August 14, 2019
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release updated guidance Thursday on condominium financing insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a move designed to help more would-be buyers become eligible for a mortgage. Specifically, the new rules will:
- Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, reducing the compliance burden on condo boards.
- Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals—often known as spot approvals—that will enable FHA insurance of individual condo units, even if the property does not have FHA approval.
- Secure additional flexibility in the ratio of investors to owner-occupants allowed for FHA financing in a condo building
Prior to these changes, FHA approvals for condos have been heavily restricted. For example, the National Association of REALTORS® pointed to data earlier this year showing that in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, there were 5,683 condo projects—but only seven had FHA approval. NAR sent out an all-member email about the upcoming rules Wednesday morning.
“It goes without saying that condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time home buyers, small families, and those in urban areas,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement. “This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people.”
NAR has advocated for more than a decade for many of the changes HUD plans to announce, which should help to alleviate affordability constraints in the nationwide condo market. The association’s most recent existing-home sales report, released in July, showed that sales of condos and co-ops dropped 6.5% year over year. Further, with more than 8.7 million condo units nationwide, only 17,792 FHA condo loans were originated in the past year. Down payments for single-family homes also have grown significantly more expensive in recent years in the absence of widely accessible FHA condo financing, NAR argues.
In 2009, FHA had restricted its condo approval process, which limited the number of properties that could receive FHA loans. In 2016, it moved to lift several of those restrictions, but the proposed rules were never finalized. The guidance to be issued this week is sparking hope in the real estate industry for a turnaround in condo sales.
HUD’s new guidance is expected to take effect in mid-October.