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New federal rules could make it easier to obtain a mortgage on a condo

Many Florida condo buyers will soon have an easier time getting FHA-backed, low downpayment loans. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
Published Aug. 19

Starting Oct. 1, it should be easier for Florida condo buyers — especially first-time buyers — to obtain financing. The Federal Housing Administration issued new rules this month that will make some individual condo units eligible for mortgage insurance even if the entire condominium project isn't approved by the agency.

The Federal Housing Administration does not make loans itself but insures loans made by private lenders. The insurance is required for agency-backed loans because borrowers are required to make only a 3 percent down payment, not the usual 20 percent. For that reason, such loans are riskier for lenders but typically attractive to people buying their first homes.

"It goes without saying that condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time homebuyers, small families and those in urban areas,'' said John Smaby, president of the National Association of Realtors. "This ruling … will help reverse declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people.''

Nationally, there are more than 8.7 million condo units, including 1.5 million in Florida and more than 150,000 in the Tampa Bay area. Under the current rules, fewer than 18,000 condo loans made nationwide in the past year were insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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