Mortgage Rates are low and now is a great time to purchase a home. A big stumbling block for many is a downpayment. There are ways to borrow money through government-backed loans that give a borrower a chance to purchase a home with a smaller downpayment or no money down at all.
Lenders are protected when they lend borrowers the money for a home from the three government agencies which are the Federal Housing Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. These agencies ensure loans allowing lenders to reduce the risk of lending a loan to those who offer a low or no down payment.
“The goal across all these programs is helping people get into a home, knowing that homeownership is a key driver for removing the wealth divide,” said Ed Barry, chief executive of Capital Bank, a bank headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, which operates Capital Bank Home Loans. “These programs are out there, but many people don’t even know that they qualify.”
An FHA loan allows a buyer to obtain a mortgage with a lower credit score, higher debt-to-income ratio and smaller down payments. In fact, it is easier for a home buyer to qualify for an FHA loan vs a conventional mortgage.
There is however a limit to the amount you can borrow on an FHA loan. This year the caps range between $356,362 and $822,375 and also depend on the location of the property. In order to find out the cap for your area, you can visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development website.
If you are a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran, then you will be eligible for a VA loan. VA loans offer 100% financing and better terms than a conventional loan.
“The advantage of the VA loan is the option to make no down payment,” said Jordan Nietzel, a certified financial planner and founder of Trek Wealth Planning in Kansas City. “The thing that people need to watch out for is the debt-to-income ratio, which can go higher on a VA loan than a conventional loan. It can qualify you for a higher loan than you may be prepared to handle.”
One catch is the VA funding fee. For a home purchased at $200,000 with a 5% down payment of $10,000, the VA funding fee will cost $3,135 or 1.65% of the $190,000 loan amount. The lower interest rate on a VA loan will be worth the VA funding fee.
In a rural area, there is a loan program called the USDA loan which allows for 100% financing with no down payment. These are great for low and moderate-income households. The buyer’s household income cannot exceed 115% of the median income of the area around the home.
There are also property requirements for a USDA loan. The loan eligibility is based on the population density of the community. A potential buyer can search for USDA-eligible areas on the USDA website.
“People tend to think a USDA loan is for farmers,” said Barry. “That isn’t the case. It is designed for rural purchases. But that is defined by population density, not agricultural use. So you have eligible areas even 30 miles out of Washington DC.”
“The challenge is finding someone who is knowledgeable in this space,” said Barry. Not only about the type of loan, but about the areas where you are looking. “Usually this is more than just a transaction. It can be a super complicated process. A little hand holding is helpful.”