Video: Home Front: Obama's refinancing plan

SEATTLE - Last month, the Obama administration began shoring up the housing sector's foundation.

Now, related government agencies are starting to provide more details and take more action to keep interest rates low.

The economy is threatening Eric Dunkel's blueprint for financial stability in two ways. His building contractor work is slowing down, and he can't save money by refinancing his mortgage because he owes more than his home is worth.

Then his mortgage professional told him about President Obama's home refinance plan.

"You think that's not going to apply to me or if it did it wouldn't take effect for so long that it really wouldn't apply to you, but yeah, it's nice to see that something can actually be done," Dunkel said.

What's being done is a pending mortgage refinance for Dunkel's home - a rate cut from 1.5 percent to around 5 percent. That's just more than $300 a month extra in his pocket.

"It's nice, that just a little bit extra cushion with your bills every month," Dunkel said.

The file cabinets at Eric's lender have been bulging with refinance applications since mid-February, when the administration announced its loan modification and refinance plans, but the rush started last November when the government first started spending billions buying mortgage-backed securities.

It did it again March 18. The results so far are keeping interest rates right where the government - and consumers - want them: near historic lows.

"We'll see them bouncing around maybe somewhere between four and a half and five and a quarter, but generally we should see them in this range for the next few months or potentially for the end of the year," said Jason Bloom, of the Washington Association of Mortgage Professionals.

For the loan modification program, here's your checklist:

Did your loan originate on or before the first of this year?

Is your mortgage payment more than 31 percent of your gross pre-tax monthly income?

Is your payment not affordable due to a significant change in income or expenses?

For loan refinances: Is your loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?

Are you current on your mortgage payments?

Is the amount you owe about the same or slightly less than your home's value?

There may be other criteria that affects you, so take Dunkel's advice:

"The biggest thing for me is just having a really good relationship, an ongoing relationship with your mortgage person, and that's been the biggest help for me," he said.

It will be the biggest help to you, too, because not everyone wanting to take advantage of these new programs will be able to, so check with your mortgage professional.

These Web sites offer a good starting point: mortgage

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