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President Obama heads to Nevada with plan to improve HARP

President Barack Obama speaks on October 19, 2011 in North Chesterfield, Virginia.

Jeremy Hobson: President Obama will be in Nevada today, where 60 percent of homeowners are underwater. They owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The President is expected to unveil plans to help those underwater homeowners refinance at a lower interest rate.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: The White House wants more people to be able to take advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP. The president himself unveiled the program in early 2009, but HARP never took off.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the rules for HARP will be changed, eliminating limits on just how far underwater you can be to qualify. You still have to have a job and be current on your loan. But you won't have to go through an appraisal process, and loan fees for some borrowers will be dropped.

Mark Zandi is chief economist at Moody's Analytics. He says the revamping of HARP is a small step toward stabilizing the housing market.

Mark Zandi: We're not going to find a magic bullet so we've got to string together a number of these kinds of things that, when you it up, they make a difference. So this is a very positive step but we've got to take a lot more steps like this.

Zandi estimates that if interest rates say low, the changes being announced today could lead to more than a million additional refinanced loans.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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