What Is FHA Loan

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 9 minute read

To most Americans, a home purchase represents their single greatest financial commitment. It’s also possible that you’re using a mortgage loan to fund the acquisition. However, there are many different types of mortgages, and chances are good that none of them will work for you.

A Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgage loan may be an alternative if you have little down payment funds or less-than-perfect credit. There are several kinds of FHA loans that provide borrowers a variety of options for meeting their mortgage needs.

Investigate the FHA’s guidelines and borrowing limitations to see if you qualify for a loan and make an informed decision.

What Is an FHA Mortgage Loan?

FHA loans are issued by private lenders such as credit unions and regular banks. Loans backed by the FHA can only be used to purchase primary residences, not investment properties or second houses.

It’s a common misconception that the federal government is the one making FHA loans. However, the lender is safeguarded against financial loss due to borrower failure by the Federal Housing Administration’s insurance policy. Since 1934, the federal government has guaranteed approximately 40 million mortgages for single-family homes.

The program is well-liked by first-time purchasers, individuals with little personal funds, and borrowers with weak credit scores because of its low down payment requirements and lenient screening conditions for borrowers with defective credit. If your credit score is below 600, you may still qualify for an FHA loan with as little as a 3.5% down payment.

Although advantageous in many ways, FHA loans do come with a few drawbacks, the most noteworthy of which is the requirement to pay for costly PMI or mortgage payment protection insurance.

Buyers in expensive areas may also be impacted by the sale price limits imposed on FHA borrowers. In addition, the FHA only insures loans for one’s principal house. Some exceptions apply, but in general they can’t be placed on investment properties.

How Much Are FHA Loans?

The closing expenses for an FHA loan will vary, as they will for any mortgage transaction. Lender, location, market, and down payment all play key roles in determining total costs. Closing fees for an FHA loan often include any or all of the following.

  • For FHA loans, the upfront mortgage insurance cost is 1.75 percent of the loan amount (about $3.5 thousand on a $200,000 loan). There will also be an additional cost for the mortgage insurance payments you’ll need to pay for the minimum of 11 years after closing.
  • The property taxes that will be payable between the date of closing and the next tax due date must typically be paid in advance. It might be several hundred or several thousand dollars, depending on the market value of your property, the tax rate in your area, and the closing date.
  • Your first year’s homeowners insurance rates, which can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, will be covered by the prepaid hazard insurance. It’s not something you’ll pay at closing, but it’s something you’ll want to account for.
    There is a wide range in the depth and breadth to which a property survey may go. The price of a simple plat survey can be around $500, but a comprehensive border survey can easily exceed $5,000. Boundary surveys are fortunately rarely required.
    If the home is worth the asking price, then your lender will order the appraisal. Because of this, the lender’s exposure to foreclosure risk is minimized. Usually, a mandated appraisal will cost you less than $500.
  • The principal dwelling and any livable outbuildings are both evaluated during a home inspection. An inspection is not the same as a guarantee, but it may help you avoid danger and save money on repairs. Although they are not mandated by law, house inspections are highly suggested, especially for older properties. There will be a price tag of $200-$500.

    In order to ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property to you, it is imperative that you do a title search. You may spend $100 or more than $400.
    As concerns (such as hidden liens and covenants) are uncovered throughout the course of a title search, the costs associated with rectifying these issues are covered by title insurance, which also safeguards the property against future claims. The price of title insurance might vary widely from state to state, although a ballpark figure of $1,000 is generally accepted.
  • Data capture and transmission: Every house sale must be documented in the local authority (city or county) where the property is situated. The majority of the time, transfer stamps are also required (fees). It might cost several hundred dollars or more, depending on the locality and the value of the property.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments and Flood Determinations: A flood determination can demonstrate the necessity of flood insurance. While annual premiums for flood insurance might be much higher, closing fees for a home often run less than $100. Other environmental studies, such as those for fire risk, may be necessary in some areas.

    It is common practice to include other closing expenses, such as a courier fee, document fee, escrow charge, and attorney’s fee, in the origination fee. They can be more than one percent of the buying price, which means you’ll need even more money on hand for the closing.

As part of the closing costs, the seller might contribute up to 6% of the transaction price. That sum is often adequate to cover all of the fees associated with closing. It is more frequent in buyer’s markets for sellers to contribute thousands of dollars to the buyer’s closing costs, while in seller’s markets, sellers are less likely to do so.

Types of FHA Loans

There are a number of different types of FHA mortgage loans available, each with its own set of eligibility requirements based on factors including age, assets, income, and equity in the property.

Home Mortgage Loan 203(b)

The most common sort of FHA purchase loan is called a 203(b), and it can be structured in a number of different ways, including with fixed-rate terms of 15 or 30 years, or with an adjustable-rate mortgage that has a fixed rate for the first five years but then adjusts annually depending on market rates.

When it comes to FHA-insured adjustable-rate mortgages, the annual rate increase cap is 1% and the lifetime cap is 5%. Any rate hikes are communicated to borrowers at least 25 days in advance.

The interest rate on a 203(b) loan, whether it’s fixed or adjustable, is often cheaper than that of a conventional mortgage with similar terms. From single-family houses to multi-unit complexes, you can obtain them.

Loans for Condominiums

Condominium loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) are 30-year fixed-rate products known as Section 234(c) loans, and they can be used to fund the purchase of individual apartments in complexes with more than four units.

Borrowers may be allowed to use FHA condo loans to rent out their units because there is no mandatory occupancy restriction.

Loan for Construction-to-Permanent Conversion

The FHA construction loan is used to pay for the purchase of land and the building of a new residence. It’s a mortgage with a period of 15 years or more, unlike certain construction loans.

Mortgage for Rehabilitation

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a special mortgage for home improvements called a Section 203(k) loan. A rehab loan may be arranged in two ways: either as a cash-out refinancing of an existing mortgage or as a purchase loan for a home that needs repair.

Refinance Loan with Security

The FHA secure refinancing loan program facilitates the conversion of adjustable-rate conventional mortgages into fixed-rate FHA mortgages for eligible borrowers. A delinquency on a traditional adjustable rate mortgage must be the consequence of an increase in the monthly payment to be disqualified.

Borrowers who are not late on their payments have access to refinancing options across the board for conventional loans. The same qualification standards apply, such as a stable source of income, an adequate credit score, and a manageable ratio of debt to income.

Mortgages Converting Home Equity

Home equity conversion mortgages, more often known as reverse mortgages, allow homeowners age 62 and up to use their home equity to pay down outstanding mortgage balances without having to make monthly mortgage payments or leave their homes.

Reverse mortgages backed by the government are a great way for retirees on a restricted income or with limited savings to get access to tax-free cash. However, they do have serious repercussions for homeowners and their successors in terms of the law and money.

Loan with Increasing Payments

Graduated payment loans, also known as Section 245 loans, are available to owner-occupants whose salaries are projected to increase considerably over the course of the loan’s duration, such as students completing their degrees in the medical or engineering fields.

The monthly payments on a loan with a graduated payment schedule rise steadily throughout the first five or ten years of the loan’s duration and then level off. Depending on the length of the plan (five or ten years), annual increases might be anywhere from 2.5% to 7.5%.

Loan for Expanding Equity

The Section 245(a) Loan, often known as the Increasing Equity Loan, is very much like the Graduated Payment Loan in its structure. But it may be used in a wider variety of situations. 

It can be used to acquire single- to multi-family residences for personal use, as well as condominiums, cooperative shares, and properties slated for rehabilitation or redevelopment. Loan terms couldn’t go above 22 years, and payments can go up by no more than 1% every year.

How to Obtain an FHA Loan

You and the house you wish to buy must both fulfill specific requirements for an FHA loan.

Credit Score

You may acquire an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500. A 10% down payment is required if your FICO credit score is below 580. Those with credit scores over 580 can get by with a 3.5% down payment.

Payment in Advance

An FHA loan only requires a 3.5% down payment from borrowers with fair or higher credit. The minimum down payment required for an FHA loan is just 10% for most borrowers. A larger down payment, however, usually results in a smaller mortgage insurance charge and a cheaper monthly payment.

Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio

Debt-to-income ratios as high as 43% are acceptable for FHA mortgage loans. It’s the percentage of your total monthly debt payments — both revolving and installment payments — to your gross monthly income. For example, if your monthly gross income were $10,000 and the amount of all your mandatory monthly debt payments were $4,300, your debt-to-income ratio would be 43%.

Housing Ratio

You may acquire an FHA loan with a housing ratio as high as 31%. It’s the sum of your mortgage payment plus any property taxes, insurance, and HOA dues, divided by your gross monthly income.

Your housing ratio would be 31% if your gross monthly income was $10,000 and your rent was $3,100. Your housing ratio would similarly be 31% if your gross monthly income were $10,000, and your total principle, interest, and escrow payment was $3,100.

Mortgage Protection Insurance

Mortgage insurance premiums for all FHA loans must be paid up advance. This one-time payment works out to 1.75% of the loan amount.

To add insult to injury, mortgage insurance premiums on FHA loans must be paid regularly for the duration of the loan. No matter how much of a down payment you make, FHA loans always require mortgage insurance.

Borrowers who put less than 10% down must pay mortgage insurance payments for the full loan term or until they pay off the loan. Borrowers with a down payment of more than 10% are required to maintain mortgage insurance for a period of 11 years. Unlike normal mortgages, FHA loans don’t enable you to terminate mortgage insurance early.

Depending on the total amount being financed, the premium can be anywhere from 0.45% to 0.90% for loans with a period of less than 15 years, while for loans with a length of 15 years or more, it can be anywhere from 0.80% to 1.05%.

FHA Loan Caps

Maximum and minimum loan amounts for FHA loans are capped at different levels in different parts of the country. Determine your county’s local cap by multiplying the median home sale price by 1.15 (115%). The maximum local FHA loan amount is 1.15 times the median sales price in the most costly county within a metropolitan statistical area as determined by the Census.

Annually, the maximum loan amount that may be obtained via the FHA will fluctuate. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development provides regionally specific restrictions in its published recommendations.

Bottom Line

There is probably an FHA loan program tailored to your specific housing goals, whether they be being the first resident of a brand-new house, transforming a run-down fixer-upper into your forever home, or snatching a charming apartment in an up-and-coming urban area.

Nonetheless, you should not assume that an FHA loan is your best bet. A traditional mortgage might be the superior financial option if you have a sizable down payment or are buying a home in an expensive region. The VA loan program may offer higher savings on your mortgage to eligible veterans than the FHA loan program.

The decision to purchase a home is significant. If you’re unsure what to do, it’s best to consult a monetary professional.

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