Need a mortgage? Consider an FHA loan

Government-insured Federal Housing Administration loans now make up about 25% of the mortgage market. Here are five things you need to know.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Beth Braverman, Money Magazine staff reporter

Mortgage Rates
30 yr fixed 4.19%
15 yr fixed 3.23%
5/1 ARM 3.34%
30 yr refi 4.17%
15 yr refi 3.21%

Find personalized rates:
 

Rates provided by Bankrate.com.

(Money Magazine) -- 1. Chances are good that you'll come across one. During the heyday of no-money-down lending, you were unlikely to have a buyer using a government-insured Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, which lets borrowers purchase a home with a down payment of as little as 3.5%. Now FHAs are the only game in town for anyone who can't put down the minimum 10% many banks require to get a conventional loan.

About a third of buyers have 10% or less saved for a down payment, according to a recent Zillow.com survey. No wonder FHA loans have skyrocketed from 3% to 25% of the market. While you may not need to take out an FHA mortgage to purchase your next home, there's a good chance you'll be selling to someone who does.

2. Borrowers can qualify with any income. Historically FHA loans have gone mostly to low-income borrowers. But, in fact, there's no cap on what someone can earn. "The overriding factor that we look at is the ability to make payments," says Lemar Wooley of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Borrowing limits may be higher than you think too: Though the max is $271,050 in areas where real estate is cheap, buyers can take up to $729,750 in high-priced markets like California or New York.

3. Expect a tough appraisal. The home will need a clean bill of health from a government-approved appraiser, and the seller must fix any issues before a buyer can close on the loan. A few years ago the FHA eased up on repair requirements for minor problems like missing handrails or cracked windows. But it still won't budge on leaky roofs or mold damage.

If you're selling, know that an FHA appraisal stays on record for six months, even if the deal goes kaput or the buyer switches lenders. "Get one low FHA appraisal and you're stuck with it," says Dallas realtor Bruce Lynn.

4. These loans are pricier than they seem. Nominal rates on FHA mortgages are comparable to those on conventional loans. But hefty fees on the FHA variety up the cost. There's a 1.75% upfront charge as well as a 0.5% annual insurance premium for five years and until the principal balance hits 78% of the sales price or the home's appraised value.

If you're buying, ask if the seller will pick up some of the insurance costs as part of the deal, says Manchester, N.H., realtor Scott Godzyk. According to FHA rules, sellers can pay closing costs up to 6% of the home price.

5. They've gotten easier to obtain. FHAs once had a well-deserved rep for onerous paperwork and a longer, more difficult closing than conventional loans. But thanks to a new automatic underwriting system and the looser repair requirements, FHA mortgages take only a few days longer than conventional loans to close, says Bill Banfield, a vice president at Quicken Loans.

FHA loans still require written documentation of income, including pay stubs and tax returns. But stricter underwriting across the board means that you will probably need such paperwork no matter what type of loan you get.  To top of page

Find mortgage rates in your area


Send feedback to Money Magazine
Features
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
The 13 most WTF gadgets From the weird to the gross, these 13 gadgets will make you wonder why they even exist. More
Best-loved cars in America These cars and trucks topped J.D. Power's APEAL survey, which measures how much owners like their new vehicles. More
America's most powerful cars A new 'horsepower war' has erupted among U.S. automakers and these are the most potent weapons in their arsenals. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.