Changes in FHA Loan Limits

As you may or may not know, unless Congress extends the expiration deadline, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan limits set in 2008 will drop significantly beginning October 1. Congress raised the loan limit amount in response to the housing crisis to help spur the homebuying market. FHA loans offer borrowers very competitive rates and terms, and they only require a 3.5% down payment. Allowable debt ratios are higher than the typical debt-ratio limits imposed for conventional loans, and there are no income limit qualifications, so more people can qualify for them.

If the loan limit drops on October 1, many California homebuyers will face higher down payments, higher mortgage rates and stricter loan qualification requirements. Borrowers seeking larger mortgages will have to apply for conventional loans or jumbo loans, which may be subject to higher interest rates and down payments.

1. LOWER LOAN LIMITS. The conforming loan limit determines the maximum mortgage amount that FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy or guarantee.

2. DROPS BY COUNTY. Under the new FHA loan limits, some counties will see significant drops in their loan limits. San Diego County will experience a $151,250 drop, Sonoma County a $141,550 reduction, while Orange and Los Angeles Counties will drop by $104,250.

3. JUMBO LOANS. The current FHA loan limit is $729,750. After October 1, that limit may drop to $625,500. Mortgage loans higher than that amount will be considered non-conforming jumbo loans, which typically have rates that are 0.875% to 1.5% higher than conforming rates, depending on the loan product, and require higher down payments.

4. MORE STRINGENT REQUIREMENTS. FHA loan requirements may allow for lower credit scores. So an applicant with a lower FICO score can still qualify for an FHA loan, even if they can’t for a conventional loan. Your clients may be able to obtain an FHA loan three years after defaulting or having a loan foreclosed.