mortgage illustration on a blue background

The HARP program was created in response to the 2008 housing crisis and helped homeowners avoid foreclosure by refinancing their underwater mortgages. The end of this temporary measure means there is now an increased need for harp replacement programs that will fill up any gaps left behind for struggling families.

If you are looking to sell your property or buy a second home, contact us today to find out the best options for you.

What is HARP?

The Home Affordable Refinance Program or HARP for short was created by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in 2009 to help struggling homeowners keep their homes and refinance upside-down “negative equity” loans. Negative Equity measures how much of a difference there is between your balance owed on a loan versus what something actually costs; if you owe $200 but have only sold it at cost ($160), then that would mean 25% negative equity!

HARP expired in 2018 but there have been replacement programs that should benefit struggling homeowners.

What are some HARP Replacement Programs?

When the housing crisis hit, many homeowners were left struggling. In HARP’s absence Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came up with two programs to help these people: The Fannie Mae High Loan-to-Value (LTV) Refinance Option (HIRO), which gives them an opportunity for a better future by refinancing their homes; and the Enhanced Relief Refinancing program (FMERR).

Fannie Mae’s Refinance Option with a High Loan-to-Value (LTV) has been dubbed HIRO. The HIRO program allows homeowners with Fannie Mae-serviced loans to restructure even if their loan debt exceeds the value of their house. The HIRO scheme also allows for manual underwriting to assist upside-down homeowners in unique situations.

The Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance (FMERR) was created for underwater borrowers with a Freddie Mac-serviced loan. It can assist homeowners to profit from reduced payments or speedier payback without requiring a minimum credit rating.

The programs help homeowners with underwater mortgages by accomplishing one (or more) of the following goals:

A lower payment, a shorter loan term, or an interest rate that is more reasonable.

Fannie Mae High Loan-to-Value Refinance Option

You may be able to get a lower interest rate, shorter repayment term, and/or more cash for your home when you refinance through the Fannie Mae high loan-to-value refinance option.

It benefits people who are up -to date on their mortgage payments but whose LTV ratio is higher than what’s allowed in traditional loans  With this type of transaction there can also be an improvement with regard to insurance coverage which will help protect against loss due primarily from flooding events.

The minimum LTV ratio on a one-unit home with this option is 97.01%. The requirements vary depending on whether it’s your primary or secondary property, and also how many units there are in the building. For example, if your property is worth $200,000 and you have $5,980 in equity, you would be qualified for this loan.

The new loan replaces your old one, so you don’t need to get mortgage insurance again if it was previously purchased. In addition, the documentation standards around verifying income and assets are more relaxed than what’s required for a conventional refinancing project as well!

The advantage of refinancing through HARP is that you can do it as many times and in whatever amount necessary. That said there’s a downside: if your original loan came with Fannie Mae’s high-interest rate then this option won’t be available.

Qualifying for HIRO

Your mortgage must be held by Fannie Mae to be eligible for the Fannie Mae High LTV Refinance Option (HIRO). Apart from that, Fannie’s HIRO criteria are quite close to Freddie’s FMERR standards.

  • Your current loan must have been in place for at least 15 months.
  • Your existing loan must have started on or after October 1, 2017, to qualify.
  • You must not have had any late payments in the previous six months, and no more than once in the previous year.

For a single-family, owner-occupied home, Fannie Mae demands a minimum LTV ratio of 97.01 percent. When it comes to 2–4 unit homes, however, the High–LTV Refinance Option is a little more liberal than FMERR. To qualify, you must have a minimum LTV of 75.01 percent.

Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance

The Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance program is a great option for homeowners who have little equity in their homes and want to refinance but are not eligible because of high LTV ratios. This mortgage benefit from the government-sponsored agency can help with your monthly payment while giving you more flexibility on what type of rate plan works best!

With Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance, you can enjoy a low LTV ratio on your home purchase. The minimum for this program is 97.01%. It will differ depending on how many units are in the property and whether it’s your primary or secondary residence.

This program is a great option for people who are looking to move on from their mortgages without having the expense of new insurance. You won’t need as much documentation relating to income or assets, and there’s no upfront payment required!

You may refinance your mortgage as many times as you like with this Freddie Mac scheme, whereas HARP only allows you to do so once. However, if you were a HARP beneficiary, you won’t be eligible to refinance under the Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance.

Qualifying for FMERR

Your current mortgage must be owned by Freddie Mac in order to qualify for FMERR (Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance). This loan is designed for homeowners that have a high loan-to-value ratio. That implies you must have an LTV greater than Freddie’s minimum, which is 97.01 percent for a single-unit primary property.

Furthermore, the FMERR guidelines specify:

  • Your current loan must have been in place for at least 15 months.
  • Your existing loan must have started on or after November 1, 2018, to qualify.
  • You must have made no late payments in the previous six months and just one in the previous year.

Owners of second houses, investment properties, and owner-occupied residences are all eligible for the FMERR program. It may also be used to refinance a house that has one, two, three, or four units.

Fixed-rate mortgages have no maximum LTV. The maximum LTV for FMERR is 105 percent if your present loan is an ARM.

How to Apply for HARP Replacement Programs?

a man filling a form with a black pen for a Harp Replacement Program

The Fannie Mae HIRO mortgage program or FMERR is a government-sponsored program that helps individuals who are struggling financially. There are four steps you can take to apply for this loan, and if accepted will be eligible based on income requirements at the time of application (low-interest rate).

Note: If your existing loan was refinanced under the HARP program, you will not qualify for either program.


Verify that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is servicing your existing loan. This is how you do it:

  • Use the Fannie Mae loan lookup tool or call 800-2FANNIE to find more about a loan.
  • Use the Freddie Mac loan lookup tool or call 800-FREDDIE to find out more about a loan (press 2 for a customer service representative)


The process of finding the best mortgage rates is a long and tedious one. You want to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth, so it pays off in time! Your current lender might already know who backs up each individual loan on file with them – start there first before going any further away from these people as they most likely will offer competitive terms.


Look for a lender that provides HARP replacement. Get offers from alternative lenders who offer HARP replacement plans after you’ve established which agency services your loan (you’ll need to ask them when you call them). Because lenders will only contact you based on the information you provide, a mortgage rate comparison tool saves time. Choose the one with the lowest rates and fees once you’ve examined all of the numbers.


Fill out a loan application and follow the instructions provided by your loan officer. Lenders who provide HARP replacement loans are primarily concerned with the value of your refinancing and how effectively you’ve handled your mortgage payments in the previous year. They’ll check your payment history and credit rating before approving the loan and giving you a rate.


Are the HARP replacement programs reliable?

Yes, the FMERR and HIRO HARP replacement programs are managed by legal mortgage lenders who are licensed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Mortgage lenders all throughout the country offer these plans.

Is it possible to refinance my HARP loan?

According to Fannie and Freddie’s criteria, if you utilized the HARP refinancing program in the past, you are not eligible to use the HIRO or FMERR programs.

What is the credit score requirement for HARP replacement programs?

There is no official minimum credit score for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s programs. Mortgage lenders, on the other hand, are free to set their own credit requirements. If your credit score is an issue, find out what lenders want for FMERR or HIRO before applying.

Refinance options available today might help homeowners who are having difficulty making ends meet. Refinancing can help consumers lock in a lower rate and monthly payment in the long term because mortgage rates are still at record lows.

Now is the time to see if you qualify for a mortgage refinance.

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