Buying A House While in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy | 2024

March 7, 2024 - 16 min read

Is it possible to buy a home during Chapter 13?

If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or were recently discharged, you might wonder whether you qualify for a mortgage.

The good news is that getting a home loan is easier after Chapter 13 bankruptcy than Chapter 7. Buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy might even be possible. Government-backed FHA, VA, and USDA loans let you apply for a mortgage as early as one year into your repayment plan.

Keep in mind, you need to make those payments on time. And you still need to meet loan requirements. But if you meet these guidelines, you should have a good shot at getting a mortgage during or after Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

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Can you buy a house after Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

It’s definitely possible to buy a house after the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process. In some cases, mortgage lenders may approve your loan application while working through a Chapter 13 repayment plan.

Most lenders are easier on applicants who file for Chapter 13 than those who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That’s because Chapter 13 filers have made an effort to repay at least some part of their unsecured debts, including credit cards and medical bills.

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This is reflected in the minimum waiting period to get a loan after each type of bankruptcy:

  • Mortgage after Chapter 7 bankruptcy: Two to three years after discharge
  • Mortgage after Chapter 13 bankruptcy: 12 months after filing

Of course, you’ll still have some extra hurdles to clear when buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A mortgage lender needs to see you’ve taken meaningful steps to improve your credit and debt management before it will approve you for a home loan.

The requirements to buy a house during or after Chapter 13 depend on the type of mortgage you hope to use. Government-backed loans are more lenient about Chapter 13 on your credit report, while conforming loans (backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) impose longer waiting periods.

How long do you have to wait to buy a house after Chapter 13?

The time frame for purchasing a house after Chapter 13 hinges on both your loan program and the stage of your bankruptcy filing.

If you’re using an FHA, VA, or USDA loan, you can apply for a mortgage as soon as 1 year after filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and there’s no waiting period after being discharged.

Conventional loans, however, will not approve you while in Chapter 13 and require a two-year waiting period after discharge.

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Chapter 13 StatusMortgage Loan ProgramWaiting Period
FiledFHA, VA, USDA12 months
FiledConventionalNot allowed*
DischargedFHA, VA, USDANone
DischargedConventionalTwo years
DismissedFHA, VA, USDA12 months
DismissedConventionalFour years
Dismissed with extenuating circumstancesConventionalTwo years

*Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will not allow buyers to purchase a home with a conventional loan until after Chapter 13 bankruptcy has been discharged or dismissed.

Keep in mind that mortgage companies are allowed to set their own approval guidelines beyond those listed above. “Some lenders will require longer periods before you are able to get a loan,” cautions Jon Meyer, The Mortgage Reports loan expert.

If an underwriter denies your application, it’s worth trying another mortgage lender. You might have an easier time if you work with a mortgage broker who specializes in home buying for those who have declared bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 dismissal vs. discharge: How soon can I apply for a mortgage?

Mortgage lenders look differently at bankruptcy discharge and bankruptcy dismissal.

A discharge means you’ve completed your court-ordered repayment plan. Lenders look more favorably on this because it means you made your debt payments on time and worked hard to improve your finances.

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  • If you want to buy a house after Chapter 13 discharge, there’s no waiting period for an FHA, VA, or USDA loan (provided you meet loan requirements)
  • For a conventional loan, there’s a two-year waiting period after Chapter 13 discharge

If your bankruptcy was dismissed rather than discharged, on the other hand, the waiting period is extended to four years for a conventional loan.

The major benefit of applying for a VA or USDA loan is that you don’t need to wait for your bankruptcy to be discharged or dismissed. You can apply for these mortgages just 12 months into your repayment plan and pursue buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The same is technically true for FHA, though in practice, many mortgage lenders won’t consider your loan until two years after discharge.

Mortgage options for Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Individuals in Chapter 13 bankruptcy have several mortgage options available to them, including FHA, VA, and USDA loans.

However, each of these options comes with specific requirements and waiting periods, and securing a mortgage often requires court approval, a history of timely payments in the bankruptcy case, and a demonstrated ability to handle the new debt.

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FHA loan with Chapter 13 bankruptcy

To qualify for an FHA loan during Chapter 13, you need to be at least 12 months into your repayment plan. And you must have made all Chapter 13 payments on time. In addition, the bankruptcy court or bankruptcy attorney needs to give written permission for you to take out a new mortgage loan.

If you successfully complete your repayment plan and get a Chapter 13 discharge, there is no waiting period for an FHA loan. However, your loan will be referred for manual review by an underwriter unless it’s been two years since the discharge date. To get an automated, computerized approval, it has to be two years since the Chapter 13 discharge.

This is an important point because many lenders will not manually approve a home loan. They will deny the loan unless it gets an “approved status” from a computerized underwriting system. Because of this, many mortgage lenders require a waiting period of two years from the discharge date in practice.

Still, an FHA mortgage might be the most attractive type of loan if you’re buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy or were recently discharged from one.

Benefits of an FHA loan with Chapter 13

FHA loans have easier credit requirements than other mortgage programs and are especially attractive to first-time home buyers.

The Federal Housing Administration, which insures these loans, only requires a 580 credit score and 3.5% down payment. You might even get away with a credit score of 500-579 if you can put 10% down. But you’ll have a harder time finding a willing lender.

Other FHA mortgage requirements include:

  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is below 50%
  • You’re purchasing the home as a primary residence
  • The loan is within current FHA loan limits
  • You have steady employment and income

Most mortgage lenders are approved to do FHA loans, so first-time home buyers can shop around for a good deal. If one lender doesn’t approve you because of your Chapter 13, but you’re past the 12-month mark and meet loan requirements, try again with a different mortgage company. You might have more luck.

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VA and USDA loans with Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Like FHA loans, VA and USDA loans are backed by the federal government. They also have similar rules about qualifying with Chapter 13.

  • You must be at least 12 months into your repayment plan with on-time monthly payments
  • You need written approval from the court or bankruptcy attorney to apply for the loan
  • You need to meet loan program guidelines

If you completed your full Chapter 13 plan and the court has discharged you, there are no special criteria to apply for a VA or USDA loan.

Both these mortgage loan programs have similar benefits. No down payment is required, and mortgage rates tend to be very low.

To qualify for a VA loan, you need:

  • Qualifying military service: You must be an eligible veteran, service member, or surviving spouse
  • Fair to good credit: The Department of Veterans Affairs technically does not set a minimum credit score for these loans, but most lenders require a FICO score of at least 580-620

USDA loans are very affordable, but a bit harder to qualify for. You’ll need to:

  • Meet income eligibility: This loan type is meant for low- to moderate-income home buyers in qualified rural areas. Your household income can’t be more than 115% of the area median income
  • Have good credit: Most USDA lenders require a FICO score of at least 640
  • Buy in a rural area: USDA loans are only available in areas defined as “rural” by the Department of Agriculture. However, this broad definition includes about 97% of the U.S. landmass

Borrowers who are buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy might have more luck with an FHA mortgage thanks to its lenient credit history requirements.

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Conforming loans with Chapter 13 bankruptcy

It’s much tougher to get a conforming loan after filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the two agencies that set conforming loan rules — are stricter than the government agencies. They will not allow borrowers to apply while working through a Chapter 13 plan.

Your bankruptcy must be either discharged or dismissed to qualify for a conventional mortgage. And there’s a waiting period:

  • Two years after your Chapter 13 discharge date; or
  • Four years after your Chapter 13 dismissal date

Remember, discharge happens after you complete the 3- or 5-year repayment plan. So altogether it could take up to seven years after filing for Chapter 13 before you can get a conventional loan. (Five years until discharge plus the two-year waiting period.)

Filers who fail to complete the plan may have their bankruptcy “dismissed.” They probably still owe their creditors and will have to wait at least four years from the dismissal date before they can apply for conventional financing.

Filers with multiple bankruptcies in the past seven years will have to wait at least seven years from their most recent discharge before applying.

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Extenuating circumstances

It may be easier to buy a house after Chapter 13 discharge if your bankruptcy was caused by “extenuating circumstances.” Extenuating circumstances are typically one-time events outside your control that have a serious negative impact on your finances. Examples include:

  • Severe illness or disability
  • Company layoff
  • Death of the primary wage-earner

If your Chapter 13 falls into this category, the waiting period for a conventional loan drops to two years after dismissal. (The waiting period after discharge stays the same, at two years.)

Freddie Mac offers a clear test for determining if a bankruptcy has extenuating circumstances:

  • Were the events beyond your control?
  • Has the problem been resolved?
  • Is the problem likely to happen again?

Understand that these tests do not apply to every mortgage program. Talk to several lenders about your circumstances to learn when you qualify to apply for a loan following a Chapter 13 discharge or dismissal.

Buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Embarking on the journey of buying a house while in the midst of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy might seem like a tall order, but it’s not an unattainable goal. Here’s a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to help you navigate this process.

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Step 1: Evaluate your personal finances

Making a thorough assessment of your current financial situation is the first step in this process. This entails a careful analysis of your earnings, expenses, and the money you’re setting aside for your Chapter 13 repayment plan.

Knowing how much you can afford to spend on a new house without endangering your bankruptcy plan or your financial stability is essential.

This step may involve making a thorough budget, keeping tabs on your spending, and figuring out where you can make savings for a down payment.

Step 2: Work with your bankruptcy attorney

It’s time to consult with your bankruptcy attorney once you have a firm grasp of your financial situation. Discuss your desire to purchase a home with them and seek their advice on the viability of this move. Your lawyer can give you useful information about the legal processes involved, their potential effects on your current bankruptcy case, and methods to increase your chances of getting a mortgage. This step is critical because it lays the groundwork for the rest of the process.

Step 3: Secure court approval

The next step is to secure approval from the bankruptcy court to take on new debt, which includes a mortgage. This process typically involves your attorney filing a motion with the court and providing all the necessary information, such as the home purchase price, down payment amount, and projected monthly mortgage payments.

The court will review this information to ensure that the home purchase won’t adversely affect your ability to make your Chapter 13 plan payments. This step can take some time, so it’s important to be patient and cooperative.

Step 4: Improve your credit

While your motion is being processed, use this time to work on improving your credit score. This entails paying off all of your current debts on time and refraining from taking on any additional debt. A higher credit score will make you more appealing to potential lenders and may help you secure a lower mortgage interest rate. In this step, you might check your credit report for mistakes, settle any outstanding debts, and build a history of responsible credit usage.

Step 5: Get mortgage preapproval

Once you’ve received court approval and worked on your creditworthiness, it’s time to seek preapproval for a mortgage. This involves providing a potential lender with financial information, such as your income, savings, and investments.

The lender will then give you a letter stating how much they’re willing to lend you. This preapproval letter can give you a clearer idea of what homes you can afford and can make you more appealing to sellers.

Step 6: Begin house hunting and make an offer

With your preapproval letter in hand, you can start your home search. Remember to consider all the costs associated with homeownership, not just the purchase price. This includes property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance costs. It’s also a good idea to consider your future needs and lifestyle when choosing a home.

Once you’ve found a home that meets your needs and fits within your budget, you can make an offer. If the seller accepts your offer, you’ll move into the closing process, which includes finalizing your mortgage, conducting a home inspection, and signing all the necessary paperwork.

Step 7: Close on your new home

After all the paperwork is signed and the mortgage is finalized, you can close on your new home. This is the final step in the home buying process and marks the beginning of your journey as a homeowner. Celebrate this significant achievement!

Buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires careful planning, patience, and the right guidance. But with a clear understanding of the process and a commitment to financial responsibility, it’s certainly achievable.

Tips to qualify for a mortgage with Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Just meeting the 12-month requirement for a government loan doesn’t guarantee you’ll qualify. But here are some tips to increase your chances of mortgage approval after a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing:

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  • Re-establish your good credit. Take steps to build new credit by paying down debts and making on-time payments for utilities, credit cards, and car loans
  • Meet standard lending guidelines. These include requirements for credit score, income, employment, and down payment, among other things. Having a stable income and plenty of savings may help you qualify if you have past credit issues
  • Supply extra documents due to your Chapter 13. Lenders will likely require copies of your bankruptcy petition and discharge or dismissal documents
  • Make sure you’ve budgeted correctly for new debt. Remember that your mortgage payment will include taxes and insurance as well as loan principal and interest. If you put less than 20% down, it will also include private mortgage insurance or FHA mortgage insurance. These added costs can increase a house payment substantially

Before you jump into the application process, set aside some time to think about your maximum budget for payments and how the cost of homeownership will fit in with your debt repayment plan.

Working with bankruptcy attorneys

When trying to buy a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, hiring a bankruptcy lawyer can be extremely beneficial. A lawyer with bankruptcy experience can offer invaluable guidance, assist you in navigating the difficult legal processes, and help you get court approval.

In order to ensure that all required paperwork is completed accurately and submitted on time, your attorney can also communicate with your bankruptcy trustee. They can represent you in court and help you prepare your motion for court approval.

A bankruptcy attorney can also provide advice on how to manage your bankruptcy case, such as making consistent payments to creditors, adhering to a budget, and making preparations for a future home purchase. Additionally, they can offer guidance on repairing your credit and preparing for a mortgage application.

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Which lenders will approve a mortgage while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

VA, USDA, and, sometimes FHA loans are available during Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Most major lenders are authorized to do FHA and VA loans. USDA mortgages are a little harder to find. Remember that mortgage lenders can set their own lending rules and some will be more amenable to borrowers buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy than others.

In addition, you’ll have better luck if your finances are currently stable. A better credit score or higher income can work in your favor when you have past credit issues. If you’re right on the edge of qualifying — for instance, if your score is exactly 580, you have low income, and you want an FHA loan — it could be tougher to get approved.

You’ll also need to shop around and compare your options. All mortgage borrowers should shop for their best interest rate. But for borrowers with Chapter 13 this is doubly important. You’re not just shopping for a good deal; you’re shopping for a lender that’s willing to approve you.

Alternative loan options with Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Some alternative mortgage programs offer home loans to people in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

These Non-Qualified Mortgages (“Non-QM loans”) do not meet the standards for government or conforming mortgages. As such, they’re not eligible for backing from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or any federal agency

Lenders assume extra risk when they fund these types of loans, and borrowers can expect to pay higher mortgage interest rates and fees. But they may be appropriate if you want to borrow higher loan amounts or wait less time before borrowing.

FAQ: Buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy

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Can you sell a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Yes, you can sell a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, the process involves getting approval from the bankruptcy trustee overseeing your case. The trustee will review the terms of the sale to ensure it is in the best interest of your creditors. If you’re facing foreclosure, selling your house can be a viable option to prevent it and potentially protect your equity, depending on your exemption limits.

Do I need approval from my trustee to buy a home while in Chapter 13?

Yes, you do need approval from your bankruptcy trustee to buy a home while in Chapter 13. The trustee needs to ensure that the home purchase will not adversely affect your ability to make your Chapter 13 plan payments. It’s advisable to consult with your bankruptcy lawyer before making any major financial decisions during your bankruptcy case.

What types of mortgages are available for someone in Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

There are several types of mortgages available for someone in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. These include FHA loans, VA loans, and USDA loans. However, each of these options has specific requirements and waiting periods. For instance, for FHA loans, you typically need to have made at least 12 months of on-time payments in your bankruptcy case and receive court approval. It’s best to consult with a mortgage professional or a bankruptcy lawyer for advice tailored to your situation.

How long after Chapter 13 can I get an FHA loan?

You can apply for an FHA loan during your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, but you’ll need to have made at least 12 months of on-time payments and receive court approval. After completing your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can apply for an FHA loan immediately, but approval will depend on your credit score, income, and other factors. It’s recommended to seek a free consultation with a mortgage professional or bankruptcy lawyer to understand your options better.

Do I have to wait for my Chapter 13 bankruptcy to be discharged to qualify for a home mortgage?

No, you do not always have to wait for your Chapter 13 bankruptcy to be discharged to qualify for a home mortgage. FHA and VA loans may be available after one year into the repayment plan.

Can I buy a house immediately after my Chapter 13 bankruptcy is discharged?

It may be possible to buy a house immediately after your Chapter 13 bankruptcy is discharged, but it is important to consider your financial situation and consult with a mortgage lender to determine your eligibility.

Do you qualify for a mortgage?

Having a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in your credit history shouldn’t stop you from buying a home or refinancing a mortgage. Buying a house while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy may still be possible if you’re in good standing with your repayment plan and you qualify for the loan.

Still, take into account that your credit score is damaged after bankruptcy. So even if lenders will underwrite home loans to bankrupt buyers after a year, you may need more time to repair your credit.

If you’ve been working hard to pay down debts and improve your financial situation during Chapter 13, you might be able to get a home loan a lot sooner than you think.

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Gina Freeman
Authored By: Gina Freeman
The Mortgage Reports contributor
With more than 10 years in the mortgage industry, and another 10 years writing about it, Gina Freeman brings a wealth of knowledge to The Mortgage Reports as its Associate Editor. Gina works with a team of world-class real estate and finance writers to bring timely and helpful news and advice to the audience. Her specialty is helping consumers understand complex and intimidating topics.
Aleksandra Kadzielawski
Updated By: Aleksandra Kadzielawski
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Aleksandra is the Senior Editor at The Mortgage Reports, where she brings 10 years of experience in mortgage and real estate to help consumers discover the right path to homeownership. Aleksandra received a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University. She is also a licensed real estate agent and a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).