A mortgage loan, also referred to as a mortgage, is used by purchasers of real property to raise funds to buy real estate; or by existing property owners to raise funds for any purpose while putting a lien on the property being mortgaged. The loan is “secured” on the borrower’s property. This means that a legal mechanism is put in place which allows the lender to take possession and sell the secured property (“foreclosure” or “repossession“) to pay off the loan in the event that the borrower defaults on the loan or otherwise fails to abide by its terms. The wordmortgage is derived from a “Law French” term used by English lawyers in the Middle Ages meaning “death pledge”, and refers to the pledge ending (dying) when either the obligation is fulfilled or the property is taken through foreclosure. Mortgage can also be described as “a borrower giving consideration in the form of a collateral for a benefit (loan).
Mortgage borrowers can be individuals mortgaging their home or they can be businesses mortgaging commercial property (for example, their own business premises, residential property let to tenants or an investment portfolio). The lender will typically be a financial institution, such as a bank, credit union or building society, depending on the country concerned, and the loan arrangements can be made either directly or indirectly through intermediaries. Features of mortgage loans such as the size of the loan, maturity of the loan, interest rate, method of paying off the loan, and other characteristics can vary considerably. The lender’s rights over the secured property take priority over the borrower’s other creditors which means that if the borrower becomes bankrupt or insolvent, the other creditors will only be repaid the debts owed to them from a sale of the secured property if the mortgage lender is repaid in full first.
In many jurisdictions, though not all (Bali, Indonesia being one exception), it is normal for home purchases to be funded by a mortgage loan. Few individuals have enough savings or liquid funds to enable them to purchase property outright. In countries where the demand for home ownership is highest, strong domestic markets for mortgages have developed.
Refinancing may refer to the replacement of an existing debt obligation with another debt obligation under different terms. The terms and conditions of refinancing may vary widely by country, province, or state, based on several economic factors such as, inherent risk, projected risk, political stability of a nation, currency stability, banking regulations, borrower’s credit worthiness, and credit rating of a nation. In many industrialized nations, a common form of refinancing is for a place of primary residency mortgage.
A loan (debt) might be refinanced for various reasons:
- To take advantage of a better interest rate (a reduced monthly payment or a reduced term)
- To consolidate other debt(s) into one loan (a potentially longer/shorter term contingent on interest rate differential and fees)
- To reduce the monthly repayment amount (often for a longer term, contingent on interest rate differential and fees)
- To reduce or alter risk (e.g. switching from a variable-rate to a fixed-rate loan)
- To free up cash (often for a longer term, contingent on interest rate differential and fees)
Refinancing for reasons 2, 3, and 5 are usually undertaken by borrowers who are in financial difficulty in order to reduce their monthly repayment obligations, with the penalty that they will take longer to pay off their debt.
In the context of personal (as opposed to corporate) finance, refinancing multiple debts makes management of the debt easier. If high-interest debt, such ascredit card debt, is consolidated into the home mortgage, the borrower is able to pay off the remaining debt at mortgage rates over a longer period.
For home mortgages in the United States, there may be tax advantages available with refinancing, particularly if one does not pay Alternative Minimum Tax.
What is the HARP Program?
When you have little equity in your home, or owe as much or more on your mortgage than your home is worth, it can be difficult to find a lender willing to help you refinance. But for borrowers who have remained current on their mortgages, and have loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is hope. It’s called HARP.
Introduced in March 2009, HARP enables borrowers with little or no equity to refinance into more affordable mortgages without new or additional mortgage insurance. HARP targets borrowers with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios equal to or greater than 80 percent and who have limited delinquencies over the 12 months prior to refinancing.
Significant changes have been made to HARP since the program was first introduced. For example, in 2011 the LTV ceiling was removed, property appraisal requirements were waived in certain circumstances, certain risk fees for borrowers selecting shorter amortization terms were eliminated, and certain representations and warranties were waived. In 2013, the eligibility date was changed from the date the loan was acquired by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to the date on the note, increasing the pool of eligible borrowers.
HARP has also been extended several times and will now expire on December 31, 2016.
Through HARP, you can get a lower interest rate (which means less out-of-pocket costs each month), get a shorter loan term, or change from an adjustable to fixed-rate mortgage. There’s no minimum credit score needed, either.
And now that HARP guidelines are simpler, even people who were formerly turned down may now be eligible for HARP refinancing.
How can HARP help me?
If you are current on your mortgage; have a mortgage that is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and owe as much or more than your home is currently worth, you may be eligible for HARP refinancing. That can mean significant savings by:
- Lowering your monthly payment
- Reducing your interest rate
- Securing a fixed-rate mortgage that won’t change over time
- Building equity faster—shorter term options may be available
- Lower closing costs because an appraisal is not usually required
HARP program includes:
- No underwater limits
Borrowers will now be able to refinance regardless of how far their homes have fallen in value. Previous loan-to-value limits were set at 125 percent.
- No appraisals or underwriting
Most homeowners will not have to get an appraisal or have their loan underwritten, making their refinance process smoother and faster.
- Modified fees
Certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term loans have been reduced.
- Less paperwork
Lenders now need less paperwork for income verification, and have the option of qualifying a borrower by documenting that the borrower has at least 12 months of mortgage payments in reserve.
- Program Deadline
The end date to get a HARP refinance is December 31, 2016. HARP Information provided by: http://www.harp.gov/about