Condominiums

FHA and the GSEs have different rules for the sale of a condominium versus a stand-alone single-family home. The reason for these rules goes back to a long-held belief that condominiums are more risky than single family structures. These rules have hampered the ability of homebuyers to purchase a condo, and make it much more difficult to sell condominiums. The rules include limits on the number of units that can be rented; limits on the number of units that can be delinquent in dues - regardless of the financial standing of the property; unreasonable burdens on properties to be approved; and limits on commercial space.

Condominiums are often the most affordable homeownership option for first time buyers, small families, single people, and older Americans. The current rules prevent buyers from purchasing condominiums; harm homeowners who wish to sell condominiums, and harm condominium properties that cannot turnover REOs. NAR continues to work with FHA and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to insure that people who wish to purchase a condominium have safe affordable access to mortgage credit.

Condominiums Topics

Political Advocacy

Current Legislation/Regulation

None at this time.


In-Depth

Find NAR's letters, testimonies, bill updates, and more on the NAR Federal Issues Tracker


Legislative Contact(s):

Megan Booth
mbooth@realtors.org
202-383-1222

Joe Harris
jharris@realtors.org
202-383-1226

Regulatory Contact(s):

Sehar Siddiqi
ssiddiqi@realtors.org
202-383-1176

What is the fundamental issue?

While the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has loosened its condominium approval requirements in recent years, many properties continue to struggle to meet overly stringent criteria and the majority of properties are being denied.

I am a real estate professional. What does this mean for my business?

Buyers and sellers of condominiums may find the property is ineligible for FHA financing, restricting the pool of buyers for that property.

NAR Policy:

Condominiums continue to be the most affordable homeownership option for many first time buyers, small families, single people, and older Americans.  NAR believes that loosening FHA’s condominium rules will ensure that more homeowners will be able to sell their units, and homebuyers will have more opportunities to buy affordable properties.  Furthermore, FHA promotes high density, urban living in many of their Smart Growth initiatives; easing condo restrictions should be part of this effort.

Legislative/Regulatory Status/Outlook

On February 2, 2016, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3700, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2015”, introduced by Reps. Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Cleaver (D-MO), by a unanimous vote of 427-0. On July 14, 2016, the bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent with the leadership of Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Scott (R-SC).

On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed H.R. 3700 into law.

This legislation made four changes to FHA's current condo policy.  H.R. 3700 will: 1) reduce owner-occupancy ratio to 35% unless HUD acts within 90 days of enactment of this law to otherwise lower the ratio; 2) allow lenders to approve condos with commercial space over 25%; 3) require HUD Secretary to “substantially reduce” burdens on condo recertification; and 4) require FHA to mirror the FHFA rules related to private transfer fees.

On September 27, 2016, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced a proposed rule concerning single-family condominium project approval. The proposed changes include:

  • FHA is asking for comment on an acceptable minimum percentage for owner-occupied condominiums between 25 and 75 percent.
  • FHA is asking for comment on an acceptable minimum percentage for commercial/non-residential space limits between 25 and 60 percent.
  • FHA proposes to allow single-unit, or spot, loan approval in non-FHA approved condominiums
  • FHA proposes to extend the approval period for a project from 2 to 3 years;

NAR submitted formal comments on the proposed rule, asking FHA to:

  • Remove the strict requirement on owner-occupancy levels, with a minimum of implementing HR 3700 standard of allowable 35% owner-occupancy without additional requirements;
  • Allow 100% FHA loan concentration in buildings;
  • Allow up to 45% commercial space without documentation and implement HR 3700 requirement allowing lenders to approve waivers and consider local conditions;
  • Bring back spot-loan approval;
  • Increase certification periods and allow for updates to information for re-certification purposes; and
  • Support for new transfer fee requirement allowing beneficial transfer fees connected to condominiums.

In addition, in October, FHA published a mortgagee letter making changes to the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) owner-occupancy requirement for condominiums in accordance with the requirements of H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA). Under the new provisions, FHA will allow for the owner-occupancy requirement to be lowered down to 35% if:

  • The project has replacement reserves of at least 20% of the budget,
  • No more than 10% of the units are in arrears (more than 60 days past due), and
  • The condo has three years of acceptable financial documents.

NAR continues to work with HUD and the new Administration to ensure that the final condo rules provide a real improvement in access to condominium financing.

NAR Committee:

Federal Financing and Housing Policy Committee

References

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Before you search elsewhere, take advantage of the research we've already done for you. Formerly known as Field Guides, References tabs contain links to external articles, titles from the NAR Library eBooks collection, websites, statistics, and other material to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives on each topic. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require a password.


Condo vs. Co-ops

Before condominiums there were co-ops—short for cooperative housing project. While common in New York (80% of the market) co-ops are also found in most large cities. There are differences between the two, as shown below.

Ownership
Condo: title, same as a house
Co-op: own shares of a corporation

Property Taxes
Condo: unit owners taxed separately
Co-Op: typically lower taxes

Financing
Condo: same as a house
Co-op: few lenders willing to give a mortgage

Deductions at Tax Time
Condo: same as a house
Co-op: more complicated

Monthly Assessment
Condo: includes maintenance
Co-Op: includes maintenance, property taxes

Re-Sale
Condo: same as a house
Co-op: less costly; sale not recorded (no title)

Source: Condo or co-op? What's the difference? (link is external), (BankRate).

Condo ​Tr​ends

Greater Boston condo sellers receiving 101.1% of asking price (link is external), (Boston Business Journal, Aug. 26, 2015).

Why Isn't the Condo Market Rebounding?, (Daily Real Estate News/REALTOR® Magazine, July 22, 2015).

Thousands of condos for NYC and San Francisco (link is external), (National Real Estate Investor, June 30, 2015).

Financing Barriers Stifle Condo Resurgence, (Daily Real Estate News/REALTOR® Magazine, Nov. 11, 2014).

'Bulk Sales' of Condos Clear Supply, at a Cost (link is external), (Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2010). E

Reaching out to condo buyers (link is external), (New York Times, Nov. 20, 2009).

'Ghost Towers' Spur Condo Backlash (link is external), (National Real Estate Investor, July 2009). E

Condo-Hotel

This used to be my playground (link is external), (The Source Weekly, July 1, 2015).

Exclusive: UK, Miami investors fashion $70M, 11-story condo hotel near SeaWorld (link is external), (Orlando Business Journal, Mar. 10, 2015).

NYC Developers Eye Condo-Hotel Concept Again (link is external), (Law 360, Nov. 13, 2014).

Condo-Hotels Return (link is external), (CIRE Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2014).

Really? Condo-hotels are back (link is external), (Hotel News Now, Aug. 2014).

In Florida, Return of the Condo-Hotel? (link is external), (The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2014).

Related Fund Management Grabs Fort Lauderdale Condo Hotel for $90M (link is external), (Commercial Property Executive, July 2014).

Homebuyers Avoiding Chores Fuel U.S. Condo-Hotel Revival (link is external), (Bloomberg, July 2014).

Selling Condo Hotels: A solution to the legal problems associated with condominium hotels (link is external), (Multi-Housing News, May 2014).

Investing in Condo Hotels: Time to Cash in on Condo Hotels (link is external), (Wealth Daily, May 2014).

Treatment of Condominium Hotels as Securities After Salameh (link is external), (Los Angeles Lawyer, page 11, Jan. 2014).

Condo Association Issues

Homeowner association liens pose perils for condo buyers (link is external), (Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2015).

Condo Owners Must Read Their Bylaws (link is external), (Realty Times, Mar. 9, 2015).

Related Websites

Buying a condo using an FHA loan (link is external), (Department of Housing & Urban Development).

Community Associations Institute (link is external)

Condo Life Magazine (link is external)

FHA Approved Condo list (link is external)

FHA-approved condominiums (link is external), (Department of Housing & Urban Development)—Search by city.

FHA Condo approval process (link is external), (HUD).

Institute of Real Estate Management (link is external)

Living in a housing cooperative (link is external), (National Association of Housing Cooperative)—FAQs.

What Buyers Should Know about Multifamily Homes, (realtor.com®).

eBooks & Other Resources

eBooks.realtor.org

The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Condo Owner's Answer Book (Kindle, Adobe PDF eBook)

How to Buy a Condominium or Townhouse (Adobe PDF eBook)

Make Money with Condominiums and Townhouses (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Tips & Traps When Buying A Condo, Co-Op, or Townhouse (Adobe PDF eBook)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Information Services. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Information Services at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

Existing-Home Sales, (Chicago, IL: National Association of REALTORS®).


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The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this page complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.

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