Greg Cowart on Zillow
Greg Cowart - Mortgage Broker or Lender at The Securus Group
Greg Cowart - Roseville Loan Guy

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Potentially some good news for FHA, the housing market, and possibly even your wallet!

Today President Obama announced a plan for some pretty major changes at FHA that will make mortgages more affordable and accessible to creditworthy families. The most important of which, in my opinion, is the reduction of the annual FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) by 0.5%.

As many of you know the FHA MIP has been the highest it has ever been for about the last year and a half. On a 30 year fixed FHA mortgage with a 3.5% down payment the MIP was 1.35%. Drastically affecting affordability on FHA loans as this MIP factor increased payments for new FHA borrowers significantly, making the MIP portion of the payment as much as 25% of the mortgage payment itself.

This was due in part because the FHA Insurance fund, the fund that since its inception in 1934 pays out claims to investors when FHA borrowers default, was below capital reserve levels required by congress due to losses sustained on FHA mortgages originated from 2005-2009 (contrary to what many politicians and media outlets reported, the fund was NOT in the negative and never required a bail out, but the fund has less than the preferred capital reserve percentage).

Also in part due to the fact that many in congress wanted to steer the market away from government loan programs and back to conventional loans (that, for better or worse, are still backed by the US government, go figure). The idea being that with FHA being more and more expensive, it would be less and less attractive.

As a result the FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance fund is in better shape and conventional financing is a larger part of the market than it has been since the mid 2000’s.

But it isn’t as sweet as it sounds. The MMI fund would have repaired itself without huge increases in the MIP homeowners pay every month as the loans giving the fund issues were all from a 4 year period of 2005-2009, immediately preceding the recession and housing meltdown (interestingly enough though FHA loans still outperformed all other loan types during that period and defaults were relatively low in comparison to conventional/Jumbo), and they are mostly off the books via foreclosure or short sale already. The most recent 4 years of FHA originations are the highest quality loans the agency has ever seen (this is the same for conventional and Jumbo) as well. And both the economy and housing market have been damaged in multiple ways, seeing those that do get an FHA loan have less money in their pocket every month due to the historically high MIP, and also keeping many people from not being to be able to buy at all.

After Obama’s statement today helps fix the damage being done to FHA borrowers the new annual MIP on a 30 Year Fixed with 3.5% down will soon be 0.85%, down from 1.35%. On a $350,000 home in Roseville, after factoring in the $12,250 down payment and 1.75% UFMIP, an FHA borrower under the new MIP schedule will save $1,689 a year, or $140.75 a month!

Even though 0.85% is still well above historic norms for FHA’s annual Mortgage Insurance Premium industry estimates show that this will help 800,000 homeowners refinance to a significantly lower mortgage payment, especially seeing that rates right now at near historic lows, and help as many as 250,000 people become homeowners, while continuing to help build reserves in the MMI fund to protect against unforeseen future losses.

As mentioned right off the bat, this is A PLAN. Congress still has to approve the change and predictions are 50/50 as to if they will, with many analysts projecting enough resistance from a number of Republicans that want to see the government having no role in housing what-so-ever, and others in congress that want to wait until 2016 so the MMI fund can acquire reserves more quickly, to derail the plan.

Seeing how well FHA loans originated since 2009 are performing, the increase in health in the MMI reserve fund, the fact that 0.85% is still well above what FHA used to collect, and that FHA MIP premiums are paid for life instead of being able to be removed after 5 years, I can’t see any non-ideological argument against this plan. I supposed we’ll see how this plays out relatively soon.

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