The changes on FHA loans and how they will affect borrowers and sellers
What are they? Contributions that sellers kick in to help defray a buyer's costs. They can include closing costs, inspections, appraisals and free upgrades.
What's changing? The FHA proposes slashing allowable seller concessions in half, capping them at 3 percent of the home price instead of the current 6 percent.
Why? FHA analyses show a strong correlation between high seller concessions and high default rates, possibly because the concessions can lead to inflated home prices. The theory is that some sellers might make concessions only to add the cost to the price.
What does this mean to me? This buyer's perk will soon become less generous. The proposal does not ban concessions above 3 percent. But concessions exceeding 3 percent would result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the home's sales price and reduce the amount of the allowable loan.
What are they? Three-digit numbers that help lenders determine how likely a person is to pay back a loan in a timely manner. The FHA uses the most common scoring formula, called FICO, with scores ranging from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the better the rating.
What's changing? This year, the FHA plans to impose a minimum credit score requirement: 500. Borrowers with credit scores below 580 would have to make a down payment of at least 10 percent instead of the usual 3.5 percent minimum.
Why? Low-scoring borrowers default at a higher rate than more creditworthy ones. As of January, the percentage of FHA borrowers who were seriously delinquent was three times as high for borrowers with scores below 580 than for those with scores above 580.
What does this mean to me? Lenders are already imposing tougher credit score requirements on FHA borrowers than the agency is proposing, which could explain why only 1 percent of borrowers with FHA-insured single-family home loans have scores below 580.
What is it? Lenders must document information about the property (such as its value) and the borrower (such as income, debt, credit score) to assess whether the person is likely to repay the loan. Most lenders typically feed that information into an automated underwriting system for approval.
What's changing? High-risk borrowers whose loans were flagged by the automated system could soon be subjected to a more in-depth manual review by the lender's underwriting staff.
Why? The agency is trying to reduce its exposure to risk by limiting the discretion lenders have in approving loans.
What does it mean to me? Borrowers whose loans are manually underwritten would be required to have cash reserves equal to at least one monthly mortgage payment. Borrowers with credit scores below 620 would be more closely scrutinized. For instance, their overall debt would not be allowed to exceed 43 percent of their income.
What is it? A new program that allows borrowers current on their mortgage payments to refinance into an FHA loan if they are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.
What's changing? Borrowers who have no equity in their homes would be allowed to refinance into an FHA loan. The FHA would allow refinancing of the first mortgage only. If there is a second mortgage, the two loans combined cannot exceed the current value of the home by more than 15 percent once the first loan is refinanced.
Why? Many people are vulnerable to foreclosure because their home values have plummeted, making them unable to refinance or sell their properties if they lose their jobs or face a financial setback. This programs aims to help them.
What does it mean for me? Refinancing in this manner will probably hurt your credit, and qualifying won't be easy. The lender or investor who owns your existing mortgage must voluntarily reduce the amount owed on that loan by at least 10 percent. Also, you generally must have about 31 percent or more of your pretax income available for the new monthly payment for all mortgages on the property.