Wednesday, September 23, 2009
It may be a buyer's market for those looking to purchase a South Florida condominium, but a new FHA rule putting an end to "spot approvals" for home loans may burst the shopping bubble and make it much more difficult to qualify for a loan.
By extension, the same rule may also mean more bad news for condo sellers, already suffering through a bad economy which has sent property values into the Dumpster, since it impedes buyers' ability to purchase. And the financial pain could eventually spread to all Florida homeowners by way of higher property taxes, say experts.
What is happening: Beginning Nov. 1, a new Federal Housing Administration rule goes into effect that disallows a loan process called "spot approvals," which gave loan underwriters the authority to approve individual units rather than an entire building.
The reason such authority was so helpful to buyers is the cost and paperwork for a condo association to get an entire building approved by the FHA is onerous at best, costing tens of thousands of dollars for appraisals, structural engineering reports and other reports.
Spot approvals, in comparison, only require an association representative to spend 15 minutes filling out a single-page form. Those loans are prized by buyers because they generally have lower interest rates and require much lower down payments, about 3.5 percent of the purchase price compared with conventional bank loans, which may require up to 30 percent down.
Now, without spot approvals, condo buyers and owners will not be able to get an FHA loan for units in a non-approved building and will have to rely on conventional bank loans or pay cash, said Theresa M. Schmitz, a senior underwriter for Amerifirst in Fort Lauderdale.
"This poses a potential downward trend in condo values because many people can't afford to put such a large down payment down on a condo," Schmitz said. "And if there is a smaller pool of buyers, the market value of condos will decline even further and a condo unit will only be worth what a cash buyer is willing to pay for it."
Ripple effect: It also stands to compound the current real estate market problems that have caused cities to raise tax rates, Schmitz said. "Single family homeowners may think this doesn't affect them, but indirectly it will. When the condo assessed valuations plummet, our collective tax base will decline. Single family homeowners will pick up the slack with a hike in the millage rates and property taxes."
What you can do: Board members should check the federal Housing and Urban Development (the department that oversees the FHA) website https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/condlook.cfm to determine whether their condominium complex is on HUD's approved list.
Daniel Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4219 (Broward County) or 561-243-6686 (Palm Beach County). His condo column runs every Wednesday in the Local section and atsunsentinel.com/condos. Check out Daniel's Condos & HOAs blog for news, information and tips related to life in community associations at sunsentinel.com/condoblog You can also read his consumer column every Monday in Your Money and at sunsentinel.com/vasquez. The Sun Sentinel is hosting a Condos & HOAs Town Hall meeting on Oct. 29 at Nova Southeastern University. Submit a question for our panel of experts online athttp://www.sun-sentinel.com/condoquestions.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - High U.S. unemployment keeps pushing up the rate of mortgage delinquencies, which could in turn drive personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures, monthly data from the Equifax Inc credit bureau showed on Monday.
Among U.S. homeowners with mortgages, a record 7.58 percent were at least 30 days late on payments in August, up from 7.32 percent in July, according to the data obtained exclusively by Reuters.
August marked the fourth consecutive monthly increase in delinquencies, and the report showed an accelerating pace. By comparison, 4.89 percent of mortgages were 30 days past due in August 2008, while in August 2007, the rate was 3.44 percent, Equifax data showed.
The rate of subprime mortgage delinquencies now tops 41 percent, up from about 39 percent in each of the prior five months.
The results, which correlate with consumer bankruptcy filings, suggest U.S. homeowners remain under financial stress despite signs of improving sentiment and fundamentals in the U.S. housing market.
August bankruptcy filings were up 32 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 35 percent year-over-year increase in July.
Still, while more Americans were late with mortgage payments, they are keeping up with other bills. The proportion of credit card accounts at least 60 days past due was down in August for the third straight month, while subprime card delinquencies also fell.
That improvement in delinquency rates partly reflects risk-aversion among issuers, which have cut the number of cards by 82 million, or 19 percent, over the past year, while slashing credit limits by $721 billion, to about $3.6 trillion.
The number of new cards being issued is down even more dramatically. In June, 2.6 million new cards were issued, compared with 4.7 million a year earlier.
Lenders are increasingly targeting consumers with high credit scores, Equifax found. While in 2007, about one in five new cards went to people with a credit score above 760, such consumers account for two in five new cards in 2009. Equifax found similar trends in auto loans.
"The data from August further confirms that we're witnessing a dramatic change in consumer habits," said Dann Adams, president of Equifax's Consumer Information Solutions group.
Total consumer debt is down more than $300 billion, or almost 3 percent, from its peak in September 2008, Adams said, while the savings rate is nearing 5 percent, "a level we haven't seen in years."