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Jumbo Mortgages: How to Bag the Big Opportunity Today

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By Al Miller

Effective October 1, 2011, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lowered their conforming loan limits back to 2008 levels. And that means many home buyers suddenly need a jumbo loan to qualify for the homes they want. Real estate professionals who have worked with jumbo loans in the past know that the process and underwriting guidelines are far different than they are for conforming mortgages. So it’s important to choose a lender well experienced with jumbo loans.

What makes a jumbo mortgage “jumbo?” If the loan amount exceeds the maximum set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, then the loan is deemed “nonconforming” or “jumbo.” For the highest-cost areas of the country, the maximum was $729,750 until October 1. But now, it has been lowered to $625,000. (To know for sure if your borrower needs a jumbo loan, check the zip code of the property.) Moody’s Analytics estimates that the highest-cost areas that will be most impacted by this change are in the Northeast, such as Manhattan and Washington, D.C. But some parts of Florida and the Chicago metro area will be affected as well.

So how should a real estate professional choose a jumbo lender? Look for these four criteria:

Experience: Affluent home buyers often have special financing needs and may require a flexible—even unique—loan structure. This is not a cookie-cutter business, so don’t expect a cookie-cutter lender to know how to create the right loan package.

Flexibility: Look for a jumbo lender that offers a variety of fixed and adjustable rate loans with terms that can be customized to the borrower’s precise needs.

Financial Strength: Not every lender has the balance sheet to accommodate these non-agency loans. Citi does, and lends up to $2 million for fixed-rate mortgages and $3 million for adjustable rate mortgages.

Low Cost: Interest rates are already at historic lows. But it takes more than a low rate to ensure the lowest cost for home buyers. Choose a jumbo lender that knows how to develop the best mortgage strategy for your buyer, understanding that high-net-worth clients have different circumstances and needs—and that the only right solution is the one built exclusively for them.

Al Miller is Global Real Estate Executive – Citi Partnership Channel.

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