New law to help condo buying has uncertain start

Posted at 6:07 PM, Aug 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 12:00:17-04

A new law could help future homeowners save for a down payment on a new condo, but a key obstacle may remain.

Rebekah Jimenez said moving to San Diego from Wyoming stings in a unique way.

"Buying one condo would be equivalent to buying 10 acres in Wyoming, I bet," she said.

Jimenez said saving up for a down payment in San Diego is the hardest part. She rents in Bonita, and she said she and her husband try to save 10 percent of their income.

"Sometimes other things happen," she said. "Things get in the way."

A bill passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by Obama calls on the FHA to lower the owner occupancy requirement for condo complexes from 50 to 35 percent.

That means more condos could be purchased with a 3.5 percent down payment, well below the usual 10 or 20 percent requirement.

"It's huge," said San Diego realtor Nikki Mayer. "It brings about 35 percent more homes available to them otherwise."

However, the FHA may not be completely onboard. The bill gives the FHA 90 days to come up with new rules on owner occupancy, or the 35 percent owner occupancy rate goes into effect.

A spokesman for the agency declined to comment Monday.

Mark Goldman, a San Diego State University real estate lecturer, offered a possible explanation. He said complexes with lower owner occupancy are risky for lenders because they have more foreclosures.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who authored the legislation, said the congressman would ask for information and analysis from the FHA if the agency does not set that rate at 35 percent.

Jimenez said she would like to own a place -- all she needs is a chance.

"If it's your property, you're really going to have pride in it," she said. "You're going to take care of it."