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FHA: Another Shoe Dropping

October 9, 2009

The Federal Housing Administration’s boss is saying he’ll need no bailout, “absent any catastrophic home-price decline.”

The New York Times is flashing red on this one, and it’s an entertaining read.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.): A 7-plus percent FHA foreclosure rate is no bad thing: “I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the bad loans occurred,” he said. “It was an effort to keep prices from falling too fast. That’s a policy.”

FHA-which used to make sellers fix houses to exacting standards-last year put a divorced, bankrupt single mother into a $134,000 “fixer-upper,” with just 3.5 percent down. She now spends half her take-home pay on her mortgage-$1,100. And as for the fixing-up part? She took two weeks to clean the garbage in the back yard.

At this rate she should have a nice house in about . . . never.

The Times saves the best for last, though, introducing us to Chaz Fullenkamp, a 22-year-old mechanic in Columbus, Ohio, who this spring paid $179,000 for a house with FHA backing, paid no closing costs, and then applied for his $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax refund.

“I knew in my heart I could not really afford the house, but they gave it to me anyway,” said Mr. Fullenkamp, 22. “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m surprised I pulled that off.’ “

Indeed. In Columbus these days, $179,000 buys a newish four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath colonial on a flat lot in a decent school district.

Just the thing for a single 22-year-old guy.

I’m sure there’s no more “catastropic home price declines” coming soon.

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