Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
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These days, a lot of sellers and some condo associations have become interested in getting their condo building approved by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). That’s because FHA loans — which are insured by the government and require only a 3.5% down payment — have exploded in popularity, with more than a third of buyers now using them to purchase homes.
But in order to use an FHA loan to buy a condo, the entire condo building must be FHA approved. This is a somewhat laborious process that involves gathering up detailed paperwork to prove that the condo’s budget, reserves, collection of assessments, percentage of ownership and other factors all meet FHA’s rather stringent criteria. In Chicago, where many smaller condo buildings are self-managed, it may seem a confusing and overwhelming task for individual owners to put together an FHA application that stands a chance of being approved. Even larger buildings could often use a hand when it comes to FHA’s rules.
That is where an expert in securing FHA approvals can help. This spring, for example, I had a buyer named Michael who made an offer (which was accepted) to buy a newly-rehabbed 2-bedroom condo in Edgewater. But due to a combination of factors involving both the buyer and the building (he could only afford to put 5% down, and more than 10% of the building’s units were still owned by the developer) Michael wasn’t able to secure a conventional loan. He could use FHA, but then he was up against a major roadblock many Chicago condo buyers encounter: Most Chicago condos are not already FHA approved.
So we decided to see if, with the cooperation of the developer, we could get this 22-unit building approved. Wintrust Mortgage, Micheal’s lender, put us in touch with Steve Stenger of Condo Approval Professionals, LLC, a local company that specializes in getting FHA approval for condo buildings. And it worked!
Stenger worked hand in hand with the condo board to bring the building into FHA compliance, assembled the necessary package of documents, submitted everything to FHA and got the building approved in less than 30 days. And yesterday, Michael finally was able to close on his new condo.
“I think the key is really having someone with the ability to get it done, who knows what things need to be worked on to get the building into compliance,” Stenger said. “Some condo associations might try to do it on their own, but it’s difficult because there is a lot involved in terms of the budget, having the right insurance, looking at the declaration of bylaws. It’s not just ‘gather and submit.’ That’s why the FHA doesn’t want people to just pull documents together and send them off.”
Stenger, who has been in the business for 16 years, said he starts by “prequalifying” the building with a condo questionnaire and a budget review “to determine if they’re even eligible for FHA right out of the gate.” Sometimes, as was the case with Michael’s condo, the building isn’t in compliance — but could be, with a few changes. In this case, Stenger advised the board to collect some unpaid assessments (FHA won’t allow buildings with more than 15% of the units beyond 30 days delinquent in their assessments) and to use the condo reserves to cover some upcoming sewer repairs rather than levy a special assessment, which could also derail FHA approval.
“When I put that package together, I fully expect it’s going to be approved,” Stenger said.
Condo Approval Professionals doesn’t charge to prequalify a condo building, he added. But to work with the building and shepherd the whole FHA application package through, the fees are:
$500 – Building with 5 units or less; $750 – 6 to 10 unit building; $1500 – 11 to 20 unit building; $2000 – More than 20-unit building
In my opinion as a realtor who helps many condo buyers, it may be well worth the investment. Once a building is FHA approved, buyers can now use FHA loans to finance units there — which gives the building a huge competitive edge in a very sluggish market.
Steve Stenger of Condo Approval Professionals can be reached at (847) 293-2962.
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