April 19, 2018

Financing Barriers Stifle Condo Resurgence

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Financing Barriers Stifle Condo Resurgence

Demand for condo units is rising in urban areas nationwide, but mortgage financing continues to squeeze out entry-level buyers, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Read more: Only 30% of Condo Buildings Are FHA Approved

List prices for condos in major markets are rising faster than prices for single-family detached homes in many areas. Condos are surging in popularity as boomers look to downsize and other owners seek to live closer to urban workplaces and cities.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, estimates that condos have surged from about 8 percent of the market share to between 11 percent and 12 percent recently. In some markets, the share is greater: In Miami, for example, condos accounted for nearly 45 percent of home sales in September, and in Los Angeles, they accounted for about 27 percent, according to CoreLogic's DataQuick.

But financial barriers — particularly for Millennial and first-time buyers — may be keeping the condo surge from heightening more. The Times reports that the Federal Housing Administration continues to severely restrict the availability of its low-down-payment mortgages in several condo projects. The FHA will insure mortgages in less than 7 percent of the nation's estimated 150,000-plus condominium developments, according to the Times.

In particular, the agency has stopped approving so-called "spot loans" in condo projects where condo associations have not applied for and received special certification. Several condo HOA boards have called the certification burdensome and say that the process often ends in rejection.

FHA tightened its financing of condo projects after being faced with significant foreclosures during the housing crisis.

However, the agency may be considering a change: The Times reports that FHA is drafting a major condo proposal for 2015, which could potentially bring back financing to more buyers and existing unit owners.

Source: “FHA Squeezing Loans for Condos Despite Surging Demand,” Los Angeles Times (Nov. 9, 2014)