A sweeping change in the FHA condominium approval process will drastically affect the availability of financing for condominium projects. On November 2nd of this year, FHA will remove all condominium projects from its approved list that have not been approved within the last two years. To be eligible for (The Condo Conundrum) FHA financing, condo projects will have to go through a re-approval process. Spot loan approvals will no longer be possible as the entire project must now be approved. The immediate effect of this is that there will be very few condos available for FHA financing until the projects begin to find their way back onto the approved list. Many formerly approved projects, however, may not qualify for re-approval. This will not only impact the availability of FHA financing but VA as well. Although VA maintains its own list of approved condos, it also accepts any project listed on the FHA approved list. The FHA list has always been more extensive than VA’s.
There will be two ways that a Condominium project can be added back to the approved list. Lenders can approve projects through their DE underwriters or the projects can apply directly with FHA for approval. I have yet to speak with a lender who has said they will be re-approving projects. This means, most likely, that the projects and their HOA’s will have to work directly with FHA. The question is, “How many will do so?”.
The Conventional loan market for condos is also getting very restrictive. Several of the major Private Mortgage Insurance companies have pulled out of the condo market altogether. Typically these companies would insure the lender against loss for loans in excess of 80% loan to value making it possible for buyers to buy with less down payment. Even though there are a couple of companies still willing to insure high balance condo loans, their underwriting requirements are severe……a minimum Fico score of 760 and maximum debt ratio of 41%. The project has to be stellar in all aspects as well (owner occupancy, cash reserves, no special assessments or litigation, etc.).
So therein lays the conundrum. How do you buy a condominium in today’s market? The options are narrowing. You can still purchase properties on the current FHA approved list until November 2nd, but the escrow must close by November 30th. Spot approvals are also available but must be expedited to close by the deadline. If you intend to purchase a condo with conventional financing, be prepared for at least a 20% down payment. As for FHA, I have heard rumors that they may postpone the November 2nd deadline once again, but, if not, we will just have to wait and see how long it takes for the condo projects to find their way back to the approved list.
Please pass this article about The Condo Conundrum on to others. 🙂
UPDATE: Please read my updated comment below. I received a very good question from one of our readers.
UPDATE: FHA has extended this to December 7th, 2009. Once we get a little closer we may see another extension or possibly a change in policy.