Maria DiCarlo's Blog
FHA loans have long been a valuable resource for Americans who want to fulfill their goal of homeownership but who don’t have the benefit of a lengthy credit history and equity.
If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future but want to explore all of your options in terms of financing, this article is for you.
Today we’re going to talk about FHA loans and how to know if you qualify for one.
What are FHA loans?
FHA loans are issued by private mortgage lenders across the country, just like regular mortgages. The difference, however, is that an FHA loan is “guaranteed” by the federal government.
Lenders decide your borrowing eligibility, and how much you can borrow, by determining risk. If you don’t have a sizable down payment (oftentimes 20% or more) and you have a low credit score, most mortgage lenders will see you as a risky person to lend to.
When you get an FHA loan, however, the federal government assumes some of that risk, allowing you to secure the loan anyway.
This means you can buy a home with a low credit score, a smaller than usual down payment, and save on some closing costs.
How do I qualify for an FHA Loan?
To find out if you qualify for an FHA loan, you’ll head to the same place as a traditional mortgage--a mortgage lender. Oftentimes, you can simply call or visit the website of lenders to get the process started.
As with all things, it’s a good idea to shop around for a mortgage lender. Their offerings will be largely similar, but there might be minor differences that make one better than another for your particular circumstances.
Down payment requirements
To secure an FHA loan, you will need to make a down payment of at least 3.5%. However, this low down payment comes with a price. You’ll typically be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) fees on top of your accruing interest for your loan.
Credit score requirements
While you can often secure a mortgage with a lower credit score through an FHA loan, there are still some requirements. To secure a loan with the lowest possible down payment (3.5%), you’ll need a credit score of 580 or above.
Previous homeowners and FHA loans
A common misconception about FHA loans is that they are only for first-time homeowners. However, you can still qualify for an FHA loan if you’ve owned a home before as long as it has been three years since you’ve had a foreclosure or two years since filing for bankruptcy.
If you meet these three conditions, you should be able to secure an FHA loan through a traditional mortgage lender.
The biggest area of your life that you need to understand before you buy a house is your own finances. Before you know what kind of house you can buy, you’ll need to understand your own buying power. While things like square footage, how many bedrooms you need, and finding the right neighborhood are important, you can’t go very far without some type of financing. While understanding how much you can spend on a property is one of the more serious parts of buying a home, it’s something that you’ll want to do. Knowing what you can spend on a home is a step to helping you land a home you love. If you understand your own numbers, you’ll know the chances that you have of an offer being accepted on a place you love.
The Elements Of Your Buying Power
Your Credit Score
This little three digit number has a lot of meaning behind it. This is the most basic piece of information that lenders use to determine your loan worthiness. The factors that influence your credit score include:
- Payment history
- How much you owe
- Length of your credit history
- Mix of credit accounts
- How much new credit you have opened
A low credit score is somewhere under 620. Having a score this low doesn't necessarily mean that you’ll be denied for a loan, but the type and amount of the loan you’re offered can be impacted. You’ll also face higher interest rates because of a low credit score. This means your mortgage could be considerably more expensive than if you had a higher credit score.
The 20 percent down as a rule of thumb actually offers many benefits to your buying power. This means that you’ll need 20% down of the purchase price of the home in cash. If you put this amount of money (or even more) down on a home, it eliminates the need for you to have to buy PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). You’ll even be able to negotiate a lower interest rate. A large down payment may be especially helpful in competitive markets where there is a lot of buyer competition.
How Your Financial Picture Appears
Your assets and your debt-to-income ratio are also important factors in your financial picture that you present to the lender. Basically, all of these numbers let both the lender and the seller see how committed you are to buying a home. It is one of the biggest financial undertakings of your entire life. If you can’t show financial responsibility, then it may be a bit difficult for lenders to see that you’ll actually pay your loan back in a timely manner.
The better all of your financial numbers are, the more buying power that you’ll have. If your numbers are good, you’ll be able to afford more house. While it may not be the most exciting thing to look over all of your financial numbers, it’s a vital step in the process of your journey to home ownership.
A home inspection is a vital part of every real estate transaction. Its importance is usually solidified in a purchase contract in the form of a contingency clause.
Whenever you buy or sell a home, the transaction is typically contingent upon a few things being fulfilled. Inspections help protect the buyer from purchasing a home that they believed didn’t have any major issues.
For buyers, an inspection can save you thousands in the long run. For sellers, getting a preemptive inspection done (on your own dime) can be useful since it will help you avoid any surprises that could arise when a potential buyer has your home inspected.
Hiring a home inspector
Regardless of whether you’re the buyer or the seller in this instance, hiring a home inspector isn’t something you should take lightly. You’ll want to confer with your agent before you pick an inspector.
It’s also a good idea to check out some online reviews and visit the inspector’s website for pricing. Typically, inspectors charge between $200 and $400 for an inspection, so feel free to shop around.
Inspectors are certified, so make sure whoever you choose has the proper licensure. You can search for inspectors in your area with this search function.
Ultimately, you’ll want to choose an inspector that can give you the most unbiased assessment of the home, so that you can be assured that you know what you’re getting into when you buy or sell a home.
Preparing for an inspection
Many buyers aren’t sure what to expect on inspection day. However, the process is relatively simple.
You’ll want to make sure the inspector can easily access workspaces (like around the furnace, circuit breakers, etc.). This will make the inspector’s job easier and allow them to focus on the service they’re providing you.
If possible, it’s also a good idea to provide them with records of important home maintenance and repairs. Inspectors know what red flags to look for with the home, both physically and on paper.
Finally, make sure pets, kids, and any other distractions are away from home or with someone who can attend to them.
After the inspection is complete, the inspector will hand you a report and be able to answer any questions you have about their findings. They will give recommendations about the timeline for repairs that need to be made soon or even years into the future.
With this report in hand, you can determine if there are repairs you want to negotiate with the seller if you’re buying a home. As a seller, this report will tip you off to issues that potential buyers will likely have and give you a chance to address them in advance.
Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases that you’ll ever make in your lifetime. You’ll spend decades of your life making mortgage payments to pay off your home loan. Buying a home is more than just simply finding a place to live. It’s also a financial decision. Your home helps you to build equity, gives you tax deductions, and helps you to have some security in your financial future.
One of the biggest questions that you’ll have when you buy a home is “How much can I spend?” To answer this question, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.
Do You Have Money For A Down Payment?
The standard amount of money that you’ll need for a down payment is 20 percent of the purchase price of a home. If you don’t have the money for a full down payment, you’ll need to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). This could add up to be an extra cost of hundreds of dollars per month in additional insurance payments on top of your mortgage and every other kind of expense that goes along with buying a home. You’ll need to take the time to save up for a down payment if you’re a first time homebuyer. If you already own a home, the equity that you have in that home can help you with the down payment.
What Are Your Other Financial Responsibilities?
There’s more to buying a home than just the monthly mortgage payment. You’ll need to get insurance, pay taxes, and have some money set aside for repair and decorating costs. You’ll need to look at your monthly income to find out just how much you can afford on a home. You should take an honest look at your lifestyle and existing expenses in order to determine a comfortable monthly mortgage payment for you.
Know Your Credit Score
Your credit score will be a major factor in how much house you’ll be able to afford. Your lender will use your credit score and credit history to help determine what type of interest rate you’ll get and how much they’re willing to lend you in order to buy a home.
Understanding what you can afford for a home purchase is crucial before you even start shopping. It’s a good idea to meet with a lender to get pre-qualified. This is different than getting pre-approved. Your lender will give you a general idea of how much you can spend on a home without digging too deep into your finances. Getting pre-qualified is a great place to start when you’re looking at the numbers of being a homeowner.
Shopping for a house is a high-stakes game. If you’re a first-time buyer, it can be difficult to gauge the value of various components and features of a home. Appraisals are designed for just this reason.
However, an appraisal is a subjective tool to determine a rough estimate. Furthermore, there are a number of things you can’t learn from an appraisal--such as how convenient the home would be for your work commute.
In this article, we’re going to help you, the homebuyer, determine the true value of a home as it would mean to you in your everyday life. Read on for tips on finding out the value of that home you’ve been dreaming of and deciding whether it’s really the best home for your budget.
Appraisals are a baseline
When lenders are in the process of approving your home loan, they’ll want to decide whether the home you’re buying is worth the amount you’re paying. To achieve this, they’ll typically hire a third-party appraiser.
Find out from your lender which appraiser they use and read their online reviews. This will ensure that they’re a trustworthy source of information. Also be sure to check that the appraiser is certified and that they work with a diverse range of clientele (not just your lender!).
Since you’ll likely be paying the appraisal fee as part of your closing costs, make sure you’re happy with the appraisal and appraiser.
Key appraisal factors
After the appraisal, consider getting a second opinion or inspection of any of the key components of your home that may impact the appraisal. Some of these factors include:
The roof, HVAC system, and septic systems
The energy-efficiency of the home
The current market value in the area
The general upkeep of the home--a few cosmetic problems shouldn’t affect the home value much, but serious neglect can cause long-lasting and expensive issues like mold, water damage, pest invasion, and more
What an appraisal can’t tell you
Now that we’ve discussed the nuts and bolts of home value, we have to venture into what value means to you and your family. You’ll need to ask yourself a series of questions, and some of them won’t have a cut-and-dry answer.
First, how well does this home fit into the work life of you and your spouse? Will it mean a shorter commute, and therefore lower transportation costs and more free time? Putting a dollar value on an extra thirty minutes not spent in traffic can be difficult, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to take part in.
Furthermore, does the house have features that will make it a better asset in years to come? Energy-efficiency, proximity to in-demand schools, businesses, etc., can all be selling points for future buyers that are willing to pay more for your home.
Using a combination of a certified appraisal and some introspection, you should be able to come to a confident conclusion as to the value of the home as it means to you and your family.