How to Fill Out the New Fannie Mae Form | Condo Project Questionnaire
Beware of Changes to the Condo Selling Process: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Responding to the Surfside Building Collapse
New requirements on mortgage approvals for condominium units are being imposed based on project inspections and HOA Board planning as a result of recent changes in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac secondary loan markets, implemented in early 2022.
While Fannie and Freddie don’t make laws or set building codes, they wield incredible power in the lending market because they control the flow of financing to people looking for a mortgage, especially on a more affordable home, such as a condominium. If you sit on an HOA Board, or plan to sell your condo anytime soon, beware of these changes and take action now.
Most of today’s mortgages are sold on the secondary market to a variety of investors through government bonds. To be sold, they now need to conform to the guidelines in the latest questionnaires, Fannie Mae 1076A or Freddie Mac Form 476A.
These new forms came into effect in early 2022 as a response to the collapse of a 12-story, 136-unit building in Surfside, Florida: the Champlain Towers South Condominiums. The main contributing factor in the collapse was long-term degradation to the reinforcing concrete and steel, due to water intrusion, which was identified years before and nothing was done about it. Approximately half of the building collapsed, and subsequently the other half was condemned and torn down.
Prior to this, each unit’s mortgage was evaluated based on the individual borrower and the unit’s appraisal, as opposed to the community as a whole. The mortgage company is usually listed on the property insurance policy so that their investment is recoverable after a typical insurance loss such as fire. In the Champlain Towers case, the mortgage company’s investment was put at risk due to the Board and HOA’s ignoring or otherwise “slow walking” these problems toward a solution, which led to collapse and condemnation of the building (both of which are much more difficult in the insurance coverage aspect). It is speculated that these mortgages and banks lost out on their equity, and, as a result, Fannie and Freddie are implementing new guidelines.
We are going to break down the Condominium Project Questionnaire for you and explain what you can do to make this process smoother for yourself and your community, and to facilitate quick transactions for highest property values. (Please note: we are summarizing our interpretation of the form. This does not constitute legal advice. To read the exact questionnaire, download Fannie Mae Form 1076A)
Let’s understand the questions:
Q1: When was the last time a building inspection was performed by someone qualified?
This question is “when,” so it’s really a date letting the underwriter know if the building or property has been inspected recently, if ever. It seems to be more wholistic to the building or property as opposed to a specific unit. The past home inspection report is not enough. Home inspections are just a visual walkthrough of the interior of the unit and not invasive in any way (invasive would reveal more in-depth information).
The form doesn’t give any guidelines to preferred frequency, such as “every 3 years,” so it seems to be up to the bank how often inspections are necessary.
The form indicates a standard of licensed engineer or architect, “or any other building inspector.” The first two are licensed professionals, so the “building inspector” requirement seems to imply someone with advanced training and experience that would differentiate them from the ordinary crowd.
The “when” date has nothing to do with passing or failing, so all buildings will need them, and if you get a failing report, you will need to repair and show a passing report once the repairs are completed.
Q2: If you had a failed inspection, and have the problems been fixed? When will the repairs be completed?
The biggest item that stands out here is the requirement to “provide a copy of the inspection (report) and HOA or cooperative board meeting minutes to document findings and action plan” to deal with the problems.
It is our experience that an action plan takes time to develop, so it might take 2-3 monthly Board meetings (60-90 days) to develop an action plan for the problem. Then, depending on the problem, it may take several more months to cure the problem.
Q3 – 5: Regardless of an inspection by an engineer, does the Board have any knowledge, or even anticipation of defects, code requirements, or damages to the building?
These can come from the annual fire department inspection, elevator inspection, or the building department issuing a citation or “red tag” about a prospective issue. Again, is the Board aware of these problems and is there a budget and schedule to get things fixed?
Q6 – 7: Regardless of inspections or other department red tags of big issues, does the Board have a plan, budget, and schedule for maintenance?
All buildings need maintenance. This question assumes that each property has:
- a maintenance plan
- standard procedures for routine maintenance
- periodic inspections
- follow-up with your building
Q8 – 9: Have you had a reserve study in the past 3 years?
This is a telling question. While many states require reserve studies so that Boards can develop good budgets and save their money, they usually have an “out” – such as “unless the study is financially impractical” or another similar excuse.
The question has become a yes or no—have you or have you not had a reserve study in the past 3 years? What is the total reserve account balance? Consequently, the potential is even if you have had one, you might not get the loan because your balance is too low.
In the past, the common Board President campaign slogan was, “No new taxes under my watch!” Well, since everything has gone up in price, if you are not properly saving for your building then you are automatically behind. And the banks may stop lending on your community because of it.
Q10 – 12: Does the property know of any, or have any planned assessments for work on the property?
These questions deal with special assessments or loans for improvement and maintenance. This seems like a financial qualification statement to make sure the borrower can pay the assessments and loans necessary for the property and its upkeep.
In summary, this questionnaire wants to find out:
- When was the building last inspected?
- Did the inspection reveal problems, and what is the board’s plan?
- Does the board know anything else that needs to be fixed?
- Do you have a plan for maintenance?
- Do you have a reserve study for normal replacement of building components?
- What is the total cost of loans and special assessments for this community?
We spoke to a lending company in our last episode of The Building Doctor Show and they had some interesting points:
- These new requirements are delaying the selling and closing process.
- These started out as temporary measures that have become more common, but the pendulum swings both ways, so things could get a little more relaxed, or more strict if another building makes the news – so it’s best to be prepared. (E.g. This Oregon building just made the news: Partial collapse of a popular brewery, undergoing some repairs, with new construction excavation activity happening nearby)
- Lenders have lists of good communities who have been reviewed already, so if you are already on the list they may relax the requirements.
- Buyers with a higher down payment percentage are seeing relaxed reviews of these requirements.
- Many real estate agents and other lenders are not up to speed on these requirements yet.
- If you are prepared for this and have the documents in place, you will speed through the approval process.
As an engineering and building envelope firm, we are getting more and more requests to help with this form and fill it out for prospective buyers. What we used to see on a state-by-state basis depending on various state condo act requirements, is now a requirement affecting all 50 states, thanks to the changing mortgage requirements.
One party may not have all the answers, and many of the questions require the board to come up with an approved plan, schedule, and budget that may require months to sort out, and they will change from year to year. Approved budgets will likely require an HOA vote process as well.
So what can boards do now to prepare for this new requirement?
- Get your building inspected.
- Get your reserve study done.
- Get a maintenance plan together.
- Do a document inventory of all the reports and violations or other official building information you have, memorialize it in the meeting minutes, and share it with the board and members.
- Put a plan together for any information that deals with maintenance, repairs, and replacement. This may involve HOA votes. This may also involve meeting with a building consultant to help you prioritize and allocate the work over a period of time.
- Prepare a budget to implement the work based on the plan and timeline you develop above.
With these documents in place, you will breeze through the Freddie and Fannie forms and be able to help buyers and sellers quickly and easily obtain funding to move into your complex. This will create higher property values within your community, and make the response to this form request standardized, easy to respond to, and will restore your building to prevent tragedy from happening at your complex—keeping you and your loved ones safe.
Schedule a free call to talk about these requirements, schedule an inspection, or receive some guidance to get back on track.
Owner, J2 Building Consultants