HARP Refinance: The Replacement Programs

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 11, 2023

When you think about getting a mortgage loan, banks and credit unions are probably the first sources of credit that come to mind. But they aren’t the only potential lenders. Mortgages are also offered by savings and loan institutions, consumer finance companies and other entities. It can take a lot of reading and research to understand your mortgage the first time, and a refinance of the same property can be completely overwhelming.

In March 2009, the federal government started the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to provide refinance to homeowners with limited equity, no equity or negative equity. It was a great relief, but HARP expired in December 2018 after serving almost 3.5 million borrowers. But if you’re a low-equity homeowner, you could still be eligible to refinance using Fannie Mae’s HARP replacement — HIRO, short for High LTV Refinance Option.

Fannie Mae’s High LTV Refinance Option

As of 2023, HIRO provides the best refinance options if you’re underwater on your present mortgage but need a refinance mortgage with lower rates, even though you may not have enough equity. 

HIRO benefits you by reducing your monthly principal and interest payment. Your HIRO refinance includes a lower interest rate, shorter amortization terms and more stable mortgage products. It allows transferring mortgage insurance to the new loan and simplified documents, with both desktop and manual underwriting options.

Freddie Mac’s Enhanced Relief Refinance

Another mortgage refinancing option is the Freddie Mac’s relief refinance — available if you already own a Freddie Mac loan. Like HARP, Freddie Mac’s refinance doesn’t use the maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratio to help refinance despite your situation.

Additional advantages include no minimum credit score requirement, no appraisal report in many cases and a maximum debt to income ratio. Income verification is relaxed, and you don’t need financial reserves at closing. It could be your best place to refinance a mortgage if you don’t qualify for the standard refinance programs.

Best Mortgage Lender for Refinancing

It pays to do your research to figure out the best mortgage company. We’ve done the legwork for you — see Benzinga’s top picks to give you a head start in your mortgage refinancing search.  

Quicken Loans
Best For
  • Online Service

1. Best for Online Mortgage: Quicken Loans

Quicken Loans started as a disruptor to the mortgage industry in 1985 and is now the largest online mortgage lender operating in all 50 states. It also is the largest lender for retail mortgages. 

Quicken Loans boasts competitive rates and customizable loan terms. Continually ranked as a top lender for customer satisfaction, it provides loans at equity of as low as 0%. 

CrossCountry Mortgage
Best For
  • Self-employed Borrowers
securely through CrossCountry Mortgage's website

2. Best for Bank Statement Only Loans: CrossCountry Mortgage

CrossCountry Mortgage doesn’t use income or employment documents as a qualifying factor. Instead, you’ll submit your bank statement so CrossCountry can see you have the means to repay your loan. The bank statement can be from a personal or business account.

A credit history, current credit report check and your appraised property value come into play when you refinance with CrossCountry. Customer reviews report fast closing processes and stellar communication with borrowers. It provides loans up to $2 million, including FHA and condo loans. 

CrossCountry Mortgage is licensed to lend in California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

3. Best for Long-Term Loans: CitiMortgage

CitiMortgage is a worldwide investment banking and financial services firm of the parent company Citigroup. It offers a 40-year, fixed-rate refinance, which no other lender provides. 

You can apply over the phone, online or by visiting a local branch. CitiMortgage requires a minimum credit score of 620 and a maximum debt to income ratio of 50% with 10.1% equity. 

4. Best for Online Applications: Bank of America

Bank of America serves around 47 million customers and small businesses in all 50 states. It offers 15- and 30-year fixed, jumbo, adjustable, FHA and VA loans.

Bank of America operates on a minimum credit score of 620 and a maximum debt to income ratio of 55%. It requires 5% equity for most loans with discounts available for preferred bank customers.

Research Before You Refinance

Mortgage rates are still at a historic low — it is a great time to consider refinancing. If you currently have an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM, you can save yourself money and worry by switching to a fixed-rate now. Do your research and find the lender that can help you save and meet your needs, both now and in the future. 

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I get pre-approved?


First, you need to fill out an application and submit it to the lender of your choice. For the application you need 2 previous years of tax returns including your W-2’s, your pay stub for past month, 2 months worth of bank statements and the lender will run your credit report. Once the application is submitted and processed it takes anywhere from 2-7 days to be approved or denied. Check out our top lenders and lock in your rate today!


How much interest will I pay?


Interest that you’ll pay is based on the interest rate that you received at the time of loan origination, how much you borrowed and the term of the loan. If you borrow $208,800 at 3.62% then over the course of a 30-year loan you will pay $133,793.14 in interest, assuming you make the monthly payment of $951.65. For a purchase mortgage rate get a quote here. If you are looking to refinance you can get started quickly here.


How much should I save for a down payment?


Most lenders will recommend that you save at least 20% of the cost of the home for a down payment. It is wise to save at least 20% because the more you put down, the lower your monthly payment will be and ultimately you will save on interest costs as well. In the event that you are unable to save 20% there are several home buyer programs and assistance, especially for first time buyers. Check out the lenders that specialize in making the home buying experience a breeze.


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1Based on Quicken Loans data in comparison to public data records.

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