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The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008

From my point of view, there are three recent real estate laws every home buyer, home seller and homeowner should be aware of and the first is:

1. The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. Why do you care about this one? Because it temporarily increased FHA and conforming loan limits to $729,250 in high-cost-of-living areas — in some areas, this was an increase of several hundred thousand dollars. This means that if you live in a place such as the San Francisco Bay Area, you ordinarily would have had to pay a couple of percentage points more in interest on a jumbo loan to finance a loan amount of $700,000 on a loan that you can now get for the lower interest rate of a conforming loan. If you are a buyer, this obviously could save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest over the life of your mortgage loan, and may also make it more feasible for you to buy a home in this price range, because the jumbo loan qualification standards are tougher than those for a conforming or FHA loan.

If you are a homeowner not looking to sell your home, though, this law may still be important for you in that it would allow you to refinance up to $729,250 worth of mortgage debt on a higher-interest mortgage or a mortgage with payments and interest that are about to adjust upwards into a 30-year fixed-rate loan amounting to as much as 97 percent of the current value of your home.

This law was passed in March 2008 — this increase in loan limits will expire at the end of 2008, and be replaced by a permanent loan limit of $625,500. If you are in a high-cost-of-living area and want to buy, sell or refinance on a mortgage loan amount between $625,500 and $729,250, you’ve got until Dec. 31 to make it happen.

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