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Conforming Limit See Saws

250 counties to see $729,750 limit this year

February 23, 2009

By staff

After emergency economic legislation enacted under President George Bush last year temporarily pushed the conforming limit to $729,750, it fell back this year to $625,500 in high-priced areas. But emergency legislation under President Barack Obama has the limit higher again.

Under H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- signed by Obama last week -- 250 U.S. counties saw the limit rise on single-family loans for sale to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced today.

In some of those counties, the limit increased to $729,750 on single-family residences, according to the regulator. The maximum two-unit limit is $934,200, while three-units can be financed up to $1,129,250 and four-units financing is available up to $1,403,400.

In areas that are not high-cost, the baseline conforming limit is still $417,000 -- where it has stood since 2006.

A year ago, Bush signed into law H.R. 5140, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 -- which boosted the conforming limit to $729,750 from July 1, 2008, until Dec. 31, 2008.

When that expired, H.R. 3221, the Housing and the Economic Recovery Act of 2008, kicked in. That law, passed in July 2008, increased the limit to $625,500 this year in high-cost areas.

Under the latest legislation, loans purchased in 2009 that were originated prior to July 1, 2007, will be subject to limits announced in November 2008.

FHFA's director is authorized under H.R. 1 to raise the conforming limit for "sub-areas" -- though this has been deemed thus far to be too difficult to implement.

Forty-three counties in California, North Carolina and Virginia that saw limits increase this year will remain at the higher levels.

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