When you are looking at the different loans available to purchase or refinance, it can be confusing. Over the past year there have been many changes in the underwriting guidelines for all mortgages. FHA has become a very popular choice for many home buyers. Let’s take a look at the basic differences between an FHA loan and a conventional loan.
FHA stands for Federal Housing Administration. FHA insures loans that are made by approved FHA lenders, they do not lend directly to borrowers. FHA provides lenders with insurance in case a borrower defaults on their loan.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government sponsored enterprises (GSE). Their mission is to provide stability and liquidity to the U.S housing and mortgage markets. These GSE’s also do not lend directly to borrowers, but they help to ensure that the banks and mortgage companies have funds to lend at affordable rates. These types of loans are typically conventional loans.
The FHA underwriting guidelines are generally more liberal than on a conventional loan. The minimum down payment required by FHA is 3.5%. All of the down payment can be a gift from a family member. The seller is allowed to pay up to 6% of the purchase price towards the buyers closing costs. To be eligible for the 6% from the seller, it must be negotiated in the purchase contract. The minimum credit score that most lenders will allow on an FHA loan is 580.
At this time, the minimum down payment on a conventional loan is 5% – 10%. Due to the lack of private mortgage insurance available, most lenders are requiring that the borrower have a minimum credit score of 720 for a loan to value of 90% – 95%. The seller can pay up to 3% of the purchase price toward the buyers closing costs. However, they can only pay the non-recurring costs. They are not allowed to pay the recurring costs such as taxes, insurance or pre-paid interest. On an FHA loan, they can pay both recurring and non-recurring costs.
One of the other benefits of an FHA loan is that they will allow a non-occupant co-borrower to co-sign on the loan. The income of both the borrower and co-borrower will be combined and used for qualifying. On a conventional loan, the owner occupant must qualify at 35%/43% ratios unless higher ratios are approved by the Automated Underwriting System.
Another difference between conventional and FHA loans is regarding private mortgage insurance. FHA mortgage insurance is required on all 30 year FHA home loans regardless of the loan to value. FHA has a monthly mortgage insurance premium and an upfront mortgage insurance premium. Even though it is called an upfront mortgage insurance premium, it is usually financed into the new loan. On average, the upfront premium is 1.75% of the loan amount. Once you have paid on the monthly mortgage insurance premium for a minimum of 5 years and the loan to value is 78% or below, you can get rid of the monthly mortgage insurance. Speak to your current lender for requirements to remove the PMI.
Conventional home loans also require private mortgage insurance; however, they only have a monthly mortgage insurance premium. They do not require the upfront MIP. Also, conventional loans usually only require mortgage insurance on loan to values that are over 80%. You can have the mortgage insurance removed from your conventional loan once you have paid for 5 years and the loan to value is 80% or below. Check with your current lender for specific documentation needed to have your PMI insurance removed.