In this election year with housing still securing a sore spot in the national economy, each presidential candidate is expected to have a plan, or at least some key messaging about what's to be done. President Obama's plan is loud and clear: Let's make refinancing easier for responsible Americans. It would put more money in their pockets and free up cash to flow more freely into the rest of the economy. And it would help underwater homeowners come up for some air.
"We all stand to benefit by simply refinancing."
That's the message on a full-blown refinance section on WhiteHouse.gov dedicated solely to the topic of refinancing as the key to helping Americans and the economy by extension.
The administration estimates the average homeowner could save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today's low interest rates. What stands in the way for many, however, are complicated application processes, eligibility requirements, costly appraisals and the fact that many homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth.
Obama essentially wants to remove all the complexities that currently stand in the way and make it easier for responsible homeowners to refinance. The current proposal would establish a quick and easy process for borrowers who are current on their mortgage payments by eliminating tax forms, appraisals and other hurdles.
For underwater borrowers, Obama says the program is designed to help them as well. There's not a lot of detail about how this would be different from HARP, except for one of the expert videos that alludes to the notion that lenders would have to offer the same low market rate interest rates to underwater borrowers.
The plan is not new, of course. The President previously has talked about it in the press and outlined key specs about how such a program would work. But with elections getting closer, I suspect this will be mentioned with more gusto as a viable option for helping American families.
The refinance plan is very careful to describe eligible borrowers and homeowners as "responsible" and those who've continued to pay on their mortgages through the downturn and recession. This is the deliberate attempt to thwart the impending political response of this being a taxpayer "bailout" in the same vein as that used for big banks, AIG and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
I think Obama's administration is also trying to make a valid point: Plenty of responsible homeowners out there really would love to refinance and save hundreds of dollars in the process, but can't. Let's reward them by at least making it simpler.
In doing that, we can help the economy as a whole recover a bit faster.