Maximum FHA Loan Limits Restored To $729,750

FHA Loan Limits RestoredAfter a brief return to lower, pre-2009 levels, FHA loan limits have been restored. As signed into law last Friday, maximum FHA loan limits are — once again — as high as $729,750.

The move creates additional mortgage financing possibilities in more than 650 U.S. counties, and promises to increase the FHA’s mortgage market share, which has grown from 6% in 2007 to roughly 30% today.

The change in FHA loan limits also marks the first time that FHA loan limits exceed those of conventional mortgage-backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Conventional loans remain capped at a maximum of $625,500.

For home buyers nationwide, FHA-insured mortgage offer several advantages over comparable conventional loans, the most commonly cited of which is that FHA-insured loans require a down payment of just 3.5 percent.

FHA-insured mortgages carry other advantages, too, however.

First, FHA home loans are not subject to loan-level pricing adjustments (LLPA). This means that, all things equal, buyers and would-be refinancers with credit scores below 740; or, who live in multi-unit homes; or, who have high loan-to-values are not subject to additional loan fees as a conventional mortgage applicant might.

Second, after 6 months of on-time payments, FHA-backed homeowners are eligible for the FHA Streamline Refinance. The FHA Streamline Refinance is among the simplest loan products for which to qualify with no appraisal required. Even if you’re “underwater” on your mortgage, you can still be streamline-eligible.

And, lastly, at least in today’s market, FHA mortgage rates are below those of the conventional market.

The downside of FHA financing, however, is that all FHA mortgages require mortgage insurance and FHA mortgage rates are often higher versus a comparable conventional loan. This means that, although its mortgage rate may be lower, the payment for an FHA home loan may be higher as compared to a Fannie Mae mortgage with similar credit traits.

FHA loans aren’t always optimal, but with higher FHA loan limits, expect the FHA’s market share to increase.

Check your local FHA loan limit at the HUD website.

Conforming Loan Limits Drop In High-Cost Areas

Conforming Loan Limits lowered in 2011

For homeowners in high-cost areas nationwide, conforming and FHA loan limits have dropped by as much as 14 percent.

Effective October 1, 2011, the temporary mortgage loan limits that allowed for non-jumbo loan sizes of up to $729,750 are no longer.

$729,750 is above the “normal” loan limit of $417,000.

The elevated limits were put in place in 2008 as the economy and financial sector entered its crisis. At the time, there was little private money to serve buyers and would-be refinancers whose loan sizes exceeded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s maximum $417,000 loan limits.

For most people whose loan sizes exceeded that threshold, mortgage financing was unavailable. There were no lenders to back the loan size.

This was of particular importance in places such as New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. where home prices routinely top $1 million. For people in these areas, unless they had a downpayment that could lower their respective loan sizes to $417,000 or lower, mortgages were mostly unavailable.

Congress recognized this and, as a result, gave Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac temportary authorization to purchase and securitize home loans of up to $729,750 in value, depending on where the subject property was located.

The program helped housing, leading Congress to pass more permanent, location-specific loan limits. Later that same year, Congress passed the Housing and Recovery Act of 2009 which, in part, made high-cost loan limit pricing permanent, albeit at $625,500.

The $729,750 temporary limits expired Friday, September 30, 2011. Today, the maximum allowable conforming loan size is $625,500.

If you live in a high-cost area, therefore, take note. Mortgage rates may be low, but the amount of loan for which you qualify may be less than you expect, and you may find yourself ineligible.

The complete list of high-cost areas is available online.

Temporary Conforming Loan Limits Expire September 30, 2011

Conforming Loan Limits lowered in 2011If you live in a high-cost area, keep an eye on your calendar. Effective October 1, 2011, temporary conforming loan limits will be lowered nationwide. Perhaps by as much as 14 percent.

These limits range up to $729,750 currently.

“Temporary loan limits” were enacted as part of the government’s 2008 economic stimulus package. At the time, the financial sector was entering its crisis and private mortgage lending had all but disappeared. Financing was scarce for both homeowners and home buyers for whom loan sizes exceeded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s national $417,000 limit — even for those with excellent credit and income.

The issue was exacerbated in places like New York City where local home prices routinely topped $1 million. Buyers unable or unwilling to bring a substantial downpayment to closing (i.e. $600,000 or more) found themselves without financing.

The February 2008 package addressed this issue, using a math formula to change loan limits nationwide. The government assigned to each U.S. metropolitan area a temporary, new loan size limit equal to 25% greater than its respective median home sale price, not to fall below $417,000, and not to exceed $729,750.

Then, later that same year, the Housing and Recovery Act made “high-cost areas” permanent, but with a reduced 15% increase to median home prices, and loan sizes not to exceed $625,500.

These new limits take effect October 1, 2011 — one day after the temporary limits expire.

If you live in a high-cost area, therefore, take note. Mortgage rates may be low, but the amount of loan for which you qualify may be less than you expect, and you may find yourself ineligible.

Whether you’re planning a refinance or a purchase, keep an eye on the calendar.

The complete list of high-cost areas is available online.