Not so long ago, FHA loans were the red-headed step child in the housing market. They didn’t get any respect. That wasn’t always the case. Back in the old days FHA loans were the only option for most first time home buyers or others who had little money to put down. FHA was the way for many borrowers to take their first steps into home ownership here in the Chicago area. Not only could you buy a home with a small down payment, but the entire down payment could be a gift, and your credit didn’t have to be perfect. There were problems with FHA loans, though. It took longer to get a loan approved and closed than with a conventional loan, and if there were issues with the homes condition (like peeling paint) the issues had to be fixed before closing. Many people felt that FHA underwriters were professional nitpickers, so if they had a choice, many Realtors and home sellers would take a conventional buyer over an FHA buyer. As time went on
FHA became less and less of a factor in the market. Conventional loans came out with low, and later no down payment options, and other loans catered to borrowers with bruised credit. Another part of the problem was that FHA didn’t keep up with the market values. As home prices moved up in Dupage County and throughout the Chicago area, FHA kept their loan limits low, and became a non-issue for all but the lowest priced homes. Now, as the conventional market is in turmoil, it looks like FHA has another shot at its glory days, and there is no doubt that FHA financing is the best loan option for many Chicago area home buyers and the best first time home buyers loan available today.
Over the last few years FHA has updated the way they make loans. They’ve eased off on their property conditions, and with direct endorsement underwriters we can approve and close an FHA loan as fast as we can a conventional loan. But the biggest change is that FHA has increased their loan limits here in the Chicago area and throughout the nation. In the Chicago area (this includes all of the collar counties including Dupage, Kane, Lake, Gruny, Kendal and Will) you can now get an FHA loan on a single family home up to $410,000. This is already making an impact. FHA’s market share in 2006 was about 3% of total mortgage originations. Today FHA is closer to 10%, and moving up.
Why would you consider an FHA loan over a conventional loan? Here are some of the advantages:
- No Risk Based Pricing adjustments– Risk Based Financing is the idea that those borrowers with the best credit scores will be able to get the best mortgages rates, and those with lower credit scores will have to pay more. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two big buyers of mortgage loans in the mortgage aftermarket, recently changed their guidelines in a way that meant all but the very best borrowers will pay more for a loan. Now buyers with credit scores under 720 and with down payments under 20% are getting hit on their pricing. This isn’t the case with FHA. With FHA if you qualify for the loan you get the best pricing. You can qualify for an FHA mortgage with credit scores in the upper 500s – without any price hits.
- FHA uses common sense credit guidelines –FHA looks at the buyers over all history, not just their credit scores. FHA uses a common sense underwriting approach that understands credit problems can happen to anyone. Their concern is that the problem has been addressed and isn’t likely to occur again. If you have had credit problems in the past, you may need to document why they happened and what you have done to correct the problems, but you aren’t automatically frozen out of a loan, as you would be now with most conventional loans. If you have some issues with your credit, give me a call before you are ready to buy. Working to fix your credit earlier will help you save money later.
- You can buy with a low down payment – or no down payment – This is another area where FHA has a big advantage over conventional loans. It is now much harder to get a conventional mortgage with a minimal down payment. But FHA only requires 3% down. And this down payment can come from a gift from a relative or as a grant from a down payment assistance program. That means that you can still buy a home with no money out of your own pocket.
- FHA allows a seller concession of up to 6% – By using seller concessions, you can structure your purchase in more creative ways. One way many buyers use this is by converting a seller concession into a grant from a non-profit down payment assistance program like Nehemiah or AmeriDream. Here is how it works. When you negotiate the contract with the seller, you would ask for a concession on the price upfront — the amount will usually be between three and a half to four percent of the price (more if you want to build in closing costs, too). Three percent will go for the down payment; the rest goes to pay for the organization’s administrative costs. The seller agrees to give this negotiated concession to the grant provider at the closing table, and they in turn give a “grant” to you for your down payment. This is all done on paper and no money really changes hands, but it allows you to buy your home with no money down. There are other ways to use the seller concession, including buying down your interest rate to lower your monthly payment. The important thing is to make sure you ask for the concession right up front when you first start to negotiate your purchase.
- FHA is more lenient with past bankruptcies – With FHA you can buy a home 2 years after a Chapter 7, and 1 year after a Chapter 13 bankruptcy – sooner if the bankruptcy is medically related or due to actions beyond your control. You will still need to show that you have reestablished your credit and can afford your new payment.
- FHA financing is available for Permanent Resident Aliens – With FHA you don’t need to be a U.S. citizen and you don’t need to have your green card. You will need to have a social security number, established credit and proof that you are able to work in the United Sates.
- No cash reserves are required – This is another way that FHA differs from conventional financing. Saving up for a down payment is the biggest obstacle to buying for most first time home buyers. With conventional loans you need to have saved not only the amount for the down payment, but also have some money left over in reserve. With FHA they only require enough cash to close and you don’t need money in reserves.
- No income limits – Many of the low and no down payment conventional loans are set up to help low and moderate income home buyers. This isn’t the case with FHA. It’s goal is to help more people buy homes and there are no limits on how much you can make.
- Non traditional credit is accepted – Most conventional loans require that you have a credit score and an established credit history. But not every one uses credit. With FHA we can build up a credit history from other payments you have mad. This would include your rent and utility payments, and any other non-traditional credit you have used.
- Mortgage insurance is lower than conventional – FHA splits their mortgage insurance into 2 parts – an upfront insurance which is added to the loan amount, and a premium which is paid monthly. If you are buying with a minimum down payment, the combined premium on FHA is better than it is with conventional loan programs – especially if your credit scores aren’t the highest.
These are other just a few of the advantages of FHA financing. There are other advantages of FHA financing which help some individual needs. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is the pricing. FHA pricing is as competitive as conventional financing –and much lower if you are buying with a low down payment or if your credit scores aren’t the absolute best. If you would like to see how FHA could work with your situation, give me a call or contact me. I would love to work with you.