Our Real Estate Blog
If you’re hoping to buy your first home in the near future, you’re likely wondering about the different types of mortgages that you may qualify for. Since the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been insuring home loans for first-time homeowners across America.
This program helps people achieve homeownership who typically wouldn’t be able to afford the down payment or pass the credit score requirements to secure a traditional mortgage.
In today’s post, we’re going to answer some frequently asked questions about FHA loans to help you decide if this is the best option for your first home.
Does the FHA issue loans?
Although they’re called “FHA loans,” mortgages are not actually issued by the FHA. Rather, they’re issued by mortgage lenders across the country and insured by the FHA.
Will I have to make a down payment?
With an FHA loan, your down payment can be as low as 3.5%, significantly lower than traditional loans at 20% down payment. However, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) in addition to your monthly mortgage payments until you have paid off 20% of the home. So, the best case scenario would be to save as much as possible for a down payment to reduce the amount of mortgage insurance you have to pay.
What are the benefits of an FHA loan?
The three main reasons to secure an FHA loan are:
You can qualify with a low credit score
You can make a smaller down payment than traditional mortgages
Your closer costs will be less expensive
Where do I apply for an FHA loan?
You can apply for an FHA loan through a mortgage lender. You can also work with a mortgage broker to help choose a lender.
Is an FHA loan the only loan option for low down payments?
There are multiple loan programs offered at the state and federal level to help individuals secure a mortgage with a lower down payment. They can be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the USDA, or state-sponsored programs. Lenders also often sponsor their own programs to attract potential borrowers. However, always make sure you compare these programs to make sure you’re making the best long-term financial decision.
Do all FHA loans offer the same interest rates and costs?
No. Since the loans are only insured by the FHA, it’s up to the lender to determine your interest rate and fees. So, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best lender.
How high does my credit score have to be to qualify for an FHA loan?
You can secure a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% with a credit score of 580 or higher. However, if you can afford to make a larger down payment, you can secure an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500.
If your score is in the 500-600 range, it’s typically a better idea to spend a few months building credit before applying for a home loan.
What information will I need to apply?
You’ll need to gather all of the same information that you would for a typical mortgage. This includes W2s from your employer(s), two years of submitted tax forms, your current and former addresses from the past two years, and your gross monthly salary.
I’ve owned a house before, can I still qualify for FHA loans?
Even if you’re not a first-time homebuyer you can still qualify for an FHA loan. However, you cannot qualify if you’ve had a foreclosure within the last three years or have filed for bankruptcy within the last two years.
Applying for a mortgage may seem like a long, stressful process at first. Fortunately, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of submitting a mortgage application.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you streamline the mortgage application process.
1. Ask Questions
A bank or credit union likely will ask you to provide a wide range of information as part of the mortgage application cycle. And as you complete a mortgage application, you may have questions along the way too.
Remember, a lender is happy to help you in any way possible. If you ever have concerns or questions as you complete a mortgage application, you should reach out to a lender for expert support. That way, you can reduce the risk of potential problems down the line that otherwise could slow down the mortgage application process.
Even a single mistake on a mortgage application may prevent you from getting a mortgage. Perhaps even worse, a delayed mortgage application may force you to miss out on an opportunity to acquire your dream house. But if you reach out to a lender as you complete your mortgage application, you can gain the insights you need to quickly and effortlessly finalize the necessary documentation to obtain a mortgage.
2. Be Thorough
A mortgage application may require you to look back at your financial and employment histories and provide information that a lender will use to determine whether to approve or deny your submission. Meanwhile, you should be ready to provide a lender with any requested information to ensure a seamless application process.
As a homebuyer, it is your responsibility to include accurate information on your mortgage application. In fact, failure to do so may cause a lender to reject your mortgage application. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to dot every I and cross every T on your mortgage application, you can boost the likelihood of a fast approval.
3. Shop Around
For homebuyers, it is crucial to check out all of the mortgage options that are available. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can review myriad mortgage options and select a mortgage that complements your finances.
Banks and credit unions generally provide a broad array of fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. If you learn about all of the mortgage options at your disposal, you can find one that enables you to purchase your dream house without breaking your budget.
Of course, once you are approved for a mortgage and are ready to launch your house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. A real estate agent will offer plenty of guidance at each stage of the homebuying journey. In addition, a real estate agent can make it easy for you to find a top-notch residence at a budget-friendly price in any housing market, at any time.
Start the mortgage application process today, and you can move one step closer to acquiring your dream residence.
When you buy a luxury home, you have several options when it comes to paying for the home. While some luxury buyers invest fully in the home and purchase outright, most find that opting for a mortgage of some type keeps options open and reserves capital for other things. Mortgages can be used for high end homes, but not all products are available -- or useful -- for this luxury space. Whether you are buying or selling, knowing what to expect when it comes to financing can help you strike the perfect deal.
Depending on where you live and the cost of the high end home, a conventional mortgage could be all you need. In parts of the country where a huge home in pristine condition still falls within the guidelines of a complying mortgage, this may be your best option. While it may not always work for you, exploring the conventional financing options is an ideal first step.
Conventional loans are conforming loans – that fall within a specific set of guidelines. You can use a conventional loan for your own residence or for a vacation or investment home. Opting for this type of mortgage could result in lower costs to you (if you have at least 20% equity, you can avoid PMI). If the mortgage for your prospective home is under the limit of $453,100, then you can choose a conventional loan for your home.
That $453,100 limit is for mortgages in most areas, but a few select zip codes in the US allow for an even larger limit. In these high end locations, the limit for a conventional loan is much higher: $679,650. These limits are not the cost of the home itself, but the amount that you can borrow and still qualify for the conventional, conforming loan.
When a conventional loan isn't quite right, or the loan amount for the home in question is over the stated conventional limits of $453 or $679K, then a jumbo loan will work best. These loans are designed for expensive, high end homes and properties and may have more stringent requirements when it comes to down payment amounts and the assets that need to remain on hand after the home purchase.
Aside from the differences in the amount of the loan, a jumbo loan works in a way that is very similar to a conventional loan. Expect to go through an underwriting process, to supply proof of income and to shop around for the best possible rates when you choose this option.
No matter what product you choose, expect a luxury home mortgage to follow similar steps to a conventional one. Depending on the amount borrowed and the buyer's financial health, the process could take less time than a conventional one.
People focus mostly on the interest rate when looking for the best mortgage. Other than the interest rate, there are some other variables to consider when looking for a mortgage that is ideal for you. One of the variables that you should consider is the length of the mortgage agreement. There are various options available, so you need to have a conversation with your financial planner to know the reasons why you might like to choose a short-term or long-term mortgage. Here are some considerations to bear in mind:
Do you need to make a long-term commitment?
Most financial institutions offer a 30-year fixed term. This term comes with a fixed rate most times. You should note that this rate is sometimes 1 to 2% higher than a fifteen-year term. When you choose a more extended period, the rate will not change for decades which helps with long-term planning.
Paying for stability.
When you go through the rates of any bank, you will discover that the shorter terms usually have lower rates. Therefore, if you can accommodate rate fluctuations and renegotiation more frequently, you could realize considerable long-term savings through a lower monthly premium. If you merely want to have a rate and stick to it, then choose a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage.
Breaking up is difficult.
Some people have been advised to break their current mortgage and start up a new one at a reduced rate. However, you should know that refinancing a mortgage is not free; it comes at a cost. Your current lender may charge you a fee, and you will pay fees, points, and closing costs for the new loan.
The interest rate differential, also known as IRD, is the difference between your real rate and currently available rate of the same mortgage. Different lenders calculate this penalty differently so ask your preferred lender for their early liquidation or mortgage transfer conditions.
Is it worth moving to a lower mortgage rate?
You should be aware that your lender will charge you based on the higher figure between the two calculations. What you need to do is to compare the amount of interest you will pay over the remainder of your present mortgage and what you would pay at a lower rate when you switch. When making your comparison, you should consider the penalty figure. You should base your decision on the outcome of your comparison.
You should consider switching to a lower mortgage rate if the interest savings is more than the penalty charges. However, you must be sure that there is no other fee attached that may wipe out your potential savings.
Talk to your financial planner today to know what mortgage is best for you.
If you’re finding that your finances are a bit tighter these days, you might need to adjust your budget a bit. Have you ever thought about alternatives in helping you to pay your mortgage? There’s a few things that you might be able to do in your home to save a few bucks and be more comfortable with your budget and finances.
Share The Space
This might sound crazy, but it works for many people. If you’re willing to share your living space with others, it could help you to make a dent in your mortgage. This works especially well if you have a home with a separate entrance like an in-law apartment or something similar.
Make Adjustments To Your Expenses
There are many different costs that come along with owning a home. If you reduce some of these expenses, you’ll be able to cut your overall spending. You don’t need to completely adjust your entire way of living to do this. Some ideas:
- Cut the cord on cable and install streaming devices
- Go on a family cell phone plan
- Skip the gym membership
- Use public transportation
- Cook at home instead of eating out
- Use coupons
Put Tax Refunds To Good Use
If you normally get a tax refund, you can apply that money to your mortgage instead of using it to buy something else. You could also adjust your withholdings. This would allow you to get a bit more money in your paycheck each week. You’ll get less of a refund during tax time, but the extra money may help you to pay down bills throughout the year.
Pay More Towards The Principal
To make the most of your hard-earned savings, use your money wisely and pay down the mortgage faster. Just be sure that there’s no penalty for a prepayment of the loan. You can either make an extra loan payment each month or you can pay a bit over what you owe on the mortgage each month. If you pay the mortgage faster, you’ll save potentially thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. You’ll need to check with your mortgage company to see what their process is for paying more towards the principal of the loan. Keep in mind that the first few years‘ worth of your mortgage payments will be going towards interest unless you specify extra payments to go elsewhere.
Whether you’d like a little more of a financial cushion or are just looking to get rid of all those pesky monthly bills, it’s never a bad idea to focus on paying your mortgage down as quickly as possible.