FHA Home Loans are mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration that feature¬†lower underwriting standards and rates than conventional loans, along with lower minimum down payments of 3.5%. Additionally, FHA borrowers are required to pay for mortgage insurance (MIP) to protect the lender in the event of a default.
Home buyers today don't often buy homes with 20% down.
Low- and no-downpayment mortgages remain popular with first-time buyers and repeat buyers alike; and one of the most popular low-downpayment mortgage program is the FHA loan via the Federal Housing Administration.
Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. buyers uses an¬†FHA loan¬†to finance a home purchase.
The program's popularity, in part, is because buyers can make downpayments of just 3.5 percent via the FHA. But, there are other reasons why FHA loans are in demand, too.
In addition to loose underwriting standards, FHA mortgage rates are lower than comparable conventional rates; and FHA loans can be assumed by a home's subsequent buyer.
This is especially valuable in a rising mortgage rate environment.Click to see today's rates (Oct 23rd, 2017)
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was established in 1934, which, in U.S. history, was a period of "heavy renting". The country was emerging from The Great Depression.
Just 4 in 10 households owned their homes.
At the time, the mortgage terms offered by lenders were onerous. To get a loan meant to make a 50% downpayment; to agree to a loan term of 5 years or fewer; and, to make a large "balloon" payment to the bank after the mortgage's first few years.
Few U.S. consumers could meet the terms of a 1930s mortgage.
Meanwhile, the government wished to increase the rates of homeownership nationwide. With more homeowners, the government reasoned, neighborhoods would stabilize and the U.S. economy would get back on track.
From this, the FHA and its flagship mortgage program was born.
The main feature of the FHA-backed mortgage was its Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) program, a self-sufficient insurance fund through which the FHA could insure the nation's lenders against "bad loans".
In order for a bank to get the FHA's insurance on its loans, it was required to verify that its loans met the FHA's minimum qualification standards.
These rules came to be known as the FHA mortgage guidelines.
In time, the FHA MIP system gave banks confidence to make better loans with better terms for hopeful U.S. home buyers. Soon, the downpayment requirements for a home loan dropped; 5-year loan terms were replaced with longer terms of 15 and 30 years; and mortgage rates dropped.
The FHA is currently the largest insurer of mortgages in the world.
In today's expanding economy, U.S. home buyers have a wide selection¬†of mortgage loans from which to choose.
As examples, there are conventional loans available via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; Rural Housing Loans available via the USDA; and, 100% loans available via the Department of Veterans Affairs and its VA loan.
Even jumbo mortgages and private loans have made a comeback of late.
However, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration remain in high demand.
The FHA loan's combination of low rates, low downpayment, and flexible lending guidelines have made it one of most common loan choices for home buyers today.
There are benefits to choosing an FHA loan. Here are some of the biggest.
It may seem odd to call FHA mortgage insurance a benefit since it doesn't come for free, however, FHA MIP is what makes the FHA program possible. Without the MIP, FHA-approved lenders would have little reason to make FHA-insured loans.
The good news is that, as a homeowner or home buyer, your¬†FHA MIP rates have¬†dropped. Today's¬†FHA MIP costs are now as much as 50 basis points (0.50%) lower per year than they were in 2014.
Also, you have ways to reduce what you'll owe in FHA MIP annually¬†including using¬†a 15-year mortgage term for your loan; or, making a downpayment of at least 5 percent.
Or, as many homeowners are doing in today's market, you can refinance out of FHA MIP.
For today's home buyers, there are only a few mortgage options which allow for downpayments of five percent or less. The FHA is one of them.
With an FHA mortgage, you can make a downpayment as small as 3.5%. This benefits home buyers who don't have a lot of money saved up for downpayment; and, home buyers who would rather save money for moving costs, emergency funds, or other needs.
The FHA is aggressive with respect to gifts for downpayment. Very few loans programs will allow your entire downpayment for a home to come from a gift. The FHA will.
Via the FHA, your entire 3.5% downpayment can be a gift from parents or another relative, an employer, an approved charitable group, or a government homebuyer program. If you're using a downpayment gift, though, you'll need to follow the process.
Not every home buyer will have a valid social security number and, according to the FHA, that's okay. FHA guidelines permits loans to employees of the World Bank and foreign embassies, for example.
The FHA will also insure loans for non-permanent resident aliens.
FHA loans also allow higher debt-to-income ratios.
Your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, is calculated by comparing two things: your debt payments and your before-tax income.
For instance, if you earn $5,000 a month and your debt payment total is $2,000, your DTI is 40 percent.
Most conventional mortgage programs -- those offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- allow debt-to-income ratios between 36 and 43 percent.
With down payments of less than 25 percent, for example, Fannie Mae lets you go to 43 percent DTI for FICOs of 700 or higher.
Mortgage software company Ellie Mae recently reported that the average DTI for closed conventional purchases was 34 percent.
The average DTI for closed FHA purchases in was 41 percent, and FHA will allow ratios as high as 50 percent.
To get an approval at this high ratio, you‚Äôll likely need one or more¬†compensating factors¬†-- for instance, a great credit score, significant savings, or a down payment exceeding the minimum.
FHA loans can be funded by any FHA-approved lender. This includes mortgage lender, savings-and-loans institutions, and credit unions. The marketplace for FHA loans is giant, which creates competitive pressure among lenders to offer low FHA rates and low FHA fees.
It pays to "shop around" on an FHA loan.
Furthermore, because different banks use different methods to underwrite, your FHA loan can be declined by Bank A but approved by Bank B.
If you meet the rules of the FHA, you can apply until your loan get approved!
Via the FHA, you can get a mortgage of almost any type.
The agency is best-known for its traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, but the FHA also offers a 15-year fixed rate loan as well as a series of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs).
In addition, the FHA insures¬†purchase-and-improvement loans for when you want to buy a home that needs repairs; 203k construction loans for when you want to buy a home that's newly built; and energy-efficiency loans for when you want to finance the costs of energy-efficiency improvements into your loan.
The FHA also provides a full line of FHA refinance products.
FHA home buyers are able to purchase any home type in any U.S. neighborhood -- whether in the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, or any U.S. territory.
The FHA will insure single-family detached homes, 2-unit homes, 3-unit homes, 4-unit homes, condominiums, mobile homes and manufactured homes.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may¬†say¬†they accept FICOs as low as 620, but in reality, lenders impose higher minimums.
These two agencies create guidelines by which lenders issue mortgages. But, banks and mortgage companies add their own rules on top of Fannie and Freddie requirements.
The extra rules are called lender overlays.
Stricter credit score minimums are part of the reason the average credit score for completed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home purchase loans was 754 in a recent report.
According to the same report, by loan software company Ellie Mae, the average FICO for closed FHA purchases was almost¬†60 points lower¬†at 686.
FHA loan requirements¬†allow for very low credit scores. About 37 percent of FHA approvals fell into the 650-699 credit score range according to Ellie Mae. Another 24 percent of applicants had a score between 600 and 649.
The majority of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac approvals went to applicants with FICOs 100 points higher, in the 700-749 group.
High credit scores are great, if you have them. But applicants with¬†credit mistakes in their past can often purchase a home before they have fully¬†restored¬†their credit.
What if an applicant has never had a credit account? Their credit report is, essentially, blank.
FHA borrowers with¬†no credit scores¬†may also qualify for a mortgage. In fact, HUD prohibits FHA lenders from denying an application based solely on a borrower‚Äôs lack of credit history.
The FHA allows borrowers to build non-traditional credit as an alternative to standard credit history. This can be a huge advantage to someone who‚Äôs never had credit scores due to a lack of credit history.
Borrowers can use payment histories on items such as utility bills, cell phone bills, car insurance bills and apartment rent to build non-traditional credit.
A "loan limit" is the maximum allowable loan size for an area and, as another FHA benefit, FHA loan limits¬†can be extended as conventional loan limits are. In Orange County, California, for example, or New York City, the FHA will insure up to $625,500 for a mortgage.
For 2-unit, 3-unit and 4-unit homes, FHA loan limits are even higher -- ranging up to $1,202,925.
A little-known FHA benefit is that the agency will allow a home buyer to "assume" the existing FHA mortgage on home being purchased.
The buyer must still qualify for the mortgage with its existing terms but, in a rising mortgage rate environment, it can be attractive to assume a home seller's loan.
5 years from now, for example, a buyer of an FHA-insured home can "inherit" a seller's sub-4 percent mortgage rate.
Via its 203k program, the FHA offers construction loans to home buyers planning upgrades to a new home; and homeowners planning to make repairs to home already owned.
Via the FHA 203k loan, projects including new roofing, structural additions, and complete home tear-downs. The 203k loan can be applied to homes in need of minor repairs as well as fixer-uppers.
The FHA is the only federal government agency to issue such a loan.
In a way, FHA allows you to purchase rental property with 3.5 percent down.
You have to choose a¬†multi-unit property¬†‚Äď a duplex, triplex, or fourplex ‚Äď and live in one of the units. The rent from the other units can partially or even fully offset your mortgage payment.
Conventional lenders will lend on investment homes with 15 percent down, if you have excellent credit, income and assets.
Use FHA financing to gain¬†landlord experience¬†with less risk and potentially more reward.
Most mortgage programs limit their loan sizes, and many of these limits are tied to local housing prices.¬†FHA mortgage limits¬†are set by¬†county or MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area),¬†and range from $275,665 to $636,150 for single-family residences in most parts of the country.
Limits are higher in Alaska, Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands and Guam, and also for duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes.
There are several government-backed and non-government (conventional) options that also offer low down payments and flexible underwriting.
They include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (conforming) loans,¬†HomeReadyTM¬†and Home Possible¬ģ mortgages¬†for low-to-moderate income borrowers, non-conforming loans, VA loans and USDA mortgages.
FHA mortgage eligibility is not restricted to first-time or low-income buyers. Alternatives like VA mortgages are limited to eligible military and veteran applicants, and USDA loans have income restrictions and are available in less densely populated areas.
Conforming and conventional loans often¬†demand higher credit scores.
No single mortgage program is best for all homebuyers, so it's smart to compare.
Another advantage for FHA-backed homeowners is access to the¬†FHA Streamline Refinance.
The¬†FHA Streamline Refinance is an exclusive FHA program which offers homeowners one of the simplest, quickest path to a refinance. Via the¬†FHA Streamline Refinance, there are no credit score checks, no income verifications, and home appraisals are waived completely.
In addition, via the FHA Streamline Refinance,¬†homeowners with a mortgage pre-dating June 2009 get access to reduced FHA mortgage insurance rates.
For more than 80 years, the FHA home loan program has helped U.S. homeowners purchase homes affordably and refinance them. Compare today's rates and see what an FHA loan can do for you.
Take a look at today's FHA¬†mortgage rates now. Your social security number is not required to get started, and all quotes come with instant access to your live credit scores.Click to see today's rates (Oct 23rd, 2017)
The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.
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2017 Conforming, FHA, & VA Loan Limits
Mortgage loan limits for every U.S. county, as published by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)