Realtors Offer Support for Bill to Help Responsible Homeowners Refinance

May 24, 2012

A proposed bill to streamline and align the refinance processes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may soon make it easier for homeowners who are current on their mortgage payments but who have been previously unable to refinance to finally take advantage of record low interest rates.

NAR President Moe Veissi testified May 24 before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in support of the “The Responsible Homeowner Refinancing Act of 2012,” introduced in Congress earlier this month by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)

“Eliminating the refinancing barriers homeowners face with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans will help bring them relief by lowering monthly payments and reducing the risk of default,” said Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami.

NAR supports the “Responsible Homeowner Refinancing Act” because it offers relief to responsible homeowners who have good credit and consistently meet their mortgage obligations, but who have been unable to refinance into lower interest rates because of constraints in Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s mortgage refinance guidelines.

Veissi testified that streamlining the process and improving access to simple, low-cost refinancings will help put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of hardworking families who have stayed current on their mortgage payments and help boost the nation’s economy. Refinancing into more affordable mortgages will also go a long way to helping homeowners avoid foreclosure and aid in the recovery of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he said.

Veissi said that while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have recently made improvements to their refinancing guidelines, the legislation will help codify many of the those improvements and remove additional barriers that are preventing borrowers from currently refinancing their loans.

The proposed legislation would extend streamlined refinancings; waive loan-to-value ratios for existing, well-performing loans; make refinancings more affordable by eliminating up-front fees and appraisal costs; improve competition for lenders looking to compete with the existing mortgage servicer; and establish penalties for second lien holders and mortgage insurers who block the refinance process. Veissi said the changes would extend refinancing opportunities to many underwater borrowers and help alleviate existing housing cost pressures and stimulate the economy.

In his testimony, Veissi also called on Congress to eliminate the use of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee fees, or g-fees, as a means to pay for non-housing programs. He said Realtors were strongly opposed to the use of a 10-basis point increase last year to pay for a two-month extension of payroll tax benefits, which will impact borrowers for the next 10 years who are looking to refinance their mortgages.

“We applaud Sens. Menendez and Boxer for not utilizing the guarantee fee as a pay-for to support the proposed legislation, which makes refinances more attractive by removing costs barriers associated with the process. Increasing the g-fee, which is passed on to consumers through higher interest rates, is counter-productive and effectively adds additional cost barriers,” Veissi said.

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