What the housing bill means for you

That allows you to find another lender who would underwrite a $90,000 mortgage to be insured by the FHA. That loan amount would include the upfront FHA insurance premium of roughly $2,700.

Again, there is a catch. If you take refuge in this program, you'll have to share your home-price appreciation with the FHA. If you sell the house (or refinance the loan) less than a year after refinancing into the FHA loan, the FHA gets all of the house price appreciation. The FHA's cut decreases over the next five years -- but never goes below 50 percent.

What does this mean to the borrower? Take the example above. You refinanced when the house was appraised at $100,000. A little over two years later, you sell the house for $120,000. You split that $20,000 difference with the FHA. In this case, because it's between two and three years later, the FHA gets 80 percent. The FHA would get $16,000 and you would get $4,000.

The equity-sharing arrangement goes like this: If you refinance or sell less than a year after getting the FHA loan, the government gets 100 percent of the home price appreciation. If it's more than a year but less than two years, the FHA gets 90 percent. The FHA's cut then decreases by 10 percent until the five-year mark. Anytime after that, the FHA gets half of the appreciation, no matter how long you have the loan or own the house.

This arrangement will encourage homeowners to keep their FHA-insured mortgages for at least five years, but to refinance before home prices zoom upward again.

Working with home equity debt
The government has been trying all year to encourage lenders to forgive debt so homeowners can refinance their loans for lesser amounts and remain in their houses. Lenders have been reluctant to forgive the debt. The FHA-refinance plan is another way of encouraging debt forgiveness.

Among the sticking points: Many homeowners have home equity lines of credit or home equity loans. In most cases, these lenders will lose that entire loan balance under the FHA-refinance plan. The new law is low on specifics, but it gives the FHA permission to give second lienholders a cut of the home price appreciation proceeds that the FHA collects.

Down payment assistance soon to be a thing of the past
The housing rescue bill, soon to be a law, bans down payment assistance programs such as the ones offered by Nehemiah and AmeriDream. The ban goes into effect Oct. 1. Down payment assistance programs took advantage of a loophole in the way the FHA treats down payments. To get an FHA-insured mortgage, the homeowner has to make a down payment of at least 3 percent. Homeowners don't have to save even that much; the 3 percent can come as a gift from family members or nonprofit organizations

Regulations don't allow the home seller to provide the down payment money. That's where down payment assistance programs come in. They are nonprofits. That allows the seller to give the 3 percent down payment money to Nehemiah or AmeriDream, and then Nehemiah or AmeriDream can turn around and "give" the down payment to the homebuyer as a "donation."

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Claes Bell

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