Another government shutdown article – what home buyers and sellers should know

by Dan Krell © 2013
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Housing MarketYes, another column about the federal government shutdown (like you need to read another column about the shutdown, right?). Although it is expected that the majority of home purchases won’t be affected by the shutdown, home buyers and sellers should be on their toes to avoid possible pitfalls; buyers and sellers should be aware of what could affect their purchase/sale. And even if both houses of Congress agree to some continuing resolution before publication, the shutdown information could be useful during the next budget battle (which is likely to occur in about two weeks).

Many experts agree that the government shutdown won’t last long. Regardless, there is a consensus that the longer the shutdown continues, the potential increases to impair the housing market. Additionally, some experts expect the shutdown to dovetail into an anticipated bitter debt ceiling battle later this month.

It has been widely acknowledged that the recovering housing market has been a major contributor to the 2% GDP growth. Economists have agreed that it would be logical to maintain government functions that compliment and support the still fragile housing recovery.

However, regardless of what you hear; the shutdown will certainly affect the housing market. Some mortgage originations and closings will be affected, and some buyer activity may be put on hold until the government shutdown ends (like the sequester). Although there appears to be a commitment to maintain FHA and VA loan operations during shutdown, new loan processing may experience delays (Federal department shutdown contingency plans can be viewed on Whitehouse.gov).

FHA’s (Department of Housing and Urban Development) contingency plan states that: “The Office of Single Family Housing will endorse new loans under current multi-year appropriation authority in order to support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market. (FHA endorsements currently represent 15% of the market.) Approximately 80% of FHA loans are endorsed by lenders with delegated authority. The remaining 20% are endorsed through the FHA Homeownership Centers, leveraging FHA staff with a contractor that works on-site.”

The VA’s (Department of Veteran Affairs) contingency plan states that during 1995-96 government shutdown, “Loan Guaranty certificates of eligibility and certificates of reasonable value were delayed.” However, learning from that experience, the shutdown contingency plans indicate that there will be 95% of employees who are either fully funded or required to perform “excepted” functions.

Conventional loans should be unaffected as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operations continue through the shutdown; Fannie and Freddie operations depend on lender paid fees.

Unlike shutdowns in the past (the last Federal shutdown was 1995-96), approximately 90% of all current mortgages in the country are insured, guaranteed, and/or purchased by federal entities. During the last shutdown, a thriving private sector mortgage industry existed; private investor groups that purchased mortgages on the secondary market, as well as many portfolio lenders (lenders that keep and service loans they originate) offered alternatives to home buyers. During the last shutdown, home buyers who were unable to obtain or wait for government loan approval, had other options for financing that included “Alt-A” and sub-prime mortgage programs that seem to not widely exist today.

If you are planning to settle on a home in the next few days, confirm with your lender that there are no delays. If you are in the process of looking for a home, check with your loan officer about a reasonable closing date before you enter into a sales contract.

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Disclaimer.  This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice.  Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction.  This article was originally published the week of September 30, 2013 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.