Long-awaited updates to Federal Housing Administration condo rules will take effect October 15, 2019 under revised guidelines issued last month. Housing officials praised the change, saying the FHA loan program will now be more “flexible and responsive to market conditions.”
FHA said it is bringing back spot approvals and taking other steps to loosen requirements for FHA-insured condominium financing. The move is expected to allow more buyers to obtain low downpayment mortgages on affordable housing options.
An estimated 20,000 to 60,000 more condo units per year are expected to qualify for financing, according to the FHA. That represents a substantial increase from current provisions, with only 6.5% of the more than 150,000 condo projects approved for FHA financing.
Once implemented, the guidelines will mean an individual condo unit in a building of 10 units or more may be eligible for spot approval if no more than 10% of the units are FHA-insured. In smaller buildings, with fewer than 10 units, no more than two units can be FHA-insured.
The new rules will also:
- Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, reducing the compliance burden on condo boards.
- Insure more mixed-use projects so approved projects can now have up to 35% of their square footage dedicated to commercial or other non-residential uses.
- Loosen restrictions on owner-occupancy rules, allowing projects to be just 50% owner-occupied.
- Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals-often known as spot approvals-which 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.
NAR President John Smaby applauded the ruling, saying it culminates years of collaboration between NAR and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He expects the ruling will help reverse recent declines in condo sales.
“Condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time home buyers, small families, and those in urban areas,” Smaby noted.
FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery said the agency has been working alongside stakeholders for three years to update its condo policies. NAR has sought rules changes since 2008, specifically to allow the owner-occupancy level to be determined on a case-by-case basis, and to extend the approval period for project certification to five years.
“It had become clear for many years that we needed to update our condo project approval regulations so that, while not exposing the agency to more risk, they are more flexible and less prescriptive and more reflective of the current market than the previous condominium project approval provisions,” Montgomery said on a call with reporters and the HUD secretary.
“This new rule allows FHA to meet its core mission to support eligible borrowers who are ready for homeownership and are most likely to enter the market with the purchase of a condominium,” added Montgomery, who is also HUD Acting Deputy Secretary.
In a press release announcing the updates, HUD stated, “In an effort to promote affordable and sustainable homeownership, especially among credit-worthy first-time buyers, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) today published a long-awaited final regulation, and policy implementation guidance, which establish a new condominium approval process.”