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FHA to expand access to condo mortgages, loosens owner-occupancy rates

By Josh Boak, The Associated Press

The Federal Housing Administration is changing regulations to make it easier for more first-time condo buyers to receive mortgages.

The federal agency released new guidelines Wednesday for the types of mortgages it will insure at condominiums. Just 6.5% of the 150,000 condominium developments in the United States were previously eligible for FHA-backed mortgages.

The FHA will start backing mortgages for individual units and will have greater flexibility to react to changes in market conditions.

Brian Montgomery, the FHA commissioner and acting deputy secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department, said the changes would make it easier for first-time buyers, retirees and minorities to become homeowners.

Individual condos will be eligible for spot approvals under the revised guidelines – effective Oct. 15 – if no more than 10% of the units are FHA-insured. For condos in complexes with fewer than 10 units, no more than two units can have FHA insurance.

Rules also were loosened on owner-occupancy rates, meaning eligible condo projects can now be just 50% owner-occupied.

Unlike conventional mortgages that require 20% down, the FHA backs loans that require 3.5% down payments.

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