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FHA launches short refi opportunity for underwater homeowners

WASHINGTON – Aug. 9, 2010 – In an effort to help responsible homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their property, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided new details about a refinance program it announced earlier this year that helps responsible homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their property.

Starting Sept. 7, 2010, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will offer certain “underwater” non-FHA borrowers a new FHA-insured mortgage. To qualify, an owner must be current on his existing mortgage, and his lender must agree to write off at least 10 percent of the unpaid principal on the first mortgage.

“We’re throwing a lifeline out to those families … experiencing financial hardships because property values in their community have declined,” says FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens. “This is another tool to help overcome the negative equity problem facing many responsible homeowners who are looking to refinance into a safer, more secure mortgage product.”

Other details: A homeowner’s existing loan cannot be FHA insured, and the refinanced FHA-insured first mortgage must have a loan-to-value ratio no more than 97.75 percent. The owner must qualify for a new loan under standard FHA underwriting requirements and have a credit score equal of 500 or higher. The property must be the homeowner’s primary residence, and the new debt must bring the borrower’s combined loan-to-value ratio to no greater than 115 percent.

Interested homeowners should contact their lenders to find out if they’re eligible, and to determine whether the lender will write down a portion of the unpaid principal. If a homeowner qualifies, the U.S. Department of Treasury will provide incentives to existing second lien holders who agree to full or partial extinguishment of the liens. To be eligible, servicers must execute a Servicer Participation Agreement (SPA) with Fannie Mae, in its capacity as financial agent for the United States, on or before Oct. 3, 2010.

The FHA provided complete details in a six-page mortgagee letter that can be downloaded in PDF format. To read the letter, go to: