What Score Do You Need For A Conventional 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. 8 minute read

Numerous abbreviations and jargon terms may be found in the mortgage market, from LTV to DTI. Sooner or later, you’ll likely come across the term “traditional mortgage loan.”

I know what you’re thinking, but trust me when I say this: it’s crucial even if it’s dull. You’ll probably require a traditional mortgage loan to finance your next home purchase unless you fall into one of these three categories: veteran, rural resident, or bad credit.

You should be familiar with the features that set conventional mortgages apart from other forms of credit.

What Exactly Is a Conventional Mortgage?

Mortgage loans that are not granted or insured by the FHA, VA, or USDA are referred to as conventional loans (USDA).

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) support the vast majority of conventional loans (Freddie Mac). The cost of borrowing is reduced since the loans are guaranteed against default by government-sponsored companies.

Private conventional loans are preferred by stronger borrowers over Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. One group of borrowers who are exempt from this rule is those who, because of their military service or rural residency, are eligible for a VA or USDA subsidized loan.

The Process of Obtaining a Conventional Mortgage Loan

To apply for a mortgage from a conventional lender, you would typically contact a financial institution in your area. The loan officer will ask you some basic questions about your financial situation and then recommend several loan options based on your answers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the sources for these mortgage offerings. Specific criteria must be met in order to obtain an underwriting approval for each.

After settling on a loan package, you’ll need to hand over a hefty stack of paperwork to the lender. The loan officer will hand off your file to a loan processor, who will then forward it to an underwriter for approval.

The underwriter finally approves the file and gives it the green light to close after a long process of requesting and providing more information and documentation. At closing, you’ll have to sign a ton of paperwork, which might take a while. As a result of your hard work, you will get a brand new house and a severe case of the cramps.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored enterprises that provide financial support for mortgages, although they do not actually provide the loans themselves. 

Conventional loans are issued by private lenders, who often resell them on the secondary market shortly after the loan closes. Therefore, even if you initially took out a loan with Friendly Neighborhood Bank, the servicing of that loan has been transferred to a much larger financial institution such as Wells Fargo or Chase. They, not your local bank, will receive your payments for the following 15–30 years.

Most financial institutions simply do not have the capital to invest in the long-term retention of loans. They are just in it for the points and fees they may collect when they originate loans and then resell.

So that they may offer reliable, guaranteed loans on the secondary market, all lenders adhere to Fannie and Freddie’s standard lending programs.

Requirements for a Conventional Loan

There is a wide variety of lending programs available for conventional mortgages, and each has its own set of guidelines and standards to meet.

While this is the case, there are a few universal criteria that are used by all loan programs to evaluate applicants. Before you start looking for a mortgage loan, it’s important to have a firm grasp of these ideas.

Credit Score

There is a required minimum credit score for each type of loan. To get approved for a conventional loan, you’ll need a credit score of 620 or higher. But even if your score is higher than the program’s requirement, underwriters will look at your application more closely, increasing the likelihood that they would reject your loan.

Mortgage providers often take an average of a borrower’s ratings from the three major credit agencies. You’ll have access to more and better loan options the higher your credit score is. The costs associated with taking out a loan, such as interest, fees, and initial deposits, will be reduced.

In addition to saving for a down payment and being ready to apply for a mortgage, you should concentrate on raising your credit score.

Advance Payment

A conventional loan may be obtained with a down payment as small as 3% of the purchase price provided the borrower has great credit. Plan on putting down 20% or more if you have poor credit, or if this is your second home or investment property.

Loan-to-value ratios (LTV) are the jargon of the banking industry when discussing loans and down payments. That’s how much of the home’s worth you’ll be able to borrow from the bank.

There is a different limit LTV for each type of loan. For instance, borrowers who qualify for Fannie Mae’s HomeReady program can get an LTV of up to 97%. Your down payment constitutes the remaining 3%.

Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio (DTI)

The amount you can borrow is also related to your monthly salary. You can borrow up to your debt-to-income ratio, or the proportion of your income that goes toward paying off obligations like your mortgage. In particular, they determine a front-end DTI ratio and a back-end DTI ratio.

Only housing expenses are included in the front-end ratio. Your mortgage’s principal and interest, as well as property taxes, insurance, and even condo or HOA dues, all go under this category. Simply divide your total monthly housing costs by your monthly gross income to get your ratio. Generally, the front-end ratio for conventional loans is capped at 28%.

When calculating your back-end ratio, it’s not only your mortgage payments that matter, but all of your debt payments, period. All of the money you have to put toward your monthly bills, such auto payments, school loans, credit card minimums, and other loans. Back-end ratios of 36% or more are common for conventional loans.

The most amount a lender will allow you to pay each month, including your mortgage and other housing costs, is typically around $1,400 if your monthly gross income is $5,000. Your total monthly debt obligations, including this payment, cannot exceed $1,800.

Loan Caps

In most of the United States, “conforming” loans will allow for as much as $647,200 for a single-family house in 2022. However, in high-cost locations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will finance loans of up to $970,800.

Private Mortgage Protection

In order to avoid defaulting on your loan, PMI is required for any loan with a loan-to-value ratio above 80%. (PMI).

Unlike standard mortgage insurance, private mortgage insurance protects the lender and not you. It safeguards the lender against financial ruin in the event of your loan default.

If you fail to make your mortgage payments and the lender forecloses, causing them to lose $50,000, the lender can submit a PMI claim and get reimbursement from the insurance provider to cover all or part of that loss. When your loan-to-value ratio drops below 80%, you may qualify to have PMI dropped from your monthly payments.

Conventional Loan Types

There may be a plethora of traditional loan options, but they can all be grouped into a few main types.

Tolerable Credit Risk Loan

Loans that are considered to be “conforming” are those that are eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and that do not exceed the maximum loan amounts for those programs.

A conventional loan is a loan that meets the guidelines set out by the Federal Housing Administration. Jumbo loans, which surpass the conforming loan size limitations, are also considered conventional loans.

Loan for Nonconforming Persons

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not accept “conforming” conventional loans. Jumbo loans are the most typical kind of non-conforming but still conventional lending. Jumbo loans have more stringent restrictions, notably for credit ratings. As a result, interest rates might be significantly higher when dealing with such establishments. However, they are still traded on the secondary market by lending institutions.

However, certain conventional loans are issued by institutions that do not follow Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines. They often do not sell these loans but instead hold them as portfolio loans on their records.

Because of this, rather than complying to a standard lending program across the country, these loans are exclusive to individual financial institutions. The bank, for instance, may provide its own “renovation-perm” loan for properties in need of repair. This mortgage has a draw schedule that may be used during the construction phase, and then it converts to a traditional mortgage for the longer term after the work is complete.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Fixed-rate mortgages, as the name implies, are loans with a constant interest rate. The interest rate is fixed, meaning that it won’t change over the loan’s duration. That means your regular monthly payment won’t vary for the duration of the loan, barring any major fluctuations in interest rate or other fees.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

A mortgage with a variable interest rate is an option if you’d like not to commit to a set monthly payment. Initially, the interest rate is fixed at an enticingly low rate, but after an introduction period, it will change regularly based on a benchmark rate, such as the Federal Funds Rate.

You make yourself a prime refinancing candidate when your adjustable rate mortgage’s interest rate increases. Closing costs are paid again when you refinance. As an added downside, mortgage interest rates are often higher in the first few years after a refinancing due to the loan’s initial structure.

What is the minimum credit score required for a conventional loan?

Your credit score needs to be higher than 620 at the very least. In contrast, if your credit score is below 700, or if you have a history of bankruptcy or foreclosure, you may anticipate a closer look.

Prior to qualifying for a home loan, you should do everything you can to raise your credit score.

Bottom Line

You’ll have better mortgage alternatives to choose from if your credit score is higher. Loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) may come with a reduced interest rate or less fees. If you have to choose between an FHA loan and a conventional loan, the latter are the ones you should look at if you want to save money.

Last but not least, when searching for the best mortgage, it is important to compare interest rates and closing expenses. Feel free to haggle over either/both of these points.

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