The federal government's Home Affordable Mortgage Program has received a lot of press, but it's not the only program designed to help homeowners who are struggling to make their mortgage payments. Several state housing authorities have their own programs to provide relief to homeowners. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority (PHFA) has its own program, the Refinance to an Affordable Loan program, or REAL, which lets homeowners who can no longer make their mortgage payments refinance into new loans that come with lower monthly payments.
Determine if you qualify for the REAL program. To qualify, the combined gross annual income of all borrowers must be $120,000 or less. Homeowners must also be no more than 59 days past due on their existing mortgage loan and have a credit score of at least 620. Your total monthly debt can't be more than 50 percent of your gross monthly income.
Contact a participating Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority REAL lender if you do meet the qualifications of the program. You can find a list of these lenders at the web address of the housing finance authority, which is listed in the References section.
Tell your lender that you are interested in participating in the REAL mortgage refinance program. Explain to your lender that you are struggling to pay your mortgage bills. Also tell your lender why. Reasons might include job loss, a drop in annual income or a serious and costly illness.
Send your lender the paperwork it needs to verify your financial situation. This paperwork includes copies of your two most recent federal income tax returns, copies of your credit card and other loan statements, copies of your bank savings and checking accounts and copies of your retirement savings account statements.
Give your lender the OK to hire an appraiser to determine the value of your home. If your home's value has dropped, you might not have enough equity to qualify for a REAL finance.
Allow your lender to run a credit check on you. This gives them access to your credit score, a numerical representation of the way in which you've handled your finances over the years. If your score is too low--under 620--you won't qualify for a Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority refinance.
Set a closing date for your refinance if your lender approves it.
If you don't qualify for the REAL refinance program, you can still contact your current mortgage lender, or any other mortgage provider, and request a refinance.
Only work with lenders approved to participate in the REAL program by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority. Companies not approved by the authority can't offer REAL refinances.
- If you don't qualify for the REAL refinance program, you can still contact your current mortgage lender, or any other mortgage provider, and request a refinance.
- Only work with lenders approved to participate in the REAL program by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority. Companies not approved by the authority can't offer REAL refinances.
Don Rafner has been writing professionally since 1992, with work published in "The Washington Post," "Chicago Tribune," "Phoenix Magazine" and several trade magazines. He is also the managing editor of "Midwest Real Estate News." He specializes in writing about mortgage lending, personal finance, business and real-estate topics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Illinois.