Interest rates are inching up and credit can still be hard to get but there is one bright spot for households hoping to buy a home soon: they can get a larger loan now, thanks to recent loan-limit increases for both conforming loans and loans backed by FHA.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) increased the conforming loan limit a few weeks ago, for the first time in 10 years, and it’s now at $424,100 in most markets, up from $417,000.
That increase didn’t come about by chance. Among other things, the agency last year heard from NAR on making the limits more responsive to changes in market conditions. “NAR encouraged them to use a number of factors that would create the most favorable result in all communities nationwide and did in fact result in an increase in loan limits,” says Megan Booth, an NAR regulatory policy representative.
As a result of that increase, FHA loan limits will also be going up, because those limits are set as a percentage of the conforming limit. Starting in 2017, borrowers in high-cost areas will be able to get loans as high as $636,150, almost $11,000 more than what they can get this year. That increase is expected to make a big difference for households trying to buy in major metro areas like Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington.
Details of the new loan limits are covered in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR. Also covered are remarks by Reps. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) on why it’s crucial that lawmakers do no harm to housing next year should Congress take up tax reform and reform of the secondary mortgage market companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Despite being on opposite sides of the aisle, both lawmakers said residential real estate is too important to the health of the U.S. economy for any changes to disrupt home sales. That means lawmakers must tread lightly as they look at whether long-time tax incentives for homeownership, like the mortgage interest deduction, should be touched. It also means any changes to Fannie and Freddie mustn’t reduce investor interest in mortgage-backed securities. “I think [low interest rates on 30-year, fixed rate loans] go away if we don’t have a government insurance program,” Sherman said at a meeting NAR hosted last week with S&P Global on the state of homeownership.
The video also includes remarks by NAR President Bill Brown on the nomination of neurosurgeon Ben Carson to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and what to expect in home sales in 2017. Access the video.
Robert Freedman is director of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.