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FHA Loans: What Costs Can the Seller Pay for the Buyer?

Negotiating isn’t easy, no matter which side of the table you’re sitting on. The buyer wants to get the best deal for money spent, but doesn’t want to make an offer that is too low for fear of scaring off the seller. From the seller’s point of view, getting the most out of a major investment like a house is crucial, but ask too much and the buyer may look elsewhere.

When it comes to buying a home with a FHA guaranteed mortgage, the FHA loan program has some options buyers and sellers alike should consider to make the purchase more attractive.

In the course of buying a home with a FHA-guaranteed mortgage, buyers and sellers can negotiate a sales price, but what if that price is higher than the borrower wants to pay or is higher than the fair market value of the home as stated after the appraisal? The seller can improve his or her position by offering to contribute a percentage of the sales price towards the buyer’s closing costs, discount points or other FHA loan costs.

The FHA and HUD allow this in part because of the flexibility it gives both buyer and seller. If the buyer agrees to the contribution, it can potentially reduce the amount of money the borrower has to pay up front while giving the seller the asking price minus the contribution.

FHA requirements in this area have two important features. The first is that the seller can’t contribute more than six percent of the sales price without affecting the amount of the FHA insured loan. Six percent is the limit; anything more is considered an “inducement to purchase” which forces the FHA to lower the amount of the mortgage accordingly. The regulations are clear; “Each dollar exceeding FHA’s six percent limit must be subtracted from the property’s sales price before applying the LTV ratio.”

The second feature of this is that the seller can only contribute the six percent for actual costs related to closing, interest rate buydowns, discount points or other concessions. In the same way FHA mortgage loan rules are designed to keep the lender from artificially inflating the cost of services, the borrower and seller may not inflate the closing costs, interest rate buydowns or other contributions.

Sellers should take care not to confuse their contribution with other amounts of money they may be required to pay as part of the FHA home loan process. “Fees typically paid by the seller under local or state law, or local custom, such as real estate commissions, charges for pest inspections, fees paid for trustees to release a deed of trust, etc., are not considered contributions.”

Joe Wallace - Staff Writer

By Joe Wallace

April 25, 2011

Joe Wallace has been specializing in military and personal finance topics since 1995. His work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and a member of the Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Association. He was Managing editor for www.valoans.com for (8) years and is currently the Associate Editor for FHANewsblog.com.

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FHANewsBlog.com was launched in 2010 by seasoned mortgage professionals wanting to educate homebuyers about the guidelines for FHA insured mortgage loans. Popular FHA topics include credit requirements, FHA loan limits, mortgage insurance premiums, closing costs and many more. The authors have written thousands of blogs specific to FHA mortgages and the site has substantially increased readership over the years and has become known for its “FHA News and Views”.

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