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FHA-Approved Condos: Requirements, Restrictions, & Benefits

By Jamie Cattanach · January 16, 2024 · 8 minute read

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FHA-Approved Condos: Requirements, Restrictions, & Benefits

Ready for homeownership — but looking for something a little bit less overwhelming than a whole house? A condominium might be the perfect fit. But can you purchase a condo with an FHA loan? Yes, under certain circumstances, you can use a loan from the Federal Housing Administration to buy a condo. However, the FHA has to approve condominiums before allowing people to take out FHA-insured loans to purchase them — and finding a condo that’s gone through this approval process (or getting one you have your eye on approved) can be a bit of a challenge. But it’s not impossible! Read on to learn more about FHA-approved condos: what it takes to get approval, where to find condos that have already been approved, and the process of getting an unapproved condo past the finish line.

What Is An FHA-Approved Condo?

To understand what an FHA-approved condo is, it helps to understand what the FHA has to do with purchasing a home in the first place. By offering insurance to lenders, the FHA helps consumers secure low-cost loans with less stringent qualification factors. These FHA loans are commonly used for single-family homes, but can also be used for condominiums, provided the condo is approved by the FHA. Thus, an FHA-approved condo is one that can be purchased with an FHA loan. Pretty simple right? Well, let’s take a closer look.

Benefits of FHA Approval for Condo Buyers

FHA condo approval is beneficial for buyers because finding an FHA-approved condo allows buyers to benefit from the lower overall costs of condo ownership compared to single-family homeownership — and enjoy the lower barrier to entry that an FHA loan can offer to lower-income families, first-time homebuyers, and others facing financial hurdles.

However, not every condo can be approved by the FHA. In order to qualify, it must meet the FHA’s appraisal standards, including safety features as well as financial factors. Entire condominium communities can be approved, and, as of August 2019, an individual unit can also be approved — provided it meets requirements including being “complete and ready for occupancy” and being part of a community with at least five units.

How FHA Approval Impacts Condo Sellers

Sellers, too, benefit from FHA condo approval. Condos that can be purchased with an FHA loan are more attractive to buyers looking for home loans with lower costs and more lenient approval requirements, which means FHA approval is a boon for both parties.

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Why Does a Condo Need to Be Approved for an FHA Loan?

When the FHA insures loans offered by private lenders, it does so at some level of risk: The loan may never be repaid, in which case it would lose money paying the lost funds back to the lending bank. But borrower delinquency isn’t the only reason a loan might go unfulfilled; if the condominium is falling apart or not financially viable, that could also increase the risk level of the loan. Therefore, the FHA approves condos on a case-by-case basis to help ensure their physical and financial safety for the lender, borrower, and the FHA itself.

How to Get a Condo FHA Approved

If you’re considering buying a condo that doesn’t yet have FHA approval — and you’d like to get that approval to pursue an FHA loan — you can initiate the approval process on a single-unit basis. (Alternatively, you could reach out to the condominium association to see if it is interested in getting the community as a whole FHA approved.) The approval process will require a variety of documentation as well as an appraisal — again, in order to ensure both the physical and financial viability of the community.

Approval Requirements

To achieve FHA approval, condo communities must be demonstrably:

•   Insured

•   Compliant with state and local law

•   In good financial standing

•   In good physical standing

•   Free of any legal action

For single-unit approval, a condo must be:

•   Part of a complex that is not FHA approved

•   Completely built and move-in ready

•   Part of a community with at least five units

•   Not a manufactured home

Minimum Owner-Occupancy Ratios

The FHA maintains minimum owner-occupancy ratios for complexes attempting to get approved. This figure ranges based on a variety of factors, but is usually somewhere between 35% and 50% — meaning between about a third and about half of the condo units must be occupied by their owners.

Financial Stability and Reserve Requirements

The FHA will also assess the financial stability of the condominium complex in order to ensure it’s likely to continue to stay in business for the foreseeable future. For example, 20% of the annual budget must be set aside for reserves, and three years’ worth of financial documents must be provided.

FHA Insurance Requirements for Condos

FHA-approved condos must maintain up-to-date insurance coverage in order to create financial safety for owners and lenders alike.

Restrictions

Condos that don’t meet the eligibility requirements outlined above may not be suitable for FHA approval — and therefore may not be able to be purchased with an FHA loan.

FHA Application and Documentation

In order to get FHA approval, condos will need to prove they meet the requirements with documentation, including financial information, proof of insurance coverage, inspection reports, and more. If you’re attempting to get a single unit approved, the onus may fall on you as the interested party to get this process started. (The seller, if motivated, may also be able to help.)

The Condo Board’s Role in Securing FHA Approval

In order for an entire condominium complex to become an approved FHA condo, the condo board must first meet to decide whether or not board members want to file for FHA approval. If the vote is in favor of seeking approval, the board will need to aid in filing paperwork to begin the application process and to prove the minimum required eligibility factors are fulfilled.

How Long Does it Take for a Condo to Get FHA Approval?

While specifics will vary and delays can occur, the FHA approval process for a condo may take between two and four weeks on average once all the paperwork is in place.


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How to Find an FHA-Approved Condo

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not a condominium you have your eye on is FHA-approved: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a searchable database tool that allows you to simply look the property up by address, community name, condo ID, and more.

Leveraging Realtor Expertise

If you have your heart set on purchasing a condo — and on using an FHA loan to do so — a local real estate agent may have the best sense of which complexes in the area are already FHA approved. Some agents may be game to help you get a unit you’re interested in approved on a single-unit basis.

FHA Loan Alternatives for Condos

If you’ve fallen in love with a condo that is, alas, not FHA-approved, take heart: There are different types of mortgage loans worth considering. Many conventional loans these days come with required minimum down payments as low as 3%, though to avoid paying mortgage insurance, you’ll need a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s value. Fortunately, that goal may be a lot more achievable for a condo than a larger single-family home.

In addition, you may be able to use other types of government-insured loans, like VA loans and USDA loans, to buy condos if you qualify. (VA loans are for veterans and their families, while USDA loans are specifically for properties in designated rural areas.)

Benefits and Drawbacks of FHA-Approved Condos

FHA-approved condos, like any other home, have both benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Pros

•   Approved FHA condos can be purchased using an FHA loan, which my offer easier-to-meet qualification requirements and lower costs to borrowers

•   Condos may be overall less costly to own than single-family homes

Cons

•   FHA-approved condos can be harder to find, especially in competitive, fast-moving housing markets

•   Getting a condo FHA approved is a process that takes time and effort, and can be difficult for an everyday consumer to take on

The Takeaway

Purchasing an FHA-approved condo can help buyers hop over some of the primary hurdles to homeownership with lower down payment and minimum credit score requirements. However, not every condo meets the FHA’s strict approval criteria — which means hopeful homeowners may have to choose an alternative mortgage loan type (or keep looking for their dream home).

SoFi offers a wide range of FHA loan options that are easier to qualify for and may have a lower interest rate than a conventional mortgage. You can down as little as 3.5%. Plus, the Biden-Harris Administration has reduced monthly mortgage insurance premiums for new homebuyers to help offset higher interest rates.

Another perk: FHA loans are assumable mortgages!

FAQ

Can you purchase a condo with an FHA loan?

If the condo in question is FHA-approved, yes, you can — but not all condominiums meet the FHA’s requirements. In order to discern whether or not the condo you’re looking at is FHA approved, you can use the FHA’s searchable database, which allows you to search by address, condo complex name, and more.

What does it mean when a complex is not FHA approved?

If a condo complex is not FHA approved, it may not meet the FHA’s requirements — or the board may simply have not yet filed for approval, which does take some time, effort, and paperwork to do. It also means that the condos will not be able to be purchased with an FHA-insured loan, at least until such approval is obtained.

Are there specific criteria for FHA approval of condos in certain regions?

FHA-approved condos must be in compliance with all state and local guidelines, which can vary by region — so yes, the specific criteria may vary slightly.


Photo credit: iStock/benedek

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¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
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