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Refinance Your Mortgage to Regain Your Home

Written By:
May 12, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Paying off the entire loan balance by refinancing

The sinking thought of “foreclosure” often leaves homeowners feeling like a deer in headlights. Many homeowners see notices of foreclosure as their personal white flag--time to give up and walk away.

Before surrendering to foreclosure, homeowners should consider every available option. For some, foreclosure doesn’t have to be eminent; in fact the borrower/homeowner may still have the opportunity to stop the foreclosure by catching up on defaulted payments or paying off the entire loan balance usually by refinancing or selling the property.

According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings increased 7% in March and many industry experts believe that many homeowners could have possibly avoided foreclosure.

Refinance Before Foreclosure - Try Your Lender First

Before considering foreclosure, explore all of your refinance options. If you’ve been consistently making mortgage payments and still have a decent credit score (over 600) your mortgage company may contemplate a conventional refinance.

Since the refinance market isn’t booming like it was a year ago some mortgage companies may think about playing, “Let’s Make a Deal,” especially if you’ve been a loyal customer. Compare and contrast mortgage brokers before making a decision. Some mortgage companies offer special deals such as reduced or no closing costs or may be more flexible with terms and payments.

Also, if you’ve been approved to refinance your mortgage, use the “excess” savings wisely. Although it may be tempting to go on a shopping spree or buy a new car, put your money back into your mortgage loan.

Your mortgage loan has the biggest influence over your credit--which will enable you to make future purchases. If you’ve been behind on payments or find that the savings will allow you to pay off the loan balance outright, use your savings to cover your mortgage loan expenses.

Unable to Qualify for a Conventional Refi? Consider Government Programs

For those who have been hit by hard times and suffered a reduction in income, followed by a depressed credit score, refinancing may still be within reach. The government has programs that considers the impact of recessionary times on homeowners:

  • Home Affordable Refinance: Fannie Mae offers two refinance solutions for homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments. This program is available to existing Fannie Mae loans only and is aimed at providing “access to low-cost refinancing for responsible homeowners suffering from falling home prices.”
    The idea is to position responsible borrowers to make regular mortgage payments by reducing their monthly principal and interest payments (or moving them from a risky loan structure such as interest-only or short term ARM). Borrowers can refinance up to 125% loan-to-value with mortgage insurance flexibilities.

    Refi Plus program
    is when the refinanced loan is already in the lender’s servicing portfolio.

    DU Refi Plus is to increase the efficiencies for origination and underwriting of Fannie Mae loans plus Fannie Mae limited cash-out refinancing.
  • FHA Short Refinance: Non-FHA borrowers can seek refinancing if they are “underwater” in their mortgage loan and are current on their loan payments. Borrowers must have a credit score of 500 or better and must meet other FHA requirements.

    The borrower will have to qualify for a new loan and the property must be the borrower’s primary residence. The existing first lien holder must agree to write off at least 10% of the unpaid principal balance, which brings the borrower’s combined LTV ratio no greater than 115%.

    Also, the loan to be refinanced cannot be an FHA insured loan--the refinanced FHA insured first mortgage must have a LTV of no more than 97.75%.

Colorado Senator’s Proposal

Although homeowners currently have options, these avenues aren’t readily available to all homeowners underwater in their mortgage or in the process of foreclosure.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon wants the government to do more to keep families in their homes, as home prices and values continue to tumble.

Like many industry experts, Merkley points to the five million potential foreclosures as holding continuous weight on the market. Every time a home is repossessed, values decline pushing the housing market further away from recovery. On his website he says, “We’re not going to see a true economic recovery until we do something about the broken housing market.”

For the past two years, mortgage companies have filed 300,000 foreclosures a month. National home prices have fallen for 57 consecutive months and economists still don’t have a handle on when the market will hit bottom.

With such a bleak immediate future, Merkley is proposing that lenders back off foreclosure proceedings during the loan modification negotiations.

Also, he believes a “short refinance” program would provide foreclosure relief to the market by allowing homeowners to refinance their mortgages based on current home values and interest rates.

Toward the beginning of the year Merkley created a six-point proposal to help homeowners hang onto their homes. When asked if this proposal was created to encourage Congress to examine questionable rulings he said, “The role is to ensure fairness (in the housing market). The complexities in the system right now can create a challenge to the health of the market. So we have to deal with this.”

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