The FHA Secure Program - Saving Some Homeowners From Foreclosure

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This is a temporary program, launched by President Bush and Congress a few months ago. Its goal is to prevent as many homeowners as is reasonable from losing their homes through foreclosure. It won't help you if you bought a property that was far beyond your real means, but it is likely to help a lot if didn't stretch very much.

In order to qualify for FHA secure, you need to have a non FHA ARM that has "reset," which is lender talk for "passed the end of the fixed period, if there was one." FHA Secure probably isn't going to help you anyway if you already have a fixed rate mortgage. The limit on the loan is the current conforming limit, which is $417,000 nationwide (except Alaska and Hawaii) as I type this. We're expecting information in the next few weeks that details how big the loans the FHA will actually insure in a given area are likely to be due to Congress mandating raising their loan limit. Them being a government agency, they have to do what Congress says, but it does take time to implement these things.

FHA Secure mortgages are not like those "free magazine - take one!" offers. You do have to qualify for the mortgage under the normal FHA rules. This means full documentation of income on a fully amortizing loan with a debt to income ratio of 41% in the textbook case. They also have Loan to Value limits of 97.15%

The ONLY "normal" mortgage qualification that the FHA Secure is willing to overlook is whether you were current on your loan after it hit the adjustable period. You must have been current on your existing mortgage for six months before it hit the adjustable period, but if you made late payments or no payments after the loan hit the adjustable period, FHA is willing to waive the usual requirements to have your loan current. They're even willing to consider your loan if you are currently in default.

Another way that FHA Secure mortgages are different from most FHA mortgages is that there is no CLTV limit, and the FHA will allow secondary financing for FHA Secure loans. The primary form this takes is second mortgages carried by previous lenders for amounts over the FHA limits, either in terms of Loan to Value or absolute dollar value. Be aware that in some states, this is going to change your loan from a non-recourse loan into a full recourse loan.The protections given by non-recourse loans are generally over-rated, but it's something you should be aware of. Since the FHA normally funds up to 97% Loan to Value ratio, and conventional lenders and second mortgage holders don't want to go that high right now, they are not going to agree to fund the difference unless they understand the choice they have is between funding the difference and going straight into foreclosure. For example, let's say you've got a $500,000 loan on a property that you purchased for $500,000 with 100% financing on an interest only 2/28. You still owe $500,000, but the property may only be worth $440,000, and the FHA will only fund to $417,000 until the new limits are implemented. This leaves $83,000 (at a minimum) that the new loan is short. If the prior lender can be convinced that it's a choice between write a loan contract for that $83,000 and go straight to foreclosure, where they'll lose a lot more than $83,000, they may agree to carry that second mortgage. Of course, they also may not. It's their money and their choice, and there's no way to compel them if they won't listen to logic.

FHA Secure is otherwise similar to "regular" FHA loans, and it's not free. There's a funding fee of 1.5% charged up front, and an annualized half a percent charged on a monthly basis. The FHA's "Naughty List" also applies.

FHA Secure is not any kind of a cure-all. You do have to qualify for it as regards both Debt to Income Ratio and Loan to Value Ratio. If you stretched way too far beyond your real means - as evidenced by income documentable by tax returns and W-2 forms - this program is not going to help you. If you were late on your mortgage even before it hit reset, this program is not going to help you. If you're a member of that group that's always with us, people who have lost their jobs, careers, or otherwise seen a decline in income, it may not help you even if you originally qualified full documentation. It's also not going to help you if your loan was for $900,000, which is way over any FHA limit currently being contemplated. But if you're a middle class borrower who only stretched a little, figured you'd be okay with a hybrid ARM because of it, and now you're not, this may be the program that saves you.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on February 26, 2008 7:00 AM.

FHA Loans: Poised for a Comeback was the previous entry in this blog.

The Lender's Rules of Mortgage Payments is the next entry in this blog.

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