Having just enjoyed a decade when almost anyone could borrow almost any amount of money, people in the real estate business are encountering lean times in the 1990s. They don't like it.
Builders and developers say banks and savings and loan associations won't lend them money, even when they have buyers and tenants for their projects. The dollar pool has dried up, and no wonder. Loans have gone bad by the dozens, leaving banks and S&Ls with foreclosed property they don't want and can't sell."Even low-risk builders can't get loans," says Mark Tipton, a builder in Raleigh, N.C. "Acquisition and development money simply isn't available."
Now comes a new threat to prosperity. Starting July 1, the government is forcing home buyers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration to put more hard cash into their purchases.
As of that date, only 57 percent of closing costs on an FHA-insured home may be rolled into the mortgage. In the case of a $100,000 loan, a home buyer must come up with an additional $1,000 in cash at closing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
"We are trying to get out of a recession," says Warren Lasko, the association's executive vice president. "It makes no sense to pull the ladder away from prospective home buyers."
To make matters worse, a new housing law requires borrowers to pay higher monthly insurance premiums on their FHA loans. The larger the loan in relation to the down payment, the longer the fee must be paid. A buyer who puts down 5 percent on a house will pay for 10 years, while a buyer who puts down 10 percent will pay for only five years.
No more easy credit. If you borrow, you pay.
Mortgage bankers contend that these new fees and restrictions will drive some of the best credit risks out of the FHA program and into conventional financing.
That may or may not be true, but even if it is true, FHA is under no obligation to help home buyers who have enough money to buy a house without government insurance.
One reason for tighter loan rules is that too many borrowers are behind on their monthly payments, too many are facing foreclosure and too many walk away from their mortgages in communities where falling housing values have wiped out the equity in their homes.
The delinquency rate on FHA-insured mortgages is about 7 percent, and the foreclosure rate on FHA loans is nearly twice as high as on conventional loans.