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FHA Single-Unit Approval | Buy a condo with an FHA loan.

Jim Quist Dec 30, 2022 2:17:14 PM
FHA CONDO SINGLE UNIT APPROVAL

Financing a condominium with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is challenging for many homebuyers. 

First, before you can buy a condo using an FHA loan, the condo must be FHA-approved. Unfortunately, there aren't many FHA-approved condos, so you probably won't find one in the neighborhood where you want to buy.

For example, in and around Chicago, only 25 condo buildings are approved, which is less than one-half of one percent of the estimated 12,235 condos in the City - more on this later.

What should you do when you find a condo you want to buy and need an FHA loan to finance it, but it still needs to be FHA-approved?

You're in the right place because NewCastle Home Loans can get a specific unit within a condo building approved through FHA, so you can buy it using an FHA loan. The program is Single-Unit Approval, and I'll explain how it works in this article.

 

Why use an FHA loan to buy a condo

People typically buy condos because they're more affordable than houses, especially in urban areas like Chicago. Many can't afford single-family homes, along with property taxes and upkeep. They need the affordability, location, convenience, and security condos offer.

Condo sales are about two-thirds of all Chicago home sales, according to Crains.

FHA loans are often the only way for buyers, particularly first-timers, to finance homes. That's because getting approved for an FHA loan is easier than getting a conventional loan

For example, you can have a lower credit score and more debt and buy a home with a down payment of only 3.5% of the purchase price. The table below compares FHA and conventional mortgages' credit scores, debt, and down payment requirements. Learn more about FHA loans.

 

  FHA Loan Conventional Loan
Credit score minimum 580 620
Debt to income maximum 55% 50%
Down payment minimum 3.5% 3%
Loan amount maximum $472,030 $726,200

 

FHA loans made up about 15% of all the mortgages in the U.S. that closed during the second half of 2022, according to the HUD.

Overall, an FHA loan can be a good option for buying a condo if you have a lower credit score, a smaller down payment, or if you want to take advantage of the more lenient qualifying criteria that FHA loans offer. However, FHA loans also have certain limitations and requirements, such as the condominium approval process.

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How does FHA approve condominiums?

Before you can buy a condo using an FHA loan, FHA must approve the condo. This process is known as FHA condo approval, and FHA offers two types.

  1. FHA project approval is when the condo homeowner's association (HOA) applies to FHA. FHA reviews the application and approves the condo project or building. All units in the building are eligible for FHA financing.  

  2. FHA single-unit approval is a process by which an FHA mortgage lender evaluates the condo to determine whether it meets the minimum standards for an FHA loan. If a property meets these standards, the lender asks FHA for a one-time approval. If granted, the lender may use one FHA loan to finance one unit in the building.

Book time to talk

 

How do I find an FHA-approved condo?

FHA keeps a list of approved condo buildings on its website. To view the list, go to the FHA condominium page. Then, search for Approved condos by State, County, or Zip Code. You can use an FHA loan to buy a unit in an approved condo building without jumping through additional hoops.

FHA Condominium Page

As I mentioned earlier, not many condos are FHA-approved.

In and around Chicago, only 25 condo buildings are approved, which is less than one-half of one percent of the estimated 12,235 condominium and homeowner associations containing approximately 305,000 residential units in the City.

Research by Association Evaluation, LLC, a Chicago-based real estate data-analysis firm.

The following table lists the approved condo projects in the Chicago area as of 12/30/2022. Visit the FHA condominium page for updates.

Condo Name Address County Status Expiration Date

1000 Adams

1000 W Adams St, Chicago, Il 60607

Cook

Approved

2/2/2024

1009 North Oakley Condominiums

1009 N Oakley Blvd, Chicago, Il 60622

Cook

Approved

4/18/2025

1141-57 E 45th

1141-57 E 45th St, Chicago, Il 60653

Cook

Approved

3/20/2023

120 N. Lakeview Condos

120 Lakeview Dr, Bloomingdale, Il 60108

Dupage

Approved

1/22/2023

1203 E 46th Street

1203 E 46th St, Chicago, Il 60653

Cook

Approved

7/7/2023

1209 E 46th Street

1209 E 46th St, Chicago, Il 60653

Cook

Approved

7/23/2023

1251-65 West Granville Avenue

1251-65 W. Granville Ave, Chicago, Il 60660

Cook

Approved

3/2/2023

1310 Fowler Avenue Condominium

1310 Fowler Ave, Evanston, Il 60201

Cook

Approved

1/13/2023

1330 Fargo

1330 W. Fargo Ave, Chicago, Il 60626

Cook

Approved

9/21/2023

1345 S Wabash

1345 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, Il 60605

Cook

Approved

2/8/2024

1351 North Ashland

1351 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, Il 60622

Cook

Approved

11/16/2025

1411 E 67th

1411 E 67th St, Chicago, Il 60637

Cook

Approved

2/17/2025

1415 East 62nd Street Condo

1415 East 62nd Street, Chicago, Il 60636

Cook

Approved

8/25/2024

1440 N Campbell Avenue

1440 N Campbell Ave, Chicago, Il 60622

Cook

Approved

2/14/2023

1449 East 72nd Street

1449 E 72nd St, Chicago, Il 60619

Cook

Approved

1/6/2025

155 Harbor Drive

155 Harbor Dr, Chicago, Il 60601

Cook

Approved

8/19/2024

1555 Wabash Condominium *

50 E 16th St, Chicago, Il 60605

Cook

Approved

11/8/2025

1620 S Michigan

1620 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, Il 60616

Cook

Approved

7/22/2024

1660 North Lasalle

1660 North Lasalle St, Chicago, Il 60614

Cook

Approved

4/8/2023

1707 N. Artesian

1707 N Artesian Ave, Chicago, Il 60647

Cook

Approved

11/16/2023

1738 West 91st Street

1738 W 91st St, Chicago, Il 60620

Cook

Approved

1/31/2025

1752 W Cullerton Condominium

1752 W Cullerton St, Chicago, Il 60608

Cook

Approved

2/11/2023

1810 West Chase

1810 West Chase, Chicago, Il 60626

Cook

Approved

7/31/2023

1934 North Washtenaw

1934 North Washtenaw Ave, Chicago, Il 60647

Cook

Approved

11/20/2023

1935 North Fairfield

1935 North Fairfield Ave, Chicago, Il 60647

Cook

Approved

4/28/2023

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want an FHA loan and your condo building isn't on FHA's approved list, you must request a single-unit approval from an FHA-approved lender that accepts applications for single-unit approval. 

Book time to talk

 

What is an FHA single-unit approval?

Only an FHA-approved mortgage lender that accepts applications for single-unit approval will evaluate your condo unit to determine whether it meets the minimum standards for an FHA loan. 

A condominium must meet specific requirements to qualify for an FHA single-unit approval, such as: 

  • The building must have five or more units.
  • A maximum of 35% may be commercial space.
  • At least 50% of the units must be owner-occupied.

If the building meets FHA requirements, the lender asks FHA for a one-time approval. If approved, the lender may issue a final mortgage commitment to the homebuyer and close. 

Remember that a single-unit approval is a one-time approval for a specific unit within the condo building. It doesn't approve the entire project.

View current rates

 

How to get FHA single-unit approval?

Follow these steps to get a single-unit approval. 

 

1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage through an FHA-approved lender.

Choose an FHA-approved lender like NewCastle Home Loans that accepts applications for single-unit condo approvals. Ask the lender's representative before starting the process with them. 

Next, get pre-approved. Start on our website or by phone with one of our loan officers by answering questions about yourself and the home you want to buy.

Mortgage pre-approval means our loan underwriter verifies your financial information, including your credit, income, debt, and the cash you have available to buy a home. We check credit and verify financial info to ensure your FHA mortgage will be ready for closing after we approve the condo.

FHA loans offered by NewCastle Home Loans have minimum requirements, such as:

  • Your credit score must be 580 or higher.
  • Your down payment must be at least 3.5% of the purchase price.
  • Your loan amount can be, at most, $472,030. 

FHA caps loans at $472,030. The target purchase price is $489,150 if you plan a minimum down payment of 3.5%. Buying a place for more than $489,150 requires more than a 3.5% down payment. 

 

  • $489,150 Purchase price
  • $17,120 Down payment of 3.5%
  • $472,029 Base loan amount of 96.5%

 

Then, after our mortgage underwriter verifies your information, you get a personalized mortgage pre-approval letter – on the same day.

The pre-approval letter is essential because it shows how much you can borrow, how much you can afford to pay each month for the mortgage, and how much money you'll need at closing when you buy your home. It also shows the sellers and agents that you're a serious buyer and can get the loan you need to buy a home.

Get pre-approved

 

2. Make an offer that the seller accepts.

Hire a real estate agent and give her a copy of your mortgage pre-approval letter. Your agent helps you find the perfect home and make an offer to buy it. Also, your agent knows the neighborhood and how to negotiate and process paperwork. Best of all, your buyer's agent is free - the seller pays her commissions.

As your agent narrows your search and finds homes for you to see, use our calculator to estimate rates, payments and costs. Run multiple scenarios. And feel free to reach out to one of our mortgage experts with questions.

After finding a place to buy, your real estate agent prepares your offer. Include a copy of your pre-approval letter with your offer to show the sellers that you're ready to close quickly.

Your agent will tell the sellers that you're financing the purchase with an FHA loan. However, because the sellers want to avoid issues that may cause delays, they may view FHA financing as a potential issue and reject your offer.

Still, be upfront with sellers. Your real estate agent and mortgage lender can talk to the sellers' agent about your FHA loan. Ultimately, the sellers decide to accept, decline, or negotiate. Expect some back and forth - and hopefully, the sellers will accept your contract.

Check out our Sales Contract Explainer here.

Book time to talk

 

3. The lender requests single-unit approval.

After you and the sellers are under contract, NewCastle Home Loans begins working on the single-unit approval by requesting the information from the condominium management company. The management company completes a questionnaire and provides the HOA's legal and financial documents. 

Typically, single-unit approval takes about one week after we receive the required documents from the management company. But it could take longer, depending on when they send us the documents. 

After we receive the documents, we evaluate them to determine whether or not the condo is acceptable. If it meets FHA's requirements, we process a request for single-unit approval through FHA and await their reply. Then, with FHA's acceptance, we issue a final mortgage commitment and prepare to close on your new home if approved.

Get pre-approved

 

Can I refinance a condo using an FHA loan if the property isn't FHA approved?

FHA's Streamline Refinance mortgage doesn't require condominium approval. It's the only FHA loan that allows you to refinance from an FHA loan to another FHA loan in an unapproved condo.

You can use the streamline refinance to lower your interest rate and payment, but you can't take any cash out of the property. Before using an FHA cash-out refinance, you'll need to apply for single-unit approval, go through the process, and get the condo approved before closing. 

If you're interested in refinancing your condo and can't do so with an FHA loan, you should consider alternative financing options, such as a conventional loan.

View current rates

 

Conclusion 

There are many reasons why people may give up on buying a condo using an FHA loan. However, difficulty in finding an FHA-approved condo shouldn't be one of them, at least not until you try single-unit approval.

If you want to buy a condo that still needs to be FHA-approved, talk with an expert at NewCastle Home Loans. Get straightforward answers, so you know what to do to get going in the right direction. Our staff of certified mortgage underwriters will review your situation and guide you along the path to homeownership, making sure everything goes smoothly.

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