Fannie Mae is introducing a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that can be bought with a 3% down payment - and not necessarily with the borrower's own funds.
The new mortgage, which will be offered nationally this summer, is part of the secondary agency's initiative to expand homeownership for low- and moderate-income people with good credit who can make mortgage payments.
Down payments are among the biggest barriers to homeownership for these people, said D. Steve Boland, first vice president and director of fair- lending at Countrywide Home Loans in Calabasas, Calif.
"The ability to not have to have that money come from their own funds is definitely going to be a big plus for us," said Mr. Boland. "I think it's an opportunity to penetrate more markets."
Jamie Gorelick, vice chairwoman of Fannie Mae, said the new mortgage constitutes "a major change" and will be "the most flexible conventional product in the marketplace." It will offer homebuyers a broader array of opportunities in addition to benefiting lenders, mortgage insurers, and real estate brokers, among others, she said.
Fannie Mae said the product will be available by early June through the network of lenders that use the agency's automated underwriting system.
The mortgage has been in testing for 18 months, Fannie said; first-time homebuyers accounted for 58% of the pilot participants.
In the past Fannie has required down payments of at least 3% from the borrower's own funds. With the new mortgage the 3% may come from several sources, including a gift or unsecured loan from the family, a nonprofit agency, or municipality; a loan secured by a marketable asset; or a grant from an employer, nonprofit, or government agency.
Fannie said there is no income limit or counseling requirement. Eligible people may secure mortgages up to the conventional loan limit of $227,150.
Countrywide's Mr. Boland said the benefits of the new product would be available to small lenders as well as big ones like his company.
For a big lender it would be an addition to the product line, he said, and small lenders without direct access to the secondary market could offer the new loans and then sell them off through correspondents like Countrywide.
David A. Sayers, vice president of retail banking at Katahdin Trust Co. in Patten, Maine, said the new Fannie Mae loan "could be very big in the communities that we serve."
Katahdin Trust's market is in Aroostook County, the northernmost in Maine. The area has many low- and middle-income families, and much of the housing is worse than in more urban parts of the state, Mr. Sayers said.
Though Katahdin Trust has not yet established a relationship with Fannie or Freddie Mac, it is offering adjustable-rate mortgages now and will offer 30-year fixed-rate mortgages soon, Mr. Sayers said. Katahdin Trust plans to hold these loans in its own portfolio until entering the secondary market with one of the agencies, Mr. Sayers said.
The new type of loans "could certainly benefit the borrower without increasing the risk and the exposure of the investor," he said.
Borrowers often find the restrictions on down payments frustrating, and Mr. Sayers said the new type of loan is part of a movement to make getting a loan a "more friendly process" with less red tape.
Even lenders that deal with Freddie Mac are interested in the program. Mid-City National Bank in Chicago works mostly with Freddie but is always looking for ways to increase its market share, said Lawrence L. Steinert, senior vice president.
"If this opens up more doors for people to get into homes and for us to get a market for the mortgages, all the better," Mr. Steinert said. He said the loan program might work well with those Mid-City National has with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.