New FHA Rule to 'Kick Some Buyers Out'?

March 27, 2012

The Federal Housing Administration announced that starting April 1 it will not insure mortgages to borrowers who have an ongoing credit dispute of $1,000 or more on their file. 

To be considered for an FHA-backed loan, borrowers will either have to pay the remaining balance on the credit dispute or enter into a payment plan, making at least three payments on it. Any payment plans will need to be documented and submitted to FHA, which will then figure it into the debt-to-income ratio for the new mortgage. 

FHA’s new rule does not include disputed credit accounts from more than two years ago or any related to reported identity theft.

Still, the new rule has some in the housing industry worried that it’s going to keep more potential home buyers from securing a mortgage.

"We expect this revision will certainly kick some buyers out of the marketplace, and we’re in ongoing efforts to quantify how extreme the impact will be," Lisa Jackson, senior vice president of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, told HousingWire.

Jeremy Radack, a real estate attorney in Houston who assists with financing, estimated FHA originations may be reduced by 33 percent to 50 percent this year due to the new rule. 

FHA says the rule is aimed at protecting the FHA’s emergency fund, which has fallen below the mandated amount Congress requires. 

"We found that many borrowers with mortgage payment delinquencies had prior credit deficiencies including unpaid collections and unresolved disputed accounts prior to the approval of their loan," the spokesman said. "This change was made to eliminate this layer of risk to FHA-insured loans and help protect our insurance fund."

Also in reimbursing the emergency fund*, FHA announced it would raise its insurance premiums starting April 1 too.

Source: “FHA to Deny Mortgage Backing for Credit Disputes Above $1,000,” HousingWire (March 26, 2012) and “Tougher Requirements Start Monday for FHA Mortgages,” Tampa Bay Times (March 27, 2012)

* Editor’s Note: FHA maintains two reserve funds. The first provides reserves to cover each mortgage that's insured for 30 years; the second is a congressionally required 2 percent reserve, which FHA draws on first to cover losses. This 2 percent reserve fund has dipped in recent years part because of continuing declines in home values, which increases the amount of reserves (and therefore more quickly depletes the reserve fund) that the agency must maintain for each mortgage. For more on how FHA reserves work, see "Myths and Facts" by NAR’s Government Affairs.