FHA insured mortgages serve a sector of the market that is not necessarily being met by other loan programs.
Securing an 80% conventional mortgage that doesn’t require mortgage insurance may be the lowest cost of financing but if the buyer doesn’t have 20% down payment, it isn’t really an option.
Securing a 100% VA loan doesn’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance but if the buyer isn’t a veteran with his/her eligibility intact, it isn’t an option either.
There are conventional loan programs with as little as 3% down payment but they not only require mortgage insurance, they also require a credit score of 740 or above which may eliminate some buyers.
For these reasons, FHA is a viable alternative to about 20% of new and existing home sales. The Federal backing of these mortgages makes it easier for first-time and low-income buyers to qualify because the requirements are not as demanding. They’re even more lenient towards buyers who have previously experienced bankruptcy, foreclosure or a short sale.
General FHA loan requirements include:
- The loan is for primary residences only but can include two, three or four units.
- The property must be appraised by an FHA-approved appraiser.
- The property must be safe, sound and secure, in compliance with minimum property standards as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- The borrower must be a legal resident of the U.S. and have a valid Social Security number.
- The minimum credit score of 580 with a down payment of at least 3.5 percent, or a minimum credit score of 500 with a down payment of at least 10 percent.
- The borrower may not have delinquent federal debt or judgments, or debt associated with past FHA loans.
- The borrower must have steady employment history.
- Documentation is required if the down payment was gifted by a family member.
- The borrower must have a debt-to-income not exceed limits of 31% for front-end and 43% back-end ratio (some exceptions may apply).
- Any judgments or collections on the credit report must be resolved or satisfactorily explained.