Because of lower down payment requirements and less stringent lending standards, FHA loans are popular with mortgage borrowers. Simply stated, an FHA loan is a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a government agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Borrowers with FHA loans pay for mortgage insurance, which protects the lender from a loss if the borrower defaults on the loan.
Why to get an FHA loan:
Because of that insurance, lenders can — and do — offer FHA loans at attractive interest rates and with less stringent and more flexible qualification requirements. Minimum credit scores for FHA loans depend on the type of loan the borrower needs. To get a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent, the borrower needs a credit score of 580 or higher. Those with credit scores between 500 and 579 must make down payments of at least 10 percent. People with credit scores under 500 generally are ineligible for FHA loans. The FHA will make allowances under certain circumstances for applicants who have what it calls “nontraditional credit history or insufficient credit” if they meet requirements. Ask your FHA lender or an FHA loan specialist if you qualify.
For most borrowers, the FHA requires a down payment of just 3.5 percent of the purchase price of the home. That’s a “huge attraction,” says Dennis Geist, senior director of compliance and fair lending at Treliant Risk Advisors and formerly a vice president of government programs for another lender. In late 2014, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reduced minimum down payments to 3 percent from 10 percent, but such loans have limited availability. FHA borrowers can use their own savings to make the down payment. But other allowed sources of cash include a gift from a family member, or a grant from a state or local government down payment assistance program.
The FHA allows home sellers, builders and lenders to pay some of the borrower’s closing costs, such as an appraisal, credit report or title expenses. For example, a builder might offer to pay closing costs as an inducement for the borrower to buy a new home.
Two mortgage insurance premiums are required on all FHA loans: The upfront premium is 1.75 percent of the loan amount — $1,750 for a $100,000 loan. This upfront premium is paid when the borrower gets the loan. It can be financed as part of the loan amount. The second is called the annual premium, although it is paid monthly. It varies based on the length of the loan, the amount borrowed and the initial loan-to-value ratio, or LTV.Tweet