In its last act as a semi-independent company, Fannie Mae altered mortgage guidelines for real estate investors last Friday. It was Fannie's 22nd update this year.
The first part of the guideline change limits the number of properties owned by any one person.
Fannie Mae will now decline any mortgage application for a second home or investment property if the mortgage applicant already finances, or will finance, more than 4 properties in total.
The former guidelines allowed for 10.
There is a loophole, however. Fannie Mae will not count properties against the 4-property limit if they are held in the name of a corporation. This holds even if the real estate investor is the sole owner of said corporation.
Investors, therefore, should consider moving their properties into a corporate structure to avoid triggering Fannie Mae's 4-property limit. Many take this step for liability and taxation reasons, but it's now a good idea for mortgage approval reasons, too.
The second part of the guideline change cannot be so easily avoided. Fannie Mae is assessing new, loan-to-value based loan fees on all investment property mortgages.
- Loan-to-value less than 75 percent : 1.75% loan fee
- Loan-to-value 75.01-80.00 percent : 3.00% loan fee
- Loan-to-value 80.01-90.00 percent : 3.75% loan fee
These fees are mandatory and are in addition to any whatever other risk-based loan fees Fannie Mae may assess. Currently, those fees amount to a half-percent at minimum for real estate investors.
Since its Fannie/Freddie takeover, government officials have not addressed whether mortgage guidelines will be rolled back to "a looser time". If they are, it would be a big deal for real estate investors because, as many are finding out, low rates don't matter much if you can't qualify for them.
If you're currently in the market for an investment property (or two), consider that it may be cheaper and simpler to purchase over the near-term versus the long-term. And consider moving your existing properties into a corporate structure first.