HARP 2.0, the expanded GSE refinancing program unveiled late last year, kicked into full speed during the first quarter with volumes doubling to 180,000 units compared to the prior period.

The program is geared to Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mortgagors with LTVs north of 80% who are having difficulty refinancing because of a lack of home equity.

In March alone, servicers completed 80,000 refinancings of Fannie/Freddie loans under the expanded Home Affordable Refinancing Program. The key to the program’s success: totally removing the LTV cap, allowing for loans with LTVs north of 125% to refinance.

A Federal Housing Finance Agency report released Friday shows that 4,400 borrowers with loan-to-value ratios above 125% were refinanced in the first quarter, including 2,900 in March alone.

The HARP charges approved by the FHFA and implemented by Fannie and Freddie during the winter have also boosted refis of GSE loans with LTVs greater than 105% and up to 125%.

Refinancings of loans in the 105%-125% bracket jumped from 13,100 in the fourth quarter to 36,850 in the first quarter. In March 18,700 loans in that bracket were refinanced.

The FHFA attributed the refi surge to the unbridled LTV caps, and the elimination or reduction of certain loan fees.

Friday’s report shows that total GSE refinancing volume increased only slightly from the fourth to the first quarter. Fannie and Freddie refinanced 1.18 million loans in the first quarter, compared to 1.03 million loans in the fourth quarter.

The FHFA report also shows that Freddie servicers completed 85,000 HARP refinancings in the first quarter with Fannie servicers completing 95,000.

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