Thursday, July 14, 2011

Reduced conforming loan limit to hit Monterey County hardest

Barring Congressional action, Monterey County will be California's hardest hit county later this year when the conforming loan limit drops nationwide from the $729,950 limit to a maximum $625,500.

by Broderick Perkins
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Deadline Newsroom - If you plan to buy a California home that will require a big mortgage, move fast -- if you aren't already too late.

Barring Congressional action, Monterey County will be California's hardest hit county later this year when the conforming loan limit drops nationwide from the $729,950 limit to a maximum $625,500.

In Monterey County, the conforming loan limit will fall nearly $247,000 to $483,000, according to the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

Under the new FHA loan limits, after Monterey County the greatest drop in the loan limit would be Merced ($201,450) followed by Riverside ($164,650), San Bernardino ($164,650), Solano ($157,300), and San Diego ($151,250) counties.

Right now, non-conforming or jumbo loans typically carry a mortgage interest rate a quarter percentage point or more than a conforming loan, resulting in a higher down payment and larger monthly payment, according to Marc Mungaray, a loan officer, at Academy Mortgage in Monterey.

That reduces housing affordability and how much the spread could change is "anybody's guess," he says.

"Generally it's a quarter point but it could go up to a full point," Mungaray said.

Approximately 9 percent of home sales could feel the squeeze in Monterey County, CAR projects, 30,000 statewide.

The conforming loan limit determines the maximum size of a mortgage that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) can buy or guarantee. The GSEs back 95 percent of today's mortgages.

"By reducing the conforming loan limit, thousands of California home buyers will be shut out of homeownership," said CAR President Beth L. Peerce.

"The higher mortgage loan limits are critical to providing liquidity in today’s housing market and are essential to our housing recovery. We urge Congress to maintain the current limits and make them permanent to provide homeowners and home buyers with affordable financing and help stabilize local housing markets," Peerce said.

That's not likely given federal legislators' penchant for budget-balancing efforts that include rolling back housing relief provisions put in place even before and after the Great Recession.

The higher conforming loan limits were part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA of 2008 to the GSEs to insure, guarantee and buy more mortgages at a time when private funding froze during the financial crisis.

While some say private banks will pick up the slack, others aren't so sure.

On July 13, 2011, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the U.S. House of Representatives' Financial Services Committee the private market was set to fill the void when the conforming loan limits on government-backed mortgages are set to expire in October, but at a higher cost to homebuyers.

"As far as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are concerned, there is a tradeoff there between supporting the higher priced homes and weaning the housing finance system off of unusual limits it was put under during the crisis," Bernanke said.

"I understand the private sector is taking at least a significant number of the jumbo mortgage market but at a higher cost," he added.

However, CAR said, in anticipation of the expiration of current loan limits on Sept. 30, 2011, Bank of America on July 1 stopped accepting conventional and government applications for loan amounts that will exceed the lower loan amounts.

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