The rules, effective on Dec. 13, will allow buyers to use gifts and grants from nonprofit groups for their minimum 5 percent down payment, which is the threshold set by Fannie Mae, the government-owned company that sets lending standards and buys mortgages from lenders. (Freddie Mac is considering similar new guidelines, said Brad German, a spokesman.)
Previously, borrowers had to contribute a minimum 5 percent down payment from their own funds, but additional down payment money could be from a gift (though never from a home seller). The exception was for borrowers who put 20 percent down: all that money could come as a gift.
Because many lenders now require a down payment of 10 percent or more, the new rules mean that borrowers will still have to come up with extra funds — either their own or gifts.
The gift rules apply only to single-family principal residences, including town houses, co-ops and condominiums, and covers mortgage amounts in excess of 80 percent of the property’s value. Also, there is a limit on the loan balance — $729,000 in high-cost areas like New York City, and $417,000 in other areas.
Now, the not-so-good news.
Fannie Mae is getting tougher on debt-to-income ratios, or the amount of a borrower’s gross monthly income that goes toward paying off all debts. The maximum ratio for those seeking a conventional mortgage will drop to 45 percent from 55 percent under the new guidelines.
The agency is also taking a harder look at payment histories on revolving debt. In the past, if a borrower missed a monthly payment, Fannie Mae ignored it, or required that lenders add a few percentage points to the total balance when calculating the debt-to-income ratio. Now, buyers who have missed a payment will have 5 percent of the total balance added to their ratios.