The federal government shutdown has slowed the mortgage application process, threatening home sales for some in the Lowcountry.
Real estate agents are jammed up because data provided by the federal government is inaccessible.
Realtor Trina Woods, an agent at Century 21 Properties Plus in Summerville, is stalled in the mortgage for two clients who are unable to get records verified.
“It’s tax transcripts, and that’s something that comes from the IRS,” she said. “That’s an intricate part of the process, and that’s the only place you can get that information from.”
Woods said the delay can threaten a home sale since buyers are working under tight deadlines to close on a house. Loans generally take 30 to 60 days to close.
“Buyers could be delayed significantly and they can lose an opportunity and have to start all over again,” she said. “There could be some fallout from this shutdown. Realtors have to do their best, they have to be communicating with each other up front and let them know ... ‘We need to delay that closing.’ ”
The federal government shutdown Oct. 1 has either slimmed or shuttered operations at agencies, such as the IRS and the Social Security Administration. The agencies provide key pieces of information for banks to process loan applications.
“Lenders processing loans that need tax transcripts, Social Security number verification, or FHA home loans face longer delays and reduced functionality from HUD, IRS, and the Social Security Administration,” David H. Stevens, president and chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in a written statement Thursday. “Different loan programs have different requirements, and these disruptions impact lenders in different ways, leading to confusion and fear among borrowers about whether they will be able to close on a home purchase or refinance.”
Local financial institutions, such as Harbor National Bank, are still processing traditional loan applications with intent to verify some data at a later time. The bigger delays, however, are in regards to federally backed loans, said Chuck Stuart, the Charleston-based bank’s senior vice president of mortgage banking.
“Government loans are pretty much on hold until they come back into operations,” he said, adding that they are usually loans for first-time homebuyers.
The has meant a standstill for loans such as the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Home Loans. The Veterans Affairs home loans are still being processed, as well as Federal Housing Administration single-family home loans. The FHA is not processing applications for multi-family home loans, officials have said.
Still, real estate agents remain optimistic that the loan applications will have a small impact on the region’s housing market.
“We definitely anticipate delays, but fortunately many of the agencies do have contingency plans in place so some functionality may continue” said Meghan Byrnes Weinreich, spokeswoman for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. “The long-term impacts to the market and how significant these delays will be will depend on how long the shutdown lasts.”
Disruptions in the homebuying process could unravel a rebounding local housing market.
Through August, 8,706 homes have changed hands at a median price of $205,417. Compared with this time in 2012, sales volume is up by 24 percent, and the median price is 7.6 percent higher.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.