Lynne Morey - Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Plymouth | Plymouth MA Real Estate


If you’ve been considering taking the next step toward homeownership, you’ve likely heard about FHA loans. Offered by the Federal Housing Administration (hence, “FHA”), these loans are great for a number of people hoping to purchase a home but who don’t have a large down payment saved.

There are many misconceptions about FHA loans since they’re often advertised by large, private mortgage lenders but are technically a government program. In order to clear up some of the confusion, we’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions regarding FHA loans.

Read on to learn about FHA loans and how they might help you purchase a home.

Who issues an FHA loan?

FHA loans aren’t issued by the government. Rather, they’re issued by private lenders but insured, or “guaranteed,” by the government.

Since lenders want to make sure they’ll see a positive return from lending to you, they typically want you to have a high credit score and a large down payment (typically 20%). However, not everyone is able to meet those requirements. In this situation, the FHA is able to help you acquire a loan by giving your lender a guarantee.

Are there different types of FHA loans?

Yes. In fact, there are nine distinct types of loans guaranteed by the FHA. These include fixed rate mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, refinance loans, reverse mortgages, VA loans, and more.

What do you need to qualify for an FHA loan?

It’s a common misconception that you need to be a first-time buyer to qualify for an FHA loan. However, if you have previously owned a home that was foreclosed on or if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, the foreclosure and bankruptcy have to be at least three years old.

You’ll also need to demonstrate a stable employment history, usually including two years of employment with the same employer.

Finally, the FHA will ask you for your current and previous addresses, the last two years tax returns, and the W-2 forms from any of your recent jobs.

What is the most I can borrow with an FHA loan?

The FHA sets mortgage limits on loans depending on the state and county you’ll be living in. For a single-family home, the limit ranges from $275,000 to $451,000. So be sure to check the limits for your state and county.

Can you refinance an FHA loan?

Refinancing a loan is a great way to receive a lower interest rate or to shorten the term of their mortgage to save in the total number of interest payments. In fact, the FHA typically only allows refinancing when it will result in lower interest payments on a loan.

What is the minimum credit score needed to qualify for an FHA loan?

While you don’t need excellent credit to qualify for a loan, the FHA will require you to have a score of at least a 580. You can check your score for free online from a number of companies, such as Mint or Credit Karma. Be aware, however, that scores vary between credit bureaus. So, it’s a good idea to check your FICO score once per year, which is the score used by mortgage lenders.


If you’re buying a home for the first time, you have a lot to learn. There are so many decisions that need to be made and new terms to be understood. While you may have been saving up for a downpayment, you’re most likely going to need t finance the majority of the cost of your home. Knowing how to deal with lenders, real estate agents, and other professionals involved in the process of purchasing a home will make your life that much more straightforward. Read on for some mortgage tips that every first-time home buyer should understand.


Know Your Budget


You may find when you apply for a mortgage that you’re able to finance more than you thought you could. Being able to borrow such a significant amount is where many home buyers get caught in a numbers trap. Although the bank may be willing to loan you a certain amount, you might not actually be able to afford it. While the bank looks at many of your financial numbers, the bank doesn’t know your entire budget. How much you spend on groceries each month or the cost of your monthly phone bill are out of the picture when the mortgage company approves you for a loan. Whatever amount of money you borrow to buy your house will result in a monthly payment amount. If you’re only paying $800 per month in rent but your mortgage payment will be $1400, that will result in a significant budget adjustment. Will you be able to come up with the additional $600 each month to pay the mortgage? You need to look at your entire budget seriously to be safe in your mortgage transaction. 


Plan For Out Of Pocket Expenses


You know that you need to save for a downpayment on the home of your dreams. What you may not know is that there are many other out of pocket expenses that you need to foot the bill for when you buy a home. These costs include:


Inspection

Legal fees

Insurance

Pizza for the people who help you move

Repairs to the home

Utility costs


There are so many expenses that you need to come up with when you buy a home. Don’t merely save enough for your down payment and stop. Make sure you have a financial cushion for emergencies, money to help furnish the house, and more. 


Mind Your Credit


When you buy a new home, it may be tempting to buy new furniture, decor, or other items for your property. Hold off on opening any new credit or making large purchases. While a new car will look great in your new driveway, it won’t look so good on your credit score. Be very mindful of your credit score when you are getting ready to buy a home.  



You may have heard the term “escrow” in your experience with real estate. You might know it’s an account, but what exactly does it do for you as a buyer? An escrow account is what your lender uses to make payments on things like property taxes, insurance, and more. The lender collects your monthly mortgage payment, and part of that cash goes into an escrow account. 


This type of account is an excellent option for homeowners because your bills relating to being a homeowner will all be paid without you having to do anything. It makes budgeting a breeze because there aren’t any complicated calculations involved. Every month, your lender collects 1/12 of the estimated tax bill and insurance cost for the home. The rest of your mortgage payment covers the principal and interest on the loan of the house.


Are Escrow Accounts Mandatory?


You’ll find that most lenders require you to have an escrow account. The purpose of the account is to keep the home safe as collateral for the loan. The bank has an interest in the proper insurance behind the property. The taxes also need to be paid on time in order to keep the property in good standing. If the taxes aren’t paid, a tax lien will be placed against the house. 


Everything In One Place


You’ll receive an annual statement from your lender that will show you how much money was collected and placed in your escrow account. Escrow payments often change because insurance premiums and taxes tend to change quite frequently. The amount being put into escrow may change a few times throughout the year. The lender keeps track of all this for you, saving you some time. 


Bills That Need To Be Paid


Whether you have an escrow account or not the bills that are included must be paid one way or another. It’s a good idea to speak with your lender before you buy a home to find out that bank’s procedures around these insurance and tax payments. Property tax and home insurance are items that you’ll need to budget for regardless of how your lender does things. An escrow account can be much more convenient for many buyers. 


Escrow is just another one of the many essential terms that you’ll come across as a homebuyer. Knowing the advantages and purpose of the account helps you to be informed as you dive into the home buying process. 



Paying off a mortgage early is a dream of many homeowners. By making larger payments on your home loan, you can cut years off of your loan term and save thousands of dollars in interest payments that you can use toward savings or investments. But in an economy that has seen decades of wage stagnation and increasing costs of living, it can often seem like an unattainable goal.

With some planning and initiative, however, there are ways to pay off your home loan before your term limit.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about three of the ways you can start paying off your mortgage early to avoid high interest payments and save yourself money along the way.

1. Refinance your mortgage


If you’re considering making larger payments on your mortgage, it might make sense to look at refinancing options. Most Americans take out 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages.

If you can afford to significantly increase your mortgage payments each month, you could refinance to a 15-year mortgage. This will save you on the number of interest payments you’ll have to make over the years. But, it will also help you secure a lower interest rate since shorter term mortgages typically come with lower interest rates.

This option isn’t for everyone. First, refinancing comes with fees you’ll have to pay for upfront. You’ll have to apply for refinancing, get an appraisal of your home, and wait for the decision to be made.

But, you’ll also have to ensure that you can keep up with your higher monthly payments. If your income is variable or undependable, it might not be the safest option to refinance to a shorter term mortgage.

2. Make extra payments

An option that entails less risk than refinancing is to simply increase your monthly payments. If you recently got a raise or are just reallocating funds to try and tackle your mortgage, this is an excellent option.

Depending on your mortgage lender, you may be able to simple increase your auto-pay amounts each month, streamlining the process. Otherwise, it’s possible to set up bill-pay with most banks to automatically transfer funds to your lender.

3. Bi-weekly payments or one extra payment per year

Making bi-weekly instead of monthly payments is an option that many homeowners use to pay off their mortgages early. Bi-weekly payments work by paying half of your monthly payment once every two weeks.

The vast majority of homeowners make 12 monthly payments per year. But by switching to 26 bi-weekly payments, you can effectively make 13 full monthly payments in a year without seeing too much of a difference in your daily budget.

This doesn’t seem like much savings in the short term, but let’s take a look at how much you could save over the term of a 30-year mortgage.

On a 30-year fixed mortgage of $200,000 with a 4.03 annual interest rate, you would make a monthly payment of $958.00 and a bi-weekly payment of $479.

Over 30 years of an extra monthly payment, you could save nearly $20,000 on the total interest amount and pay off your mortgage almost 5 years early.


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Most homebuyers take out a mortgage when they purchase a house, and there are several different types of mortgages to choose from. Here are some of the more common mortgage options and the benefits of each one.

Conventional 30-Year Fixed Mortgages

Perhaps the standard starting point for a mortgage is the conventional 30-year fixed home loan. This mortgage is underwritten by a private lending institution but conforms to standards set forth by federal programs. The terms of the loan last for 30 years, and the interest rate is fixed so that it doesn’t change throughout this period.

A conventional 30-year fixed mortgage is a good option for many homebuyers. It lets you spread out the cost of a house across three decades, and you know what the interest and payments will be for the full duration of the loan.

Conventional 15-Year Fixed Mortgages

Conventional 15-year fixed mortgages are just like their 30-year counterparts, except these last half as long. Because the duration of these mortgages is half as long, homebuyers end up paying a lot less in interest.

You’ll have to pay more per month if you cram your mortgage into 15 years, but the interest savings are substantial. If you can afford higher monthly payments, this option will end up saving you a lot.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Adjustable-rate mortgages come in various durations, just as fixed-rate mortgages do. The difference between the two is that the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage can adjust. The interest rate is set according to an index, and as the index changes so does the interest rate on the loan. Which index is used and how adjustments are made are detailed in the paperwork of a loan.

Most adjustable-rate mortgages come with lower initial interest rates than fixed-rate mortgages offer, although the rates on adjustable mortgages can end up being much higher. If you can financially manage an increase in your mortgage’s interest rate, this option might be a way to save a little bit of interest (although there is risk involved).

Guaranteed Mortgages

The federal government offers several guaranteed mortgage options for qualifying individuals. Some of the most common ones are VA and FHA guaranteed home loans. 

In these programs, the government guarantees a mortgage if the homebuyer fails to make their payments. This reduces the risk to the lender, and many lenders relax their qualification requirements as a result.

If you can’t get a conventional mortgage and qualify for a federally guaranteed program, one of these could help you attain the dream of home ownership.




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