A Guide to Home Loans for Bad Credit

Getting a mortgage with bad credit isn’t easy. Banks and credit unions became ultraconservative with mortgage lending following the 2008 housing market crash. However, these days, tighter lending standards don’t have to force you out of the mortgage market. If you have a stable income, you may qualify for a mortgage, even with bad credit. We’ll explain the best home loans for people with bad credit, offer tips for cleaning up your credit histories and point out scams to avoid.

Quick guide to checking your credit score

If you’re just starting to shop for home mortgages, it pays to know if banks think you have bad credit or not. Here’s how FICO, the main credit score provider in the U.S., breaks down credit scores:

  • 800-plus: Exceptional
  • 740-799: Very good
  • 670-739: Good
  • 580-699: Fair
  • 579 and lower: Poor

A credit score above 740 is optimal for finding the best mortgages, but you can often secure a mortgage with a much lower score. You might find an FHA mortgage with a credit score as low as 500 (albeit with a 10 percent down payment rather than 3.5 percent rate for scores above 580), but a credit score of around 650 gives you a decent chance of qualifying for a home mortgage. Getting a mortgage with a truly bad credit score will be difficult, and improving your credit to “fair” status could make it much easier.

Where can you check your credit score? Banks and credit unions use the FICO Scores 2, 4 and 5. These are not the same scores you will find through a free credit scoring site. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a free option for checking your FICO Scores 2, 4 and 5. The best option for checking these is checking them on MyFICO, which costs $59.85.

If you don’t want to pay for a credit score, consider using a free scoring site. But don’t put too much stock in the number it offers. It may overestimate your credit score (for mortgage shopping), especially if you’ve paid off debt in collections recently, and some free scores don’t use the 300-850 scale FICO often uses. Instead, focus on the information about what’s helping and hurting your credit score, if the tool offers those insights, and use that knowledge to make improvements where you can.

You can get a free credit score through our parent company LendingTree.

Home loan programs for people with bad credit

FHA loans

FHA Loan Details

Credit score required

500, but banks have minimum underwriting
standards

Down payment required

Credit score between 500-579: 10 percent
Credit score above 580: 3.5 percent

Upfront financing fee

1.75 percent, which can be financed

Mortgage insurance

0.45 to 1.05 percent

Mortgage limits

Generally, $275,665 for single-family units, but it
varies by location and you should check the limits in your area

Fine print

Mortgage insurance premiums are paid for the life of the loan,
except when putting 10 percent or more down. If your down payment is
less than 20 percent but 10 percent or more, you must have
mortgage insurance for 11 years.

Quick take

If you have bad credit, an FHA loan offers a more accessible mortgage. While credit standards vary by lender, you may qualify for the FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500. With a credit score above the 580 threshold, you may qualify for the 3.5 percent down payment.

Unfortunately, an FHA loan can be expensive because of mortgage insurance fees. In addition to paying ongoing mortgage premiums for the life of the loan, you’ll have to pay a 1.75 percent upfront financing fee.

Pros:

  • 3.5 percent down payments (for those above the 580 credit-score mark)
  • Credit scores as low a 500
  • Can buy up to four units

Cons:

  • 1.75 percent upfront mortgage premium
  • Ongoing mortgage insurance
  • Smaller loan limits

Where to get an FHA loan

You can use the comparison tool on LendingTree or Zillow to find offers from FHA-approved lenders in your area willing to work with people with bad credit. If an online search doesn’t yield the results you want, you may need to work directly with a mortgage broker who specializes in finding mortgages for people with bad credit. You can use a site like Find A Mortgage Broker or Angie’s List to find brokers in your community.

Be sure to check the National Multistate Lending System (NMLS) to see if your broker has had any regulatory action filed against them. Regulatory actions against the broker are red flags that indicate you may want to take your business elsewhere.

Fannie Mae HomeReady Mortgage

HomeReady Mortgage Details

Credit score required

A minimum requirement of 620 generally applies
to Fannie Mae products.

Down payment required

3 percent for credit scores above 680
(for single family homes). 25 percent for credit scores
between 620-680 (for single family homes).

Upfront financing fee

None

Mortgage insurance

0.125 to 3 percent

Mortgage limits

Generally, $424,100, though it varies by location

Fine print

You must earn less than the median income in
your ZIP code to qualify,
or buy a home in a low-income zip code.
You must take a homeowner’s education class to qualify for the mortgage,
mortgage insurance can be canceled when you reach a
loan-to-value ratio of 80 percent.

Quick take

If you’ve got a fair credit score but a big down payment, the Fannie Mae HomeReady mortgage is the best conventional mortgage for you. With a 620 credit score and a 25 percent down payment, you meet HomeReady eligibility requirements, and you’ll pay no mortgage insurance. Fannie Mae offers a 3 percent down payment option, but you need a credit score of at least 680.

HomeReady mortgages also allow for cosigners who won’t live at the address with you. That means a parent or grandparent with a high credit score could help you purchase the property by co-signing. If you can find a cosigner, you may qualify for the 3 percent down payment even if your credit score falls below 680.

Pros:

  • Can qualify with credit score as low as 620
  • A low 3 percent down payment if you have a 680 credit score
  • Down payment doesn’t have to come from personal funds
  • Mortgage insurance premiums are cancellable
  • Non-occupant cosigners are permitted

Cons:

  • Up to 25 percent down payment required in some instances
  • Not all lenders offer Fannie Mae HomeReady mortgages, so you might struggle to find a bank with this offering.

Where to get a Fannie Mae HomeReady mortgage

Fannie Mae doesn’t publish a list of lenders who offer the HomeReady mortgage, so you will need to work with your lender specifically to see if they offer it. Most major banks and credit unions will be approved to underwrite Fannie Mae mortgages, but the specific product offering will vary by bank.

Consider using an online mortgage comparison engine including LendingTree or Zillow to compare offers in your area. However, once you find lenders that will work with you, you’ll have to ask them about the HomeReady mortgage, especially if you want to use the 3 percent down or co-signing feature.

The Housing and Urban Development office of housing counseling may also help you connect with lenders who offer the HomeReady Mortgage.

VA loans

VA Loan Details

Credit score required

Credit standards set by lender

Down payment required

None

Upfront financing fee

1.25 to 3.3 percent, which can be financed

Mortgage insurance

None

Mortgage limits

Generally, $424,100, though it varies by location

Fine print

Must obtain a certificate of eligibility
(for military members and spouses)
before applying for a VA loan

Quick take

For people with a military background, the VA loan is a top mortgage option. The upfront financing fee can be hefty, but it’s a good deal if you plan to live in the house for several years. That said, not all VA lenders work with buyers with bad credit, so you may struggle to find a reputable lender in your area.

Pros:

  • No down payment required
  • No mortgage insurance
  • No firm credit minimums
  • Can buy up to four unit multi-family property.

Cons:

  • Upfront funding fee
  • Not all lenders issue VA loans to borrowers with bad credit
  • Must buy home with the intent to occupy for at least 12 months

Where to get a VA loan

To take out a VA loan, you must get a certificate of eligibility (COE) through the Veterans Administration eBenefits platform. Once you get the COE, you can use the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s interest rate data to learn about interest rates for VA loans.

To find a VA lender who works with bad-credit clients, you’ll probably want to work with a mortgage broker. You can find mortgage brokers online or through your state’s housing finance agency. Be sure that your broker has no regulatory action filed against them before you commit to working with them.

USDA loans

USDA Loan Details

Credit score required

As low as 580, but generally 640

Down payment required

None

Upfront financing fee

1 percent (can be financed)

Mortgage insurance

0.35 percent annually

Mortgage limits

No limits, but must meet standards of affordability based on moderate incomes

Fine print

You must meet income eligibility requirements,
and the property must be in a qualified rural area

Quick take

If you’re planning to buy in a rural area (and you may be surprised what qualifies, so check), a USDA loan offers a low cost, low money down loan. Technically, the absolute minimum credit score for this loan is 580, but most lenders won’t issue USDA loans to borrowers with scores below 640. USDA loans tend to be a better deal than FHA loans, but they may have higher costs compared to VA or conventional loans. If you’ve got fair credit, but you don’t have a big down payment, the USDA loan makes sense for you.

Pros:

  • No down payment
  • Only 1 percent upfront mortgage fee

Cons:

  • Ongoing financing fee cannot be canceled
  • Finding lenders who work with bad credit borrowers can be difficult
  • Must meet location and income criteria

Where to find USDA loans

If you meet the USDA eligibility requirements, you can start shopping for USDA loans through LendingTree, but you may not find many offers if you have a credit score below 640. If you can’t easily find a lender, you’ll want to work with an independent mortgage broker who will have insider access to multiple lenders in your city. You can find reputable brokers online through Find A Broker, Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau (search for mortgage brokers, your city). Before committing to a broker, check that your broker has no regulatory action filed against them.

Manufactured home loans for bad credit

Manufactured homes are houses constructed off-site, transported and anchored to a permanent foundation at a new home site. On average, manufactured homes cost 80 percent less than site-built single family homes, but taking out a mortgage for a manufactured home can be expensive, even if you have good credit. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, almost 68 percent of all loans for manufactured home purchases were considered higher priced mortgages. On top of already high rates, bad credit will drive your interest rate even higher. However, thanks to the lower upfront price, people with bad credit may have an easier time finding home financing for manufactured homes than for site-built homes.

FHA Title I loans (Chattel loans)

FHA Title I Loan Details

Credit score required

No credit score minimums, but
must meet ability to pay criteria

Down payment required

5 percent down for credit scores above 500,
otherwise 10 percent down

Upfront financing fee

Up to 2.25 percent

Mortgage insurance

Up to 1 percent

Mortgage limits

  • Home only: $69,678

  • Lot only: $23,226

  • Home and lot: $92,904

Mortgage term limits

  • 20 years for home only

  • 20 years for single-section home and lot

  • 15 years for lot only

  • 25 years for a multi-section home and lot

Titling requirements

Manufactured homes can be titled as personal property.

Fine print

Manufactured homes must be situated on a lot that meets
FHA property standards (such as hookups for water and electricity,
and foundation anchors) that is owned or leased by the primary
mortgage holder. Manufactured home must be at least 400 square feet.

Quick take

The FHA Title I loan is an obvious choice for people with bad credit looking to buy a manufactured home, but you need to do your research before you commit to this loan. According to the CFPB, Chattel loans had 1.5 percent higher APRs than standard mortgages. These loans also come with expensive mortgage insurance fees that can be passed on to you.

However the Chattel loan makes sense if you’re buying a used manufactured home or if you plan to rent the lot where your home sits.

Pros:

  • No credit standards
  • Flexible terms for land ownership
  • Can title home as personal property

Cons:

  • Maximum loan is $92,904
  • Some lender restrictions
  • 5-10 percent down payment requirement
  • Must be a fixed term mortgage

Where to find Chattel loans

Chattel loans are a niche product that few banks and credit unions offer. Half of all Chattel loans are issued by five banks: 21st Mortgage, Vanderbilt Mortgage, Triad Financial Services, U.S. Bank, and Credit Human (formerly San Antonio Federal Credit Union), according to a 2014 report from the CFPB. You can also find local lenders through the Manufactured Housing Association’s lender search.

FHA loan

FHA Loans Details for Manufactured Homes

Credit score required

500 (varies by bank)

Down payment required

Credit score between 500-579: 10 percent
Credit score above 580: 3.5 percent

Upfront financing fee

1.75 percent, which can be financed

Mortgage insurance

0.45-1.05 percent

Mortgage limits

Generally $275,665

Titling requirements

Manufactured homes must be titled as real
property and you must own the lot.

Fine print

All manufactured homes must meet standards set by the
FHA including foundation anchors, water and electrical hookups and more.

Quick take

A standard FHA loan makes sense if you’re planning to buy a manufactured home and land. While credit standards vary by lender, you may be able to qualify for the FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500. If you can raise your credit score to 580, you may even qualify for the 3.5 percent down payment.

This loan isn’t as easy to get as the Chattel loan, but some people with bad credit may qualify. If you want to use an FHA loan for a manufactured home, work with your loan officer closely, so your financing is in place before your home is completed.

Pros:

  • 3.5 percent down payments
  • Credit scores as low a 500
  • Up to $275,665 in financing

Cons:

  • 1.75 percent upfront mortgage premium
  • Must pay ongoing mortgage insurance
  • Must buy owner-occupied home

Where to get an FHA loan

The Manufactured Housing Association’s lender search will also provide a list of lenders who may offer FHA loans for manufactured homes in your state. If that list doesn’t provide the results you need, work with a HUD office of housing counseling center to learn about lenders who offer FHA loans for manufactured homes.

USDA

USDA Loan Details for Manufactured Homes

Credit score required

580 and below is considered a no-go;
generally 640 and up

Down payment required

None

Upfront financing fee

1 percent, which can be financed

Mortgage insurance

0.35 percent annually

Mortgage limits

No limits, but must meet standards of
affordability based on moderate incomes

Titling requirements

Home must be titled and taxed as real estate

Fine print

You must own the lot where your home is located and meet
income eligibility requirements and the property must be
in a qualified rural area

Quick take

If you’re purchasing a new manufactured home in a rural area, the USDA loan may make sense for you. The manufactured home must be new, and you have to own the site where the home is located. However, with the lowest acceptable credit score being at the 580 threshold, USDA loans aren’t suited for bad-credit borrowers. Improving your credit to “fair” could be the difference between rejection and approval..

Pros:

  • As low as no money down
  • Low financing fees
  • Competitive interest rates

Cons:

  • Higher credit underwriting standards
  • Must own lot
  • Must buy new manufactured home

Where to get a USDA loan

If you meet the USDA eligibility requirements, connect with the HUD office of housing counseling in your state. If the USDA loan is a good fit for you, staffers there will help you find lenders who work with USDA borrowers that want in on manufactured homes.

VA loans

VA Loan Details for Manufactured Homes

Credit score required

Credit score standards set by lender

Down payment required

None

Upfront financing fee

1.25-3.3 percent depending on your military status,
home buying experience and down payment.
This fee can be financed.

Mortgage insurance

None

Mortgage limits

$424,100

Titling requirements

The house must be titled as real property,
and you must own the lot where the house is located.

Fine print

Must obtain a certificate of eligibility
(for military members and spouses) before applying for a VA loan.

Quick take

The VA loan offers a down payment of 0 percent (even for manufactured homes) as long as you own (or will buy) the lot where the home is located. The drawback to the VA loan is that most lenders set their credit score standards in the 600-range, which means that people with bad credit might not qualify. On top of that, not every VA lender offers loans for manufactured homes. Those two factors mean the you may struggle to find a lender in your area who will work with you.

If you find the lender, the VA loan is a great choice, but if you can’t, consider an FHA loan instead.

Pros:

  • No down payment required
  • No mortgage insurance
  • No firm credit minimums

Cons:

  • Upfront funding fee
  • Not all lenders offer VA loans for manufactured housing
  • Must buy home with the intent to occupy for at least 12 months
  • Must own lot

Where to get a VA loan

To take out a VA loan, you must get a certificate of eligibility (COE) through the Veterans Administration eBenefits platform. Once you get this, find an independent mortgage broker who specializes in VA loans for manufactured homes or VA loans for people with bad credit. These brokers work with multiple banks and can help you find better deals than you might find on your own. Before committing to a particular broker, check for regulatory action filed against them. You don’t want to work with a broker who fails to meet the standards set by your state.

Conventional mortgages

Conventional Mortgage Details for Manufactured Homes

Credit score required

620

Down payment required

5 percent (10 percent for people with insufficient
credit for traditional scoring)

Upfront financing fee

None

Mortgage insurance

0.5 percent annually

Mortgage limits

Generally, $424,100

Titling requirements

Must own land, and home must
be titled as real property.

Fine print

You’ll have to pay mortgage insurance until your
home reaches at least an 80 percent loan-to-value ratio.

Quick take

If you’ve got a 20 percent down payment and at least a 620 credit score, and your home meets underwriting standards, the conventional mortgage is the best choice for you. This loan has competitive interest rates and no mortgage insurance for people with a loan-to-value ratio of at least 80 percent. Your home must be at least 600 square feet and meet HUD standards for manufactured homes, and you must own your lot. However, you can use this loan to purchase an existing manufactured home (built after 1976) if it is permanently affixed to an approved foundation.

Another advantage to this loan is that they do accept borrowers with thin credit files, provided they don’t have derogatory marks on their credit file.

Where to find conventional mortgages

Before you start shopping, you can use the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s interest rate data to learn about interest rates in your state. Compare real offers from local lenders using LendingTree, or work with your state’s housing finance agency to find reputable lenders in your area.

Other common financing deals

Aside from those mortgages, manufactured home buyers with bad credit might consider two other options. First, you might consider a retail installment contract. A retail installment contract is issued by the manufacturer (or installer) or your home. If you’re working directly with the manufacturer to take out a loan, you should take the time to understand upfront and ongoing fees, APR and what happens if you miss a payment. The Manufactured Housing Institute provides detailed information on buying and living in manufactured houses and on how to find manufacturers and lenders who can help you finance a manufactured home.

Borrowers with bad credit might also consider owner-held financing option. Owner-held financing is a readily available form of credit, but it is risky. Before signing a lease to own agreement, find a real estate lawyer who can help you uncover title issues and explain the loan. To learn more, you can either find a lawyer through your employer (who may offer legal benefits), the American Bar Association or by contacting HUD office of housing counseling in your state.

Clean up your credit before mortgage shopping

In 2016, the average new home cost $372,500, but that’s before paying interest. According to Informa Market Research, the average interest rate for a person with a credit score between 620 and 639 is 5.115 percent, but a person with a score of at least 760 gets a 3.527 percent rate. Does just a point and a half translate to much cost difference? Absolutely. If both people finance $298,000 on a new home, then the person with great credit will pay $1,343 per month. The person with lesser credit will pay $278 more, $1,621 per month. That translates to more than $100,000 more over the life of the loan.

Tips to improve your credit score

To repair your credit before taking out a mortgage, and qualify for better terms and more options, start with these three simple steps:

  1. Pay all your current debt accounts on time, each month.
  2. Reduce your credit card utilization by paying down your credit card debt.
  3. Stop applying for credit six months before mortgage shopping.

These three factors alone account for 75 percent of your credit score.

As you take care of those items, you’ll want to check your credit report from the three major credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com.

You want to be sure that you recognize all the information on your credit report, and that there are no duplicate entries. Dispute any errors or duplicates. For further guidance, use the Federal Trade Commission’s free guide to disputing errors on your credit report. If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, follow the Federal Trade Commission’s advice on identity theft recovery.

Disputing errors on your credit report may prevent a bank from issuing you a mortgage, so start disputes at least 90 days in advance of applying for a mortgage. While the credit bureaus should clean up the errors within 30 days, the process sometimes takes longer

Getting a mortgage after bankruptcy or foreclosure

Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for up to seven or 10 years, depending on the type, and foreclosures stay on your credit report for up to seven years, but you don’t have to wait that long to take out a mortgage. If you take steps to improve your credit, you can qualify for some mortgages one to four years after your bankruptcy is dismissed, or two to four years following foreclosure.

 

Conventional

FHA

VA

USDA

Chapter 7

Four years from discharge or dismissal (except in extenuating circumstances)

Two years (or one year in extenuating circumstances)

Generally, two years (though it is not a disqualifying standard)

Generally, three years

Chapter 11

Four years from discharge or dismissal (except in extenuating circumstances)

Must meet credit standards

Generally, two years

Must meet credit standards

Chapter 13

Two years after discharge or four years after dismissal

Two years (or one year in extenuating circumstances)

One year of payments

Generally, one year

Foreclosure

Seven years, except if foreclosure was discharged in bankruptcy (then use bankruptcy limits)

Three years except in extenuating circumstances

Generally two years

Generally, three years

Even if you can get a new mortgage just a year or two after bankruptcy or foreclosure, it makes sense to wait longer in most cases. By waiting around three or four years, the damage of the bankruptcy and foreclosure fades, and you’ll have that extra time to revive your credit score.

To get your credit in shape after bankruptcy or foreclosure, you’ll want to continue to make bankruptcy payments as agreed and consider opening a secured credit card to rehabilitate your damaged credit. Use the credit card for daily expenses, and pay it off in full each month.

Improve your shot at approval even if you have bad credit

If you’ve got bad or fair credit, and you don’t have a lot of time to improve it, you can still take out a mortgage in some cases. These are a few things that can help you get approved with a low credit score.

  • Choose a house well within your budget. If you’ve got a strong income and a low monthly payment, the bank may be more likely to approve your loan.
  • Come up with a larger down payment. While the median down payment is just 5 percent, a person with bad credit may need quite a bit more (up to 25 percent) to get a loan.
  • Work with your loan officer: Give them paperwork in a timely manner, and follow their instructions regarding credit repair, collection repayments and debt repayments. If you’re close to gaining approval, the loan officer can help you take the last few steps to meet the bank or government’s underwriting criteria. Loan officers may take advantage of manual underwriting provisions for FHA, VA, USDA and conventional loans, but that requires more information and participation from you.
  • Ask for rapid rescoring if you’re disputing errors on your credit report, or paying down credit card debt.

Rapid rescoring

A rapid rescore is a method for “re-checking” your credit score on an accelerated time scale. Banks usually only check your credit score once when they’re considering your for a loan, but they may pay a fee to see a new score if you’ve paid down debt or removed negative information from your report, according to Experian. The bank will use the new information to recalculate your credit score to see if you qualify for a loan.

Should I keep renting?

A bad credit score by itself shouldn’t stop you from buying a home. You’ll pay more in interest costs over the life of the loan, but you’ll also start building equity sooner. Plus, a few years of paying on a mortgage will help you raise your credit score, so you can refinance later on.

However, a bad credit score can be a symptom of a bad financial situation. If you’re struggling to pay your bills on time, buying a house isn’t usually a good idea. During financial stress, a new mortgage bill is more likely to be a curse than a blessing.

Watch out for these scams targeting people with poor credit

Financial scammers are always on the prowl for desperate people who might become their next victims. These are a few pitfalls that all homebuyers need to avoid as they shop for homes and mortgages.

Mortgage closing scams

Mortgage closing scams are pernicious schemes that involve falsifying wiring instructions, the FTC warns. In a mortgage closing scam, a hacker poses as a title closing agent. He or she may email you fraudulent information about where to wire the money, or claim that there’s been a last-minute change to the details.

Closing for a home is an incredibly busy time, especially if you’ve struggled to qualify for the mortgage in the first place. To prevent mortgage closing scams, ask your title agent to send the wire information in an encrypted email. You can also request a call with the details.

Anyone who has been a victim of a mortgage closing scam should report it to the FBI immediately, and log a complaint in the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Complex lease-to-own deals

Owner financing isn’t necessarily a scam, but it can be complex. Many owner financing deals don’t put the title into your name until you’ve paid off the entire loan, and some deals require balloon payments after a few years, the FTC warns. If you can’t cover the balloon payment, you lose every cent of equity you’ve paid.

Even worse than difficult loan terms are situations when the owner can’t legally issue a first-lien loan. If the owner has used the house to secure any other loan, then the bank has a first-lien position on the loan.

Don’t sign an owner financing agreement until a lawyer explain the details of the loan to you. You must take steps to protect yourself from owner fraud if you want to own the house in the end.

Hard money loan scams

Hard money loans are real estate loans for investors interested in flipping a property. Hard money loans come with high interest rates, hefty down payments and short payback periods. Most of the time, hard money lenders evaluate project quality rather than investor credit when issuing loans.

If you’re considering a hard money loan at all, you should have plans to flip a property for a profit. If you can’t earn a profit on the house, then a hard money loan doesn’t make sense.

If you are considering a hard money loan because you can’t find traditional financing, be careful. There’s little oversight of hard money loans, so it’s important you know what you’re getting into with these products. You can check out this guide to hard money loans if you want to learn more.

FAQs

If a bank turns you down for a mortgage, you can ask for an explanation. When you ask, the lender has 30 days to prepare an answer in writing, as required by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. A few common responses include:

  • We don’t think you can afford the payment (for instance, you’ll have to high of a debt-to-income ratio).
  • Your credit score’s too low.
  • You have an insufficient down payment.

Anyone struggling to find a mortgage should consider working with a licensed mortgage broker in his/her county. Mortgage brokers work with multiple local banks and credit unions, and they can often help if a banker cannot.

The best credit score to get a mortgage is any score above a 740, but most people with credit scores above 620 will qualify for some mortgages. And yes, it’s possible to qualify for a mortgage if you have a score of 500-620.

Yes. If you took out a loan when you had bad credit, you may qualify for a much better rate by improving your credit after just one to two years of on-time payments on all your lines of credit, according to research from VantageScore Solutions. However, if your bad credit score is the result of foreclosure or bankruptcy, your credit score may not fully recover for seven to ten years, so don’t count on a massive rate drop right away if those are the reasons for your bad credit score.

Given how much easier it is to qualify for a mortgage and how much you can save when you have good credit, waiting to buy often makes sense.

VA loans don’t require a down payment, and they have no firm credit minimums, but you’ll still need to meet a bank’s underwriting standards (which could be as high as a 640 credit score). If you have a credit score of 580-640 and you meet other qualifying standards, you may qualify for a no-money-down USDA home loan..

Outside these options, the only no-money-down mortgages for people with bad credit include owner-held mortgages or rent-to-own deals. Do your homework.

Not all mortgages allow cosigners, but a cosigner could help you qualify. Asking someone to cosign essentially means asking that person to pay your mortgage if you’re ever unwilling or unable to pay the bill. We generally don’t recommend becoming a cosigner unless you plan to live in the house.

An adjustable-rate mortgage makes a lot of sense if you have bad credit and you are confident you can improve your credit score within seven years before your interest rate adjusts (in the case of a 7/1 ARM). If your credit improves, you may be able refinance at a lower, fixed rate before the interest rate adjustment takes place. However, this option is risky. You may be stuck with higher interest rates if your credit doesn’t improve or if interest rates rise by the time you need to refinance.

The post A Guide to Home Loans for Bad Credit appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The Complete Guide to FHA Loans

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Saving up for a big down payment on a home could be the kind of financial obstacle that prevents first-time homebuyers with little savings from ever becoming homeowners. Fortunately, government-backed Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans can help potential homebuyers who want a home but struggle to pull together a large down payment.

This guide will cover the pros and cons of using an FHA loan to purchase a home and how homebuyers can begin the process of shopping and getting approved for these loans.

Part I: Understanding FHA Loans

What is an FHA loan?

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which means that the federal government makes a guarantee to the bank that the government will repay the borrower’s loan if the borrower stops making payments. This guarantee means banks are willing to provide funding to borrowers who may not otherwise be able to qualify for a home loan.

FHA loans are not funded or underwritten directly by the FHA, but rather by FHA-approved lenders. These lenders can be found using the Lender Search tool. Interest rates and fees vary by lender, even for the same type of loan, so it’s important to shop around.

Benefits of FHA loans

FHA loans are designed to promote homeownership and make it easier for people to qualify for mortgages. For that reason, they typically have more flexible lending requirements than conventional loans, including:

Lower minimum credit scores

Many loan programs require a credit score of at least 620 or 640, but FHA loans are available to borrowers with scores as low as 500.

Lower down payments

Borrowers can get FHA loans with as little as 3.5 percent down. However, borrowers with credit scores between 500 and 579 will need at least 10 percent down.

Not just for first-time homebuyers

Although their flexible terms and low down payments make FHA loans appealing to first-time homebuyers, they’re also available to repeat buyers as long as the proceeds are used to purchase a primary residence.

Seller assistance with closing costs

Yael Ishakis, the vice president of FM Home Loans in Brooklyn, N.Y., says another benefit of FHA loans is that they allow sellers to assist with up to 6 percent of sales price for closing costs, including origination fees, points and other closing costs. This helps borrowers struggling to come up with a down payment cover some of the additional costs involved in closing on a home loan. Sellers may not be willing to pay closing costs in a hot housing market, but in a down market, helping with closing costs can mean a faster sale. For conventional loans, the seller can contribute no more than 3 percent toward closing costs unless the buyer has a down payment greater than 10 percent.

Drawbacks of FHA loans

FHA loans are appealing to many borrowers, but they’re not always the best choice. Here are a few reasons you may want to look into alternatives.

Mortgage insurance

FHA loans require mortgage insurance, a policy that protects the lender against losses from defaults on home mortgages. FHA loans require both upfront and monthly mortgage insurance from all borrowers, regardless of the amount of the down payment.

On a 30-year mortgage with a base loan amount of less than $625,500, the annual mortgage insurance premium would be 0.85 percent of the base loan amount, and the upfront mortgage insurance premium would be 1.75 percent of the base loan amount as of this writing.

With a conventional loan, the borrower can avoid mortgage insurance by putting at least 20 percent down. They can also request to have their mortgage insurance premiums removed from their monthly payment once the loan is at 78 percent of the home’s current value, as long as the borrower has been making on-time payments for at least one year. With an FHA loan, mortgage insurance is required for the life of the loan.

Ishakis says this aspect of FHA loans causes her to hesitate before offering FHA loan options to buyers. If an FHA borrower’s home goes up in value, the only way to have the mortgage insurance removed is to refinance to a conventional loan. The refi would require more paperwork, closing costs, and a potential increase to their interest rate if rates have increased. With a conventional loan, getting mortgage insurance removed simply requires sending a written request to the lender once you’ve met the requirements.

Documentation requirements

  • Most recent two months of bank statements
  • Most recent 30 days of pay stubs
  • Most recent two years of W-2s
  • Two years of tax returns
  • Gift letter (if using gifted funds for the down payment or closing costs)

If you have been divorced in the past, declared bankruptcy, are self-employed, or earn income based on commissions, you may be required to provide even more documentation.

FHA Loan

Conventional Loan

Minimum credit score

500

620

Minimum down
payment

3.5%

3%

Maximum seller-
assisted closing costs

6%

  • 3% with down payments
    less than 10%

  • 6% with down payments
    between 10% and 25%

  • 9% with down payments
    greater than 25%

Upfront mortgage
insurance

1.75%

None

Monthly mortgage
insurance

0.85%

Varies based on credit score
and loan-to-value ratio

Borrowers who are able to qualify for a conventional loan may be better off choosing a conventional loan rather than an FHA loan. Conventional loans can require a slightly lower down payment and do not require any upfront mortgage insurance, and borrowers can request to have their monthly mortgage insurance payments removed once they have at least 20 percent equity in the home and have made on-time payments for one year. That can all add up to significant savings over the life of the loan.

Part II: FHA Loan Requirements

With their flexible requirements and low barriers to approval, FHA loans are some of the easiest loans to qualify for. Here’s a look at FHA loan requirements.

Minimum credit score requirements

The minimum credit score for an FHA loan with a 3.5 percent down payment is typically 580. If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you may be approved for an FHA loan, but you will need to put at least 10 percent down.

These are FHA guidelines, but individual lenders may have their own requirements, referred to as lender overlays. A particular lender may require a minimum credit score of 640 or higher, so if you are turned down for an FHA loan by one bank, it’s a good idea to try others.

Income requirements

The FHA does not have minimum or maximum income requirements. However, borrowers must have sufficient income to be able to afford the mortgage payments and their other obligations. Part of the approval process involves verifying your employment and income, but the amount you earn is not as important as the amount of income you have left over after paying your other monthly bills.

Debt-to-income ratio requirements

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is another key metric FHA-approved lenders consider when determining whether you can afford a mortgage. DTI measures the amount of debt you have compared to your income, and it is expressed as a percentage.

Lenders look at two debt-to-income ratios when determining your eligibility:

  • Housing ratio or front-end ratio. What percentage of your income would it take to cover your total monthly mortgage payment? According to Kevin Miller, Director of Growth at Open Listings, lenders like to see a front-end ratio below 31 percent of your gross income, although approval with a percentage up to 40 percent is possible depending on the circumstance.
  • Total debt or back-end ratio. Shows how much of your income is needed to pay for your total monthly debts. Miller says lenders prefer a back-end ratio of less than 43 percent of your gross income, although approval with a percentage of up to 50 percent is possible.

Down payment requirements

FHA loans require a down payment of at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price, or 10 percent if your credit score is below 580. In addition to the down payment, the borrower may have to pay other upfront costs including appraisal and inspection fees, upfront mortgage insurance, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues, and more.

However, the FHA allows sellers to cover up to 6 percent of closing costs and allows closing costs to be gifted from friends or family members.

Clear CAIVRS report

Any federal debt that hasn’t been repaid and has entered default status can prevent you from getting an FHA loan. The government keeps track of people who default on all types of federal debts, like government-backed mortgage loans, SBA loans, and even federal student loans.

The system they use to track defaults is called the Credit Alert Verification Reporting System (CAIVRS). Borrowers do not have access to CAIVRS, so you’ll have to consult an FHA-approved lender to learn whether you are in the system.

If the delinquency was for a prior FHA-backed loan, you’ll have to wait three years from the time that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) paid the mortgage lender’s insurance claim.

FHA loan limits

The FHA puts a cap on the size of a mortgage that it will insure. These loan limits are calculated and updated annually and announced by HUD near the end of each calendar year.

Because the cost of living can vary widely throughout the country, FHA loan limits differ from one county to the next. The national maximum for an FHA loan is currently $636,150, but in low-cost areas, the maximum can go as low as $275,665 for a single-family home. You can look up the limit in your area using HUD’s FHA Mortgage Limits lookup tool.

FHA mortgage limits are calculated based on 115 percent of the median home price in the county, as determined by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Property requirements

FHA loans are only available when the borrower intends to use the property as a primary residence — investment properties are not eligible.

In addition, the property you intend to purchase must meet certain requirements to qualify for an FHA mortgage. Every FHA loan requires the property to be appraised and inspected by a HUD-approved home appraiser to verify the current market value of the property and ensure it meets HUD’s minimum property standards.

The appraiser will look at the roof, foundation, lot grade, ventilation, mechanical systems, heating, electricity, and crawl space in the home. Their standards are outlined in great detail in HUD’s Single Family Housing Policy Handbook, but essentially the property must not be hazardous or threaten the health and safety of the buyer who will live in the home.

Safety hazards noted during the appraisal will not automatically disqualify the property from an FHA loan. If the issue can be corrected before final inspection — such as the seller repairing a leaking roof — the loan can move forward.

Part III: Types of FHA Loans

There are several types of FHA loans to meet the needs of different homeowners. Here’s a look at the options available.

Fixed-rate mortgages

Fixed-rate mortgages are the most common type of FHA loans. The borrower chooses a loan term between 10 and 30 years, and the interest rate will not change over the life of the loan.

Adjustable-rate mortgages

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) also have terms between 10 and 30 years, but as the name implies, the interest rate can change periodically, so the payments can go up or down. The initial interest rate on an ARM is lower than that of a fixed-rate mortgage, so this can be a good option for a borrower who plans to own their home for only a few years.

Many ARMs are hybrids, meaning there is an initial period during which the rate is fixed. After that, the rate changes at regular intervals. Most ARMs have caps that limit how much the rate can change at any one time and throughout the life of the loan.

FHA loans offer the following interest rate cap structures for ARMs:

  • One- and three-year ARMs may increase by 1% annually after the initial fixed-rate period and 5% points over the life of the loan
  • Five-year ARMs may either allow for increases of 1% points annually and 5% points over the life of the loan, or increases of 2% points annually and 6% points over the life of the loan
  • Seven- and 10-year ARMs may only increase by 2% annually after the initial fixed-interest rate period, and 6% over the life of the loan

FHA reverse mortgages

Seniors with a paid-off mortgage or significant equity in their home may be able to access a portion of their home’s equity with an FHA Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly referred to as a reverse mortgage.

The loan is called a reverse mortgage because instead of the borrower making monthly payments to the lender, as with a traditional mortgage, the lender makes payments to the borrower. The borrower is not required to pay back the loan unless the home is sold or otherwise vacated.

Many seniors use reverse mortgages to supplement Social Security income, meet unexpected medical expenses, make home improvements, and more.

Energy Efficient Mortgages

The FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) program is designed to help homeowners save on utility bills by financing energy-efficient improvements with an FHA loan. The program is available as part of a home purchase or by refinancing the current mortgage.

To qualify for an EEM, the borrower must first get a Home Energy Rating Systems Report performed by a professional rater. The rater inspects everything in the home, from insulation to appliances and windows. Once the property’s current energy efficiency is calculated, the inspector makes recommendations for energy-efficient upgrades.

EEMs are available for $4,000 or 5 percent of the property value up to $8,000. If the EEM is included in the initial home purchase, you do not need to come up with a larger down payment.

FHA 203(k) loans

Homebuyers looking to buy a fixer-upper may be interested in an FHA 203(k) mortgage. This program allows homeowners and homebuyers to finance up to $35,000 into their mortgage for repairs and improvements.

These loans often make it possible for buyers to purchase and rehabilitate properties that other lenders won’t touch because the property is in such bad shape. The loan includes money to purchase the property, enough to make necessary improvements, and, in certain cases, enough to cover rent or the borrower’s existing mortgage for up to six months so the buyer has another place to live while the home is being renovated.

Part IV: Shopping for FHA Loans

As mentioned previously, FHA loans are notorious for requiring a lot of documentation. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Address of your place of residence
  • Social Security number(s)
  • Names and locations of your employer(s)
  • Gross monthly salary at your current job(s)
  • Two years of completed tax returns (three if you are self-employed)
  • Two years of W-2s, 1099s, or other income statements
  • Most recent month of pay stubs
  • Recent statements for all open loans (such as student loans or car loans)
  • A year-to-date profit-and-loss statement for self-employed individuals
  • Most recent three months of bank, retirement, stocks, and/or mutual fund statements
  • Contact information for your landlord or current mortgage lender
  • Bankruptcy and discharge papers (if applicable)
  • Copies of driver’s license(s)
  • Social Security card(s)
  • Copy of divorce decree (if applicable)
  • Letters of explanation for any past credit issues, bankruptcies, or foreclosures (if applicable)
  • Gift letter if your down payment or closing funds are a gift from friends or family members
  • If you are refinancing or you own another property, you will also need:
  • Note and deed from current loan
  • Property tax bill
  • Homeowners insurance policy

Your lender will also have you sign multiple documents, including authorization to pull your credit report, verify your employment, and obtain a transcript of your tax return from the Internal Revenue Service.

As you get closer to your closing date, you may need to update many of these documents. For instance, if you provided a January bank statement and pay stubs when you started your loan process and your loan doesn’t close until March, your loan officer will likely need a copy of your February bank statement and pay stubs to finalize your loan.

Where can you compare FHA loan rates?

As mentioned above, FHA loans are not provided directly by the FHA, but by FHA-approved lenders, so rates can vary depending on which bank you work with. For that reason, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best rate.

Fortunately, some resources allow you to do a lot of your initial mortgage rate shopping online.

Check out LendingTree’s FHA loan rates here. By filling out an online form with questions about the type of property you’re purchasing, city, state, and a few other details, you can compare personalized rates from several lenders. Note: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

Part V: The FHA Closing Process

The HUD Handbook 4155.2 explains the FHA loan process in detail, from identifying a lender to the lender’s responsibilities after the loan is closed. The time it takes to close on an FHA loan is pretty comparable to other types of loans. According to a recent Origination Insight Report from Ellie Mae, in August of 2017, FHA loans for new purchases took an average of 44 days to close, compared to 42 days for conventional loans.

Here are the steps that apply to borrowers:

  1. Lender identification. Contact a HUD-approved lender to find out if you are eligible for an FHA loan. All of the major banks and many smaller, regional lenders participate in the FHA loan program.
  2. Loan application. The lender will help you complete a loan application and request a variety of financial documents.
  3. Case number assigned. Every FHA mortgage is assigned a case number that identifies the individual loan and borrower.
  4. Property appraisal. The lender will order a property appraisal from a HUD-approved appraiser to verify the market value of the home and that it meets all of HUD’s property requirements.
  5. Mortgage underwriting. The underwriter reviews your file in accordance with HUD’s guidelines to determine whether you have the ability to repay the loan. They’ll take a close look at your credit history, employment situation, income stability, debt-to-income ratio, and other factors.
  6. Underwriting decision. If your application is approved, you are “clear to close” and will move on to the closing process. If your file is rejected for some reason, the lender will notify you of the underwriter’s decision and will likely tell you why the underwriter came to that decision.
  7. Closing process. The lender “closes” the loan by having all documents signed and ensuring that all money is distributed to the appropriate parties. Borrowers should review all loan documents carefully to ensure accuracy. This is also the time when you’ll need to present a cashier’s check or wire funds from your bank to cover closing costs.

Before you sign

The closing process can be a ceremonious event. It may take place in your lender’s or realtor’s office. You’ll be handed a pen and a big stack of documents that require your signature. A notary will likely be present to witness your signature. But don’t let the pomp and circumstances distract you from the task at hand: making one of the largest financial transactions of your life.

Before you get to closing, you should receive a loan estimate that lays out the important information about your loan, including the loan amount, projected interest rate, estimated monthly payment, and estimated funds required to close. Your interest may be locked in. This means your rate won’t change between the offer and closing date, as long as there are no changes to your application and you close within the specified time frame.

At least three business days before closing, you should receive a Closing Disclosure form listing all final terms of the loan you’ve selected and final closing costs. When you sit down to sign the loan documents at closing, double-check the details to ensure your final documents agree with the Closing Disclosure. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has an excellent interactive tool explaining all of the parts of your Closing Disclosure and the details you should review.

Your lender or realtor should give you a list of items to bring with you to the closing. This will likely include a cashier’s check or proof of wire transfer for the funds you need to close and your driver’s license.

Ask questions to ensure you feel comfortable with everything you’re signing and make sure you know when and where to send your first mortgage payment and when it will be due.

Closing costs to consider

Your Closing Disclosure will show all of the closing costs required to finalize your loan. Some of them may be financed into your loan, some may be paid by the seller, and some are your responsibility. Closing costs vary based on where you live and the property you buy. Here’s a list of some common ones:

  • Application fee. Covers the cost of the lender to process your application.
  • Appraisal. Paid to the appraisal company to confirm the value of your home.
  • Attorney fee. Paid to an attorney to review the closing documents on behalf of the buyer or lender.
  • Escrow fee. Paid to the title company or escrow company that oversees the closing of your home purchase.
  • Credit report. The cost of pulling your credit report and credit score.
  • Escrow deposits. You may be required to put down two months or more of property taxes and mortgage insurance payments at closing.
  • Upfront mortgage insurance premium. FHA loans require an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75 percent of the loan amount.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance covers possible damage to your home. The lender may require that you pay the first year’s premium at closing.
  • Origination fee. Covers the lender’s administrative costs.
  • Prepaid interest. The lender may require you to prepay any interest that will accrue between your closing date and the date your first mortgage payment is due.
  • Recording fees. Charges by your local city or county for recording public records.
  • Title company search. A fee paid to the title company for doing a thorough search of the property’s records to ensure that no one else has a legal claim to the property.

Closing costs typically run 3 to 5 percent of the loan amount.

FAQ

Still wondering whether an FHA loan is right for you? The following are some frequently asked questions about FHA loans that may help you decide.

Yes! FHA guidelines require borrowers to wait two years from the discharge of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or one year from the discharge of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy before applying for an FHA loan. In addition to meeting the waiting period, borrowers with bankruptcies should be able to demonstrate that they’ve worked to re-establish good credit or chosen not to incur any new debts since the bankruptcy. Borrowers will also have to submit a letter of explanation detailing the circumstances that lead to the bankruptcy with their loan application.

Yes. Having a co-signer may improve your chances of getting approved for the loan, especially if it’s a high debt-to-income ratio holding you back from getting approved. The co-signer must also submit to an underwriter review of their income and credit as they will be liable for repayment of the loan if the borrower fails to meet their obligation.

Yes. You can refinance an existing mortgage to a new FHA loan in a streamline refinance as long as you’ve made at least six monthly payments on your current mortgage and it’s been at least 210 days since the closing of that loan. You cannot have any payments overdue by more than 30 days and no late payments in the past 90 days. If you qualify, the streamline refinance does not require an appraisal, credit qualification, or employment verification.

You can also refinance an FHA loan into a conventional loan. This is often a good option for borrowers whose home has increased in value substantially. Since some FHA loans require mortgage insurance be paid during the entire life of the loan, refinancing to a conventional loan can eliminate mortgage insurance.

No. While FHA loans are popular among first-time homebuyers due to their low down payments and flexible requirements, they are available to repeat buyers as long as the loan is being used to purchase a primary residence.

No. FHA loans are only available for purchasing a buyer’s primary residence. However, you can use an FHA loan to buy a property with up to four units, as long as you will live in one unit while renting out the others.

The FHA allows 100 percent of the down payment and closing cost funds to be gifted, as long as the donor signs a gift letter stating that the money is a gift and does not have to be repaid.

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The Change That Could Help You Score a Bigger Mortgage in 2017

FHA loan limits are going up in 2017.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency recently announced that loan limits for 2017 are going up. In many parts of the country, loan amount sizes are rising. In particular, the conforming loan limit has risen from $417,000 to $424,100. (Conforming loans, which are not to be confused with conventional loans, are mortgage loans that adhere to guidelines set by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.)

While these mortgage loans’ rise may not seem significant, they’re particularly important because loans that exceed $424,100 are considered to be conforming high balance loans, which means higher pricing and higher fees, as they’re greater than the conforming loan limit. This change by the Federal Housing Finance Agency also means that the maximum county conforming loan limits will be increased, making it easier to get a bigger mortgage or to buy a house with less than 20% down, for example.

Here’s an illustration: Looking at Sonoma County, the old maximum county loan limit was $554,300. In 2017, that number will change to $595,700. This represents an additional $41,400 that does not need to be brought to the table anymore. That money can be financed instead. Essentially, the loan limit increase allows you to borrow more money and still stay within conforming loan limits. The reason this is important is because when the loan exceeds the maximum county limit, it automatically enters a more restrictive lending landscape. Such requirements for homeowners include lower debt-to-income ratios, a stellar credit history and a more solid financial picture. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, by visiting Credit.com.)

These loan limits allow more people to borrow more money without having to put more money down in their transaction. Homeowners can refinance bigger loan sizes and still stay within the conforming loan limits. The change will also help homeowners who were just a hair over $417,000 stay within conforming limits. And it comes at a critical time when mortgage rates have etched up in recent weeks, with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage now hovering just over 4.0%.

Image: Weekend Images Inc.

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Markets Having Best Weathered Recession Dense with FHA Mortgages

FHA

It may seem obvious why some areas were hit harder than others when the housing bubble burst. Many markets were more saturated with subprime mortgages–particularly those in the Sunbelt- than other markets. But there is another layer to this onion you may not have peeled back yet; the role of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan.

More FHA Mortgages, Less Foreclosure

Data is now suggesting government-sponsored mortgage insurance programs mitigated the effects of- and stimulated the recovery from- the great recession. In counties with high participation ratios in FHA loan programs were lower unemployment rates, higher home sales, higher home prices, lower mortgage delinquency rates and less foreclosure activity then in counties with less participation. These figures were applicable both soon after the 2009 peak of the financial crisis and six years later in 2014.

Unemployment rates had increased by 26% by the end of 2008 in counties that had low FHA loan participation. This compares to a mere 4% increase in unemployment rates in counties that had high FHA participation. And a year later, unemployment rates had increased by 106 and 58%, respectively.

FHA & Unemployment Rates

Recession recovery in counties with lower government involvement in mortgages were also sluggish. By the end of 2012, when unemployment rates had fallen, they still remained 30% higher in low FHA-share counties than in high FHA-share counties.

The discrepancies witnessed between counties with more FHA loans and those with fewer FHA loans the Federal Reserve credits to a few different components. These include lower government liquidity premiums, lower government credit-risk premiums and looser government mortgage-underwriting standards. The combination of these components, the Fed theorizes, may yield higher private-sector economic activity after a financial crisis.

More on Mortgages & Homebuying:

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