In the heady days of the housing boom, so-called FHA loans ended up being the lonely guy sitting on the sidelines. After all, at that time the mortgage market had a free-flowing and apparently limitless pipeline of funds for borrowers who had little to no money for a downpayment. Demand for the Federal Housing Administration's programs to help first-time and low-income buyers dwindled. That was then, as they say. This is now, when lending policies have gotten considerably more stringent in the wake of the housing downturn. Suddenly, the government program that's been around since 1934 is looking a lot more attractive to a lot more people: The agency went from being involved with just 464,000 loans in 2007 to 2 million loans in fiscal 2009, according to a recent speech by its commissioner, David Stevens. Its share of the market, depending on the region, is 30 to 50 percent. So, for many homebuyers, FHA is the name of the game these days. Five things to know about FHA mor...
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