Shutdown hits housing market

By Matt Porter

October 7, 2013 Updated Oct 7, 2013 at 9:00 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) The effects of the government shutdown are now being felt by the fragile housing market.

Two entities, the USDA and the IRS, are making things more difficult for home buyers, while the Federal Housing Administration has promised to keep a skeleton staff available to continue to endorse single-family home loans, which make up 40 percent of the local housing market.

Jacques Laubert, a mortgage broker for 1st Priority Mortgage, said the closure of the USDA has affected about 10 percent of the local market.

"They've shut down on two fronts," Laubert said, "Both their underwriting engine, which allows us to issue approvals and also on their commitment front, which allows us to actually close the loans has stopped."

The USDA offers loans with little down for people who make less than $75,000 and are looking for homes in more rural areas.

Laubert said that demographic has few other options available.

"There really aren't any comparable programs to USDA," he said.

Experts including Brendan McMahon Burns, a branch manager for Homestead Funding Corporation, worries an extended shutdown will bring even more delays once it ends.

"For the USDA in particular, which is generally at times already backlogged," Burns said. "If you add in that they've been piling up for weeks and weeks. It's going to be even longer."

And the IRS is no longer verifying tax returns for all home buyers

However, banks and mortgage brokers are choosing to close on loans and verify the IRS information later.

All they require is a look at a buyer's physical tax return.

"We were faced with the decision as to either completely stop originating loans or to simply continue originating them and get them after the government turns back on," Burns said.

Some are worried a prolonged shutdown could dissolve all credit on the marketplace, but it's not known for sure.

"It's never gone on to the point where it's happened like this. So at the moment, we don't really know."

For now, most homes on the market continue to be sold as normal and people remain optimistic.