If you have ever paid off a home loan backed by FHA, you may have money owed to you. And the government wants to pay you back.

About 1 in 10 FHA borrowers leave money in their escrow accounts when they pay off their loans. The average refund for each borrower is about $700.

Former FHA borrowers who think they might be due a refund can call a toll free number, 800-697-6967, write HUD at P.O. Box 23669, Washington DC 20026-3699, or look for his/her name with the HUD Refund Search Form on their web site.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

FHA requires a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for its home buying programs. An up front premium of 1.50% of the loan amount is paid at closing and can be financed into the mortgage amount. In addition, there is a monthly MIP amount included in the PITI. Condos do not require up front MIP – only monthly MIP.

The mortgage insurance premium paid on an FHA loan is always significantly higher than on a conventional program. On an FHA loan the borrower will be charged a mortgage insurance premium equal to 1.50% of the purchase price of the property and a renewal premium of .500% in subsequent years. By contrast, the mortgage insurance premium charged at closing on a conventional program is as low as .500% (with 10% down payment) with renewal rate as low as .300% in subsequent years.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

FHA’s mortgage insurance programs help low and moderate income families become homeowners by lowering some of the costs of their mortgage loans. FHA mortgage insurance also encourages mortgage companies to make loans to otherwise creditworthy borrowers and projects that might not be able to meet conventional underwriting requirements, by protecting the mortgage company against loan default on mortgages for properties that meet certain minimum requirements. This includes manufactured homes, single-family and multifamily properties, and some health-related facilities.

Section 203(b) is the centerpiece of FHA’s single family insurance programs. It is the successor of the program that helped save homeowners from default in the 1930s, helped open the suburbs for returning veterans in the 1940s and 1950s, and helped shape the modern mortgage finance system. Today, FHA One to Four Family Mortgage Insurance is still an important tool through which the Federal Government expands home ownership opportunities for first time homebuyers and other borrowers who would not otherwise qualify for conventional loans on affordable terms, as well as for those who live in under served areas where mortgages may be harder to get. In 1997, FHA insured more than 790,000 homes, valued at almost $60 billion, under this program. FHA currently insures a total of about 7 million loans valued at nearly $400 billion. These obligations are protected by FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, which is sustained entirely by borrower premiums.

Section 203(b) has several important features:

Downpayment requirements can be low. In contrast to conventional mortgage products, which frequently require down payments of 10 percent or more of the purchase price of the home, single family mortgages insured by FHA under Section 203(b) make it possible to reduce down payments to as little as 3 percent. This is because FHA insurance allows borrowers to finance approximately 97 percent of the value of their home purchase through their mortgage, in some cases.

Many closing costs can be financed. With most conventional loans, the borrower must pay, at the time of purchase, closing costs (the many fees and charges associated with buying a home) equivalent to 2-3 percent of the price of the home. This program allows the borrower to finance many of these charges, thus reducing the up front cost of buying a home. FHA mortgage insurance is not free: borrowers pay an up front insurance premium (which may be financed) at the time of purchase, as well as monthly premiums that are not financed, but instead are added to the regular mortgage payment.

Some fees are limited. FHA rules impose limits on some of the fees that mortgage companies may charge in making a loan. For example, the loan origination fee charged by the mortgage company for the administrative cost of processing the loan may not exceed one percent of the amount of the mortgage.

HUD sets limits on the amount that may be insured. To make sure that its programs serve low and moderate income people, FHA sets limits on the dollar value of the mortgage loan.

Please visit our Disclosures page for more details for all loan types.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

To be considered for a low down payment loan, you generally need to have:

  • Sufficient income to support the monthly mortgage payment
  • Enough cash to cover the down payment
  • Sufficient cash to cover normal closing costs and related expenses (explained below)
  • A good credit background that indicates your payment history or “willingness to pay”
  • Sufficient appraisal value, which shows the house is at least equal to the purchase price
  • In some instances, a cash reserve equivalent to two monthly mortgage payments

Closing costs, or settlement costs, are paid when the home buyer and the seller meet to exchange the necessary papers for the house to be legally transferred. On the average, closing costs run approximately 2% to 3% of the house price. This percentage may vary, depending on where you live.

Closing costs include the loan origination fee (if not already paid), points, prepaid homeowner’s insurance, appraisal fee, lawyer’s fee, recording fee, title search and insurance, tax adjustments, agent commissions, mortgage insurance (if you are putting less than 20% down), and other expenses. Your mortgage professional will give you a more exact estimate of your closing costs.

Points are finance charges that are calculated at closing. Each point equals 1% of the loan amount. For example, 2 points on a $100,000 loan equals $2,000. Companies may charge 1, 2 or 3 points in upfront costs in addition to the down payment. The more points you pay, the lower your interest rate will be. In some cases, you may be able to finance the points.

So How Much of a Mortgage Can You Afford?
There are two basic formulas commonly used to determine how much of a mortgage you can reasonably afford. These formulas are called qualifying ratios because they estimate the amount of money you should spend on mortgage payments in relation to your income and other expenses.

It is important to remember that the following ratios may vary and each application is handled on an individual basis, so the guidelines are just that — guidelines. There are many affordability programs, both government and conventional, that have more lenient requirements for low and moderate income families.

Many of these programs involve financial counseling for low and moderate income people interested in buying a home and in return, offer more lenient requirements.

Generally speaking, to qualify for conventional loans, housing expenses should not exceed 26% to 28% of your gross monthly income. For FHA loans, the ratio is 29% of gross monthly income. Monthly housing costs include the mortgage principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, often abbreviated PITI. For example, if your annual income is $30,000, your gross monthly income is $2,500, times 28% = $700. So you would probably qualify for a conventional home loan that requires monthly payments of $700.

Any expenses that extend 11 months or more into the future are termed long term debt, such as a car loan. Total monthly costs, including PITI and all other long term debt, should equal no greater than 33% to 36% of your gross monthly income for conventional loans. Using the same example, $2,500 x 36% = $900. So the total of your monthly housing expenses plus any long term debts each month cannot exceed $900. For FHA the ratio is 41%.

Maximum Allowable Monthly Housing Expense
26% – 28% of gross monthly income – Conventional
29% of gross monthly income – FHA

Maximum Allowable Monthly Housing Expense and Long Term Debt
33% – 36% of gross monthly income – Conventional
41% of gross monthly income – FHA

When budgeting to buy a home, it is important to allow enough money for additional expenses such as maintenance and insurance costs. If you are purchasing an existing home, gather information such as utility cost averages and maintenance costs from previous owners or tenants to help you better prepare for home ownership.

Homeowner’s insurance or property insurance is another cost you will have to consider. The lending institution holding the mortgage will require insurance in an amount sufficient to cover the loan. However, to protect the full value of your investment, you might want to consider purchasing insurance that provides the full replacement cost if the home is destroyed. Some insurance only provides a fixed dollar amount which may be insufficient to rebuild a badly damaged house.

Please visit our Disclosures page for more details for all loan types.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

Loans and gifts can help with your down payment, but you can not use this strategy for all loan programs. The most popular program for this tactic is the Federal Housing Administration or FHA. FHA allows 100% gift funds for your down payment. The gift can be from any relative or can be collected through new innovative programs, like the Bridal Registry where couples receive money into an account that can be used for the down payment.

Another popular tactic, which can be used in a wider range of programs, is to borrow from your 401K program. If you have a 401K program with your employer, you can withdraw without a penalty for your down payment and pay it back over a specified period. There are some drawbacks, the payment will be used in qualifying and your 401K account will not continue to grow as fast. Even with these drawbacks, it is often a smart move if this is your only option.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

Simply put, mortgage insurance protects the mortgage company against financial loss if a homeowner stops making mortgage payments. Mortgage companies usually require insurance on low down payment loans for protection in the event that the homeowner fails to make his or her payments. When a homeowner fails to make the mortgage payments, a default occurs and the home goes into foreclosure. Both the homeowner and the mortgage insurer lose in a foreclosure. The homeowner loses the house and all of the money put into it. The mortgage insurer will then have to pay the mortgage company’s claim on the defaulted loan.

For this reason, it is crucial that the family buying the home can really afford it, not only at the time it is purchased, but throughout the time period of the loan.

Although the cost of the mortgage insurance is paid by the home buyer, or borrower, the mortgage insurer works directly with the mortgage company. Mortgage insurance is available to commercial banks, savings & loans, and mortgage bankers, all of whom offer mortgage loans to home buyers.

Remember that mortgage insurance is not the same as credit life insurance, also called mortgage life insurance. This type of policy repays an outstanding mortgage balance upon the death of the person who took out the insurance policy.

The Secondary Market
The mortgage company’s decision to use mortgage insurance is driven by the requirements of investors in the mortgage market. Because of the losses that could occur, major investors require mortgage insurance on all loans made with low down payments.

The three primary investors in home loans are Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae). By purchasing and selling residential mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac help keep money available for homes across the country.

Unlike Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae does not actually buy mortgages. It adds the guarantee of the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government to mortgage securities issued by mortgage companies.

The Two Choices: Government Insurance and Private Insurance
Now that we have explained how mortgage insurance works and why it is necessary, let’s look at the basic kinds of mortgage insurance. Low down payment mortgages can be insured in two ways: through the government or through the private sector. Mortgages backed by the government are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA).

Although anyone can apply for FHA insurance, the other two government mortgage guarantee programs are much more targeted. The VA program is limited to qualified, eligible veterans and reservists. This program is very specialized, so contact your mortgage professional for the details. The FmHA insures loans for the construction and purchase of homes in rural communities.

Obtaining conventional financing is the alternative to obtaining a home loan backed by the government. Conventional mortgages are all home loans not guaranteed by the government, including those guaranteed by private mortgage insurers.

Although government and private insurance are based on the same concept of allowing families to get into homes with less cash down, there are many differences between the two. Often, your mortgage professional will play an important role in suggesting and deciding which insurance is selected.

Home buyers must make a down payment of at least 5% of a home’s value to be considered for private mortgage insurance. However, under some special programs, the down payment requirement allows the buyer to use a gift or grant to cover 2% of the 5% down payment required by private mortgage insurers. The gift or grant may come from a friend, relative, community group, or other organization.

Private mortgage insurance is available on a wide variety of home loans and there is no preset limit on the loan amount. Although differences such as these may affect whether the mortgage company prefers to work with government or conventional mortgages, your mortgage professional will discuss which one would be better for your situation.

With the wide variety of loans available, home buyers have the freedom to choose the type of loan that suits their needs. Early on in the home buying process, it is a good idea to meet with several companies to compare the types of mortgages they offer and shop for the price and terms. Also, working with a mortgage insurer can be convenient, whether your loan is insured by the FHA or a private mortgage insurance company, because your mortgage professional handles all of the arrangements.

By making lending money to home buyers safer, mortgage insurance helps more families get into homes of their own.

Please visit our Disclosures page for more details for all loan types.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

Credit scoring is a statistical method that lenders use to quickly and objectively assess the credit risk of a loan applicant. The score is a number that rates the likelihood you will pay back a loan. Scores range from 350 (high risk) to 850 (low risk). There are a few types of credit scores; the most widely used are FICO scores, which were developed by Fair Isaac & Company, Inc. for each of the credit reporting agencies.

Credit scores only consider the information contained in your credit profile. They do not consider your income, savings, down payment amount, or demographic factors like gender, race, nationality, or marital status. Past delinquencies, derogatory payment behavior, current debt level, length of credit history, types of credit, and number of inquiries are all considered in credit scores. Your score considers both positive and negative information in your credit report. Late payments will lower your score, but establishing or reestablishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score. Different portions of your credit file are given different weights.
They are:

  • 35% – Previous credit performance (specific to your payment history)
  • 30% – Current level of indebtedness (current balance compared to high credit)
  • 15% – Time credit has been in use (opening date)
  • 15% – Types of credit available (installment loans, revolving and debit accounts)
  • 5% – Pursuit of new credit (number of inquiries)

The most important factor for a good credit score is paying your bills on time. Even if the debt you owe is a small amount, it is crucial that you make payments on time. In addition, you may want to keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit;” apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed; and pay off debt rather than moving it around. Also don’t close unused cards as a short term strategy to raise your score. Owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.

Recent changes minimize the negative effects that rate shopping can have on a mortgage applicant. If there is a consumer originated inquiry within the past 365 days from mortgage or auto related industries, these inquiries are ignored for scoring purposes for the first 30 calendar days; then, multiple inquiries within the next 14 days are counted as one. Each inquiry will still appear on the credit report.

Every score is accompanied by a maximum of four reason codes. Reason codes identify the most significant reason that you did not score higher. The reason codes can help a lender describe the reasons for higher than expected rates or loan denial. Scores are not part of the credit profile and are not covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Your credit report must contain at least one account which has been open for six months or greater, and at least one account that has been updated in the past six months for you to get a credit score. This ensures that there is enough information in your report to generate an accurate score. If you do not meet the minimum criteria for getting a score, you may need to establish a credit history prior to applying for a mortgage.

*Note: American Pacific Mortgage Corporation is not a credit repair company; this information is for information purposes only. We are not licensed credit repair specialists or counselors.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

Your credit report provides information to current and prospective creditors to help you make purchases, secure loans, pay for college educations, and manage your personal finances. Credit reporting makes it possible for stores to accept your checks, banks to offer credit and debit cards, businesses to market products, and corporations to better manage their operations to benefit the world’s economy.

Your credit report is only compiled when you or a lender makes an inquiry. Information supplied by lenders, you, and court records is gathered from the credit reporting agency’s file and presented in report format for the requester.

Credit grantors send updates to each of the credit reporting agencies, usually once a month. These updates include information about how their customers use and pay their accounts.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may be entitled to receive a free copy of your personal credit report if you have been declined credit, housing, or employment in the last 60 days. To request your free copy, ask your mortgage company or contact one of the credit reporting agencies directly.

*Note: American Pacific Mortgage Corporation is not a credit repair company; this information is for information purposes only. We are not licensed credit repair specialists or counselors.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

If you have had credit problems, be prepared to discuss them honestly with a mortgage professional. Responsible mortgage professionals know there can be legitimate reasons for credit problems, such as unemployment, illness, or other financial difficulties. If you had a problem that’s been corrected and your payments have been on time for a year or more, your credit may be considered satisfactory.

If you are currently in excess debt, there are four ways to control it:

  1. If your credit is not in terrible shape, you can reduce your other expenses, even if it means making hard choices or changing your lifestyle to fit your income. Consider selling a second car, taking equity out of your home, applying for a non secured signature loan, obtaining a loan from a relative, selling your home and paying off your debts with the proceeds and then renting, cashing out your 401K/retirement benefits, or selling family heirlooms, jewelry, etc.
  2. If your credit is already damaged or one of the above isn’t an option, go through Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS). Check your yellow pages for the local number. CCCS may be able to help you pay off your debts as if you were in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but you don’t actually file for bankruptcy.
  3. If CCCS won’t take you, you may want to consider bankruptcy. Claiming Chapter 13 bankruptcy takes longer than a Chapter 7, but your credit will end up in a little better standing. Chapter 13 bankruptcy gives you up to 5 years to pay off your debts. The disadvantage is that you’re in bankruptcy for up to 5 years plus your credit report shows your bankruptcy for 7 more years after you have finished paying off your debts.
  4. If you are so far in debt that you can never repay it, then one solution may be a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the least desirable from a credit standpoint, but you are typically out of bankruptcy in 6 months and you don’t have to repay any debt. The disadvantage is that this shows on your credit report for 10 years from the date of filing your bankruptcy. Creditors are starting to tighten their credit requirements, and you may have a tough time getting future financing.

If your debts are under control now, but want to improve your bad credit history, the most important factor is to make your monthly payments on time. Use pre-addressed envelopes enclosed with your statements to mail your payments and call the company if you don’t receive your usual statement. Also, send your payment as early as possible if you carry a balance. Most companies calculate interest on a daily basis, so the sooner they receive your payment, the less interest you’ll pay.

Don’t procrastinate. It’s the day your payment is received that counts, not the postmark date. Give the post office sufficient time (five business days is a good guideline) to deliver your mail. Late payments may mean late fees, higher interest, and/or a negative mark on your credit report.

Never send cash. Open a checking account if you don’t have one, or spring for a money order and keep your receipt. Finally do not forget to tell your creditors your new address when you move.

If you are worried about making payments, make a list of your debts and when the payments are due. Contact your lenders immediately if you think you will have trouble meeting the monthly payments to arrange a payment schedule.

Taking money from your retirement account or tapping the cash value of your life insurance policy to pay bills or living expenses may have serious implications you haven’t considered, so try to get advice from an expert before you take any major financial actions.

Credit cards can be invaluable in a crisis, since they allow you to charge items and pay them off over time. But they can also be dangerous if you aren’t careful and charge more than you can afford. If you do use credit cards, choose those with the lowest interest rates and pay them back as soon as you can to cut your costs.

*Note: American Pacific Mortgage Corporation is not a credit repair company; this information is for information purposes only. We are not licensed credit repair specialists or counselors.

*Note: American Pacific Mortgage Corporation is not a credit repair company; this information is for information purposes only. We are not licensed credit repair specialists or counselors.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.

Another way to make a refinance work for you is to refinance for more than the balance remaining on your old mortgage — in effect, tapping your home equity, or “cashing out,” in mortgage speak. Thanks to favorable rates, you may be able to do so without boosting your monthly outlay. For example, at 8.5%, the payment on a $200,000, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is $1,538. But at 7.5%, that same payment lets you borrow nearly $20,000 more.

A good use for the extra cash is to pay off any higher rate loans you may have. Let’s say that you are carrying a $15,000 car loan at 10% and making minimum payments on a $10,000 credit card balance at 17%. Your monthly payments on those debts would total $680. Then assume you refinanced your mortgage, taking out an additional $25,000 to pay off your car and credit card loans. Result: At 7.5%, your additional monthly mortgage payment would total only $175, so you would come out $505 ahead ($680-$175=$505).

Of course, all the extra cash needn’t go for paying off debts. When the Menards swapped their ARM for a fixed rate last December, they also increased their mortgage load by $34,000, from $106,000 to $140,000. They used $3,000 of the proceeds to pay their refinancing costs and another $17,000 to pay off a 10% home equity loan, which had been costing them $250 a month. Then they spent the remaining $14,000 to build a garage for Roger’s antique car collection — and they did all this for just another $19 a month.

Please visit our Disclosures page for more details for all loan types.

*The views, articles, postings and other information listed on this website are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinion or the position of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation.