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Obama reveals new refinance rules at start of Western trip

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:27 PM EDT, Mon October 24, 2011
President Obama speaks Monday in Las Vegas to outline a program to help homeowners refinance to avoid foreclosure.
President Obama speaks Monday in Las Vegas to outline a program to help homeowners refinance to avoid foreclosure.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama announces changes in the Home Affordable Refinance Program
  • He will tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"
  • President will also visit Denver later in the week

Las Vegas (CNN) -- President Barack Obama traveled to Las Vegas on Monday to launch a Western trip that mixes campaigning with presidential business -- and an appearance on "The Tonight Show."

After a campaign event at The Bellagio hotel and casino Monday afternoon, Obama met with homeowners at a private residence to announce new efforts to help homeowners with refinancing.

The government's Home Affordable Refinance Program will be changed to make it easier for homeowners to capitalize on current low interest rates by refinancing old, high-interest mortgages.

The new rules will allow homeowners who owe more than 125% of the market value of their homes to get the new loans.

"So let me just give you an example. If you've got a $250,000 mortgage at 6 percent interest rates, but the value of your home has fallen below $200,000, right now you can't refinance. You're ineligible," Obama said, according to a copy of his remarks released by the White House.

"But that's going to change. If you meet certain requirements, you will have the chance to refinance at lower rates, which could save you hundreds of dollars a month, and thousands of dollars a year on mortgage payments."

In addition, Obama told the gathering,"there are going to be lower closing costs, and certain refinancing fees will be eliminated -- fees that can sometimes cancel out the benefits of refinancing altogether." The changes also will allow consumers to shop around for better rates beyond their original lenders, he said.

Learn why the program probably won't help the real estate market

The president then traveled to Los Angeles, where he was expected to deliver remarks at two more campaign events.

Obama's plan for struggling homeowners
New help for 'underwater' homeowners

On Tuesday, Obama will tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," according to the White House.

The last time the president appeared on the show, in March 2009, he caused controversy by attempting to poke fun at his poor bowling skills -- evident during a 2008 campaign stop. He told Leno he bowled 129 in the White House bowling alley and said his bowling skills were "like Special Olympics or something."

Before the show aired, the president called Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver to apologize, White House officials said, and stress his intention was not to humiliate the disabled. Shriver called Obama's apology "sincere and heartfelt," but noted in a written response, "This is a teachable moment for our country."

After the "Tonight Show" taping, Obama will travel to San Francisco for a fundraiser, according to the White House. On Tuesday night, he will be in Denver to push his jobs agenda. Other private fundraisers will also be sprinkled in, officials said.

A Democratic official estimates the campaign will haul in more than $4 million from six fundraisers in three states.

It's the second time in less than a month that Obama has headed west to push for jobs and raise campaign cash.

A senior campaign official noted the importance of spending time in the region, saying the "campaign has already established an extensive operation in Western states."

And they expect to make "heavy investments there."

The official singled out Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona, where the campaign has offices and field staff.

In 2008 Obama won decisively in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, but lost to Republican John McCain in McCain's home state of Arizona.

This time around the economy remains under heavy downward pressure despite efforts by the Obama administration to turn things around.

In Nevada, home prices have plummeted by 53% since the peak, and according to online real estate site Zillow, 85% of the state's homeowners owe more than their homes are worth.

At his fundraiser at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas Monday, the president acknowledged that "things are tough right now," but he reminded the audience of some 300 supporters of his accomplishments.

"As tough as things are right now, we were able to stabilize this economy and make sure it didn't go into a great depression," the president said.

While the campaign is targeting key Western states, officials realize every vote will be critical.

"Our goal in 2011 is to build the biggest organization possible to compete on the widest playing field possible in 2012," the campaign official said.

CNN's Alex Mooney, Dan Lothian, Lesa Jansen and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.

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