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Just how big is the Federal Housing Authority?

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Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 11:38 am

Ever wondered how many loans are backed by the Federal Housing Authority? With FHA being in the headlines a lot recently it would be no surprise to speculate how large of a presence the institution has in the housing market.

The FHA’s significance varies based on which benchmark you are measuring it next to; the total sales market, the purchase mortgage market, or the mortgage insurance market. But by whichever measure, the FHA’s role is on the decline. Regulatory changes to the secondary market must first take place, though, for the FHA to withdraw to its historic position.

The FHA insures mortgages made by private lenders so long as they pass certain quality standards. One means of assessing the size of the FHA’s role in the market is to measure the share of FHA’s purchase endorsements relative to total home sales (new and existing).

This method has the advantage of excluding refinances, which are a smaller component of the FHA’s business. The FHA’s role in this total market peaked in 2010 at 24.6 percent, well above the pre-boom period when it averaged roughly 13 percent. The FHA’s share of this market has eased in recent years touching 14.6 percent in 2012.

However, the count of new sales does not include condominiums making for an unclear comparison. Furthermore, a large portion of the total existing home sales market has been cash sales in recent years, so this measure may understate the FHA’s role.

The housing market experienced broad swings over the last decade and the FHA’s role has fluctuated in response. Since 2011, the private market has experienced modest gains, but to fully restore its role in the market, lender and investor confidence must also be re-established.