2022 Conforming Loan Limits Increase To Record Highs, Improving Affordability

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced new 2022 conforming loan limits for conventional loans. The baseline conforming loan limit for 2022 will be $647,200, up $98,950 from 2021's limit of $548,250. That is a record-high increase of 18% based on the FHFA House Price Index.

In higher-cost areas, the new loan limit increases to $970,800, or 150% of the baseline loan limit. This ceiling applies to residents of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as areas in which 115% of the local median home value exceeds the baseline conforming loan limit.

Mortgage loans above these limits are considered non-conforming loans, or jumbo loans. If your loan amount qualifies to be a jumbo loan, you may face stricter underwriting criteria, such as higher credit score and down payment requirements.

Why Understanding Conforming Loan Limits Is Important

As a real estate investor, understanding the conforming loan limits each year may help you allocate capital more strategically. To make the most amount of money, you want to invest in real estate where there is the most demand. Therefore, the most amount of real estate demand should be up to the conforming loan limits plus a down payment percentage.

In other words, given the baseline conforming loan limit for 2022 is $647,200, we can assume with high certainty that single-family homes priced up to $647,200 will get the most favorable mortgage rates. If we assume a 20 percent down payment, we can estimate that almost all homes priced up to $809,000 will receive the most favorable mortgage rates.

For higher-cost areas, the most amount of demand will be for homes between $970,800 to $1,213,500. Of course, as we get to the upper bands of $809,000 and $1,213,500, demand will decline slightly as not everybody is able to put down 20%.

Strategically, for 2022, you would then peruse Zillow or Redfin or the various real estate crowdfunding platforms for opportunities up to $809,000 and up to $1,213,500, depending on the area.

How Much Cheaper Are Conforming Loans Versus Non-conforming Loans?

Based on my experience with mortgages since 2005, I've observed conforming loans generally tend to be around 0.25% cheaper than non-conforming loans on average. The percentage difference is not large. However, if you need to get a non-conforming loan in a high-cost city like San Francisco, the absolute dollar amount may be significant.

For example, if you took out a $1,500,000 non-conforming loan, it would cost $204 more a month at 3.25% than at 3%. At 3.375%, the increase would be $307 more a month compared to a mortgage at 3%.

The reason why rates for conforming loans tend to be cheaper than non-conforming loans is due to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Fannie Mac and Fannie Mae are federally backed home mortgage companies created by the United States Congress. They back about half of all US mortgages and are not lenders. Instead, they are buyers of conforming loans from lenders and resell them to investors.

The actions of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae makes loans cheaper for lenders because it enables lenders to de-risk and lends out more money.

Think of yourself as a lender. Let's say you lend $100 to Slim Shady at a 10% interest rate for one year. $100 is all the money you have in the world. Instead of waiting for 12 months to get $110 back, you can sell your loan to Freddie Mac for $106. In this way, you pocket a $6 profit and get to lend out your money again for potentially more profit.

Thanks to Freddie Mac, you might even charge a lower interest rate of 9% because you've got the government's backing. The system works until you lend out too much money to too many unscrupulous borrowers who don't pay you back.

Conforming Loan Requirements

Homebuyers using conforming loans generally have to meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum credit score: 620
  • Maximum loan limits: $647,200 and $970,800 for higher-cost areas for 2022
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 43%
  • Minimum down payment required: At least 3%

You can certainly buy a much more expensive house than the maximum conforming loan limits if you have a larger mortgage. You just can't get a conforming loan with the likely lower rate beyond the maximum loan limits.

By categorizing higher-balance loans as conforming, more homebuyers can qualify for loans that are typically less expensive, require smaller down payments and allow for lower credit scores.

Non-conforming Loan Requirements (Jumbo Loans)

When people think of a non-conforming loan, they often think of loans that are greater than the conforming loan limits, hence, the term “jumbo loans.” However, that's not always the case.

A non-conforming loan is simply any mortgage that doesn’t conform to the requirements set forth by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Non-conforming loans also include government-backed loans like VA loans, FHA loans or USDA loans.

Here are some general requirements to qualify for a non-conforming loan:

  • Minimum credit score: 580 (but there really are few lenders who would lend at this low level)
  • Maximum loan limits: Varies by program and lender
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Varies by program and lender
  • Minimum down payment required: Varies by program and lender, but you may be more likely to be approved with a down payment of at least 20%

Why Non-Conforming Loan Rates Are Sometimes Lower

There have been a couple of incidences during my 18-year mortgage borrowing experience where non-conforming loan rates have been lower. These situations occur when the lenders may be hungry for more business. As a result, lenders may take more risk by lowering interest rates for borrowers.

Non-conforming loan rates are sometimes lower than conforming loan rates. This anomaly happens when there is government dysfunction or limits to what Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae can purchase. In recent years, we've seen the government provide unlimited financial resources to combat downturns. However, this was not always the case. For example, we saw indecisiveness during the initial months of the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis.

What Do Higher Conforming Loan Limits Mean For The Housing Market?

Higher conforming loan limits mean higher incremental demand for housing in 2022. More people can afford more affordable mortgages. Only needing to put down 3% to qualify for a conforming loan also brings in much more capital. A 20% down payment to qualify for a non-conforming loan may simply be too much for some.

For the self-employed, conforming loans also allow for more flexibility when it comes to income requirements. Usually, without at least two years of solid 1099 or self-employed income, you will unlikely qualify for any type of mortgage loan. However, self-employed people can now get a waiver to only provide the most recent year's tax return, instead of two in 2022.

Raising the conforming loan limit by 18% is another sign the government is on the side of homeowners. Therefore, in the long run, just like how it's not wise to bet against the Federal Reserve by shorting stocks, it's probably unwise to bet against the Federal Housing Finance Agency by renting.

The government knows most Americans own homes. Further, most of a typical homeowner's net worth is made up of their primary residence. Hence, the government would be foolish not to remain accommodative with the changing times.

Invest In Real Estate More Surgically

The combination of rising rents and rising capital values is a very powerful wealth-builder. I encourage readers to invest in real estate to build more wealth for the long term. Negative real mortgage rates also makes investing in real estate very attractive.

Invest in real estate surgically without a mortgage through real estate crowdfunding. Here are my two favorite platforms that are both free to sign up. I've personally invested $810,000 in private real estate funds to diversify my holdings and earn more passive income.

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, investing in a diversified eREIT is the easiest way to gain real estate exposure. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. If you have a lot more capital, you can build you own diversified real estate portfolio. Just make sure to thoroughly review each sponsor, as the sponsor is the most important variable.

How To Get The Lowest Mortgage Interest Rate Possible

Why An Adjustable Rate Mortgage Is Better Than A 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Readers, what do you think about the huge jump in conforming loan limits for 2022? Do you think this is healthy for the real estate market and society overall? How are you using higher conforming loan limits to your advantage?

About The Author

10 thoughts on “2022 Conforming Loan Limits Increase To Record Highs, Improving Affordability”

  1. I don’t read all of your posts, so I apologize in advance if you’ve already covered this, but where do you see rates going now? Have you revised your old outlook of forever decreasing mortgage rates with the Fed expected to raise rates 4 times this year? And lastly, do you expect rate hikes to slow down this blistering market?


  2. Pretty great to see the government on the ball and on the side of homeowners and future homeowners. Same thing with Social Security COLA going up over 6%.

    I have faith in our government!

  3. HopelessRenter

    What is your take on the future of home prices in bay area? The explosive growth has placed even high income earners on a pinch. Do you expect income from high tech companies to catch up to the rise of house prices? Would house price growth be slowed due to affordability issue? I have been saving for down payment for last 10 years and 2021 was the year I was going to buy a house, and all of sudden everything went up 20% and pricing me out again. I don’t want to bet against the Fed, but I feel hopeless in ever owning a home with the skyrocketing price and stagnant income.

    1. I actually think it’s the opposite. Bay Area home prices have a ways to catch up to income growth. Just look at the NASDAQ up 40% in 2020 and stocks like Apple and Google on a tear. Yet, I see median home prices up only high single digits to 10% YoY here. Of course, some areas are hotter.

      Therefore, I think big city real estate has a lot more upside. I’m a buyer and will be hunting for deals.

      1. HopelessRenter

        is the 10 and 40% a 1:1 relationship though? Housing is leveraged 5x. so a 40% increase in 20% downpayment is about 8% of total house price

  4. As the downpayment requirement is being lowered (to less than 10% for some) and home loans are easier to get for some, wouldn’t that invite risks of 2008 subprime situation again?

    1. Yes, the risk of loose lending increases. However, every mortgage lender I’ve checked with are still very stringent on lending standards. Lenders are still scarred from the Global Financial Crisis and higher standards have been implemented by lenders.

      Refinancing a loan or getting a new loan these days is more difficult than I once was. The average credit score for approved mortgages is over 720 now.

      My hope is that more people follow my home buying guides: https://www.financialsamurai.com/income-and-net-worth-requirements-to-buy-a-home-at-all-price-points/

      1. Do you have a guide that talks about Net Worth calculation? Trying to get your thoughts on buying guide for property while at the same time renting out a section of the property.

  5. Oh wow that’s a huge jump up for conforming loans. I haven’t followed this before at all and didn’t really know the differences between conforming and non conforming. Thanks for enlightening me!

    At the end of the day I am a fan of real estate and think it’s a great investment for those who can afford it, plan to stay in their area for a while, and are financially stable to pay their mortgage and deal with maintenance.

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