Housing

Loan limits on the rise for FHA, but not for Fannie and Freddie

FHA loans could become the go-to financing option for homebuyers in New York and New Jersey, but with higher fees.  By Kenneth R. Harney

After a year characterized by grumpy partisan gridlock, Congress came up with a Thanksgiving compromise that could change the mortgage choices of buyers and refinancers in more than 660 markets across the country: It raised maximum loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration while leaving loan ceilings untouched for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In effect, this may make FHA the go-to financing option for borrowers needing loans up to $729,750 — with down payments as low as 3.5 percent — in New York, New Jersey, high-cost areas of California, metropolitan Washington, D.C., and scattered counties in other states, including Massachusetts, Florida and North Carolina. Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-eligible loans in those areas, meanwhile, stay capped at $625,500.

Equally important, the new plan raises the FHA ceilings for purchasers in hundreds of more moderately priced markets. In Hartford, Conn., the limit for FHA is now $440,000 — up from $320,850; Fannie and Freddie remain capped at $417,000. Seattle-area buyers’ maximum FHA loan amount jumped to $567,500, while the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac ceiling remains at $506,000.

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