Last Thursday, just before the long Memorial Day weekend marking the beginning of the 2011 summer, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a 23 page proposal outlining loan limit decreases in 669 US counties – 13 of them in Tennessee and all of these located in middle Tennessee.
Unless Congress prohibits these proposals, beginning October 1, 2011, each of these 13 counties, including Cannon, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Hickman, Macon, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Williamson, Wilson, will see their maximum FHA loan limit decrease $39,200 to a new lower maximum FHA loan limit of $393,300.
The current FHA maximum loan limit in these 13 counties was set at $432,500 in 2008 as a part of the Housing and Economic and Recovery Act during the waning days of the Bush administration in an attempt to stabilize the fragile housing and credit industries.
This 9% decrease in FHA maximum loan limits in middle Tennessee will affect less than .5% of all of the FHA loans being originated in these middle Tennessee counties. HUD decision to lower these maximum loan limits is an attempt to ward off the Republican critics in the US House of Representatives who are proposing changes to the FHA mortgage insurance program to limit the expansion of the risk of taxpayer supported programs in hope that private players and investors will re-enter the mortgage industry to replace what the Federal Government discontinues subsidizing.
Last year 32,126 FHA loans were closed in these 13 middle Tennessee counties and the new decrease in loan limits would have affected 138 of those transactions. The argument could be made that Tennesseans borrowing more than $393,300 to buy or refinance a house would have been able to use other loan programs or that other non-government programs would be developed if FHA would move out of this particular high-end market. Statistically, these higher-end mortgages have preformed much better than the lower-end mortgages but HUD would argue that these loans are not part of their stated mission to target “lower and middle-income borrowers” when they are using taxpayer money to operate a program insuring home mortgages at more than 150% higher than the Area Median House Price.
What is the expected outcome of such a move if Congress does not block these proposals for home buyers in Tennessee?
Minimal. Most first-time home buyers or home buyers with a scarred credit profile are not buying homes $400,000+ homes with only a 3.5% down payment as currently required by HUD for FHA insured loans.
The initial potential panic caused by news reports of such proposals may cause a handful of buyers to get off the fence to get approved for their high-end FHA insured mortgage in order to beat the October 1, 2011 deadline but because so few Tennesseans will be affected by this proposal, only 138 in 2010, the Tennessee Congressional Delegation would likely not support any legislation thwarting efforts by HUD to continue to solidify the government supported mortgage insurance program – especially if these changes will affect only a few wealthy Tennessee home buyers.