1. Regular Conforming. Max loan amount $417,000. Best interest rates, FANNIE MAE Qualifying.
2. Jumbo Conforming. Between $417,000 and $729,599. Higher interest higher rates. FANNIE MAE Qualifying.
3. Super Jumbo. above $729,500. significantly higher interest rates. Tougher to qualify for.
All regular mortgage lenders offer 1 and 2.
Not all offer #3.
In general you will need 10% down payment from your own funds only.
Most Lenders are now on line with the new, higher Super Jumbo ($729,500). It took varying amounts of time for different Lenders to make the internal systems adjustment from the previous $625,000 level.
In addition to these you also have FHA available where you can go up to the $729,500 level with as little as 3.5% down payment. In addition, with FHA all of the down payment can be a gift from a 3rd party.
Get connected with an experienced and up-to-date mortgage broker who can explain the pro's and con's of all options available to you.
Good luck, Bill
"Some are saying the 729k limits aren't available yet, while some say they are available, but not at the lower regular conforming loan limit rate because there aren't enough buyers for the loans yet. "
Both of these statements are accurate. Even though the government redefined "conforming", that's not to say that the higher levels will ever be treated like the classical conforming limit of 417K by the MBS investors.
There are a number of reasons that will keep the intetest rate spread between the "classical conforming" and "jumbo conforming" rates:
1) The government is only guaranteeing the base 417K conforming loan limits, so investors of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are focusing their dollars there. As a shell-shocked" investor worried about stability you are going to stick with a guranteed investment - especially with the economy in its current state and unemployemnt on the rise (unemployeed people stop making mortgage payments).
2) The FED purchases of MBS is focusing on the base conforming levels, specifically 4.0% & 4.5% MBS Coupon bonds. This helpes to keep the intetest rates low for conforming loans.
3) With weak demand by investors for non-guaranteed Jumbo MBS, interest rates must be higher to attract investors.
For these three primary reasons (FED guarantee, FED purchase focus, elevated risk vs. reward pricing for jumbos) I really don't see "conforming jumbo" pricing improving significantly throughut 2009.
See the following two links if you really want to understand how mortgage rates are determined: