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Why FHA Supports Home Values

January 10th, 2022

When the recession tanked housing, private mortgage insurers turned away from the mortgage market. FHA stayed and continued to insure loans so homeowners could get mortgages to purchase and refinance their homes.

FHA went from insuring 3.77% of mortgages in FY 2006 to insuring 19.13% of all mortgages in FY 2010. FHAs market share rose not because it offers a better deal than the private sector, but because the private sector wasnt making loans available.

Without FHA, there would have been even fewer loans and therefore fewer people to buy homes during the downturn. And the housing market is a huge driver of the U.S. economy.

FHA benefits existing homeowners, too. Those who use FHA to refinance save an average of 220 per month.

Did You Know?

  • Before FHA was created in 1934, there was no 30-year, fully amortizing home loan. Homeowners who couldnt refinance after the first five years of the loan (which was almost impossible after the Depression hit) had to pay off their loan.

  • Back then, you needed a 20% downpayment. Saving that much money was a great barrier to home ownership. Todays FHA allows borrowers with good credit to buy a home with as little as 3.5% down and to refinance easily.

  • FHA insured half of all Hispanic and African-American home mortgages in FY 2012.

  • Nearly 80% of new FHA mortgages go to first-time home buyers.

How FHA Improves Its Bottom Line

Being there during challenging economic times isnt easy, and the recession affected FHAs financial cushion.

Changes FHA has made in its mortgage programs to improve its finances:

  • Raised its insurance premiums five times between 2008 and 2013.

  • Made lenders look more closely at borrowers with low credit scores. (The average FHA borrowers credit score rose from 650 in 2011 to 696 in 2012.)

  • Requires bigger downpayments from borrowers with lower credit scores.

  • Increased assistance to financially troubled FHA borrowers to reduce foreclosures.

  • Continues to tweak its underwriting rules to reduce the number of bad loans and build its reserves.

  • No down is long gone. FHA ended in 2009 a program that let sellers cover the cost of buyers downpayments. Twice as many of these buyers defaulted, compared with those FHA borrowers who made their own downpayments.

Protecting the Responsible First-Time Buyer

Having FHA on the hook (and therefore the taxpayers) to cover losses on mortgages made primarily to low-income, first-time home buyers makes some politicians nervous -- even though thats never happened in FHAs entire history. The premiums borrowers pay have always fully covered the cost of the program.

Some politicians would like to limit access to FHA-insured mortgages by raising downpayments and cutting down the size of loans FHA can insure.

Unfortunately, every time the downpayment requirement goes up:

  • It gets harder and takes longer for people to save enough money to buy their first home.

  • Then people have less time to build home equity they need to fund their retirement, their kids college educations, or a new business.

How Loan Size Affects Borrowers

People who live in expensive markets where even a modest home can cost a lot, and who cant get private-sector loans because they have small downpayments or less-than-pristine credit, need FHA just as much as people in average-cost markets.

If buyers cant get loans, that can slow or halt the housing recovery in high-cost areas. Letting FHA insure bigger-than-usual loans brings needed mortgage money to those markets.

What the proposals to rein in FHA all have in common is that they make it tougher for FHA to do what its designed to do -- step in and insure loans when the private market backs away.

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Disclaimer : The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Houston Association of REALTORS®

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Phone: (281) 948-8839
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