Securing an FHA mortgage in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is about to get more expensive.
In a statement issued last Wednesday, the Federal Housing Authority outlined policy changes to its mortgage assistance program. The shift is meant to both reduce the government group's portfolio risk while strengthening its overall financials.
For consumers, the changes mean higher costs.
As listed in the official announcement, there are 3 major guideline updates for the FHA:
- Upfront mortgage insurance premiums are increasing to 2.25% from 1.75%
- Minimum downpayments for applicants with sub-580 FICOs are rising to 10 percent
- Seller concessions are being limited to 3%, down from today's allowable 6%
Furthermore, the FHA has appealed to Congress to raise an FHA borrowers' monthly mortgage insurance premiums.
To read the FHA's statement, it's clear what the group is trying to balance. On one side, the FHA wants to provide affordable financing to families that need it. That's its mission statement. On the other side, though, the FHA must manage the risk that comes with insuring lesser-quality loans.
To that end, the FHA is stepping up its enforcement of "bad lenders" in hopes of stopping problems where they start.
Also in its new policies, the FHA is introducing a "termination clause". If banks or loan officers that produce more than their fair share of bad loans, they lose their right to originate FHA mortgages.
As a result, homebuyers in Philadelphia and surrounding areas should expect tougher FHA underwriting in 2010. Not because the FHA says so, necessarily, but because banks don't want to do "bad loans". Lenders are incented to turn down at-risk applicants and, already, we're seeing examples of this. Despite FHA allowing 580 FICOs and lower, many banks have made 620 their minimum.
Some have other guideline overlays, too.
Even with these changes, the issues surrounding conventional loans made by lenders who are risk adverse and being scrutinized by federal regulators make FHA loans a pretty good alternative. Since the FHA's new guidelines don't go into effect until spring buyers have another reason to act quickly duting the next few months. First there was the tax credit program which ends April 30, 2010. Add to that the fact that between now and the spring, the old guidelines will apply. Therefore, if you know you're going to buy a home to take advantage of the tax credit, and you think you may need an FHA home loan in the next few months, consider moving up your time-frame.
If nothing else, you'll save some money at closing.