December 4th, 2010 9:46 AM by Lehel S.
HOME buyers with sketchy credit who are unable to qualify for conventional mortgages may now find it more costly and difficult to obtain loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
New rules that went into effect this month adjust the two types of mortgage insurance paid by consumers for loans insured by theF.H.A., which is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
One change raises the annual insurance premium, paid monthly by the borrower, setting it at 0.85 percent to 0.9 percent of the loan balance, depending on the down payment or equity owned; the amount used to be 0.5 percent to 0.55 percent. The other change lowers the one-time upfront insurance premium that borrowers must pay, to 1 percent of the loan balance from 2.25 percent.
The upfront premium is paid in a lump sum at closing or added to the loan balance, unlike the monthly premium, which is paid over the life of the loan in addition to the interest and principal.
The decrease in the upfront premium, welcome though it might seem to some customers, does little to offset the effects of the monthly increase, which Andre Harriott, the president of the Access Mortgage Corporation in New Haven, Conn., called “really pretty hefty.”
“Everyone is really living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.
F.H.A. loans are usually taken out by buyers who cannot qualify under the stiffer down-payment requirements of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the government-controlled buyers of loans. F.H.A. requires 3.5 percent, while Fannie Mae typically requires 5 to 15 percent or more, depending on the type of loan.
The changes, under an example provided by the F.H.A., mean that a borrower who puts 3.5 percent down on a $154,000 house with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5 percent (such a consumer typically earns a gross annual income of $54,000, according to the agency) and who finances the upfront premium into the loan will see monthly mortgage payments, including taxes, interest and the two insurance premiums, rise to $1,238 from $1,205. The example is based on median data, including property taxes put at about 2.5 percent of home value. That increase includes the drop in the upfront mortgage insurance, to $1,486 from $3,344 — but also includes the rise in the monthly insurance premium, to $111 from $68.
Last August, President Obama signed into law a bill authorizing the F.H.A. to increase premiums to shore up its insurance funds; the agency had been authorized to raise the annual premium to as much as 1.55 percent.
Conventional loans, which conform to Fannie and Freddie underwriting guidelines, do not require upfront mortgage insurance. But some may require monthly private mortgage insurance, if the borrower puts less than 20 percent down toward the purchase, or has less than 20 percent equity in a refinancing.
F.H.A. borrowers, meanwhile, can stop paying the monthly mortgage insurance only after five years and when their loan-to-value ratio reaches 78 percent, at which point they have 22 percent equity in their home.
F.H.A. loans are typically offered by niche direct lenders, and because of the insurance, they often carry interest rates equal to or slightly below those of conventional loans.
In October, the F.H.A. set a minimum FICO score of 500 for borrowers who want an F.H.A.-insured loan — the first time a minimum was set. It also introduced a new minimum down payment of 10 percent for borrowers with FICO scores below 580. (Those above 580 still pay a minimum 3.5 percent.)
The issue for the F.H.A, Mr. Harriott said, is that the realm of borrowers has widened. “We see executives of little companies, teachers, people making $200,000 a year, doing an F.H.A. loan, because they’ve gotten into a financial situation,” he said, adding that F.H.A. loans are perceived as safe by investors because of the insurance.