Whether you’ve been saving up for a while or you’re just getting started, getting into a home might be easier than you think. If you’re looking to buy a home, but you just aren’t sure about tying all your savings into a house, check out the various loan options with low down payment requirements.
The Myth of 20%
A lot of misconceptions exist about the down payment required to buy a home. Particularly about the "20% down" rule. Even though many potential homebuyers think they need to save up that 20% — and they delay buying a home because they haven’t been able to — it’s actually not a rule. While it is a suggestion, and necessary for obtaining a “conventional” loan, it’s not required to buy a house. Some first-time buyers have the mistaken impression that having that 20% down somehow balances out a lack of stellar credit history, guarantees a better rate or a bigger loan.
None of this is true. It does improve your ability to qualify for a loan from a regular lender because it makes your loan easier for them to sell on the secondary market. Even with a 20% down payment, you’ll have to meet the 43% or less debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a loan. It also, however, means that you do not have to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI), which saves you the monthly outgo toward that premium.
On a side note, PMI is not your homeowner’s insurance. It is the coverage you pay for to protect your lender in case you default on your loan.
Buying with Less than 20%
You can buy a home with less than twenty percent down, and in some cases, with zero down.
Here’s the skinny:
A Conventional 97 loan is one you may not have heard of. It is available through Fannie Mae and is a fixed-rate loan that requires just three percent down. The best part is that the down payment can come entirely from gifts by blood-related or marriage-related donors. A Conventional 97 loan cannot be greater than $484,350 (the number changes annually), requires a better than average credit score and is useful only for a single-unit dwelling. Conventional 97 loans are available to first time and returning homebuyers.
The HomeReady™ Mortgage is a specialty option among low- and no-down-payment mortgages. Backed by Fannie Mae, most US lenders offer it. The HomeReady™ mortgage boasts below-market mortgage rates, lower mortgage insurance fees and innovative underwriting practices. In fact, the income of everybody living in the house may qualify for mortgage-approval. That means if your parents live with you, your income and theirs are added together.
The Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, insured mortgage requires just 3.5% in down payment. Also, FHA loan guidelines regarding credit scores are more liberal. Borrowers that have a lower FICO score can still qualify for an FHA loan when they have a reasonable explanation for why their score is lower.
Active duty and honorably discharged U.S. Military members and surviving spouses are eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans offer a zero down payment options. In areas with a higher cost of living, VA loans are even available above the one million dollar mark.
The no-money-down, 100% financing option available to non-military borrowers is offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan is also available to buyers in qualifying suburban neighborhoods. For many borrowers, the USDA loan is their lowest cost option.
While not everyone qualifies for a lower or zero down payment loan, if you are interested in home ownership and tentative about investing a big down payment, one of these options may be right for you. Ask your mortgage broker to explain the options to you for the home of your dreams.