New Hope for Refinancing?!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

During his State of the Union address on Jan. 24, President Barack Obama called on Congress to approve new legislation that would give all homeowners who are current on their mortgages the opportunity to refinance at record low mortgage rates.

According to a follow-up article by Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), administration officials declined to immediately outline specifics of how the program would work, stating that details would be forthcoming as the legislation emerges in the coming days. In theory, however, the new legislation is intended to give responsible homeowners a chance to refinance without “red tape” or a “runaround from the bank,” as the President said in his speech.

The existing refinance program, which was unveiled in 2009, limited opportunities to borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This newest proposal would remove such limitations.

As Timiraos explains in his WSJ piece, while mortgages have fallen to their lowest recorded levels, many borrowers haven't been able to qualify because they owe more than their homes are worth, while others feel that refinancing isn't worth the upfront costs. According to CoreLogic, an estimated 28 million homeowners could cut the interest rates on their loans by more than one percentage point if they could refinance.

Some are speculating that the new refinance legislation would involve the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are already responsible for backing nearly nine in 10 new loans, reports the WSJ.

Refinancing has been particularly limited in five states that have seen the biggest home-price declines: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada. In those states, some 6.4 percent of borrowers with credit scores between 680 and 719 refinanced in 2010, compared with 9.7 percent of borrowers in the remaining 45 states, according to Federal Reserve data.

To read the complete Wall Street Journal article, visit online.wsj.com.

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