Thursday, October 11, 2012

Refinancing the Mortgage With HARP

A few years back we refinanced our mortgage to get a lower interest rate.  At the time, we were absolutely thrilled to get a 4.875% mortgage.  I never thought I’d see rates that low.  The only drawback was that we’d stretch the loan back out to another 30 year term.  We decided to mitigate that by paying extra all year long.  We did that by signing up for the free biweekly payment program at our credit union and also added another $300 a month on top of that.  That got us back on track to pay our mortgage off much sooner than the 30 year term.

I recently started receiving offers in the mail to refinance our house because our mortgage was backed by Fannie Mae and was eligible to participate in the HARP program (if needed).  As soon as I opened each letter, I put it right in to the shredder though because I don’t trust mailings like that.  It wasn’t until I got a letter from my credit union saying that my loan was backed by Fannie Mae and I might be eligible for a lower interest rate that I really started thinking about it.  When I looked in to the current rates at my credit union, I was disappointed to see that they were significantly higher than other rates I’d seen.  Instead of going through the credit union, I remembered that I’d read about Costco aggressively offering mortgage services through a select group of banks and institutions so I gave them a try.  It turns out that Costco has, once again, squeezed many of the fees out of the process.  In order to work with Costco, banks had to agree to a $600 cap on loan costs for executive members and a $750 cap for regular members.  Normally most banks would charge a 1% loan origination fee so this saved us a nice chunk of money.  Because HARP is involved, I was also happy to hear that I didn’t have to pay for an appraisal.  This saved us another $400.  All in all, it was very cheap to go through the process.  It was also very painless.  All the interaction happened through email and they are going to come to my house to handle the signing of the documents.  The best part about all of this is that we got a 3.625% interest rate on the new mortgage.

While I’ve been really pleased with the whole process, I was kind of shocked at the amount of detail they wanted us to provide.  We both have credit scores over 800, flawless credit, no debt other than the mortgage, and have really good salaries.  Based on the amount of information we had to provide, you’d never believe we were a good credit risk.

In order to process the loan, here’s what we had to provide:
  • 3 pay stubs for each of us
  • 2010 tax return
  • 2011 tax return
  • Proof of insurance on primary home
  • Proof of insurance on vacation home
  • Latest bank statement
  • Proof that home equity loan has a zero balance
  • Homeowners Association Bill
  • W2 for 2010 for each of us
  • W2 for 2011 for each of us
  • Settlement statement from last refinance a few years ago
Like I said, you’d think we had bad credit or something.  Things have definitely changed since the high flying days of 2008.  If they are doing this much due diligence with us, I’m sure there are a LOT of people that are out of luck when it comes to getting a mortgage.

Anyway, we are glad we’re doing it.  The 3.625% rate is unbelievable.  Between the rate and putting an extra $20,000 in cash to pay down the balance even further, we’re going to see our payment drop by $400 a month.  We’ll actually be paying more than that because we want to pay the house off much earlier than 30 years but it’s nice to know that if we ever lost our jobs or fell on hard times, we’d have a much lower mortgage payment to deal with.