With mortgage rates still low, now is a great time to buy! There are many different loan options out there today that make buying a home achievable, and it is important to understand your options throughout the home buying process. Continuing our discussion on government loans from last week (see our USDA Q&A with Inlanta Branch Manager Laura Leonhard), we want to take some time to discuss your options with FHA & VA loan programs.
FHA Mortgage Loans
The FHA, or Federal Housing Administration, offers a low down payment option that can help low income or first time homebuyers purchase a home. Since the Federal Housing Administration insures your mortgage, individual lenders may be more willing to give you loan terms that make it easier for you to qualify. To qualify, you must have proof of steady employment and clear CAIVRS, which is the government’s Credit Alert Interactive Verification Reporting system, to qualify. CAIVRS is a database of those who have defaulted on government loans, owe back taxes, or have other federal debt. If you are on this list, you will not be able to receive the loan unless you can get your report cleared.
Compared to other loan programs, FHA has lower credit score requirements. It does, however, require a minimum score of 580 to qualify for a low down payment. If you are concerned about your credit score, consult your loan officer to find out if you might still qualify. These loans can also have a lower down payment requirement than a conventional loan. Conventional guidelines call for two months of asset reserves at closing, meaning two months of mortgage payments, including taxes and property insurance. FHA has no reserve requirements which means less money spent at the closing table.
Not only can closing costs be paid for by the seller, but the down payment of an FHA loan can also be gifted to the homebuyer. This has become a trend for buyers who are getting married and prefer that their gifts go towards a down payment on a home rather than a wedding registry. If you are getting a gift for your down payment, make sure you document it by getting a gift letter from the person you receive the gift from and be able to document any large deposits to your bank account. This will be required when your application is looked at by an underwriter.
It is important to note that FHA loans can only be used towards the purchase of a primary residence, so if you are looking to purchase a second home or vacation home, you will need to look at other programs. In addition to FHA purchase loans, other FHA options include streamlined and cash-out refinancing, as well as FHA 203k rehabilitation loans, which allow you to combine renovations and the purchase of your home into one loan.
If you have served our country, you may qualify for a VA loan. These loans are available for active, non-active, and retired Army, Air Force, Marine, Navy, National Guard, and Coast Guard vets who meet the established service requirements. To qualify, the veteran must have served on active duty and have a discharge other than dishonorable after a minimum of 90 days of service during wartime or a minimum or 181 continuous days during peacetime. There is a two-year requirement if the veteran enlisted and began service after September 7, 1980 or was an officer and began service after October 16, 1981. There is six-year requirement for National Guards and reservists with certain criteria and there are specific rules concerning the eligibility of surviving spouses.
VA loans offer many great benefits to veterans that are worth looking into eligibility for. These benefits include:
- No Down Payment
- No monthly mortgage insurance (PMI)
- Gift Funds are acceptable for closing costs
- No Cash reserves requirement
- A variety of terms or loan types available
- Available for purchase and refinance
- Reduced costs for disabled veterans
- Seller can pay closing costs
- Seller pays for any required repairs
- No pre-payment penalty
Both of these programs can offer many great benefits to qualified borrowers. If you think one of these programs would be a good match for you, contact me to get pre-approved today!