Homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages could get a second chance through a revamped refinance plan for announced today, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. The new plan includes several enhancements to what has been known as the HARP program, including allowing borrowers to refinance regardless of how far their home value has fallen. The plan requires that homeowners be current on their mortgage and that the mortgage must be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You can find details here, but note that the website hasn't yet been updated with new details. One of the key differences between the old and new programs is that eligibility won't be limited to those who owe only 125 percent or less of the value of their house on their mortgage. That's a meaningful change that will have a much bigger impact on the broader market. For many homeowners who are significantly underwater and needed to lower mortgage payment by refinancing into a loan with a lower rate, the only option has been to let their house go into foreclosure. These changes provide another important option at a time when mortgage rates have fallen to historic lows.


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September house price index from the University of St. Thomas