I apologize for not making a more timely post on this subject, but it’s taken me a while to wrap my head around everything that’s really going on, and rather than spit out an uninformed piece full of quotes from equally uninformed newspaper reporters, I thought I’d do some actual research first.
So here’s what just happened, as I understand it. Formerly, $417,000 was the maximum loan that you could get and still be considered “conforming” (as in, backed by the government-run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). According to yesterday’s release (pdf), retroactively back to July 1 last year, this limit is being raised for a number of specific areas around the country. In King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, the limit is being increased to $567,500.
However, it’s not as simple as “now you can get a conforming loan for 36% more house.”
The first matter that complicates things is that these new loans made for amounts between $417,000 and $567,500 (known as “temporary jumbo conforming loans,” or TJCs) will apparently not be traded in the same pool as conforming loans on the secondary bond market. After being burned by the sub-prime fiasco, it would appear that traders have wised up a bit, and insisted that the higher-value (and higher-risk) TJCs not be pooled with conforming mortages in mortgage-backed securities. Instead, these TJCs will be packaged for trading in a separate pool all their own. What this means to the person obtaining a TJC is that the interest rate will not necessarily be all that different from jumbo loans. It all depends on what kind of market there ends up being for the mortgage-backed securities full of TJCs.
Secondly, if you think that simply raising the conforming loan limit suddenly makes it a piece of cake to get a loan up to $567,500 in Seattle, you’ve got a surprise coming. The loan guidelines for these TJCs are rather stringent. Here’s a good summary of the new guidelines, and here’s a direct link to the full details (pdf). A few of the more noteworthy details (from CR):
- For principal residences, fixed-rate loans are limited to 90% LTV/CLTV (loan to value/combined loan to value) for a purchase, and 75% LTV/95% CLTV for a no-cash-out refi.
- Minimum FICO for any loan is 660.
- Minimum FICO for LTVs greater than 80% is 700.
- No late mortgage payments in the preceding 12 months.
- Full doc only.
How many people do you suppose can qualify for a TJC with lending standards like that? It’s certainly a far cry from the “anyone that can fog a mirror” guidelines we were seeing in 2005 and 2006.
I’m not an expert in complicated matters like these, and it’s definitely possible that I’ve misunderstood something here. If I’ve gotten something wrong, please point it out so I can correct it.