The Federal Housing Administration puts its long-awaited new financing rules for condominium units into operation last week -- immediately affecting sales in hundreds of condo projects across the country.
Among the key make-or-break rules that condo marketers, buyers, lender and realty agents now need to know about are the following:
FHA won't insure mortgages in buildings or complexes where less than 30 percent of the units haven't already been sold.
At least 50 percent of the units in a project must be owner-occupied or sold to purchasers who intend to occupy them.
No individual owner or investor can hold title to more than 10 percent of the units in the entire project.
No more than 25 percent of the square footage of a condo project can be non-residential -- in other words, used for commercial purposes.
No more than 50 percent of the units can have FHA insured financing on them. FHA doesn't want to “concentrate its risk” in any single project.
No more than 15 percent of the units in a project can be 30 days or more delinquent on their monthly payments to the condo association.
Although some developers and in urban areas welcomed the new rules, industry critics say they will actually curtail the availability of low-downpayment FHA financing for many individual buyers. Others say some of the percentage thresholds are off the mark.
For example, Phil Sutcliffe, a national condo financing expert based outside Philadelphia, says he recently had to turn down two condo projects that sought FHA financing - even though both were more than 50 percent owner occupied and pre-sold. The reason: The developers had chosen to rent out more than 10 percent of the unsold units to generate cash flow. But by doing so, Sutcliffe said, they crossed the “single owner” maximum, thereby denying future FHA financing to all remaining units in the building.
“It just makes no sense in this situation,” he said. With no FHA loans available to potential purchasers, “the owners may have to hand back the keys to the bank.”
Andrew Fortin, vice president for government affairs at the Community Associations Institute, which represents condominium, cooperative and planned unit developments across the country, told Realty Times that the 25 percent commercial-use cutoff is “problematic” because many projects have been designed for “mixed use” in urban areas.
Fortin's group also is critical of the new 15 percent delinquency ratio on association dues. Not only is a 30-day delinquency measure “a very arbitrary standard,” he said, but it's also not a good indicator of the association's underlying financial health.