Boston Triple-Deckers: A Suggestion

Buy your first home—a New England triple-decker—and use the FHA 203k Rehabilitation Loan to do so. Your purchase money and repair money can be had in a single, convenient, 30year Fixed Rate Loan.

Today’s NYTimes.com features an article about that particularly New England home, the triple-decker. These are lovely homes from the 1890’s built to house the influx of immigrants from Europe. These homes were a wonderful alternative to the tenement housing of the time. In the ensuing years, triple-deckers have come to describe the character of a neighborhood, whether in Boston or New Bedford. Dennis Lehane, author of “Mystic” featured these homes much like characters in his book (and in the subsequent film directed by Clint Eastwood).

My wife lived in one for a time when she lived in the Boston area and has fond memories of her time living in a triple-decker.

Today’s NYTimes reports of the foreclosure blight affecting this beloved New England icon.

I have a suggestion for any of you first time buyer folks living in a town with triple-deckers: go out and buy your first home—a triple-decker—and use the FHA 203k Rehabilitation Loan to do so. NYTimes reports there are many foreclosures selling far below market. This is the ideal opportunity to purchase a first home at a considerable discount and obtain the money necessary to renovate that home to your specifications. As the article points out, triple-deckers have long been the domain of first time buyers looking for an affordable option for homeownership: the rental of the other two apartments helped homeowners offset their monthly mortgage payments.

The FHA 203k Loan is a program wherein the Lender provides you with the money to purchase the home (acquisition) combined with the money to improve the home (construction) in one closing and with a single 30year fixed mortgage payment. I am an expert in this program having originated many such loans in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in the early-mid 1990’s under President Clinton’s initiative to rehabilitate inner cities using the FHA 203k program. We encountered a similar experience then in those communities that New Englanders now face with these triple-deckers: historic brownstones, multiple families of 3 and 4 family properties, were in need of serious rehabilitation and presented first time buyers with an excellent opportunity.

With this program, you make your 3.5% downpayment off the purchase price of the home. You present to the Lender your plans for renovating the property. These plans are prepared in consultation with your contractor and an independent FHA Certified Consultant. The Lender uses your proposed improvements both to appraise the house at “future value” after improvements and to make the final loan decision. Minimum repairs are $5,000 with most Lenders. A feature of the program allows you to include up to 6 months’ worth of mortgage payments in the loan so you don’t have to worry about paying rent on your current apartment and a mortgage on your new home while your contractor completes the renovations.

The Seller of the home receives her money (your 3.5% downpayment and the Lender’s portion of the acquisition loan) at the closing table and you receive title. Your repair money is placed in an escrow account upon closing of title: your contractor receives the go-ahead to begin work with the renovation money available in up to 5 “draws” or payouts depending on the amount of construction/renovation.

FHA Loans are only available for Owner-Occupants; Investors are not permitted. You don’t have to be a first time buyer to qualify, either.

FHA Loans require you qualify based on your income, assets, and credit, although the criteria are much more flexible with most FHA Lenders than with Conventional loan programs. There are no income limitations; the program is available to all American Citizens, Permanent Resident Aliens, and even Aliens working with Authorization from the U.S. Government. FHA is an insurance program so you’ll be paying two insurance premiums (one Upfront at closing, financed in the loan for thirty years, the other built into your monthly payment), and you must pay those premiums regardless of the size of your downpayment (even if it’s more than 20% down).

You can find an FHA Lender in your area at the FHA Website along with more information on the FHA program. If you live in a New England town or city where there are triple-decker homes in need of your love and attention, and you want to get a great deal on your first home, I strongly recommend you consider this financing option to help you make that dream come true. You’ll be doing something good for you, and for the historic quality of New England, too.

Hope that helps!

The Miracle Rehabilitation Loan known as the FHA 203k Loan

A fundamental look at the miracle program known as FHA 203k.

So many Buyers today are eager to purchase homes at below market prices. Often these homes are in need of serious repairs or improvements to update the property. The 203k Program handily meets the needs of Buyers today. I personally have originated and closed dozens of these loans back
in the early 1990’s in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant under President Clinton’s Inner City Rehabilitation Initiative. Often we were financing a complete gut renovation of an abandoned Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residence. The Buyers usually paid a price around $50,000 and I would find FHA 203k Financing in the range of $250,000 to cover the purchase and the renovations. Under the provisions of the rehabilitation, the Buyer of such an SRO would convert the Certificate of Occupancy from rooming house to legal 2, 3 or even 4 Family home. The 203k allowed for just such a change and the costs involved, including Architectural fees, Plans and Permits, not to mention the construction costs.

Toay this miracle program allows a Buyer to purchase a home and obtain the monies for repairs or home improvements all rolled into a single loan with a SINGLE monthly FIXED RATE payment. The repairs can cost as little as $5,000 or can run as high as necessary to gut-rehab a home. The limit on
the repair monies that can be included in the loan is the Loan-To-Value (LTV) Limit based on statutory FHA Loan Limits in your area (see below). And this LTV percentage is calculated based on the value of the house AFTER improvements.

The 203k program even has a provision allowing the Buyer to request that up to 6 months worth of mortgage payments be included in the loan so they don’t have to pay two monthly housing
expenses—rent and mortgage—while the house is under construction.

With more and more bank-owned “REO” properties offered for sale, Buyers will need the 203k
Program more than ever before.

203k Interest rates run higher than market, usually about 1% higher, but this is still an ideal program to help Buyers achieve their goals of homeownership while simultaneously updating or renovating a home for the lowest possible cost.

Highlights of the 203k Program:

>Buyer can obtain the cash needed to conduct improvements on a home
purchase folded into the same mortgage loan needed to purchase the house.

>Borrower must qualify according to regular FHA Underwriting criteria with regards to Income, Assets and Credit.

>The Program is only open to Owner-Occupants; no investors permitted. BUT you do NOT have to be First-Time Homebuyer.

>No Income Limits; no minimum income requirements. No geographic limitations, with the exception that the property is here in the good ol’ USA!

Purchase + Improvements = ONE Mortgage and ONE Monthly Payment

Current FHA LOAN LIMITS under the 2009 Stimulus Bill for the New York Metropolitan Region:

1Fam: $729,750

2Fam: $934,200

3Fam: $1,129,250

4Fam: $1,403,400

FHA Basics:

* No Reserves on 1 and 2 Family homes (but it helps!)
* 3 Months Reserves required on 3 and 4 Family homes
* 3.5% Downpayment
* 6% Seller’s Concession
* Credit Scores down to 620 (down to 580 with some Lenders)

There you have a good fundamental look at the miracle program known as FHA 203k.

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Happy House Hunting!