The Federal Housing Administration, in an effort to shore up weakening finances, recently announced it will make it harder to get government-backed mortgages.

The FHA, which insured nearly 1/3 of new mortgages last year, will hike the premium it charges for mortgage insurance and increase the downpayment for purchasers with weaker credit scores. It will also reduce the amount of seller concessions available, down to 3 percent from the current 6 percent limit, for closing costs.

In addition, the FHA will require homebuyers to have a minimum credit score of 580 to qualify for the agency’s 3.5% downpayment program. Prospective borrowers with lower credit scores will have to pay up to 10%.

The agency also announced it will tighten restrictions on lenders offering FHA mortgages by increasing monitoring for compliance of agency standards.

Banks are more willing to make FHA loans since they come with federal guarantees to cover losses if a borrower defaults. As a result, during the recent fiscal crisis, FHA loans exploded in popularity. The agency guaranteed more than $360 billion in single-family mortgages for fiscal 2009, up more than four times the volume from the same period in 2007.

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