A “jumbo mortgage” is any single loan amount over the conforming loan limit (set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency), which is currently set at $417,000 for a one unit property in the contiguous United States. So if your loan amount is $417,001 or higher, your loan is considered jumbo.
However, it should be noted that there are different jumbo limits depending on both the number of units on the property, along with where the property is located.
For properties located in the contiguous United States, including D.C and Puerto Rico, jumbo loan limits are as follows:
1-unit property: Greater than $417,000
2-unit property: Greater than $533,850
3-unit property: Greater than $645,300
4-unit property: Greater than $801,950
In Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, jumbo loan limits are higher:
1-unit property: Greater than $625,500
2-unit property: Greater than $800,775
3-unit property: Greater than $967,950
4-unit property: Greater than $1,202,925
As you can see, in some parts of the country, you can get a rather large loan without entering into jumbo loan territory. The same goes for multi-unit properties.
Rather importantly, jumbo mortgages cannot be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, so outside investors typically buy these loans in securitized bundles on the secondary market, or lenders simply keep them on their own books.
Jumbo loans carry greater risk for a number of reasons. Along with the larger loan amounts financed and fewer available investors, they also tend to be tied to luxury residences, which are known to be harder to sell in a short amount of time, mainly due to the general lack of wealthy, prospective home buyers out there. Luxury homes are also more prone to valuation shifts than moderately priced homes during market shifts.
Jumbo Loans Have Higher Mortgage Rates
Because of the associated risks, jumbo mortgage loans tend to carry slightly higher mortgage rates, although not necessarily by that much. The difference may only be .25% – .50% higher, or borrowers may just lose out on any lender credit offered for a conforming loan amount.
Borrowers may even be able to find zero-down jumbo mortgages without a problem. Most lenders these days can provide 100% financing on deals up to around $1.5 million.
Keep in mind that most lenders have loan amount limits as well, which usually drop as the loan-to-value (LTV) or combined-loan-to-value (CLTV) gets closer to 100% financing. For example, you may be limited to a loan amount of $1.5 million at 90% LTV, but able to borrow $2 million at 80% LTV. If your LTV is below 65%, loan amounts of up to $3 million may be possible.
Super Jumbo Loans
While there might be some argument, a true “super jumbo loan” is any loan amount above $650,000, ranging up to $20 million or higher.
This term is probably used incorrectly on a daily basis, depending on the state in which the overzealous loan officer resides. I suppose it’s all relative.
Conforming Jumbo Loans
New legislation has also brought about so-called “conforming-jumbo loans,” which are neither jumbo loans or conforming loans, and range between $417,001 and $625,500 for conventional loans, and $417,001 to $729,750 for FHA loans. They typically carry interest rates closer to those of conforming loans, with perhaps a slight premium.
They are now known as “high balance mortgages,” meaning they aren’t conforming, but aren’t jumbo either. So a loan amount in this range will be slightly more expensive to finance than a conforming loan, but significantly cheaper than a jumbo loan.
Note: Keep in mind that some of what was written above was put together before the mortgage crisis took hold. Jumbo mortgage rates are now quite a bit higher than conforming rates, and it’s much more difficult to obtain financing for jumbo loans than it used to be.
This is mainly because the secondary market for jumbo mortgages, or really any mortgages not backed by the government or Fannie/Freddie, has simply dried up. As a result, financing these types of loans comes at a premium.