May 25, 2024

FHA 203k Program – Financing Uninhabitable Homes

Good Intentions Gone Astray?

Vacant - Please Destroy

Vacant - Please Destroy

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) currently provides over one third of all mortgage financing.  One unique mortgage program the FHA offers is the “Rehabilitation Loan Program (203k)”.

The benefits and features of the 203k program according to the FHA are as follows:

Funds for Handyman-Specials and Fixer-Uppers

The purchase of a house that needs repair is often a catch-22 situation, because the bank won’t lend the money to buy the house until the repairs are complete, and the repairs can’t be done until the house has been purchased.

HUD’s 203(k) program can help you overcome this obstacle by enabling you to purchase or refinance a property plus the cost of making the repairs and improvements in one mortgage.

A potential homebuyer locates a fixer-upper and executes a sales contract after doing a feasibility analysis of the property with his/her real estate professional. The contract should state that the buyer is seeking a 203(k) loan and that the contract is contingent on loan approval based on additional required repairs by the FHA or the lender.

If the borrower passes the lender’s credit-worthiness test, the loan closes for an amount that will cover the purchase or refinance cost of the property, the remodeling costs and the allowable closing costs.

An iron clad rule that I have observed is that government programs once enacted never end even after they serve no useful purpose. In a different time, the 203k program made a lot of sense by revitalizing a community. It also allowed a home buyer the opportunity to acquire a property at a low price and through “sweat equity” rehabilitate the property and increase the value of the home.

Does The 203k Program Still Make Sense?

The collapse in home values and the wave of foreclosures require a reassessment of the FHA 203k program due to the huge number of vacant homes in the country.

(Bloomberg) — A record 19 million U.S. homes stood empty at the end of 2008 and homeownership fell to an eight-year low as banks seized homes faster than they could sell them.

The U.S. had 130.8 million housing units in the fourth quarter, including 2.23 million empty homes that were for sale, the Census report said. The vacancy rate was 3.5 percent in urban areas and 2.6 percent in suburbs, the report said.

U.S. banks owned $11.5 billion of homes they seized from delinquent borrowers at the end of the third quarter, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in Washington. That’s up from $5.4 billion a year ago.

Many of the vacant homes that the FHA is lending on through the 203k program are currently empty due to the fact that they are uninhabitable (no utilities, gutted interiors, major damage, etc)  and being sold for little more than the value of the land they sit on.   Do we as a nation really need to allocate more of our limited resources to housing when we already have millions of existing vacant homes?  Would it not be more cost effective to tear down the gutted houses and put potential homeowners into a vacant home that needs minimal repairs?

Of course, once the vacant home is rehabilitated via the 203k, there is more than a 1 in 10 chance of the borrower defaulting on the new FHA loan and the home potentially becoming vacant again (See FHA – Ready To Join Fannie and Freddie.)