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HARP loan extended through 2017, offering relief to underwater homeowners

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(Read caption) Nicole Caverly stands in front of her home in the Piedmont Park neighborhood in Apopka, Fla. Caverly began renting in the Piedmont Park neighborhood this year. The previous owners lost the three-bedroom house to foreclosure in 2015.

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U.S. homeowners who are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments have more time to take advantage of a government refinance program. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has extended the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP loan, through Sept. 30, 2017.

The FHFA estimates that over 300,000 U.S. homeowners whose mortgages are underwater — they owe more than their home is worth — could still refinance through HARP to lower their monthly payments and avoid foreclosure.

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer a new refinance program for borrowers with high loan-to-value ratios beginning October 2017, according to the FHFA. Meanwhile, the HARP loan, which was set to expire at the end of 2016, will “create a bridge” to the new refinance program, the agency said in a news release.

The FHFA says that “the new refinance offering will provide much-needed liquidity for borrowers who are current on their mortgage, but are unable to refinance through traditional programs.”

Over 3.4 million homeowners have used HARP to refinance their mortgages since 2009, when the program was launched in response to the housing crisis, according to the FHFA.

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

The article HARP Loan Extended Through September 2017 originally appeared on NerdWallet.