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6 Low or no down payment options

No down payment mortgage

A no down payment mortgage allows first-time home buyers and repeat home buyers to purchase property with no money required at closing except standard closing costs. Other options, including the FHA loan, the HomeReady™ mortgage and the Conventional 97 loan offer low down payment options with a little as 3% down. Mortgage insurance premiums typically accompany low and no down payment mortgages, but not always.

Is a no down payment mortgage right for you?

It’s a terrific time to buy a home.

Sales are rising, supply is dropping, and prices have increased in many cities and neighborhoods. Compared to next year, today’s market may look like a bargain.

Furthermore, mortgage rates are still low.

Rates for 30-year loans, 15-year loans, and 5-year ARMs are historically cheap, which has lowered the monthly cost of owning a home.

THE DOWN PAYMENT HURDLE

However, it’s not the monthly payment that scares off new buyers these days — it’s the prospect of having to put 20% down.

Buyers are earning good incomes, but few have much saved in the bank.

The good news is that there are many mortgage programs requiring little or no money down and they’re available to the general public.

Home buyers don’t need to put 20% down

In today’s U.S. housing market, home buyers don’t need to make a 20 percent down payment.

It’s a common misconception that “20 Percent Down” is required to buy a home. And, while that may have been true at some point in history, it hasn’t been so since the advent of the FHA loan, which occurred in 1934.

The likely reason why buyers believe a 20% down payment is required is because, with one specific mortgage type — the conventional mortgage — putting twenty percent down means private mortgage insurance (PMI) is not required.

PMI Not Necessarily Bad

Paying PMI is neither good nor bad, but consumers seem to abhor it.

The purpose of private mortgage insurance is to protect the lender in the event of foreclosure — that’s all it’s for. However, because it costs money, private mortgage insurance gets a bad rap.

It shouldn’t.

Because of private mortgage insurance, home buyers can get mortgage-approved with less than 20 percent to put down and, eventually, private mortgage insurance can get removed.

At the rate at which today’s homes are increasing in value, a buyer putting 3% down would pay PMI for fewer than four years.

That’s not long at all. Yet, many buyers — especially first-timers — will put off a purchase because they want to save a larger downpayment.

Meanwhile, home values are climbing.

For today’s home buyers, making a down payment should be consideration, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration.

Today home affordability is not about the size of your down payment — it’s about whether you can manage the monthly payments and still have cash left over for “life”.

A large down payment will lower your borrowed amount and, therefore, will give you a smaller monthly payment to make each month. However, if you’ve used all your life savings in order to make that large down payment, you’ve put yourself at risk.

Don’t drain your savings account

When the majority of your money is tied up in a home, financial experts refer to it as being “house-poor”.

When you’re house-poor, you have plenty of money “on-paper”, but little of it available for the everyday emergencies of life.

And, as every homeowner will tell you, emergencies happen.

Roofs collapse, water heaters break, you become ill and cannot work. Insurance can help you with these issues sometimes, but not always.

That’s why you being house-poor can be so dangerous.

Many people believe it’s financially-conservative to put 20% down on a home. If that 20 percent is everything you have, though, putting twenty percent down is the opposite of being financially-conservative.

The true financially-conservative option is to make a small down payment.

Being house-poor is no way to live.

No down payment: VA

loans (100% financing)

The VA loan is a no-money-down program available to members of the U.S. military and surviving spouses.

Guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, VA loans are similar to FHA loans in that the agency guarantees repayment to lenders making loans which means VA mortgage guidelines.

VA loan qualification are straight-forward.

VA loan qualifications are available to active duty and honorably discharged service personnel are eligible for the VA program. In addition, home buyers who have spent at least 6 years in the Reserves or National Guard are eligible, as are spouses of service members killed in the line of duty.

Some key benefits of the VA loan are :

  • You may use intermittent occupancy
  • Bankruptcy and other derogatory credit do not immediately disqualify you
  • No mortgage insurance is required

VA loans also allow for loan sizes of up to $726,525 in high-cost areas. This can be helpful in areas such as San Francisco, California; and Honolulu, Hawaii which are home to U.S. military bases.

No down payment: USDA loans (100% financing)

No Money Down options exist for non-military borrowers, too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a 100% mortgage. The program is formally known as a Section 502 mortgage, but, more commonly, it’s called a Rural Housing Loan.

The good news about the USDA Rural Housing Loan is that it’s not just a “rural loan” — it’s available to buyers in suburban neighborhoods, too. The USDA’s goal is to reach “low-to-moderate income homebuyers”, wherever they live.

Many borrowers using the USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program make a good living and reside in neighborhoods which don’t meet the traditional definition of rural.

Some key benefits of the USDA loan are :

  • You may include eligible home repairs and improvements in your loan size
  • There is maximum home purchase price
  • Guarantee fee added to loan balance at closing; mortgage insurance collected monthly

Another key benefit is that USDA mortgage rates are often lower than rates for comparable, low- or no-down payment mortgages. Financing a home via the USDA can be the lowest cost means of homeownership.

Low down payment: FHA loans (3.5% down)

The FHA mortgage is somewhat of a misnomer because the FHA doesn’t actually make loans. Rather, the FHA is an insurer of loans.

The FHA publishes a series of standards for the loans it will insure. When a bank underwrites and funds a loan which meets these specific guidelines, the FHA agrees to insure that loan against loss.

FHA mortgage guidelines are famous for their liberal approach to credit scores and down payments. The FHA will typically insure a home loan for borrowers with low credit scores so long as there’s a reasonable explanation for the low FICO.

The FHA allows a down payment of just 3.5 percent in all U.S. markets, with the exception of a few FHA approved condos.

Other benefits of an FHA loan are :

  • Your down payment may consist entirely from “gift funds”
  • Your credit score requirement is 500
  • Mortgage insurance premiums are paid upfront at closing, and monthly thereafter

Furthermore, the FHA supports homeowners who have experienced recent short sales, foreclosures or bankruptcies through the agency’s Back to Work program.

Low down

payment: The HomeReady

™ Mortgage (3% down)

 

The HomeReady™ mortgage is special among today’s low- and no-downpayment mortgages.

Backed by Fannie Mae and available from nearly every U.S. lender, the HomeReady™ mortgage offers below market mortgage rates, reduced mortgage insurance costs, and the most innovative underwriting idea on more than a decade.

Via HomeReady™, the income of everybody living in the home can be used to get mortgage-qualified and approved.

For example, if you are a homeowner living with your parents, and your parents earn an income, you can use their income to help you qualify.

Similarly, if you have children who work and contribute to household expenses, those incomes can be used for qualification purposes, too.

Furthermore, via HomeReady™, you can use boarder income to help qualify; and, you can use income from a  non-zoned rental unit, too — even if you’re paid in cash.

HomeReady™ home loans were designed to help multi-generational households get approved for mortgage financing. However, the program can be used by anyone in a qualifying area; or who meets household income requirements.

Low down payment: Conventional loan 97 (3% down)

The Conventional 97 program is available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s a 3 percent downpayment program and, for many home buyers, it’s a less-expensive option as compared to an FHA loan.

Furthermore, the Conventional 97 mortgage allows for its entire three percent downpayment to come from gifted funds, so long as the gifter is related by blood or marriage; or via legal guardianship or domestic partnership; or is a fiance/fiancee.

The Conventional 97 basic qualification standards are :

  • Loan size may not exceed $484,350, even if the home is in a high-cost market.
  • The subject property must be a single-unit dwelling. No multi-unit homes are allowed.
  • The mortgage must be a fixed rate mortgage. No ARMs via the Conventional 97.

The Conventional 97 program does not enforce a specific minimum credit score beyond those for a typical conventional home loan. The program can be used to refinance a home loan, too.

Low down payment: The “Piggyback Loan” (10% down)

The “piggyback loan” program is typically reserved for buyers with above-average credit scores. It’s actually two loans, meant to give home buyers added flexibility and lower overall payments.

The beauty of the 80/10/10 is its structure.

With an 80/10/10 loan, buyers bring a ten percent down payment to closing. This leaves ninety percent of the home sale price for the mortgage. But, instead of giving one mortgage for the 90%, the buyer splits the loan into parts.

The first part of the 80/10/10 is the “80”.

The “80” represents the first mortgage and is a loan for 80% of the home’s purchase price. This loan is typically a conventional loan via Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; and it’s offered at current market mortgage rates.

The first “10” represents the second mortgage and is a loan for 10% of the home’s purchase price. This loan is typically a home equity loan (HELOAN) or home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Home equity loans are fixed-rate loans. Home equity line of credits are adjustable-rate loans. Buyers can choose from either option. HELOCs are more common because of the flexibility they offer over the long-term.

And that leaves the last “10”, which represents the buyer’s down payment amount — ten percent of the purchase price. This amount is paid as cash at closing.

80/10/10 loans are sometimes called piggyback mortgages because a second loan “piggybacks” on the first one to increase the total amount borrowed.

80/10/10 loans are meant to give buyers access to the best pricing available, so lenders may sometimes recommend an alternate structure.

Interest rates on HELOCs are sometimes better at larger loan sizes. Your lender may recommend that you increase the size of your HELOC, then, to lower your overall loan costs. The choice of your loan’s structure, though, remains yours.

You can’t be forced into borrowing more money on your second mortgage than makes you comfortable.

 

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