Bill could make buying a condo easier

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 21:46:00-04

San Diegans looking to buy their first homes could be in for a huge boost thanks to Congress.

Legislators sent a bill to President Obama's desk that could make it much easier for people to buy condos with a 3.5 percent down FHA loan.

The bill, passed unanimously by Congress, calls for lowering the owner occupancy requirement for buying condos with an FHA loan. Currently, the administration will only finance a condo if 50 percent or more of the units in the complex are occupied by owners -- something that seems to harder to find in San Diego County.

The bill aims to lower that threshold to 35 percent, which would open doors for thousands of San Diegans to buy condos with 3.5 percent down.

Right now, potential homeowners need to come up with 10 to 20 percent down through other financing to buy the property.

"That's huge," said realtor Nikki Mayer. "Rates are low right now and it's a good thing for the first-time homebuyers. In addition to that, it brings about 35 percent more homes available that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise."

The bill could help San Diegans who struggle to save for a down payment amid rising rents.

Charlotte Whelen, who works as a waitress, rents a room for $625 a month in Clairemont. She said she's moved seven times in eight years, and she would like to own a home someday.

"Unfortunately, with my student loans, having gone to a private school, it's been pretty rough when it comes to saving up money," she said.

Whelen may not need as much as originally expected. The median condo in the county sold for $375,000 in May, according to CoreLogic. A 3.5 percent down payment is $13,325.

The bill would go into effect as soon as Obama signs it and the FHA needs to adjust the rate.

A spokesman for the FHA declined to comment.