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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Home Buyers Can Save by Purchasing Before FHA Fees Go Up on April 1st

[Published March 1, 2012, in the Denver Post]

      A quick check of Metrolist, the Denver MLS, shows that about 30% of homes purchased for $400,000 or less are financed with an FHA-insured loan. These loans are popular because they require only a 3.5% down payment.

      FHA interest rates are comparable to those for conventional loans, but extra fees are charged, both upfront and monthly, for mortgage insurance premium (MIP). These fees replenish FHA’s reserves, which have been depleted by the high number of foreclosures on FHA-insured loans in recent years.

      There is a 75% increase in the upfront fee for those FHA loans initiated after April 1, 2012. This upfront payment, which is currently 1% of the loan amount (and can simply be added to the principal), increases to 1.75%. Thus, on a $300,000 loan, this added principal amount is currently $3,000, but will increase to $5,250 on an FHA loan initiated in April, adding about $11 to the monthly mortgage payment in the above example (based on a 4% interest rate).

    Currently, the monthly mortgage insurance premium is 1.15% annually (1.1% when the down payment is 5% or more), and this fee increases by 0.1% to 1.25% and 1.2% respectively.  Thus, on the same $300,000 loan, the monthly MIP payment is currently $287.50 (assuming 3.5% down payment), but goes up to $312.50, an increase of $25 per month.

That $25 increase, unlike the $287.50, does not go to the FHA. Instead it goes to the Social Security Trust Fund. As noted in my Jan. 12th column, this increase is mandated by the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, which was passed in December. That act reduced the Social Security tax for just two months, but is charged to new borrowers for the next 10 years. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? 

On their website, HUD calculates that the average FHA borrower will pay only $5 more each month for that additional mortgage insurance premium, but I don’t see how they could come up with such a low estimate.

The monthly MIP must be paid for 5 years, regardless of the percentage down payment, but can be removed once the homeowner can document 20% or more equity.

Current FHA loans, and loans initiated before April 1, 2012, are not subject to these higher fees.

Conventional loans are also affected by an increase comparable to that $25 per month, but it will be reflected in the loan’s interest rate instead of appearing as an additional fee. 

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