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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Government shutdown’s impact on real estate

WASHINGTON – April 7, 2011 – The federal government may or may not shut down after Friday. Lawmakers have drawn a line in the sand and, as of today, it appears they won’t reach agreement by the current deadline of budgeting. However, that could change. Or lawmakers could agree to extend the budget by only another week or two to give themselves more time to negotiate. Or lawmakers could surprisingly pull out a budget agreement at the last minute.


If the government does shut down, it won’t impact all federal programs equally. A specific impact depends on whether the agency is privately funded, semi-separate from the government, and other factors. Even insiders aren’t sure what will happen if the government shuts down.

However, the National Association of Realtors issued a list of likely scenarios on how Realtors may be impacted if the federal budget fails to pass:

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

FHA cannot offer endorsements for any new loans in the Single Family Program and cannot make commitments in the Multi-family Program in the event of a shutdown. FHA will maintain operational activities including paying claims and collecting premiums. Management and marketing contractors managing the REO portfolio can continue to operate.

VA Loan Guaranty Program

Lenders may continue to process and guarantee mortgages through the Loan Guaranty program.

Flood Insurance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confirmed that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would not be impacted by a government shutdown.

Rural Housing Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s field staff is not considered essential personnel, and only essential personnel continue to work during a government shutdown. As a result, the people who typically issue conditional mortgage commitments, loan note guarantees, and modification approvals will not be able to do so, and lenders will not receive approvals during the shutdown.

However, a lender that already received a conditional commitment from the Rural Development office may proceed to close those loans during the shutdown. A conditional commitment, good for 90 days, is given to a lender once a USDA underwriter approves the loan. If a commitment was issued, funds were set aside at that time, and the lender may still close the loan at its leisure.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

The Government Sponsored Enterprises will continue operating normally, as will their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back over half of all mortgages originated in the U.S.

Treasury

No official word as of yet, but the Making Home Affordable program, including HAMP and HAFA, may not be affected since the program is funded through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which is mandatory spending and not discretionary.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Should the federal government shut down, the IRS cannot process federal income tax returns or issue refunds. If a buyer expects a refund and hopes to use it toward a downpayment, the closing may have to wait.

© 2011 Florida Realtors®

Reprinted with permission. Florida Realtors®. All rights reserved.

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