Monday, June 27, 2011

If you’re thinking of buying a house anytime soon you might have to eat at home more often, buy generic brands at the store and dig a little deeper into your savings.

According to reports in the Washington Post, Republicans are circulating a proposal which would boost the down payment requirement for mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration. Some industry experts fear such a move would keep potential buyers from being able to purchase homes.

Currently, borrowers who take out FHA-insured mortgages are permitted to put down as little as 3.5 percent. For first-time home buyers that makes these loans an attractive choice. The increase in defaults on FHA loans over the last few years has caused the agency’s cash reserves to dwindle, creating concerns that taxpayers may have to come to the agency’s rescue.

The Republican proposal would require most FHA borrowers to put down at least 5 percent. Those who support the idea say that forcing borrowers to have more equity in their homes would better protect homeowners against default and thus improve the agency’s finances. The issue is scheduled to be discussed today at a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing led by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.).

The proposal has not been formally introduced in legislative form and industry analysts say it is unlikely to gain bipartisan support. Gathering the upfront cash is often the biggest hurdle for those buying their first homes.

A similar Republican proposal stalled in the House last year after the Obama administration vehemently opposed it. At that time FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens said raising the minimum down payment to 5 percent would lower the agency’s loan volume by 40 percent in the next fiscal year and shut out 300,000 first-time home buyers.

The FHA has raised its down payment to 10 percent for borrowers with the poorest credit and said it would consider raising its down payment requirement as part of a broader effort to curb the government’s role in housing finance.
The administration has also teamed up with banking regulators to propose a rule that would enable only those who put down 20 percent to get the lowest interest rates, though that rule does not apply to FHA borrowers.

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