Jan. 8, 2019
ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – Jan. 7, 2019 – As the partial government shutdown stretches through another week, Florida home buyers using government-backed loans may have a hard time closing on their houses as federal agencies operate in a limited capacity.
"We have several buyers right now who are getting either USDA or FHA loans, and because of the government shutdown, we can't get the loans closed," said real estate agent Robbie Sifrit, of Re/Max Anchor Realty in Punta Gorda.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Housing Administration loans (FHA) are popular lending sources that are difficult to obtain right now.
"These people have put in an offer, the seller has agreed to the offer, and instead of being able to close, we're having to delay it. It's putting both families under a lot of pressure," Sifrit said. "It's very frustrating."
A study by WalletHub ranks Florida as the 14th state affected most by the shutdown. The study is based on five factors, including the share of federal jobs, federal contract dollars per capita, percent of families receiving SNAP, or food stamps, access to national parks and real estate as a percentage of gross state product.
For Florida, real estate is the biggest factor, ranking third for highest percentage of real estate as a gross state product.
Conventional loans remain unaffected by the shutdown, but Sifrit said buyers using government-backed loans make up about 15 percent of his team's clientele. The longer the shutdown continues, the more his business will be affected.
"They're stopping people from being able to purchase a home, and they're stopping sellers from being able to sell," he said.
The FHA falls under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). During a government shutdown, up to 95 percent of HUD employees may be furloughed, slowing down the approval and funding of FHA loan applications.
However, other local Realtors have seen limited effects from the shutdown so far.
Rosemary Mahoney, president of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors, said she hasn't had any clients directly affected, nor has Cynthia Logan of Keller Williams Realty.
"We have an FHA going right now, and the loan officer hasn't indicated any issues," she said. "Conventional loans and things like that shouldn't be of any issue. We're not feeling any effects from my perspective."
Mahoney said another problem that's since been resolved was FEMA's decision to stop issuing flood insurance during the government shutdown.
"They are now issuing it – but for a few days, they didn't," Mahoney said. "It was only six days ago that they reversed that, so hopefully no one missed their homestead deadline, because if they were purchasing a home that needed insurance that needed to close before Dec. 31 and didn't, then they lose their opportunity to homestead it for the whole year."
According to Florida Realtors, the reversal of FEMA's ruling was "a critical win for buyers and sellers of property requiring flood insurance."
Government sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should remain unaffected by the shutdown, according to Florida Realtors, though buyers may face delays getting tax return receipts and social security number verification as the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration operate in a limited capacity.
Mahoney said locally, the Charlotte County and North Port area may be more affected than most due to the lower price of homes.
"We have a lot of first-time homebuyers using the FHA, so I would say our area, because our median price is lower than some areas of the state, we're probably more affected than other areas."
She had no numbers for how many local sales were affected, but said the longer the shutdown continues, the more delays are likely.
"With all of the pieces of the government not working in synchronization, then anything that's government related, any government loan, is going to take longer, so people may not be able to close on time," she said.