Condo loans are tougher to get

Hand signing mortgage next to house

A condo used to represent the easy way to own a home -- no lawn to mow, no water heater to worry about, no siding to paint.

While it's still easy enough to live in a condo, there's nothing easy about financing one anymore.

Lenders worried about plunging prices have become reluctant to make loans for condominiums. In some cases, even buyers with great credit and big down payments have trouble getting loans.

If a bank or mortgage company wants to sell your loan to the two big government-run mortgage underwriters -- and it almost always does -- then it has to follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's rules.

Those make it more difficult to finance a condo in a couple of ways:

Fees are up. No matter how good your credit score, there's a three-quarter-point fee -- that's $750 for every $100,000 you want to borrow -- for financing a condo. Any condo.

They're real picky about the building. Neither Fannie nor Freddie will buy loans in buildings where more than 15% of residents are 30 days behind on their monthly association dues. In new developments, they will back loans only if 70% of the units are presold, up from 51%.

Of course, you want to avoid buying a condo in a "bad building," too.

You don't want to live in a new high-rise that's half empty -- or half rentals -- that the developer can't afford to maintain. Or in an established building where repairs can't be made because unit owners aren't paying their dues.

But the housing crisis has driven prices so low that there are some serious deals out there if if you can come up with the financing.

Here are some ways to get around the new rules and the reluctance to make condo loans:

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