New Regulations Make Refinancing Easier

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COLUMBIA - Interest rates are low, mortgage lenders said Friday many Columbia residents are taking advantage by refinancing their house.  President Obama announced a plan Tuesday to make the refinancing process easier. 

The guidelines will expand the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to more homeowners. Obama's plan to expand HARP is designed to help "underwater" homeowners--those who owe more on their homes than they are worth.

Under the new regualtions, homeowners do not need a property appraisal or a good credit score to be approved to refinance. It does require the homeowner's mortgage payments not be late more than once per year. It also must be a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan made prior to May 31, 2009 to qualify.

Chris Sanders is a loan officer at Allied Mortgage Group, Inc.  He said this is a great way for the government to help homeowners in a declining market. 

Arik Schreiner is currently working with the Allied Mortgage Group, Inc. to refinance his house under HARP.  He said after the paperwork, he will be changing his 30-year fixed mortgage to 15 years with the same monthly payment.  Although he is in good credit standing, he said, "Everyone should be able to spend less money on their mortgage."

Sanders said the best way for homeowners to find out if they qualify is to call their mortgage agency and ask.  "Many people are scared to call because they don't think it will help or they will get rejected," said Sanders.  "But with these new standards it really can save them lots of money."

A detailed plan of the amended HARP will be released Nov. 15 and will go into effect Dec. 1.