We all know that buying a home is a big step for anyone especially for someone who is doing it for the first time. A bipartisan House bill passed at the beginning of July 2019 that will help ease the first time buyer’s anxiety over the homebuying process. The bill will allow first-time homebuyers to pay less closing cost if they go through homeownership counseling.

“The idea behind the legislation is that counseling should improve loan performance and make people better borrowers,” said Pete Mills, senior vice president of residential policy for the Mortgage Bankers Association, which generally supports the bill.

The Housing Financial Literacy Act applies to mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration and is a tool that can be used for first-time homebuyers. Those eligible, will go through counseling which teaches them ways to be financially responsible homeowners. Once completed, they would receive a discount on the upfront mortgage insurance that is required on FHA loans.

First-time homebuyers tend to go with FHA loans because of the less-stringent requirements. Although the requirements are more lax than a conventional loan it requires more money for insurance premiums because the FHA loan is riskier. Today the delinquency rate on FHA loans is around 9% where the delinquency rate on a conventional loan is only around 3%.

The risk for the lenders on an FHA tends to be higher because a good many of the first-time homebuyers using an FHA have low or moderate incomes with lower credit scores. Lenders require those using the FHA to pay mortgage insurance along with an upfront mortgage insurance premium. Currently the upfront amount paid is 1.75% of the base loan amount. If a borrower does not have the money upfront to pay the premium, the cost can be rolled into the loan. The Housing Financial Literacy Act allows a discount of 25 basis points making the premium amount 1.5% of the base loan amount instead of the 1.75%. As an example, the upfront mortgage premium on a $200,000 loan would be $3,500 but with the discount the first-time buyer would only need to pay $3,000.

Hopefully if put into law, the bill will not only help reduce cost, but also give first-time homebuyers the tools to become financially responsible homeowners.

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