Low Down Payments
Simply put, mortgage insurance protects the mortgage company against financial loss if a homeowner stops making mortgage payments. Mortgage companies usually require insurance on low down payment loans for protection in the event that the homeowner fails to make his or her payments. When a homeowner fails to make the mortgage payments, a default occurs and the home goes into foreclosure. Both the homeowner and the mortgage insurer lose in a foreclosure. The homeowner loses the house and all of the money put into it. The mortgage insurer will then have to pay the mortgage company’s claim on the defaulted loan.
For this reason, it is crucial that the family buying the home can really afford it, not only at the time it is purchased, but throughout the time period of the loan.
Although the cost of the mortgage insurance is paid by the home buyer, or borrower, the mortgage insurer works directly with the mortgage company. Mortgage insurance is available to commercial banks, savings & loans and mortgage bankers, all of whom offer mortgage loans to home buyers.
Remember that mortgage insurance is not the same as credit life insurance, also called mortgage life insurance. This type of policy repays an outstanding mortgage balance upon the death of the person who took out the insurance policy.
The Secondary Market
The mortgage company’s decision to use mortgage insurance is driven by the requirements of investors in the mortgage market. Because of the losses that could occur, major investors require mortgage insurance on all loans made with low down payments.
The three primary investors in home loans are Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae). By purchasing and selling residential mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac help keep money available for homes across the country.
Unlike Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae does not actually buy mortgages. It adds the guarantee of the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government to mortgage securities issued by mortgage companies.
The Two Choices: Government Insurance and Private Insurance
Now that we have explained how mortgage insurance works and why it is necessary, let’s look at the basic kinds of mortgage insurance. Low down payment mortgages can be insured in two ways — through the government or through the private sector. Mortgages backed by the government are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA).
Although anyone can apply for FHA insurance, the other two government mortgage guarantee programs are much more targeted. The VA program is limited to qualified, eligible veterans and reservists. This program is very specialized, so contact your mortgage professional for the details. The FmHA insures loans for the construction and purchase of homes in rural communities.
Obtaining conventional financing is the alternative to obtaining a home loan backed by the government. Conventional mortgages are all home loans not guaranteed by the government, including those guaranteed by private mortgage insurers.
Although government and private insurance are based on the same concept of allowing families to get into homes with less cash down, there are many differences between the two. Often, your mortgage professional will play an important role in suggesting and deciding which insurance is selected.
Home buyers must make a down payment of at least 5% of a home’s value to be considered for private mortgage insurance. However, under some special programs, the down payment requirement allows the buyer to use a gift or grant to cover 2% of the 5% down payment required by private mortgage insurers. The gift or grant may come from a friend, relative, community group or other organization.
Private mortgage insurance is available on a wide variety of home loans and there is no pre-set limit on the loan amount. Although differences such as these may affect whether the mortgage company prefers to work with government or conventional mortgages, your mortgage professional will discuss which one would be better for your situation.
With the wide variety of loans available, home buyers have the freedom to choose the type of loan that best suits their needs. Early on in the home buying process, it is a good idea to meet with several companies to compare the types of mortgages they offer and shop for the best price and terms. Best of all, working with a mortgage insurer can be very easy, whether your loan is insured by the FHA or a private mortgage insurance company, because your mortgage professional handles all of the arrangements.
By making lending money to home buyers safer, mortgage insurance helps more families get into homes of their own.
Down payment loans and gifts
Loans and gifts can help with your down payment but you can not use this strategy for all loan programs. The most popular program for this tactic is the Federal Housing Administration or FHA. FHA allows 100% gift funds for your down payment. The gift can be from any relative or can be collected through new innovative programs, like the Bridal Registry where couples receive money into an account that can be used for the down payment.
Another popular tactic, which can be used in a wider range of programs, is to borrow from your 401K program. If you have a 401K program with your employer, you can withdraw without a penalty for your down payment and pay it back over a specified period. There are some drawbacks, the payment will be used in qualifying and your 401K account will not continue to grow as fast. Even with these drawbacks, it is often a smart move if this is your only option.
Down payment grants
There are national non-profit organizations dedicated to assisting homebuyers with their down payment and closing costs.
Buyers can receive a free gift under these programs. Gift amounts vary with each program but are generally available in amounts of 3% with some programs, all the way up to $22,500 with others. Buyers never have to repay these gifts.
It’s easy to receive a free gift from these programs, however qualification guidelines do vary with each program. Each program requires that buyers must qualify for any eligible loan program with their lender (there are many programs that qualify).
While this is the ONLY qualifying requirement of some programs, others have requirements such as requiring that the buyer complete a Home Ownership Counseling Course or provide 1% of their own funds into the transaction. In addition some programs have income/asset restrictions, recapture clauses, reserves required, or geographic boundaries. Each program can provide you with their specific requirements and/or limitations
These programs generally participate with FHA, Conforming, and Non-Conforming loan products. Most of these programs do not underwrite the loan or add any cost in the form of points, fees, etc., they simply provide the gift for the down payment and/or closing costs.
These downpayment assistance programs can be used for Single Family (1-4 unit) homes, Manufactured/Modular Homes, Condominiums, Townhouses, Existing or New Construction, Rehab and Non-Conforming.
Qualifying for a low down payment loan
To be considered for a low down payment loan, you generally need to have:
- Sufficient income to support the monthly mortgage payment
- Enough cash to cover the down payment
- Sufficient cash to cover normal closing costs and related expenses (explained below)
- A good credit background that indicates your payment history or “willingness to pay”
Sufficient appraisal value, which shows the house is at least equal to the purchase price
- In some instances, a cash reserve equivalent to two monthly mortgage payments
- Closing costs, or settlement costs, are paid when the home buyer and the seller meet to exchange the necessary papers for the house to be legally transferred. On the average, closing costs run approximately 2% to 3% of the house price. This percentage may vary, depending on where you live.
Closing costs include the loan origination fee (if not already paid), points, prepaid homeowner’s insurance, appraisal fee, lawyer’s fee, recording fee, title search and insurance, tax adjustments, agent commissions, mortgage insurance (if you are putting less than 20% down) and other expenses. Your mortgage professional will give you a more exact estimate of your closing costs.
Points are finance charges that are calculated at closing. Each point equals 1% of the loan amount. For example, 2 points on a $100,000 loan equals $2,000. Companies may charge 1, 2 or 3 points in up-front costs in addition to the down payment. The more points you pay, the lower your interest rate will be. In some cases, you may be able to finance the points.
So How Much of a Mortgage Can You Afford?
There are two basic formulas commonly used to determine how much of a mortgage you can reasonably afford. These formulas are called qualifying ratios because they estimate the amount of money you should spend on mortgage payments in relation to your income and other expenses.
It is important to remember that the following ratios may vary and each application is handled on an individual basis, so the guidelines are just that — guidelines. There are many affordability programs, both government and conventional, that have more lenient requirements for low- and moderate-income families.
Many of these programs involve financial counseling for low- and moderate-income people interested in buying a home and in return, offer more lenient requirements.
Generally speaking, to qualify for conventional loans, housing expenses should not exceed 26% to 28% of your gross monthly income. For FHA loans, the ratio is 29% of gross monthly income. Monthly housing costs include the mortgage principal, interest, taxes and insurance, often abbreviated PITI. For example, if your annual income is $30,000, your gross monthly income is $2,500, times 28% = $700. So you would probably qualify for a conventional home loan that requires monthly payments of $700.
Any expenses that extend 11 months or more into the future are termed long-term debt, such as a car loan. Total monthly costs, including PITI and all other long-term debt, should equal no greater than 33% to 36% of your gross monthly income for conventional loans. Using the same example, $2,500 x 36% = $900. So the total of your monthly housing expenses plus any long-term debts each month cannot exceed $900. For FHA the ratio is 41%.
Maximum allowable monthly housing expense
26% – 28% of gross monthly income – Conventional
29% of gross monthly income – FHA
Maximum allowable monthly housing expense and long-term debt
33% – 36% of gross monthly income – Conventional
41% of gross monthly income – FHA
One way to determine how much to spend for housing is to compare your monthly income with monthly long-term obligations and expenses. Use the worksheet, “Evaluating Your Financial Resources,” to determine how much money you can spend on housing. Be sure to only include income you can definitely count on.
When budgeting to buy a home, it is important to allow enough money for additional expenses such as maintenance and insurance costs. If you are purchasing an existing home, gather information such as utility cost averages and maintenance costs from previous owners or tenants to help you better prepare for homeownership.
Homeowner’s insurance or property insurance is another cost you will have to consider. The lending institution holding the mortgage will require insurance in an amount sufficient to cover the loan. However, to protect the full value of your investment, you might want to consider purchasing insurance that provides the full replacement cost if the home is destroyed. Some insurance only provides a fixed dollar amount which may be insufficient to rebuild a badly damaged house.
Down Payment Assistance
Many local and state agencies run bond programs to generate funds to help individuals and families with a down payment. Contrary to public thinking, these bond issues are not a type of welfare. The government knows that it can be tough to buy that first home, especially on a limited income.
Most agencies are income sensitive, but you may be surprised by the high level of acceptable income. The income level is especially high if you have children or dependents. Most agencies also have purchase limits, but they are adjusted to the income qualifications level.
If you are able to obtain down payment assistance, you may receive a lower interest rate. The drawback is that it often takes quite a bit of work with extra paperwork and mandatory education classes. Our advice, find a realtor or mortgage professional who is familiar with both the local and state agencies and their policies.
State housing authorities
Alabama Housing Finance Authority
P.O. Box 230909 Montgomery, AL 36123-0909
Alaska Housing Finance Corp.
P.O. Box 101020 235 East 8th Avenue Anchorage, AK 99510
Arizona Department of Commerce Office of Housing Development
1700 West Washington Phoenix, AZ 85007
Arkansas Development Finance Authority
P.O. Box 8023 100 Main Street / Suite 200 Little Rock, AR
California Housing Finance Agency
1121 L Street / 7th Floor Sacramento, CA 95815
California Department of Housing & Community Development
P.O. Box 952050 Sacramento, CA 94252-2050
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority
1981 Blake Street Denver, CO 80202
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority
40 Cold Spring Road Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Delaware State Housing Authority Division of Housing and Community Development
18 the Green P.O. Box 1401 Dover, DE 19901
DC Housing Finance Agency
1401 New York Avenue NW Suite 540 Washington, DC 20005
Florida Housing Finance Agency
2571 Executive Center Circle East Tallahassee, FL 32399
Georgia Residential Finance Authority
60 Executive Parkway South / Suite 250 Atlanta, GA 30329
Hawaii Housing Authority
1002 North School Street P.O. Box 17907 Honolulu, HI 96817
Idaho Housing Agency
760 W. Myrtle Boise, ID 83702
Illinois Housing Development Authority
401 N. Michigan Avenue / Suite 900 Chicago, IL 60611
(800) 942-8439 or
Indiana Housing Finance Authority
One North Capitol / Suite 515 Indianapolis, IN 46204
Iowa Finance Authority
100 East Grand Avenue / Suite 250 Des Moines, IA 50309
Kansas Office of Housing Department of Commerce
400 S.W. 8th / 5th Floor Topeka, KS 66603
Kentucky Housing Corporation
1231 Louisville Road Frankfort, KY 40601
Louisiana Housing Finance Agency
5615 Corporate / Suite 6A Baton Rouge, LA 70808-2515
Maine State Housing Authority
P.O. Box 2669 295 Water Street Augusta, ME 04330
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
45 Calvert Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Massachusetts Housing Financing Agency
50 Milk Street Boston, MA 02190
Michigan State Housing Development Authority
Plaza One / Fourth Floor 401 South Washington Square P.O. Box 48909
Minnesota Housing Finance Agency
400 Sibley Street St. Paul, MN 55101
Mississippi Home Corporation
510 George Street / Suite 107 Dickson Building Jackson, MS 39201
Missouri Housing Development Commission
3770 Broadway Kansas City, MO 64111
Montana Board of Housing
2001 Eleventh Avenue Helena, MT 59620
Nebraska Investment Finance Authority
1033 O Street / Suite 218 Lincoln, NE 68508
Nevada Department of Commerce Housing Division
1802 N. Carson Street / Suite 154 Carson City, NV 89710
New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority
P.O. Box 5087 Manchester, NH 03108
New Jersey Housing Agency
3625 Quakerbridge Road Trenton, NJ 08650-2085
Mortgage Finance Authority
P.O. Box 2047 Albuquerque, NM 87103
State of New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal
One Fordham Plaza Bronx, NY 10458
New York State Housing Authority
250 Broadway New York, NY 10007
North Carolina Housing Finance Agency
3300 Drake Circle / Suite 200 Raleigh, NC 27611
North Dakota Housing Finance Agency
P.O. Box 1535 Bismarck, ND 58502
Ohio Housing Finance Agency
775 High Street / 26th Floor Columbus, OH 43266
Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency
P.O. Box 26720 Oklahoma City, OK 73126-0720
Oregon Housing Agency Housing Division
1600 State Street / Suite 100 Salem, OR 97310
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency
2101 North Front Street Harrisburg, PA 17105
Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp.
60 Eddy Street Providence, RI 02903
South Carolina State Housing Financing and Development Authority
1710 Gervais Street / Suite 300 Columbia, SC 29201
South Dakota Housing Development Authority
P.O. Box 1237 Pierre, SD 57501
Tennessee Housing Development Agency
700 Landmark Center 401 Church Street Nashville, TN 37219
Texas Housing Agency
P.O. Box 13941 Capitol Station Austin, TX 78711
Utah Housing Finance Agency
177 East 100 South Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Vermont Housing Finance Agency
One Burlington Square
P.O. Box 408 Burlington, VT 05402
Vermont State Housing Authority
P.O. Box 397 Montpelier, VT 05601-0397
Virginia Housing Development Authority
601 S. Belvedere Street Richmond, VA 23220
Washington State Housing Finance Commission
111 Third Avenue / Suite 2240 Seattle, WA 98101-3202
West Virginia Housing Development Fund
814 Virginia Street East Charleston, WV 25301
Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority
P.O. Box 1728 Madison, WI 53701
Wyoming Community Development Authority
123 S. Durbin Street P.O. Box 634
Casper, WY 82602