We knew changes in FHA-insured loans were coming. Now it appears they are almost here. Last week, the FHA said it would tighten loan requirements on loans it insures. Specifically, it would raise the MIP to 2.25% – effective this spring – and then seek permission to increase the percentage again.
The FHA also proposed requiring borrowers with credit scores below 580 to put up a 10% down payment. Those with higher credit scores would still qualify for a 3.5% down payment. In addition, the FHA proposed reducing seller concessions to 3% from 6% of the mortgage. Both proposals will require a public comment period before taking effect.
We have been warning for the past month that anyone considering an FHA-insured loan should act now. We stand behind that warning. Fact is, any changes instituted by the FHA will only increase the cost of an FHA-insured loan.
Borrowers might be feeling a little dour over the prospect of paying more for an FHA-insured loan, but they are likely not feeling as dour as homebuilders are. The homebuilders’ sentiment index declined again in January to 15, which means that only one in six builders thinks the market is “good.”
We could argue, persuasively, that homebuilders have done everything possible to set the stage for a recovery: they have culled inventories and cut new construction to a virtual standstill. For all of 2009, homebuilders started only 554,000 homes – the lowest since 1945. Back then, there were only 132.5 million Americans. Today, there are 307 million.
Higher prices would certainly help lift homebuilder spirits. On that front, things are improving. Radar Logic’s monthly Residential Property Index (RPX) showed year-over-year price increases in eight of the 25 markets surveyed, the most since July 2007, when the RPX price composite peaked. Radar Logic said that increased affordability is helping to boost prices, as well as sales. On the latter, November home-sales volume increased year-over-year and month-over-month in all of the 25 metropolitan markets the RPX covers.
Low mortgage rates were no doubt a contributing factor to the sales rally. They remain low today. In fact, rates dropped (by a few basis points) across the board for the third-consecutive week. Do not expect much more, though; we have been saying that any improvements in mortgage rates will be incremental at best, and that has been the case.