James A. Wood's Blog
If you’ve been considering taking the next step toward homeownership, you’ve likely heard about FHA loans. Offered by the Federal Housing Administration (hence, “FHA”), these loans are great for a number of people hoping to purchase a home but who don’t have a large down payment saved.
There are many misconceptions about FHA loans since they’re often advertised by large, private mortgage lenders but are technically a government program. In order to clear up some of the confusion, we’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions regarding FHA loans.
Read on to learn about FHA loans and how they might help you purchase a home.
Who issues an FHA loan?
FHA loans aren’t issued by the government. Rather, they’re issued by private lenders but insured, or “guaranteed,” by the government.
Since lenders want to make sure they’ll see a positive return from lending to you, they typically want you to have a high credit score and a large down payment (typically 20%). However, not everyone is able to meet those requirements. In this situation, the FHA is able to help you acquire a loan by giving your lender a guarantee.
Are there different types of FHA loans?
Yes. In fact, there are nine distinct types of loans guaranteed by the FHA. These include fixed rate mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, refinance loans, reverse mortgages, VA loans, and more.
What do you need to qualify for an FHA loan?
It’s a common misconception that you need to be a first-time buyer to qualify for an FHA loan. However, if you have previously owned a home that was foreclosed on or if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, the foreclosure and bankruptcy have to be at least three years old.
You’ll also need to demonstrate a stable employment history, usually including two years of employment with the same employer.
Finally, the FHA will ask you for your current and previous addresses, the last two years tax returns, and the W-2 forms from any of your recent jobs.
What is the most I can borrow with an FHA loan?
The FHA sets mortgage limits on loans depending on the state and county you’ll be living in. For a single-family home, the limit ranges from $275,000 to $451,000. So be sure to check the limits for your state and county.
Can you refinance an FHA loan?
Refinancing a loan is a great way to receive a lower interest rate or to shorten the term of their mortgage to save in the total number of interest payments. In fact, the FHA typically only allows refinancing when it will result in lower interest payments on a loan.
What is the minimum credit score needed to qualify for an FHA loan?
While you don’t need excellent credit to qualify for a loan, the FHA will require you to have a score of at least a 580. You can check your score for free online from a number of companies, such as Mint or Credit Karma. Be aware, however, that scores vary between credit bureaus. So, it’s a good idea to check your FICO score once per year, which is the score used by mortgage lenders.
Buying a home is a complicated process with a lot of opportunities to make costly mistakes. There’s no high school class to prepare you for buying a home but there probably should be. If you’re a first time homebuyer and you came across this article looking for advice, congratulations--you’re already doing the most important thing you can when making a big financial decision: the research.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes that first time homebuyers make when entering the real estate market. We’ll break it down by the three main phases of home-buying: saving for a home, hunting for a home, and signing a mortgage.
Saving for a home
One of the first lessons that all first time homeowners quickly learn is that being able to afford your monthly mortgage payments doesn’t mean you can afford a home. Many first time buyers are often coming from living situations where certain utilities are included (water, heat, electricity, etc.). Aside from those obvious expenses, there are also things like property tax and home insurance to budget for, both of which may increase. Finally, when you’re living in an apartment and your faucet breaks, you simply call the landlord. When you own a home, especially an older home, be prepared to spend on repairs and to start learning basic maintenance skills that will save you money.
The hunt for your first home
Now that you’re aware of the costs, it might be tempting to jump in and start looking at homes. Another common mistake first time homebuyers make is to waste time looking at homes before they’ve met with a real estate agent or have gotten pre-approved for a loan. Start there, then once you know the scope of your home search, you’ll have a much more relaxing hunt for your new home.
Another mistake that first time homebuyers make is to underestimate the time and commitment it takes to find a home. When you work with a real estate agent, make sure you are available at all times. Keep your phone nearby, stick to your schedule for viewing homes, and keep a list of each home you’re considering. Showing initiative and dedication won’t just help you stay organized, it will also show your agent and the home seller that you are worth their time.
One of the most common mistakes that buyers make when it comes to their mortgage is to fail to shop around for a lender. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that only half of all buyers considered more than one lender for their home.
Buyers, first time and repeat, often think their credit report is set in stone. What they don’t realize is that the three main credit Bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) can all make mistakes on your credit. Check your detailed credit reports and fix any errors long before applying for a mortgage to increase your chances of getting a good rate.
If you avoid these common mistakes and continue to do your research along the way, you should be able to save yourself some headaches and some money in the long term.
Buying a home is one of the more complicated purchases that you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s not something that you can just open your wallet, pull out a wad of cash and buy. There’s a warm-up period for a house hunt. You need to prepare before you even start the process of the purchase. There’s a lot of different things that you should do to ready yourself to buy a home. You’ll need to organize your finances, find a real estate agent and ready yourself. If you’re looking to buy a home in the near future, it’s time to get busy!
Keep Your Credit Score In Check
Your credit score is so important for so many reasons. The highest your credit score can be is 850 and the lowest it can be is 300. You’ll get a really good interest rate on a home if your credit score is 740 or above. A lower interest rate can save you a lot of money over a year’s time.
The good news is that you can spend time repairing your score. This will include paying down debt, asking for credit limits to be raised and correcting errors that may be on your credit report. You want to be sure that you’re using 30% or less of your total available credit. As always, if your bills are paid on time, it will help you to keep that score up. Also, stay away from opening new credit cards, as this can bring your score down due to frequent credit checks.
Put Gifts To Good Use
Whenever you get a financial gift, whether it be for a wedding, a Christmas bonus, or a birthday gift, make sure that you save it for your home purchase. You’ll need quite a bit of capital between closing costs, fees and down payments. You’ll be glad you saved the money once you start the home buying process. You’ll also want to make sure that you have and emergency fund built up. You don’t want to buy a home without some sort of a financial cushion behind you.
Research Real Estate Agents
Your real estate agent will be your right hand person when it is time to buying a home. You’ll want to know that your agent is knowledgable and can help you in this big decision. Your real estate agent is the person who will help you reach your goals, and you want to feel comfortable with them. Ask for recommendations and do your research.
Sellers love buyers who have been preapproved. This shows that they’re reliable and financially able to buy a home. A preapproval can be done a few months in advance of buying a home. It will take an in-depth look at your finances including:
- Proof of mortgage or rent payments over the last year
- W2 forms for the past 2 years
- Paycheck stubs for the past 2 months
- List of all debts including loans and court settlements
- List of all assets including car titles, investment accounts and any other real estate you may own.
Buying a home is a big deal but with the right preparation, you’ll be on the road to success and ready to secure a home purchase.