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The Obama refinance plan

Trying to fully understand  President Obama’s mortgage refinance plan ?

Essentially, the plan the President outlined will allow any borrower to refinance through the FHA if they meet the qualifications.

Here’s a rundown on some of the major details of the plan, which the President  first announced in his State of the Union message. One major sticking point: the program must still be approved by Congress before it can take effect, which is a big if.


1. It’s only available to responsible borrowers – those who are current on their mortgages for at least six months, haven’t missed a payment in a year, and have reasonable credit (a FICO score of at least 580).  Aside from that, the other credit requirement is that borrowers must not have missed a mortgage payment in the past six months or more than one in the past 12.

2- Available on most mortgages –One of the key elements of the new underwater mortgage refinancing plan is that it will be available on most types of mortgages,but is has to be within the FHA’s conforming loan limits. ( in our area that’s $458,850)

3. If borrowers owe more than 140 percent of the value of their home, the lender has to agree to reduce the loan balance. The White House also said Tuesday it wants to help banks that want to refinance those deep-underwater borrowers.

4 – Streamlined refis on Fannie, Freddie loans- Homeowners with a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgage (which most residential mortgages are) will be able to take advantage of a streamlined application process, where they will not have to have their property appraised or document their income in order to qualify. They will, however, have to show that they are currently employed.

5 – No closing costs on short-term refis- The proposal calls for waiving closing costs for underwater borrowers who choose to rebuild equity quickly by refinancing into a mortgage with a term of less than 20 years. The administration estimates this would enable most underwater borrowers to get back into positive equity within five years.


The benefits

It’s estimated to save a typical  borrower $3,000 a year — three grand being pumped back into local economies by refinancing into the historically low mortgage interest rates now available. The program would be paid for by imposing a fee on the largest mortgage lenders, which would raise the estimated $5-10 billion the program would cost.

It’s far from clear whether Congress will go along with the program, particularly given the opposition of many members, particularly Republicans, to any sort of new taxes, and a skepticism by the GOP toward intervention in the housing market.

However, it is an election year and it’s possible that members of neither party will want to be seen as opposing legislation regarded as friendly to homeowners, particularly if the cost is to be borne by banks that are widely blamed for causing the housing crisis in the first place and who were later bailed out by taxpayers. Time will tell.


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