower payments. The program’s deadline has been extended until December 2015.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, since the program’s start, three million refinances have been completed nationwide. In Pennsylvania, fewer that 65,000 refinances have been filed.

Michael Cummings, spokesman for FNCB, said he cannot speak for other financial institutions, but noted FNCB mortgage department has been reaching out to their customers who qualify for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

“We have been self recommending customers,” he said. “In the last three years we have had numerous homeowners qualify in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties.”

The ins-and-outs of the program can be a source of confusion. Under the HARP guidelines, a refinance loan can be originated for one of four reasons:

• A reduction in interest rate

• Replace an adjustable mortgage

• Reduce the loan amortization term. A loan amortization term is a regular monthly payment, combining the loan principal and interest.

• Reduce the monthly principal and interest payments.

Cummings said certain criteria needs to be met by the homeowner for eligibility, including:

• The mortgage must be held with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

• The mortgage must have a note date on or before May 31, 2009.

• The mortgage has not been 30 or more days delinquent more than once in the last 12 months.

• The mortgage must be a first lien mortgage.

“Second liens or junior liens can be subordinated or refinanced simultaneously if a rate, term or monthly payment are being reduced or an adjustable rate (loan) is being replaced by a fixed rate (loan),” Cummings said.

The refinance closing costs can go up to $5,000. No origination fees are charged to homeowners choosing a 15- to 20-year mortgage term with a loan-to-value of greater than 80 percent, Cummings said. A loan-to-value is a comparison of the loan value and the value of the home.

Cummings advises homeowners to discuss this option with their financial institution to determine their eligibility.

“It is as easy as completing an application,” he said. “It can typically take a few weeks (for the application process).”

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