Breaks for big loans

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Homeowners and homebuyers who live in expensive housing markets may be pleased to learn that the federal government recently increased the size of mortgages that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can insure. The higher loan limits are expected to help people in high-cost housing markets buy homes and refinance existing mortgages, though the extent of such aid won't be assured until the new programs are put into place.

The higher loan limits were part of the economic stimulus package that President Bush signed into law in February. At that time, the loan limit for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was $417,000 in high-cost markets, except for Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the limit was $625,000. The new limits will be based on a percentage of the median home price in each county and could be as high as $729,750 in some areas.

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