Market UPdate – April 2013

Happy Spring!! 

Well, the first quarter of 2013 is gone.  Where does the time go?  I'm not sure…  What I do know, and can share with you, is that the Spokane Real Estate Market is continuing to improve.  It's so nice to have positives to report, and even nicer to be able to grin a bit and enjoy the ability to breathe a little easier.

I know you're hanging on the edge of your seat, so here's what happened the past three months:


Year-to-date our closed sales are up 15% from 2012. 

Active listings have come up a bit (6.4%) with the spring rush, but we are still short (4.8%) on inventory compared to the past two years.  Thus, we can explain the crunch of competition that has stimulated the seller's side of the field recently.  Yes, I can still report we are moving toward a more balanced market, but it's still in favor of the buyers.

What are the prices doing, you ask?  They're continuing the trend of the past six months.  Homes priced under the $200k range are seeing multiple offers and fewer days on the market.  The average sales price of $169,677 is up 1.5% from February of 2013.  This competition scenario is generating some minor price increases, and hopefully will provide some added bolstering to consumer and seller confidence.  With the interest rates holding at all time lows, there's really no reason for qualified buyers to not buy if you're looking to upgrade or invest, or even if it's time to downsize. 

Housing is affordable, folks!  Who thought we'd ever see opportunities like this again?  I sure didn't!

So the overall picture looks like this:

Just look at those fairly consistent sales numbers thru last year's warm season, and that nicely trending upward curve over the past three months.  You can't help but smile and say, "whew!"

Now, this next one is pretty cool.  If you want to keep your head on straight, remember your mistakes, and make a concerted effort not to repeat them, keep graphs like this taped to your mirror.  Graphs have the ability to give us perspective.  Trying to go off memory, it's really difficult to get a good sense of where we've been and where we're at unless you look at more than just a few short months.  Maybe you'll agree, maybe you won't, when I say it's looking like a more "normal" market.  Take a look at the graph below, it really lets you see the "bubbles" of "boom" that we created.  Of course, I recognize that "normal" is a relative term so, as with everything in life, take it with a grain of salt.  There are and always will be exceptions and surprises.

What's it all mean?  That it's a great time to buy, and a very good time to list (compared to the past 3+ years).  😉

Have a fabulous spring!

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Market UPdates | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Market UPdate – January 2013

Happy New Year!

2013 is sizing up to be pretty stable, promisingly improved, and possibly even fun.  I'm not just saying that either.  The final quarter of 2012 was positively positive for many folks out there, and a little bit of positive energy can go a long way if you take it by the tail and run with it.  Of course, it helps to see the stats, so let's take a look at what the numbers have done in and around Spokane…

2012 saw an increase in home sales of 12.3% over 2011.  People are more confident and are taking advantage of the low interest rates (3.375% on a 30 year this morning!!) to buy their new homes.  That pink line is the one that makes me smile.  The green one, with the hump from April to June, represents that tax credit bubble… Just look what it did to us in the end of 2010; crash and burn, yikes.

2011 to 2012 inventory is down 14.2%.  This has effectively moved us toward a more balanced market; no, it's not balanced yet.  It's still a buyers market, but it's shifted enough that sellers are not seeing such agonizing losses.  Hopefully this reflects a lot fewer people in trouble and having to sell which is what I saw in the people I worked with the past year.  No question:  It's much better to buy and sell because you want to…


The average sales price from November 2012 to December 2012 went up 3.6%.  Though slight, homes under the $175,000 mark are seeing the most gains in both price and multiple offer scenarios.  Properties priced over that number have stabilized and are seeing increasing sales (which explains this average sales price increase).


And here's a look at the past year (plus) in Active/Sold/Pending ratios:

So!  Thank you, 2012, for a relatively good year, and here's to continuing the trends all the way thru 2013 and on.  Let's take our valuable lessons and apply them to generate an engaging and lucrative United States economy that will do us all proud!

All my best to you & yours in the coming year,


Posted on January 24, 2013 at 10:47 am
Becky Ruark | Posted in Market UPdates | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Market UPdate – October 2012

Welcome to cold weather!  Winter is rapidly approaching and, yes, real estate is slowing down a bit with the season.  What's great is 2012 has seen us regain a much more "normal" market cycle!  With the past many months of relative stability, we've seen an increase in straight (non-distressed) sales with considerably easier closings.  Whew!  Honestly, it has been a much more positive year, even with the continued "shadow inventory" of short sales and foreclosures. 

Here's what September's stats looked like:

Year-to-date Active Listings have come down 10.1%.  Less inventory creates more demand and helps stabilize our market.

From August to September, inventory continued to drop (10.1%).  We also saw a slight decrease in sales price, down 2.1% from the end of August (the end-of-summer, start of school slow down).  Why the decrease in sales price?  Don't get discouraged!!  That just means more homes with lower price tags were selling then homes with higher price tags.  It does not mean home values decreased. 


Our year-to-date unit sales increased 9.8% (everyone's very glad to see the 2012 pink line keeping fairly steady above 2011's dark blue line):

More positive news … homes under the $175,000 mark are continuing to see multiple offer scenarios.  This evens the playing field, and helps sellers negotiate with a little more solid ground underfoot than what they've been dealing with in the previous couple of years.  You gotta know, if sellers are more confident, it's a good thing all around!

Now then, with regard to that "shadow inventory," here's the skinny.  Short sales continue to be the burr in everyone's side.  The numbers have increased from 437 a year ago to 531 currently.  Adding to the problem, we're still struggling with the difficult processes and longer timelines to get these transactions closed.  Why you may ask?  The labor intensity is daunting not to mention the minimal and sometimes variable compensation, for attorneys and brokers alike, is discouraging.  It's the truth, that the long term liability issues make having good legal advice an important factor, yet finding an attorney willing and able to take on these case loads is getting more difficult. Top that off with the stress loads on sellers and time loss and frustration for buyers, and it's a potent mix of un-fun where no one comes out ahead.


Don't despair, though, it's not 100% bad news in the distressed property arena.  Foreclosures / bank owned property numbers have dropped since last year; from 171 to 102.  Plus, these transactions have been better streamlined and are getting easier to close, especially through Fannie Mae and HUD.

Long story short, we're not seeing any easy or quick answers for the distressed properties out there.  They're simply a necessary evil that we've gotten ourselves stuck with and, until we work through it, it's a learning example of what to avoid in the future in order to maintain a healthy real estate economy.

That's it in a nutshell!  And to close this page with a "Woohoo!", I have to let you check out the brokerage market standings in Spokane … Steady as a rock … Way to go Windermere!!  I am proud to be associated with this all American company whose standards and ethics go above and beyond any measly norm.   🙂

Posted on October 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Market UPdates | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Market UPdate – August 2012

Happy August All!

As the summer days wind down, real estate agents reflect on the market (ok, we always reflect on the market …) 

Nevertheless, July was definitely slower than June, but I'm pretty sure it's because we finally got some decent summer weather.  🙂  The numbers are already picking back up again as we push through August, get ready for school, and sneak in a last few days of vacation fun.


To sum it up:

Average sales prices are continuing to better last year's; particularly homes under the $200,000 mark.  These properties have even seen some increase in value.  Surprise! 

Does this spell recovery?  It may be too soon to tell, but let's take all the positives we can get…

More good news, higher end homes are continuing to pick up in sales numbers and holding steadier in their pricing.  Stability!   That is a very nice feeling for a whole lot of people out there.  We have even welcomed lower than ever interest rates, and more closed sales in lots and land.  This is probably due, in part, to the decrease in inventory that has persisted the past nine months (see the Active Listings chart below.)


Lender owned properties and short sale numbers have crept up again, but their sales have dropped slightly.  It's challenging to get some of these deals to come together, but it's a necessary evil we all simply have to hunker down and tackle.  We're also still seeing their effect in appraisals on straight sales… But, with patience, persistence, and a lot of good solid communication, we are getting these closed, too.


Overall, for Spokane County:

-Our total active number of listings are down:  -11%.

-Our number of closed sales YTD is up:  +11%

-Our average sales prices are up:  +1%


If you'd like this info in a .pdf, here you go:     July 2012 Market Statistics


It's still a fantastic buyers' market out there, and now it's even better because sellers are starting to gain some sales worth smiling about, too!


All my best,



Posted on August 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Market UPdates | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Best Real Estate App! Free!

In this age of rapid fire technology, no one can afford to get left behind.  Luckily, I work with Windermere and they are on the ball.  We now have an app that makes house hunting quick, fun, and super easy while you're on the road!

I'm really happy to be able to offer my Windermere Real Estate app to you!

Whether you’re searching for a house or want to see what homes are selling for in your neighborhood, my app brings that and more information to the palm of your hand anytime, anywhere….and it's free!

How it works:

Download my app today and try it out.  Text B37 to 87778 to get my free real estate app.

If you need help with downloading, just give me a yell.  And don't hesitate to let me know how you like it (or not).  Happy house hunting!


Posted on August 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Market UPdate – July 2012

The past two months have certainly flown by, and I'm happy to report that I fell behind in my Market UPdates simply because I was out helping people buy and sell homes.  What a wonderful feeling!

You may have noticed, the market in and around Spokane has stabilized considerably.  We have fewer homes listed, more sales (even up in the higher end homes), and land is selling again, too.  Though homes priced above $175,000 are staying steady, those below have actually been seeing some price increases.  That's a lot sooner than we expected, and a good thing for all those sellers out there.  To make the pot even sweeter, interest rates actually dropped even further!  We've been down in the 3.6-3.7% range for several weeks now. 

This is unarguably the best our market has been in the past 2+ years.  No, we're not out of the woods.  We still have a whole lot of foreclosures and short sales to contend with and, yes, financing can be tricky, but overall we needed some "natural" positives and I believe we've gotten them.  No gimmicks or tax credits, just honest Americans making their dreams happen!  smiley


If you like to see the graphs and numbers, here are some statistics and charts for you on the Spokane Market for June 2012:



Posted on July 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Market UPdates | Tagged , , , , ,

Mortgage payments: Pay less than your parents did!

Personally, I never thought to see an opportunity like this in my lifetime.  I’ve been of a mind to believe that I will always pay more for everything than my parents did …

Happily, one of our local lenders just sent over these mortgage rate / rental comparison / home payment charts.

They made my day.  I hope they make yours, too.  🙂


Click Here for the 30 Year FHLMC Rates On 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Chart

Click Here for the 200 Year Historical Rates On 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Chart

Click Here for the Rent vs. Buy Index Chart

Click Here for the Home Price vs. Payment Chart


(FHLMC = Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation)

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

For Sellers Its All About Market Updates & Increasing Value

So is the upward trend continuing?  Yep.


Sometimes it’s difficult to acknowledge, but repairs and improvements – even little ones – go a long way.  Here’s an article that shares the six most common and easy ways to increase value:

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Market UPdate – April 2012

It’s spring, folks, and the market is seeing a revival worthy of the sunshine and flowers. Yes, we have reason to be happy and positive! Interest rates are still hovering below 4%, stories of successful refinances are being heard more frequently, and home sales are steadily going up. Buyers can look forward to more homes coming onto the market. Sellers can look forward to entertaining the possibility of multiple offers.

As expected, those sellers who beat the spring en masse saw impressive results last month. As the chart below shows, closed sale prices jumped from $155,000 average to $170,000 average.

Average Sales Price March 2012

From the perspective of the past two years, that’s huge! It’s evident that homes over $150,000 are getting back into the game.

What’s the overall market look like?

  • Closed unit sales have increased (over the previous year) each month for the last 9 months.
  • 1st Quarter 2012 is the best we have seen in four years.
  • Active listings are up from February, yet down 11.4% from March of 2011 (aka reduced inventory starting recovery).
  • Increased unit sales and the declining inventory over winter, stabilized prices, as expected.
  • Price declines have slowed, and the average sales price went up 5.4% from March 2011.
  • The market under $175,000 continues to gain strength with multiple offer situations becoming more frequent.


All in all, this is the best market we’ve seen – for all parties involved – in quite some time.  Good deals to be had with low interest rates for buyers, better sales prices and less competition for sellers.

~ Becky

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm
Becky Ruark | Posted in Market UPdates | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Can You Refinance NOW? You can never ask too often …

I’m posting this because I talk to so many people who have tried to refinance but been turned down.  With the ever changing rules and regulations, it’s good to be up to date.  You just never know when the tides will change, and allow you to take advantage of opportunity when it shows up.

I’ve included the contact information for the lender who sent me this update below.  This way people can go straight to the source if that is their preference.

Let it be known, there is also a ton of info available online, or through other local lenders who can help you wade through the red tape.

My advice is always to find the professional who best fits with your personality and needs.  Ask lots of questions and, if you don’t know what to ask, look for the person who recognizes that and provides lots of answers without being asked!  🙂


UPDATE (March 14, 2012) : The government announced changes to its HARP program November 15, 2011. This post is accurate and up-to-date. Click here to get a HARP refinance rate quote.

If you’re underwater on your conforming, conventional mortgage, you may be eligible to refinance without paying down principal and without having to pay mortgage insurance.

Here are the details of the government’s new 2011 HARP refinance program.


What Is HARP?

HARP was started in April 2009. It goes by several names. The government calls it HARP, as in Home Affordable Refinance Program.

The program is also known as the Making Home Affordable plan, the Obama Refi plan, DU Refi +, and Relief Refinance.

In order to be eligible for the HARP refinance program :

  1. Your loan must be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  2. Your current mortgage must have a securitization date prior to June 1, 2009

If you meet these two criteria, you may be HARP-eligible. If your mortgage is FHA, USDA or a jumbo mortgage, you are not HARP-eligible.

HARP : Questions and Answers

Ø  Do these question-and-answers account for the “new” HARP mortgage program?

o    Yes, everything you are reading is accurate as of today, March 14, 2012. This post includes the latest changes as rolled out by the Federal Home Finance Agency on October 24, 2011, and as confirmed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on November 15, 2011.

Ø  Is “HARP” the same thing as the government’s “Making Home Affordable” program?

o    Yes, the names HARP and Making Home Affordable are interchangeable.

Ø  How do I know if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac has my mortgage?

o    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have “lookup” forms on their respective websites. Check Fannie Mae’s first because Fannie Mae’s market share is larger. If no match is found, then check Freddie Mac. Your loan must appear on one of these two sites to be eligible for HARP.

Ø  If my mortgage is held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, am I instantly-eligible for the Home Affordable Refinance Program?

o    No. There is a series of criteria. Having your mortgage held by Fannie or Freddie is just a pre-qualifier.

Ø  My mortgage is held by Fannie/Freddie. Now what do I do?

o    Find a recent mortgage statement and write “Fannie Mae” or “Freddie Mac” on it — whichever group backs your home loan — so you don’t forget. Give that information to your lender when you apply for your HARP refinance. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  My mortgage is backed by Wells Fargo. Am I eligible for HARP?

o    It’s possible that your mortgage is backed by Wells Fargo, but the more likely answer is that Wells Fargo is just your mortgage servicer; the bank that collects your payments. Wells Fargo backs very few of its own loans. Most loans for which payments are sent to Wells Fargo are backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Double-check with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before assuming Wells Fargo backs your loan.

Ø  My mortgage is backed by Bank of America. Am I eligible for HARP?

o    Bank of America does back some of its own loans, but the more likely answer is that Bank of America is your mortgage servicer; the bank that collects your monthly mortgage payments. Bank of America backs very few of its own loans. For most loans for which payments are sent to Bank of America, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are the actual loan-backers. Double-check with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make sure Bank of America doesn’t hold your loan.

Ø  My mortgage is backed by Chase. Am I eligible for HARP?

o    There is a chance that Chase backs your loan, but what’s more likely is that Chase is just your mortgage servicer; the bank that collects your payments each month. Chase backs very few of its own loans. For most loans for which payments are sent to Chase, you’ll find that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are the actual loan-backers. Double-check with Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s websites to make sure your loan is not held by Chase.

Ø  What if neither Fannie Mae nor Freddie Mac has a record of my mortgage?

o    If neither Fannie nor Freddie has record of your mortgage, your loan is HARP-ineligible. However, you may still be eligible for a “regular” refinance to lower rates. Use this form to get a rate quote to see your options. Or, if your mortgage is insured by the FHA, use the FHA Streamline Refinance program. The FHA Streamline Refinance helps underwater homeowners, too.

Ø  Does HARP work the same with Fannie Mae as with Freddie Mac?

o    Yes, for the most part, the HARP mortgage program is the same with Fannie Mae as with Freddie Mac. There are some small differences, but they affect just a tiny, tiny portion of the general population. For everyone else, the guidelines work the same.

Ø  Am I eligible for the Home Affordable Refinance Program if I’m behind on my mortgage?

o    No. You must be current on your mortgage to refinance via HARP.

Ø  What are the HARP program’s mortgage rates?

o    Mortgage rates for the HARP mortgage program are the same as for a “traditional” refinance. There is no “premium” for using the HARP program.

Ø  Will the Home Affordable Refinance Program help me avoid foreclosure?

o    No. The Home Affordable Refinance Program is not designed to delay, or stop, foreclosures. It’s meant to give homeowners who are current on their mortgages, and who have lost home equity, a chance to refinance at today’s low mortgage rates.

Ø  What are the minimum requirements to be HARP-eligible?

o    First, your home loan must be paid on-time for the prior 6 months, and at least 11 of the most recent 12 months. Second, your mortgage must have been sold to Fannie or Freddie prior to June 1, 2009. And, third, you may not have used the HARP mortgage program before — only one HARP refinance per mortgage is allowed.

Ø  My mortgage was securitized shortly after the HARP deadline of May 31, 2009. Can I get a waiver or exception?

o    No, there are no “date exceptions” for HARP. If your loan was not securitized on, or before, May 31, 2009, you cannot use HARP.

Ø  If I refinanced with HARP a few years ago, can I use it again for HARP II?

o    No. You can only use the HARP mortgage program one time per home.

Ø  I refinanced into a HARP loan a few years ago, but my bank never told me it was a HARP loan. I feel like I was lied to. Can I use HARP again under the HARP II program?

o    No. You can only use the HARP mortgage program one time per home.

Ø  Is there a loan-to-value restriction for HARP?

o    No. All homes — regardless of how far underwater they are — are eligible for the HARP program. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  I am really far underwater on my mortgage. Can I use HARP?

o    Yes, you can. There is no loan-to-value restriction under the HARP mortgage program so long as your new mortgage is a fixed rate loan with a term of 30 years or fewer. If you use an adjustable-rate mortgage, your loan-to-value is capped at 105%.

Ø  Maybe I wasn’t clear. I am really, really far underwater on my mortgage. Are you sure I can use HARP?

o    Yes, I am sure. The new HARP mortgage program specifically has no loan-to-value restriction so that homeowners in Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada can take advantage of it. You can 300% loan-to-value, and still be HARP-eligible. HARP is now unlimited LTV for fixed rate loans with 30-year terms or less.

Ø  If I refinance with HARP using an ARM, do I still get “unlimited LTV”?

o    No, if you use an ARM for HARP, you are limited to 105% loan-to-value. Only fixed rate loans get the unlimited LTV treatment.

Ø  Will my home require an appraisal with the HARP mortgage program?

o    Sort of. Although your home’s value doesn’t matter for the HARP mortgage program, lenders will run what’s called an “automated valuation model” (AVM) on your home. If the value meets reliability standards, no physical appraisal will be required. However, your lender may choose to commission a physical appraisal anyway — just to make sure your home is “standing”.

Ø  Is HARP the same thing as an FHA Streamline Refinance?

o    No, the HARP mortgage program is administered through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHA Streamline Refinances are performed through the FHA. The programs have similarities, however.

Ø  I have an FHA mortgage. Can I use the HARP 2.0 program?

o    No, you cannot use the HARP 2.0 program for an FHA loan. If your current mortgage is backed by the FHA, and your home is underwater, use the FHA Streamline Refinance program.

Ø  I have a USDA mortgage. Can I use the HARP 2.0 program?

o    No, you cannot use the HARP 2.0 program for a USDA loan. If your current mortgage is backed by the USDA, and your home is underwater, use the USDA’s Refinance program. Click here to get USDA mortgage rates.

Ø  I have a VA mortgage. Can I use the HARP 2.0 program?

o    No, you cannot use the HARP 2.0 program for a VA loan. If your current mortgage is backed by the VA, and your home is underwater, use the VA’s IRRRL program. Click here to get VA mortgage rates.

Ø  Does Ginnie Mae participate in the HARP Refinance program?

o    No, Ginnie Mae does not participate in the HARP Refinance program. Ginnie Mae is associated with FHA mortgages — not conventional ones. HARP II is for conventional mortgages only.

Ø  Do I have to HARP refinance with my current mortgage lender?

o    No, you can do a HARP refinance with any participating mortgage lender.

Ø  So, I can use any mortgage lender for my HARP Refinance?

o    Yes. With the Home Affordable Refinance Program, you can refinance with any participating HARP lender. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  My current bank says that they’re the only ones who can do my HARP Refinance. Is that true?

o    No, that’s not true. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. There are very few instances in which a HARP applicant will be precluded from shopping for the best rate. It’s doubtful that your situation is one of them.

Ø  My current mortgage is with [YOUR BANK HERE] and I don’t like them. Can I work with another bank?

o    Yes, with HARP, you can work with any participating lender in the country. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  I put down 20% when I bought my home. My home is now underwater. If I refinance with HARP, will I have to pay mortgage insurance now?

o    No, you won’t need to pay mortgage insurance. If your current loan doesn’t require PMI, your new loan won’t require it, either.

Ø  I pay PMI now. Will my PMI payments go up with a new HARP refinance?

o    No, your private mortgage insurance payments will not increase. However, the “transfer” of your mortgage insurance policy may require an extra step. Remind your lender that you’re paying PMI to help the refinance process move more smoothly.

Ø  My bank says I can’t refinance with HARP 2.0 because I have PMI. Is that true?

o    No, it’s not true. You can refinance via HARP 2.0 even if your current mortgage has private mortgage insurance.

Ø  Why does my loan officer tell me I can’t refinance with HARP because my current mortgage has PMI?

o    The new HARP program is exactly that — new. There are new rules and guidelines and not every bank is up-to-speed on what’s going on. If you’re hearing that you can’t refinance your current mortgage because it has PMI on it, that’s a signal that you’re working with sub-optimal loan officer. You may want to shop around. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  My current mortgage has Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI). Can I refinance via HARP?

o    Yes, you can refinance your mortgage via HARP 2.0 if your current loan has lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI). It’s your loan officer’s responsibility to make sure that your new mortgage carries, at minimum, the same amount of coverage.

Ø  I have no idea what that means. How do I choose my PMI “coverage” when I refinance a HARP loan that has LPMI?

o    Don’t worry about it. Your loan officer will know what to do. Just make sure you disclose that your mortgage has LPMI so the bank knows what to do. Otherwise, your loan could be delayed in processing. Click here to get a HARP rate quote.

Ø  How do I know if my mortgage has Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI)?

o    To find out if your mortgage has lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI), locate your loan paperwork from closing. There should be a clear disclosure that states that your mortgage features LPMI, and the terms should be clearly labeled for you.

Ø  I don’t see an LPMI disclosure in my closing package but I think that I have it. How do I know if my mortgage has LPMI?

o    If there is no LPMI disclosure, first check if your first mortgage’s loan-to-value exceeded 80% at the time of closing. If it did, look to see if you are paying monthly mortgage insurance. If you are not paying monthly PMI, you’re likely carrying LPMI.

Ø  What’s the bottom line with HARP refinances and mortgage insurance?

o    With HARP, regardless of whether you have borrower-paid mortgage insurance (BPMI) or lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI), a refinance is possible. The key is that the new loan has mortgage insurance coverage at least equal to the mortgage insurance coverage on your current mortgage.

Ø  What if my lender won’t give me a HARP refinance because I have mortgage insurance?

o    Find a new lender. There are plenty that can help you. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  What’s the biggest mortgage I can get with a HARP refinance?

o    HARP refinances are limited to your area’s conforming loan limits. In most cities, the conforming loan limit is $417,000. However, there are some cities in which conforming loan limits are as high at $625,500.  You can look up your area’s conforming loan limits by clicking here.

Ø  Can I do a cash-out refinances with HARP?

o    No, the HARP mortgage program doesn’t allow cash out refinance. Only rate-and-term refinances are allowable.

Ø  Can I refinance a second/vacation home with HARP?

o    Yes, you can refinance an second/vacation property with HARP, even if the home was once your primary residence. The loan must meet typical program eligibility standards.

Ø  Can I refinance an investment/rental property with HARP?

o    Yes, you can refinance an investment/rental property with HARP, even if the home was once your primary residence. You can refinance a home on which you’re an “accidental landlord” via HARP. The loan must meet typical program eligibility standards.

Ø  I rent out my old home. Is it HARP-eligible even though it’s an investment property now?

o    Yes, you can use the HARP Refinance program for your former residence — even if there’s a renter there now.

Ø  How long do I have to stay in my house if I use HARP on my primary residence?

o    There is no specific timeframe for which you’re required to stay in your home if you use HARP 2.0. Just like any other mortgage, if you plan to stay in your home post-closing, it’s your primary residence. If you plan to turn it into a rental, it’s an investment property. Click here to see today’s HARP mortgage rates.

Ø  These things I’m reading here… Why, when I call my bank, do they tell me it’s not true?

o    It’s possible that the call center representative to whom you’re speaking is neither knowledgeable about HARP, nor the actual mortgage underwriting process. This post is researched and cross-referenced against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines, and publicly-available reports from the FHFA.

Ø  Are condominiums eligible for HARP refinancing?

o    Yes, condominiums can be financed on the HARP refinance program. Warrantability standards still apply.

Ø  Can I consolidate mortgages with a HARP refinance?

o    No, you cannot consolidate multiple mortgages with the HARP refinance program. It’s for first liens only. All subordinate/junior liens must be re-subordinated to the new first mortgage.

Ø  What happens to my second mortgage when I refinance my first mortgage using HARP 2.0?

o    HARP 2.0 is meant for first liens only. Second liens are meant to subordinate. You’ll get to replace your first mortgage and your second mortgage will remain as-is. Just be sure to mention your second mortgage at the time of application so your lender knows to order the subordination for you.

Ø  My second mortgage isn’t backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Is that a problem?

o    No, it doesn’t matter if your second mortgage isn’t backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Second mortgages are ignored as part of HARP. They can’t be refinanced, and they can’t be consolidated. Second mortgages are a non-factor in HARP 2.0.

Ø  My bank is not setup for HARP and I want to refinance. What do I do?

o    If your current bank is not setup for HARP, find a new lender. HARP is available through any participating bank (and there are a lot of them). Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  Can I “roll up” my closing costs with a HARP refinance?

o    Yes, mortgage balances can be increased to cover closing costs in addition to other monies due at closing such as escrow reserves, accrued daily interest, and a small amount of cash.  In no cases may loan sizes exceed the local conforming loan limits, however.

Ø  I am unemployed and without income. Am I HARP-eligible?

o    Yes, you do not need to be employed to use the HARP mortgage program. HARP applicants do not need to be “re-qualified” unless their new principal + interest payment increases by more than 20%. If the new payment increases by less than 20%, or falls, there is no requalification necessary.

Ø  What is the maximum income that a HARP applicant is allowed?

o    The HARP refinance program has no maximum income limits. You cannot “earn too much” to qualify. Click here to get a HARP rate quote.

Ø  So, I can’t earn too much money to use HARP 2.0?

o    No, there are no income restrictions for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). A similar-sounding program, though — Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) does have income limitations. Many people confuse the two.

Ø  Is HARP the same thing as HAMP?

o    No. HARP stands for Home Affordable Refinance Program. HAMP stands for Home Affordable Modification Program. Both programs are supported by the Making Home Affordable initiative, but that’s about where the similarities end.

Ø  I am now divorced. I want to remove my ex-spouse from the mortgage. Can I do that with HARP?

o    Yes. With HARP, a borrower on the mortgage can be removed via a HARP refinance so long as that person is also removed from the deed; and has no ownership interest in the home. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  Do HARP refinances use Loan-Level Pricing Adjustments (LLPAs)?

o    Yes, HARP mortgages use loan-level pricing adjustments, but LLPAs are dramatically reduced on a HARP refinance and, in some cases, waived entirely. For example, there are no LLPAs for fixed-rate HARP refinances with terms of 20 years or fewer. For all other loans, loan-level pricing adjustments are capped at 0.75 points.

Ø  Does a HARP Refinances require LLPAs for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage?

o    No, there are no LLPAs for 15-year fixed rate mortgage via the HARP Refinance program.

Ø  Is there a minimum credit score to use the HARP program?

o    No, there is no minimum credit score requirement with the HARP mortgage program, per se. However, you must qualify for the mortgage based on traditional underwriting standards.

Ø  Do I have to refinance my mortgage with my current lender?

o    No, you can do a HARP refinance with any participating lender you want. Click here for a HARP rate quote.

Ø  My current lender tells me that if I want to do a HARP refinance, I have to go through him. Is that true?

o    No, it’s not true that you can’t shop for the lowest HARP refinance rates available. You are allowed to do a HARP refinance with any HARP-participating lender.

Ø  My bank called me for a HARP refinance. The rate seems high. Should I shop around?

o    Yes, it’s always a good idea to shop for the best combination of mortgage rates and loan fees. However, be sure to shop with reputable lenders that have experience underwriting and approving HARP mortgages. HARP 2.0 is a new refinance program and not many banks have expertise with them. You don’t want to have your loan approval fall apart because your lender failed to underwrite to HARP mortgage standards.

Ø  Where can I get the lowest rates on HARP loans?

o    The HARP program is just like any other mortgage — you’ll want to shop around for the best rates and service. However, because HARP is a “specialty loan”, you may want to limit your shopping with reputable lenders that know how to specifically handle HARP loans. Click here to see HARP mortgage rates.

Ø  What are the costs to refinance via the HARP program?

o    Closing costs for HARP refinances should be no different than for any other mortgage. You may pay points, you may pay closing costs, you may pay neither. How your mortgage rate and loan fees are structured is between you and your loan officer. You can even opt for a zero-cost HARP refinance. Ask your loan officer about it.

Ø  What does the term “DU Refi Plus” mean?

o    “DU Refi Plus” is the brand name Fannie Mae assigned to its particular flavor of the HARP mortgage program. “DU” stands for Desktop Underwriter. It’s a software program that simulates mortgage underwriting. “Refi Plus” is a gimmicky-sounding term that could have been anything. The name has been trademarked, however.

Ø  What does the term “Relief Refinance” mean?

o    “Relief Refinance” is the Freddie Mac equivalent of DU Refi+.

Ø  For how long should I lock my mortgage rate via the HARP Program

o    Lock for 45 days, at minimum. This is because the HARP mortgage program, while streamlined for simplicity, still has some grey areas that can lead to delay. It’s better to have a rate lock that lasts too long than not long enough.

Ø  When does the HARP program end?

o    If you are HARP-eligible, you must close on your mortgage prior to January 1, 2014 –days from now.

Ø  How do I apply for the HARP program?

o    Use this form to get a rate quote. If the rate looks good, you can accept it. There is no fee for applying.

Ø Apply For Home Affordable Refinance Program


Call or email with any questions!  We are here to assist!


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Certified Mortgage Planner, NMLS # 330328

(509) 279-2320 Ext. 25 – Direct

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12209 E. Mission Avenue, Suite 7

Spokane Valley, WA  99206

Posted on March 14, 2012 at 10:23 am
Becky Ruark | Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,