FHA Loan Benefits & Information
FHA Loans Carry Many Benefits for Home Buying or Refinancing
FHA loans are becoming popular again! It's an institution that has been around for a long time, since June 27, 1934. The Department of Housing & Urban Development folded the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) under its umbrella in 1965. FHA loans began to lose favor in the late 1990s, when home values began to inch upwards, surpassing FHA mortgage limits, and sellers balked at FHA's stringent appraisal guidelines.
How FHA Loans Work
Now, FHA does not make loans or guarantee loans. It insures loans. The insurance removes or minimizes the default risk lenders face when buyers put down less than 20 percent. Without further approval from FHA, its approved lenders are authorized to:
- Take loan applications
- Process loan applications
- Underwrite and close the loan
FHA Increases Mortgage Limits
My parents bought our first home in 1955 for $9,000 with an FHA loan.
It's almost inconceivable to think of a home costing that today. As a result, FHA periodically increases its mortgage limits. As of July, 2006, mortgage limits range from:
- $362,790 for high-cost areas
- $200,160 for low-cost areas
- $544,185 in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands
Blemished Credit History
If your credit is less than perfect, FHA might be the loan for you. You may qualify for an FHA loan even though you have had financial problems.
- FICO scores do not apply.
- Bankruptcy. You can obtain an FHA loan two years from the date of your bankruptcy discharge, as long as you've maintained good credit since your debts were discharged.
- Foreclosure. If you keep your credit in excellent shape since a foreclosure, an FHA loan will be available to you two years from the final date of your foreclosure.
Competitive Rates & Terms
Today's terms are pretty straightforward. In fact, in many markets the rates and terms are better than those for 80 / 20 piggyback loans. There is little or no adjustment to the interest rate for an FHA loan, as the rates vary within .125 percent of a conventional loan. Mortgage insurance is funded into the loan, meaning a premium of 1.5% is added to the loan balance instead of being paid out-of-pocket. In addition, a small portion for the mortgage insurance premium is added to the monthly payment, but it is far less than private mortgage insurance premiums.
Borrowers can finance 97% of the purchase price and put down 3 percent. In some instances, when combined with other types of loans, the down payment can be zero. Allowable debt ratios are higher than the debt-ratio limits imposed for conventional loans.
Fewer Required Repairs
At one point, FHA repair demands were so excessive that sellers would discount the list price to buyers who would agree to obtain conventional loans over FHA loans. Today the requirements appear more reasonable. Always have a home inspection performed prior to any purchase.
FHA Approved Appraisals
When purchasing or refinancing with an FHA insured loan the borrower must have an appraisal completed by an approved appraisal firm. FHA appraisals do not take the place of a home inspection. Buyers should still obtain a professional home inspection. FHA loans are available to anybody but are used most often by first-time home buyers and low- to moderate-income buyers.