Mortgage insurance companies tighten credit

 Loan Guidelines, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Mortgage insurance companies tighten credit
Feb 232018

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By G. Steven Bray

As you’re probably aware, when buying a home, if your down payment is less than 20%, your mortgage payment will include mortgage insurance. This insurance is the lender’s way sharing some of the risk associated with more highly leveraged loans.

We call companies that specialize in this form of insurance mortgage insurance or MI companies – pretty clever, huh – and they often have special guidelines that apply to loans that require their product.

Recently, the MI companies expressed concern about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increasing the amount of debt they’re willing to accept for a borrower receiving a conventional loan. Both now accept loans for which the borrower’s debts equal up to 50% of the borrower’s gross income.

Four of the MI companies announced that starting next month, they will require a 700 credit score anytime the borrower’s debt exceeds 45% of gross income. One company further is requiring a min 5% down payment in such cases. (Recall that it’s possible to get a conventional loan with as little as 3% down.)

I don’t expect this will affect a huge number of borrowers as most folks having lower credit scores and making small down payments find it more advantageous to use the FHA program. However, it does represent the first tightening of credit standards I’ve seen in a while.

The death of down payment assistance?

 Loan Guidelines, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on The death of down payment assistance?
Nov 032017

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By G. Steven Bray

Recent surveys indicate that saving for a down payment is one the biggest hurdles to homeownership. With rising home prices, that hurdle may seem like a moving target. Some homebuyers are turning to down payment assistance programs for help.

Well, Freddie Mac just threw cold water on one popular method of funding these programs. It’s called differential rate pricing or premium pricing. The lender provides assistance equal to 3 to 5% of the loan amount in exchange for a substantially higher interest rate. As Freddie correctly discerned, the result is a no down payment, higher-rate mortgage, which violates current conventional loan guidelines. As of 11/1, Freddie will disallow its use with low down payment loan programs.

I have not heard if Fannie Mae is planning a similar prohibition, but given that both agencies are owned by the government, one has to wonder. FHA officials have been squabbling among themselves for over a year about the legality of premium priced programs. For now, they are permitted.

If you’re struggling to find the funds for a down payment, I suggest you check out my Can I Qualify with limited savings videos for ideas. You also may want to check with your city or county for down payment assistance that doesn’t use premium pricing. Keep in mind that most of these programs have income and purchase price limits, and you may have to repay some or all of the assistance if you don’t stay in the home for 5 to 10 years.

Fannie sweetens HomeReady mortgage program

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Mar 272017

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By G. Steven Bray

In an effort to encourage homeownership for lower-income consumers, Fannie Mae has expanded its HomeReady loan program. The program allows as little as 3% down payment and sweetens the interest rate for those who qualify.

The program has income limits in most areas, and until recently the limit was 80% of median income in many areas. Fannie raised the limit to 100% of an area’s median income, and in special low-income census tracts, the program has no income limit.

Fannie also changed the program to allow borrowers to own another home. This may be appealing for those who currently own a home and don’t want to wait for it to sell before closing on their new home.

The program is attractive for a couple reasons:

– First, the program allows for a higher debt ratio, up to 50% of a borrower’s income. In addition, the income of a roommate or significant other can be considered for qualifying even if that person is not on the loan.

– Second, Fannie absorbs some of the risk premium usually associated with low down payment loans. Fannie requires a lower mortgage insurance rate and allows a lower interest rate than is usually associated with these loans.

HomeReady borrowers are required to complete a homebuyer education course, and one naturally wonders whether that compensates for the lower risk premium assigned by Fannie. Time will tell whether the default rate on these loans justifies the favorable treatment.

Are DPA programs an endangered species?

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Feb 232016

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By G. Steven Bray

The government is having fits of schizophrenia again. On the one hand, it’s easing loan standards to promote homeownership. On the other hand, it wants to eliminate a popular down payment assistance program.

A number of down payment assistance (DPA) programs, including the state’s My First Texas Home program, use so-called premium pricing to fund them, and the HUD Inspector General has raised concerns about it. The programs grant a homebuyer down payment funds in exchange for an above-market interest rate. The higher rate makes the loan more attractive to investors, and they pay a premium for it, and that premium is what is used to fund the grant.

For FHA loans, federal loan guidelines seem to prohibit such a practice. The IG’s office wrote, “The funds derived from a premium priced mortgage may never be used to pay any portion of the borrower’s down payment.” However, a recent memorandum by HUD’s General Counsel contradicts that saying HUD changed its standards in 2013 and no longer prohibits the practice.

At this point, HUD is studying the issue, leaving the programs in limbo. Many lenders are refusing to participate in the programs until HUD takes its meds.

USDA makes qualifying for a mortgage a little easier

 Loan Guidelines, Owner-occupied, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on USDA makes qualifying for a mortgage a little easier
Feb 202016

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By G. Steven Bray

USDA offers one of the few no-money-down loans, but its credit restrictions have disqualified some first-time homebuyers who don’t have established credit histories. USDA required a loan applicant to have at least 3 credit accounts with a 12 month or longer payment history.

That changed last week. USDA dropped the number of required accounts to 2, which makes it a little easier.

For homebuyers who don’t use traditional credit that appears on a credit report, USDA still allows the use of non-traditional credit accounts to achieve the required 2. Non-traditional credit includes rent, utility, and insurance payments.

However, good payment histories on non-traditional accounts cannot be used to replace accounts that appears on your credit report. In other words, if your credit score is low because of negative items on your credit report, USDA won’t ignore these items just because you have good payment history for rent and utilities.

Tapping your retirement to buy a home

 Homebuyer Tips  Comments Off on Tapping your retirement to buy a home
Aug 272015

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By G. Steven Bray

While current mortgage guidelines require only a 3% to 3.5% down payment to purchase a home, even that’s a hurdle for some folks. If this sounds familiar, I may have a solution if you have retirement savings. The approach depends on the type of retirement plan you have.

If you have a 401k, you may be able to borrow against the account balance, if your plan permits it. Typically, the loan is limited to the lesser of $50k or 50% of the balance. Note that if you’re not using the loan to purchase your primary residence, the loan typically must be repaid within 5 years.

For those folks who have an IRA, you cannot technically borrow from the account. However, if you’re buying or building your first home, you can take out up to $10k without the distribution being subject to the standard 10% penalty. Note that if your IRA contributions are with pre-tax income, you’ll owe income tax on the money you take out.

Before you exercise either of these options, I suggest you talk to your financial advisor about how tapping your retirement account will affect your retirement plans.

Does lower MI make FHA better than conventional loan?

 Loan Programs, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Does lower MI make FHA better than conventional loan?
Jan 102015

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By G. Steven Bray

The folks over at FHA probably shuddered in Dec when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced they were lowering their min down payment to 3%. Buyers with stronger credit already were shunning FHA. Its only advantage was its lower down payment requirement, and that now was gone.

But FHA is fighting back. It announced this week a reduction in its mortgage insurance rates. (If FHA, Fannie, and Freddie all weren’t owned by the government, you’d think capitalism had broken out.)

The change leaves FHA looking good again. For a $200k home purchase, the monthly payment for an FHA loan would be roughly $100 lower than for a conventional loan. The difference is the result of the lower MI rate and lower interest rates for FHA loans. This analysis assumes a buyer with a 720 credit score.

The two remaining advantages for conventional loans are a slightly lower down payment – $1000 lower in this case – and lower total mortgage insurance. FHA still requires up-front MI, and its monthly MI lasts for the life of the loan. For conventional loans, MI automatically ends after about 11 years.