Many people believe that the best mortgage deals are no longer available for the average consumer that is shopping for a mortgage in today’s economy. That may be true if you cannot prove your income or have had a bankruptcy in the last two years. However, if you are the average Joe with a few dings on your credit, and are looking to buy a new home, the best deals are still out there. The truth is, they have always been there. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been helping the average consumer get great deals on mortgages since the 1950’s.
FHA mortgages fell out of popularity in the late 80’s and early 90’s because of the flood of new non-conforming mortgages that hit the market at that time. FHA mortgages are backed by the US Government, which means, they have forms on top of forms that tell you about the previous form that you have already signed. The new non-conforming were easier to qualify for and didn’t have mortgage insurance (PMI).
This meant that the new non-conforming loans could offer a lower payment while actually charging higher rates. Everyone won; the mortgage company made money, the investors made money and the consumer received a 2 year ARM and an easy approval. It was like Wall Street in the early 20’s all over again. Fat cats and paper millionaires were created overnight and corruption reigned. Today’s mortgage crisis parallels that era and the consumers, once again, are picking up the tab.
Now, the once forgotten FHA mortgage is back in vogue. In fact, FHA is almost the only place the “average Joe” with a few credit dings can still get a great deal on a home loan. Most people don’t know that you can get approved, and get the best interest, rates with ANY credit score using FHA. This is because FHA is a common sense mortgage that is primarily underwritten by real underwriters, not fancy processors who run loans through a computer.
The reason the borrower’s credit score is irrelevant to FHA, is because they measure the customer’s ability and probability of paying back the mortgage. On top of that, FHA doesn’t grade interest rates on a sliding scale that worsens your interest rate for lower credit scores and higher risks. With FHA you will either get the best rates they offer or not get the loan at all. Getting approved for an FHA loan can be tricky if you have current credit issues or some from the past. Knowing how to prepare is the key.
Like I mentioned earlier, FHA is a common sense loan, they basically want to put good people into good houses. The first thing that will be scrutinized is the collateral, or the home you want to buy. If you are trying to buy a “foreclosure” or a fixer-upper with shaky credit, you will probably be denied. The FHA underwriter’s job is to put borrowers into the best position to succeed and homes that have issues aren’t a good risk. The next thing an underwriter is going to measure is your capacity to repay the mortgage, namely your debt to income ratio. If this ratio is “out of whack” the loan stops there.
Your housing payment, as of this writing, must be below 33% of your gross income. Your total debt must be below 44%.There are some extenuating factors that can override those ratios, but they have to be solid proof of additional income or the promise of. The next factor that FHA requires is that your mortgage does not exceed 97% of the home’s value, 95% if you are taking cashing out equity. If you are purchasing a home, you will need to put 3% down.
When an underwriter looks at your credit report they aren’t concerned with your credit score, what they are looking for is how well you have maintained your recent credit compared to your past credit. Prior credit issues can be forgiven, especially medical bills, if you have demonstrated good credit management in the last year. You can even have current open collections on your bureau if you have a repayment agreement and have been making regular payments for a year. Last but definitely not the least deciding factor in an FHA mortgage that can help/hurt your application is your current mortgage or rental history. If you have been late on your mortgage in the last year, you will need a very good excuse to move forward.
However, FHA has recently added some specific programs that are aimed to help consumers who are having or have had mortgage payment problems. This is part of an effort to help those borrowers who were put into bad mortgages that are now adjusting. Be sure to ask your loan officer if you qualify for the new Government sponsored programs, who knows, you just may be able to get your best mortgage deal regardless of your mortgage history.