The Center For Debt Management
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Qualifying For A
Low Down Payment Loan

Qualifying for a low down payment loan is much like applying for a regular 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 lender will give you a more exact estimate of your closing costs. You can eliminate the need to pay a year's mortgage insurance premium at closing by choosing a monthly premium program.

Points are finance charges that are calculated by the lender at closing. Each point equals 1% of the loan amount. For example, 2 points on a $100,000 loan equals $2,000. Lenders may charge one, two or three 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 by lenders 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 from lender to lender 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 to help potential home buyers learn about the financial responsibilities of owning a home.

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, and $2500 x 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. 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.

What Kind Of Property Can You Buy
With A Low Down Payment Loan?

There are few restrictions regarding the type of home you may buy with a low down payment loan. In addition, low down payment loans may be used with the wide variety of mortgages.

Besides price range, there are many other factors to consider when purchasing a home. It's in your best interest to take care in selecting a home that will have lasting value as well as provide shelter. Be sure the neighborhood and house meet the needs of your family. If you have children, you may want to know if there are other children in the neighborhood and what schools or playgrounds are nearby. Also consider the availability of public transportation and how far family members will have to commute to work or school.

Check on the condition of the plumbing, heating and electrical systems and whether they are up to code regulations. The best and easiest way to do this is through a certified home inspection, from a certified inspector.

If you are like most people, a home is the single largest purchase you will ever make. It is important that you select a home that will meet your family's needs and keep you happy for years to come. And most important, you must be able to afford to remain in that home for as long as you please.

Your Initial Meeting With a Lender

The loan approval process generally begins with an initial interview where the prospective home buyer and the lender meet to discuss the potential loan. You will need to bring information to verify your income and long-term debts.

Often people prefer to meet with the lender before house hunting to determine in advance what price range they can realistically afford and the mortgage amount for which they can qualify. This step is called pre-qualification and can save you much time and trouble by making certain you are looking in the correct price range.

For your first meeting with the lender, you should bring:

  • A purchase contract for the house (if you have one)
  • Your bank account numbers and the address of your bank branch, along with checking and savings account statements for the previous 2-3 months
  • Pay stubs, W2 withholding forms, tax returns for two years, or other proof of employment and income verification
  • Divorce settlement papers, if applicable
  • Credit card bills for the past few billing periods, or canceled checks for rent or utility bill payments, to show payment history and amount of revolving debt
  • Information on other consumer debt such as car loans, furniture loans, student loans and retail/credit cards
  • Balance sheets and tax returns, if you are self- employed
  • Any gift letters, if you are using a gift from a parent or relative or other organization to help pay the down payment and/or closing costs. This letter simply states that the money is in fact a gift and will not have to be repaid.

Having these items on hand when you visit the lender will help speed up the application process. Usually an application fee and the appraisal fee will have to be paid when you submit the mortgage application. This is only done after you have successfully negotiated on a home and have had your offer accepted by the seller. Generally, there is no fee for pre- qualification.

After the initial meeting with the lender, you should have a general idea if you qualify for the size and type of loan you want. The lender should let you know if you qualify for the loan in 30 to 60 days. If you are denied a home loan, the lender must explain the reasons. If this happens, the lender will usually discuss any options with you.

Two Key Factors In
Qualifying for a Home Loan

In attempting to approve home buyers for the type and amount of mortgage they want, lenders basically look at two key factors: the borrower's ability and willingness to repay the loan. Ability to repay the mortgage is verified by your current employment and total income. Generally speaking, lenders prefer for you to have been employed at the same place for at least two years, or at least be in the same line of work for a few years.

The borrower's willingness to repay is determined by examining how the property will be used. For instance, will you be living there or just renting it out? Willingness is also closely related to how you have fulfilled previous financial commitments, thus the emphasis on the credit report or rent and utility bills.

It is important to remember that there are no rules carved in stone. Each applicant is handled on a case-by-case basis. So even if you come up a little short in one area, perhaps one of your stronger points will make up for the weak one. Everyone involved in real estate is in the business of selling homes, in one way or another. Therefore, if the loan makes sense, lenders and insurers will do their best to see that you qualify.

By its very nature, mortgage insurance is an aid to affordability, because it allows families to purchase homes with less cash on hand. The industry plays a central role in helping low- and moderate-income families become homeowners.

More and more borrowers are taking advantage of low down payment mortgages and becoming homeowners with as little as 3 to 5 percent down. For more information on how you can take advantage of the benefits of a low down payment home loan with mortgage insurance, contact your local lender or real estate agent. For general information on purchasing a home, contact the county extension office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, listed in the government pages of your telephone book.

PAYMENT TABLE

Monthly payment for each $1,000 borrowed

INTEREST
RATE

15 YEARS

20 YEARS

30 YEARS

4.00% $7.40 $6.06 $4.77
4.50% $7.65 $6.33 $5.07
5.00% $7.91 $6.60 $5.37
5.50% $8.17 $6.88 $5.68
6.00% $8.44 $7.16 $6.00
6.50% $8.71 $7.46 $6.32
7.00% $8.99 $7.75 $6.65
7.50% $9.27 $8.06 $6.99
8.00% $9.56 $8.36 $7.34
8.50% $9.85 $8.68 $7.69
9.00% $10.14 $9.00 $8.05
9.50% $10.44 $9.32 $8.41
10.00% $10.75 $9.65 $8.78

Note: Chart represents principal and interest only

This table helps you calculate your monthly housing costs, not including taxes and insurance. For example, assume you have a 30- year mortgage and the interest rate is 8 percent. The chart shows that the monthly payment amount per $1,000 is $7.34. If you want to borrow $75,000, you can estimate the payment by multiplying 75 x $7.34, which equals $550.50 per month. As you can see, the lower the interest rate, the easier it is to afford a home.

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