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FAQ Page

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Usually higher than your quoted interest rate because it includes, in addition to interest, some of the additional costs of obtaining your financing.

Origination and Discount points are both a percentage of your loan. Usually 1% of the total amount of the loan. (often tax deductible)• • Clients with low or no down payment can still obtain a loan, but will usually pay a slightly higher interest rate.

Vinings Mortgage serves as both a broker and a banker- meaning we can either service or sell your loan, depending on what best fits your financial situation.

A mortgage banker will originate, process, underwrite, close and fund the loan in-house. Vinings Mortgage is an affiliate of the Bank of England, England, Arkansas.

A mortgage broker will sell your loan to an investor who has guaranteed your loan program, and therefore your loan will be serviced and funded by that investor.

Locking your interest rate refers to guaranteeing a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. Shorter lock periods usually have lower interest rates. For more information, contact Vinings Mortgage’s qualified home mortgage loan experts.

Your lender will order the appraisal and survey for you. (Unless your home is new construction and then your builder will order your survey) Most contracts have option periods that allow you to dictate when the appraisal and survey are ordered.

Internet statements are not allowed because they’re not yet seen as completely unalterable by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. ALL PAGES of a required hard copy statement must be submitted (1 of 5 – all 5) even if the first page is an advertisement.

No. Your pre-closing signatures are non-committal but only allow your mortgage banker to negotiate and approve you for a loan.

A mortgage pre-qualification is basically the lenders opinion of your ability to buy or refinance a home. Requires only basic information and no documentation or credit score. A mortgage pre-approval is the underwriter’s decision that you are qualified. Credit check and documentation are required.

A typical home mortgage loan process consists of 10 easy steps:

1. Complete the pre-qualification worksheet
2. Pre-purchase consultation with an Vinings home mortgage loan specialist
3. Gather and prepare necessary documents
4. Receive credit approval
5. Obtain a property inspection
6. Loan officer orders home mortgage loan documents
7. Buyer obtains homeowners insurance
8. Vinings loan experts update you on document status
9. Seven-day pre-closing confirmation
10. Easy, smooth, on-time closing!

When you’re making your decision, there are several things to keep in mind.

If your current interest rate is significantly higher than today’s lowest rates, you may be able to roll your loan costs into the loan and still get a lower rate than you have today, thereby reducing your interest payments and saving money immediately.

Second, if you are planning to stay in your home for at least three to five years, it may make sense to pay “points” (a point equals 1% of the loan amount) and closing costs to get the lowest available rate.

And third, you can avoid laying out cash and still get a low rate by adding the points and closing costs to your new mortgage. Does that mean shouldering a lot of extra debt? Not necessarily. If you’ve had your current mortgage for at least three years, you’ve probably reduced your balance by several thousand dollars. So you may be able to tack your closing costs onto your new loan and still end up with a mortgage that’s smaller than your original one — plus, of course, a lower rate and lower monthly payment.Refinance

When rates fall steadily, refinancing may make sense even if you have done so once already. Bob and Michelle Barbo of Kirkland, WA refinanced twice within three months in 1998. In October, they trimmed the rate on their 30-year fixed mortgage by a full point — from 9.13% to 8.13% — for a monthly savings of $63. Plus, because home prices in their area had boosted their home equity, they were able to stop paying private mortgage insurance that cost them $120 a month.

To exploit continued decline in rates, the Barbos refinanced again in December. Their new 30-year fixed mortgage is at 7.375%, lopping another $55 off their monthly bill. Since the couple had chosen a no cost refinancing each time, their total out of pocket expenses came to just $400 in appraisal fees. So by the time you read this, they will already have recouped their up front costs. “Now we can use the savings to build up a cash emergency fund,” says Bob.

If you are considering a second refinancing, don’t overlook this potential tax write off: When you pay points to refinance, you must deduct the amount over the life of the loan, usually 30 years. But when you refinance a second time, all of the points that have not yet been deducted from the first refinancing can be written off in a lump sum. Say you refinanced to a 30-year mortgage in 1993 and paid $3,000 in points. By now, you would have written off roughly $500. If you refinance again this year, you could deduct the remaining $2,500 on your 1998 tax return. For a homeowner in the 28% tax bracket, that works out to a savings of $700 — enough to offset some or all of your costs this time around.

Traditionally, the decision on whether or not to refinance has meant balancing the savings of a lower monthly payment against the costs of refinancing. But in recent years, companies have introduced “no cost” and low cost refinancing packages that minimize or completely eliminate the out-of-pocket expenses of refinancing. (These refinancing packages compensate with a higher interest rate, or by including some of the costs in the amount that is financed.)

With traditional refinancing, the most often cited rule of thumb is that the interest rate for your new mortgage must be about 2 percentage points below the rate of your current mortgage for refinancing to make sense. However, with the newer low and no cost refinancing programs, it can be worth your while to refinance to obtain a smaller reduction in interest rates.

How long you expect to stay in your home is also a factor to consider. If you’ll be moving in a few years, the month to month savings may never add up to the costs that are involved in a refinancing.

If you are thinking about refinancing your mortgage, you might want to consider other types of mortgages. For example, you might want to look into a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. In this plan, your mortgage payments are somewhat higher than a longer-term loan, but you pay substantially less interest over the life of the loan and build equity more quickly. (Of course, this also means you have less interest to deduct on your income tax return.)

You also might want to consider refinancing if you have an adjustable rate mortgage with high or no limits on interest rate increases. You might want to switch to a fixed rate mortgage or to an adjustable rate mortgage that limits changes in the rate at each adjustment date as well as over the life of the loan.

If you decide to apply for refinancing with a particular mortgage company, and if you do not want to let the interest rate “float” until closing, get a written statement to guarantee the interest rate and the number of discount points that you will pay at closing. This binding commitment or “lock in” ensures that the mortgage company will not raise these costs even if rates increase before you settle on the new loan. You also may consider requesting an agreement where the interest rate can decrease but not increase before closing. If you cannot get the mortgage company to put this information in writing, you may wish to choose one that will provide this important information.

Most companies place a limit on the length of time (say, 60 days) they will guarantee the interest rate. You must sign the loan during that time or lose the benefit of that particular rate. Because many people refinance their mortgages when rates decline, there may be a delay in processing the papers. Therefore, you may want to contact the company periodically to check on the progress of your loan approval and to see if additional information is needed.

With a lower interest rate on your home loan, you will have less interest to deduct on your income tax return. That, of course, may increase your tax payments and decrease the total savings you might obtain from a new, lower-interest mortgage.

You should be aware of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruling with respect to points paid solely for refinancing your home mortgage. IRS regulations require that interest (points) paid up front for refinancing must be deducted over the life of the loan, not in the year you refinance, unless the loan is for home improvements. This means that if you paid a certain number of points, you would have to spread the tax deduction for those points over the life of the loan. If, however, the loan or a portion of the loan is for home improvements, you may be able to deduct the points or a portion of the points. Check with the IRS regarding the current rulings on refinancing, particularly if you are using the new loan to make home improvements.

In refinancing, a mortgage company usually offers a range of interest rates at different amounts of points. A point equals one percent of the loan amount. For example, three points on a $100,000 mortgage loan would add $3,000 to the refinancing charges.

Analyzing various interest rates and associated points may save you money. As a rule of thumb, each point adds about one eighth to one quarter of one percent to the interest rate the mortgage company is offering.

Generally, the lower the interest rate on the loan, the more points the lending institution will charge. Some companies offer refinancing with no points, but generally charge higher interest rates.

To decide what combination of rate and points is best for you, balance the amount you can pay up front with the amount you can pay monthly. The less time that you keep the loan, the more expensive points become. If you plan to stay in your house for a long time, then it may be worthwhile to pay additional points to obtain a lower interest rate.

Some companies may offer to finance the points so that you do not have to pay them up front. This means that the points will be added to your loan balance, and you will pay a finance charge on them. Although this may enable you to get the financing, it also will increase the amount of your monthly payments.

Check the market closely to determine the available rates and costs associated with refinancing. These costs can include items such as an appraisal and other various fees and points. Then determine what your new payment would be if you refinanced. You can estimate how long it will take to recover the costs of refinancing by dividing your closing costs by the difference between your new and old payments (your monthly savings). However, the ultimate amount you may save depends on many factors, including your total refinancing costs, whether you sell your home in the near future, and the effects of refinancing on your taxes. The old rule of thumb used to be that you shouldn’t refinance unless the new interest rate is at least two percentage points lower. However, many companies are now offering zero point loans and low cost refinancing. Therefore, even if your rate change is less than one percentage point, you may be able to save some money by refinancing.

When you refinance your mortgage, you usually pay off your original mortgage and sign a new loan. With a new loan, you again pay most of the same costs you paid to get your original mortgage. These can include settlement costs, discount points, and other fees. You also may be charged a penalty for paying off your original loan early, although some states prohibit this. The total expense for refinancing a mortgage depends on the interest rate, number of points, and other costs required obtaining a loan. To obtain the lowest rate offered, most mortgage companies will charge several points, and the total cost can run between three and six percent of the total amount you borrow. So, for example, on a $100,000 mortgage, the company might charge you between $3,000 and $6,000. However, some companies may offer zero points at a higher interest rate, which may significantly reduce your initial costs, although your payments may be somewhat higher.

By switching to a fixed rate loan, you will not only reduce your payment, you will also likely lock in an attractive rate for as long as you own your home.

In fact, while one year ARMs currently offer tempting introductory rates, most experts recommend avoiding them, because you could easily find yourself facing sharply higher payments in the near future, even if interest rates don’t rise. Why? Well, after the introductory rate expires, ARMs are typically pegged to the one year Treasury rate (recently 5.25%) plus 2.75 percentage points, with increases of as much as two points a year. Assuming interest rates don’t change, you would pay 7.59% in the second year (the full two point increase) and 8% in the third year.

There are certain cases, however, where an ARM makes sense. If you are fairly certain you’ll be moving within five years, you can save some money — and avoid rising payments — with a five year ARM. Such loans offer a fixed rate for five years and adjust annually thereafter.

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.

The best 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.

Many borrowers use a refinance to shorten the term of the mortgage. And brace yourself, even at low rates, a shorter term means a higher monthly payment. The benefit is that you’ll build up equity faster and pay far less in total interest over the life of the loan.

Consider Jim Neill, 48, a real estate broker and his wife Merrilyn, 55, a psychotherapist. Recently, the couple took out a 15-year fixed rate loan at 6.75% to replace an 8.13% ARM with a 30-year term. Their monthly payment jumped by $200, but now they will own their own home outright by the time they retire. In addition, the total interest on the 15-year loan will come to $95,447, vs. $222,234 on the remaining life of the ARM — and that assumes their adjustable rate would have held steady at its current 8.13%. “This is forced savings,” says Jim. “When we retire, we can scale down and take equity out of the house.”

If you can’t afford the payments on a 15-year mortgage, your next best means of building equity is to refinance for less than 30 years. To do so, ask your mortgage company to customize your new loan’s term to match the years that are left on your old loan — if you are five years into a 30-year mortgage, for example, ask for a 25-year loan.

Happy Senior CoupleA reverse mortgage can be an effective tool for giving seniors additional cash to live on using the equity in their home. However, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s important to work with an experienced originator who can help you assess your unique situation to determine if a reverse mortgage is right for you.

Who can benefit from knowing more about Reverse Mortgages?

Seniors looking for extra cash for living, healthcare needs, and education.
Adult children looking to help their senior parents get in a better financial situation.
Trusted Advisors (Caregivers, Attorneys, Financial Planners)

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage is a special type of loan made to older homeowners to enable them to convert the equity in their home to cash to finance living expenses, home improvements, in home health care, or other needs.

With a reverse mortgage, the payment stream is “reversed.” That is, payments are made by the lender to the borrower, rather than monthly repayments by the borrower to the lender, as occurs with a regular home purchase mortgage.

A reverse mortgage is a sophisticated financial planning tool that enables seniors to stay in their home or “age in place” and maintain or improve their standard of living without taking on a monthly mortgage payment. The process of obtaining a reverse mortgage involves a number of different steps.

The first most widely available reverse mortgage in the United States was the federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which was authorized in 1987.

A reverse mortgage is different from a home equity loan or line of credit, which many banks and thrifts offer. With a home equity loan or line of credit, an applicant must meet certain income and credit requirements, begin monthly repayments immediately, and the home can have an existing first mortgage on it. In addition, there is no restriction on the age of borrowers.

In general, reverse mortgages are limited to borrowers 62 years or older who own their home free and clear of debt or nearly so, and the home is free of tax liens.

Borrowers usually have a choice of receiving the proceeds from a reverse mortgage in the form of a lump sum payment, fixed monthly payments for life, or line of credit. Some types of reverse mortgages also allow fixed monthly payments for a finite time period, or a combination of monthly payments and line of credit. The interest rate charged on a reverse mortgage is usually an adjustable rate that changes monthly or yearly. However, the size of monthly payments received by the senior doesn’t change.

Some reverse mortgage products also involve the purchase of an annuity that can assure continued monthly income to the senior homeowner even after they sell the home.

The size of reverse mortgage that a senior homeowner can receive depends on the type of reverse mortgage, the borrower’s age and current interest rates, and the home’s property value. The older the applicant is, the larger the monthly payments or line of credit. This is because of the use of projected life expectancies in determining the size of reverse mortgages.

Seniors do not have to meet income or credit requirements to qualify for a reverse mortgage.

Unlike a home purchase mortgage or home equity loan, a reverse mortgage doesn’t require monthly repayments by the borrower to the lender. A reverse mortgage isn’t repayable until the borrower no longer occupies the home as his or her principal residence.

This can occur if the sole remaining borrower dies, the borrower sells the home, or the borrower moves out of the home, say, to a nursing home.

The repayment obligation for a reverse mortgage is equal to the principal balance of the loan, plus accrued interest, plus any finance charges paid for through the mortgage. This repayment obligation, however, can’t exceed the value of the home.

The loan may be repaid by the borrower or by the borrower’s family or estate, with or without a sale of the home. If the home is sold and the sale proceeds exceed the repayment obligation, the excess funds go to the borrower or borrower’s estate. If the sales proceeds are less than the amount owed, the shortfall is usually covered by insurance or some other party and is not the responsibility of the borrower or borrower’s estate. In general, the repayment obligation of the borrower or borrower’s estate can’t exceed the value of the property.

In general, a borrower can’t be forced to sell their home to repay a reverse mortgage as long as they occupy the home, even if the total of the monthly payments to the borrower exceeds the value of the home.

Download a Reverse Mortgage Application

The most common buy down is the 2-1 buy down. In the past, for a buyer to secure a 2-1 buy down they would pay 3 points above current market points in order to pay a below market interest rate during the first two years of the loan. At the end of the two years they would then pay the old market rate for the remaining term.

As an example, if the current market rate for a conforming fixed rate loan is 8.5% at a cost of 1.5 points, the buy down gives the borrower a first year rate of 6.50%, a second year rate of 7.50% and a third through 30th year rate of 8.50% and the cost would be 4.5 points. Buy downs were usually paid for by a transferring company because of the high points associated with them.

In today’s market, mortgage companies have designed variations of the old buy downs rather than charge higher points to the buyer in the beginning they increase the note rate to cover their yields in the later years.

As an example, if the current rate for a conforming fixed rate loan is 8.50% at a cost of 1.5 points, the buy down would give the buyer a first year rate of 7.25%, a second year rate of 8.25% and a third through 30th year rate of 9.25%, or a three quarter point higher note rate than the current market and the cost would remain at 1.5 points.

Another common buy down is the 3-2-1 buy down which works much in the same ways as the 2-1 buy down, with the exception of the starting interest rate being 3% below the note rate. Another variation is the flex fixed buy down program that increase at six month interval rather than annual intervals.

As an example, for a flex fixed jumbo buy down at a cost of 1.5 points, the first six months rate would be 7.50%, the second six months the rate would be 8.00%, the next six months rate would be 8.50%, the next six months rate would be 9.00%, the next six months the rate would be 9.50% and at the 37th month the rate would reach the note rate of 9.875% and would remain there for the remainder of the term. A comparable jumbo 30 year fixed at 1.5 points would be 8.875%.

The GPM is another alternative to the conventional adjustable rate mortgage, and is making a comeback as borrowers and mortgage companies seek alternatives to assist in qualify for home financing.

Unlike an ARM, GPMs have a fixed note rate and payment schedule. With a GPM the payments are usually fixed for one year at a time. Each year for five years the payments graduate at 7.5% – 12.5% of the previous years payment.

GPMs are available in 30 year and 15 year amortization, and for both conforming and jumbo loans. With the graduated payments and a fixed note rate, GPMs have scheduled negative amortization of approximately 10% – 12% of the loan amount depending on the note rate. The higher the note rate the larger degree of negative amortization. This compares to the possible negative amortization of a monthly adjusting ARM of 10% of the loan amount. Both loans give the consumer the ability to pay the additional principal and avoid the negative amortization. In contrast, the GPM has a fixed payment schedule so the additional principal payments reduce the term of the loan. The ARMs additional payments avoid the negative amortization and the payments decrease while the term of the loan remains constant.

The scheduled negative amortization on a GPM differs depending on the amortization schedule, the note rate and the payment increases of the loan. GPM loans with 7.5% annual payment increases offer the lowest qualifying rate but the largest amount of negative amortization.

On a loan of $150,000, with a 30 year amortization and a note rate of 10.50% with 12.5% annual payment increases, the negative amortization continues for 60 months. The qualifying rate is 5.75% and the negative amortization is 11.34% (approximately $17,010).

The note rate of a GPM is traditionally .5% to .75% higher than the note rate of a straight fixed rate mortgage. The higher note rate and scheduled negative amortization of the GPM makes the cost of the mortgage more expensive to the borrower in the long run. In addition, the borrowers monthly payment can increase by as much as 50% by the final payment adjustment.

The lower qualifying rate of the GPM can help borrowers maximize their purchasing power, and can be useful in a market with rapid appreciation. In markets where appreciation is moderate, and a borrower needs to move during the scheduled negative amortization period they could create an unpleasant situation.

“Interest only” products are an easy way to save money and a very popular alternative to traditional fixed rates but they are not without risk. An “Interest Only” loan can offer consumers greater purchasing power, increased cash flow and a number of other benefits which are listed later in this article.

First let us start with a quick explanation of how the product works. With Interest only loans the borrower has the flexibility of paying only the interest due on the mortgage. Most of these products allow you to pay extra if you choose.

The positive aspects of these loans are as follows:

  • They work well for borrowers that are restricted by a tight budget, and the savings can be as much as $300-400 per month!
  • Interest Only loan can allow you to qualify for a bigger home. If the underwriter considers only the “Interest Only” payment, you may be able to upgrade to a nicer or larger home.
  • This type of loan works well for people who only want to stay in a home for a just a few years. During the first couple of years with a conventional 30 yr mortgage, most of your mortgage payment is being applied directly to the interest of the loan. If you want to stay in the house for only 3-5 years, an “Interest Only” loan may be the right loan for you. You can receive a lower payment and have almost the same principal balance as the borrower who chose a 30 year, conventional mortgage if you choose to sell in 3-5 years.
  • You want to buy a very expensive home. Most people who buy very expensive home have no desire to pay off their home completely, and the rate of appreciation on the house is usually very good. An “Interest Only” loan allows these borrowers to deduct their interest payments, and the money they save can be directed to other investments.
  • You want to buy a rental property. The lower payment can help improve cash flow on a rental property.

As with every loan program, with positives there are always negatives.

  • You are not paying down your principal on your mortgage. If your property doesn’t appreciate in value over those 3-5 years, you may even have to pay money if you choose to sell the home. While the likelihood of this happening is high, it is a risk that must be considered when thinking about using Interest Only loans.
  • Most “Interest Only” products have a specified term. For example, on most 30 year fixed “Interest Only” loans, most lenders allow interest payments for 10 years, and then you must repay the loan during the last 20 years. This loan now must be amortized over a 20 year period, and this will carry a higher payment than a 30 year fixed mortgage. These loans may be a good option for you as a borrower, but each person’s situation is unique.
  • Lastly, when in a period of incredibly low fixed rates “Interest Only” products will be very attractive. But, if you are planning on staying in your home for an extended period of time, you may want to consider a traditional fixed product.

LIBOR is the rate on dollar-denominated deposits, also know as Eurodollars, traded between banks in London. The index is quoted for one month, three months, six months as well as one-year periods.

LIBOR is the base interest rate paid on deposits between banks in the Eurodollar market. A Eurodollar is a dollar deposited in a bank in a country where the currency is not the dollar. The Eurodollar market has been around for over 40 years and is a major component of the International financial market. London is the center of the Euromarket in terms of volume.

The LIBOR rate quoted in the Wall Street Journal is an average of rate quotes from 16 major banks.

The most common quote for mortgages is the 6-month quote. LIBOR’s cost of money is a widely monitored international interest rate indicator. LIBOR is currently being used by both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as an index on the loans they purchase.

LIBOR is quoted daily in the Wall Street Journal’s Money Rates and compares most closely to the 1-Year Treasury Security index.

The 11th District Cost of Funds is more prevalent in the West and the 1-Year Treasury Security is more prevalent in the East. Buyers prefer the slowly moving 11th District Cost of Funds and investors prefer the 1-Year Treasury Security.

The monthly weighted average 11th District has been published by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco since August 1981. Currently more than one half of the savings institutions loans made in California are tied to the 11th District Cost of Funds (COFI) index.

The Federal Home Loan Bank’s 11th District is comprised of saving institutions in Arizona, California and Nevada.

Few people who use and follow the 11th District Cost of Funds understand exactly how it is calculated, what it represents, how it moves and what factors affect it.

The predecessor to the 11th District Cost of Funds index was the District semiannual weighted average cost of funds published for a six month period ending in June and December. The San Francisco Bank was the first Federal Home Loan Bank to publish a monthly cost of funds index.

The funds used as a basis for the calculation of the 11th District Cost of Funds index are the liabilities at the District savings institutions: money on deposit at the institutions, money borrowed from a Federal Home Loan Bank (known as advances) and all other money borrowed. The interest paid on these types of funds is the cost of these funds.

The ratio of the dollar amount paid in interest during the month to the average dollar amount of the funds for that month constitutes the weighted average cost of funds ratio for that month.

The average cost of funds is said to be weighted because the three kinds of funds and their costs are added together before a ratio is computed rather than calculating averages individually for the three sources and using a simple average of the three ratios. This gives the greatest weight to the interest paid on deposits, and explains the delayed reaction of the index to rising fixed rate mortgages.

A few options are available to fit your individual needs and your risk tolerance with the various market instruments.

ARMs with different indexes are available for both purchases and refinances. Choosing an ARM with an index that reacts quickly lets you take full advantage of falling interest rates. An index that lags behind the market lets you take advantage of lower rates after market rates have started to adjust upward.

The interest rate and monthly payment can change based on adjustments to the index rate.

6-Month Certificate of Deposit (CD) ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 1% every six months. The 6-month Certificate of Deposit (CD) index is generally considered to react quickly to changes in the market.

1-Year Treasury Spot ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 2% every 12 months. The 1-Year Treasury Spot index generally reacts more slowly than the CD index, but more quickly than the Treasury Average index.

6-Month Treasury Average ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 1% every six months. The Treasury Average index generally reacts more slowly in fluctuating markets so adjustments in the ARM interest rate will lag behind some other market indicators.

12-Month Treasury Average ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 2% every 12 months. The Treasury Average Index generally reacts more slowly in fluctuating markets so adjustments in the ARM interest rate will lag behind some other market indicators.

Most adjustable rate loans (ARMs) have a low introductory rate or start rate, some times as much as 5.0% below the current market rate of a fixed loan. This start rate is usually good from 1 month to as long as 10 years. As a rule the lower the start rate is the shorter the time before the loan makes its first adjustment.

Index
The index of an ARM is the financial instrument that the loan is “tied” to, or adjusted to. The most common indices are the 1-Year Treasury Security, LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate), Prime, 6-Month Certificate of Deposit (CD) and the 11th District Cost of Funds (COFI). Each of these indices move up or down based on conditions of the financial markets.

Margin
The margin is one of the most important aspects of ARMs because it is added to the index to determine the interest rate that you pay. The margin added to the index is known as the fully indexed rate. As an example if the current index value is 5.50% and your loan has a margin of 2.5%, your fully indexed rate is 8.00%. Margins on loans range from 1.75% to 3.5% depending on the index and the amount financed in relation to the property value.

Interim Caps
All adjustable rate loans carry interim caps. Many ARMs have interest rate caps of six months or a year. There are loans that have interest rate caps of three years. Interest rate caps are beneficial in rising interest rate markets, but can also keep your interest rate higher than the fully indexed rate if rates are falling rapidly.

Payment Caps
Some loans have payment caps instead of interest rate caps. These loans reduce payment shock in a rising interest rate market, but can also lead to deferred interest or “negative amortization.” These loans generally cap your annual payment increases to 7.5% of the previous payment.

Lifetime Caps
Almost all ARMs have a maximum interest rate or lifetime interest rate cap. The lifetime cap varies from company to company and loan to loan. Loans with low lifetime caps usually have higher margins, and the reverse is also true. Those loans that carry low margins often have higher lifetime caps.

These loans generally begin with an interest rate that is 2-3 percent below a comparable fixed rate mortgage, and could allow you to buy a more expensive home.

However, the interest rate changes at specified intervals (for example, every year) depending on changing market conditions; if interest rates go up, your monthly mortgage payment will go up, too. However, if rates go down, your mortgage payment will drop also.

There are also mortgages that combine aspects of fixed and adjustable rate mortgages – starting at a low fixed rate for seven to ten years, for example, then adjusting to market conditions. Ask your mortgage professional about these and other special kinds of mortgages that fit your specific financial situation.

The most common type of mortgage program where your monthly payments for interest and principal never change. Property taxes and homeowners insurance may increase, but generally your monthly payments will be very stable.

Fixed rate mortgages are available for 30 years, 20 years, 15 years and even 10 years. There are also “biweekly” mortgages, which shorten the loan by calling for half the monthly payment every two weeks. (Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you make 26 payments, or 13 “months” worth, every year.)

Fixed rate fully amortizing loans have two distinct features. First, the interest rate remains fixed for the life of the loan. Secondly, the payments remain level for the life of the loan and are structured to repay the loan at the end of the loan term. The most common fixed rate loans are 15 year and 30 year mortgages.

During the early amortization period, a large percentage of the monthly payment is used for paying the interest. As the loan is paid down, more of the monthly payment is applied to principal. A typical 30 year fixed rate mortgage takes 22.5 years of level payments to pay half of the original loan amount.

VA Office Locations

Regional Loan Centers

Regional Loan Center Jurisdiction Mailing & Website Addresses Telephone Number
Atlanta Georgia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Tennessee
Department of Veterans Affairs
Regional Loan Center
1700 Clairmont Rd.
PO Box 100023
Decatur, GA 30031-7023
1-888-768-2132
Cleveland Delaware
Indiana
Michigan
New Jersey
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Department of Veterans Affairs
Cleveland Regional Loan Center
1240 East Ninth Street
Cleveland, OH 44199
1-800-729-5772
Denver Alaska
Colorado
Idaho
Montana
New Mexico
Oregon
Utah
Washington
Wyoming
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
Box 25126
Denver, CO 80225
1-888-349-7541
Houston Arkansas
Louisiana
Oklahoma
Texas
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
6900 Almeda Road
Houston, TX 77030
1-888-232-2571
Manchester Connecticut
Massachusetts
Maine
New Hampshire
New York
Rhode Island
Vermont Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
275 Chestnut Street
Manchester, NH 03101
1-800-827-6311
1-800-827-0336
Phoenix Arizona
California
Nevada
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
3333 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85012-2402
1-888-869-0194
Roanoke District of Columbia
Kentucky
Maryland
Virginia
West Virginia
Department of Veterans Affairs
Roanoke Regional Loan Center
210 Franklin Road SW
Roanoke, VA 24011
1-800-933-5499
St. Paul Illinois
Iowa
Kansas
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
North Dakota
South Dakota
Wisconsin
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
1 Federal Drive
Fort Snelling
St. Paul, MN 55111-4050
1-800-827-0611
St. Petersburg Alabama
Florida
Mississippi
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
PO Box 1437
St. Petersburg, FL 33731-1437
1-888-611-5916
(out of state)
1-800-827-1000
(in FL)

Can I get a VA loan if I have had a bankruptcy in the last few years?
VA credit standards state that a veteran with a bankruptcy less than 3 years ago would generally not be considered a satisfactory credit risk unless: the veteran or spouse has obtained items on credit since the bankruptcy and has paid the obligations in a satisfactory manner for a continued period; and the bankruptcy was caused by circumstances beyond the control of the borrower, which would have to be verified. A bankruptcy discharged 3 to 5 years ago must be given some consideration in the underwriting of the loan. A bankruptcy discharged more than 5 years ago may be disregarded. These are the minimum standards that mortgage companies must follow when making a VA loan. In 95% of the cases, companies make the decision to approve a loan without VA’s prior approval. Keep in mind that mortgage companies also have money at risk in giving you a VA loan, so they may have stricter credit standards than those mandated by VA.

How large of a loan can I get? If my guaranty entitlement is $36,000, does this mean I am limited to a $36,000 loan?
VA guaranteed loans are made by private lenders, such as banks, savings & loans. or mortgage companies to eligible veterans for the purchase of a home which must be for their own personal occupancy. To get a loan, a veteran must apply to a lender. If the loan is approved, VA will guarantee a portion of it to the lender. This guaranty protects the lender against loss up to the amount guaranteed and allows a veteran to obtain favorable financing terms. There is no maximum VA loan but lenders will generally limit VA loans to $417,000. This is because lenders sell VA loans in the secondary market, which currently places a $417,000 limit on the loans. For loans up to this amount, it is usually possible for qualified veterans to obtain no down payment financing. A veteran’s basic entitlement is $36,000 (or up to $89,912 for certain loans over $144,000). Lenders will generally loan up to 4 times a veteran’s available entitlement without a down payment, provided the veteran is income and credit qualified and the property appraises for the asking price.

Why do I have to pay a fee for a VA home loan? Since I paid a fee for my first loan, why is there a larger fee for my second loan?
The VA funding fee is required by law. The fee, currently 2 percent on no down payment loans, is intended to enable the veteran who obtains a VA home loan to contribute toward the cost of this benefit, and thereby reduce the cost to taxpayers. The funding fee for second time users who do not make a down payment is 3 percent. The idea of a higher fee for second time use is based on the fact that these veterans have already had a chance to use the benefit once, and also that prior users have had time to accumulate equity or save money towards a down payment. Second time users who make a down payment of at least 5 percent pay a reduced funding fee of 1.5 percent, the same as first time users making the same down payment. For a 10 percent down payment, the fee drops to 1.25 percent. The effect of the funding fee on a veteran’s financial situation is minimized since the fee may be financed in the loan.

May a veteran join with a non veteran who is not his or her spouse in obtaining a VA loan?
Yes, but the guaranty is based only on the veteran’s portion of the loan. The guaranty cannot cover the non veteran’s part of the loan. Consult mortgage companies to determine whether they would be willing to accept applications for joint loans of this type. Mortgage companies that are willing to make these types of loans will likely require a down payment to cover risk on the non guaranteed, non veteran’s portion of the loan. Unlike other loans, the mortgage company must submit joint loans to VA for approval before they are made. Both incomes can be used to qualify for the loan. However, the veteran’s income must be sufficient to repay at least that portion of the loan related to the veteran’s interest in (portion of) the property and the non veteran’s income adequate to cover the rest.

Veterans who had a VA loan before may still have “remaining entitlement” to use for another VA loan. The current amount of entitlement available to each eligible veteran is $36,000. This was much lower in years past and has been increased over time by changes in the law. For example, a veteran who obtained a $25,000 loan in 1974 would have used $12,500 guaranty entitlement, the maximum then available. Even if that loan is not paid off, the veteran could use the $23,500 difference between the $12,500 entitlement originally used and the current maximum of $36,000 to buy another home with VA financing. An additional $14,750, up to a maximum entitlement of $50,750 is available for loans above $144,000 to purchase or construct a home.

Most mortgage companies require that a combination of the guaranty entitlement and any cash down payment must equal at least 25 percent of the reasonable value or sales price of the property, whichever is less. Thus, in the example, the veteran’s $23,500 remaining entitlement would probably meet a mortgage company’s minimum guaranty requirement for a no down payment loan to buy a property valued at and selling for $94,000. The veteran could also combine a down payment with the remaining entitlement for a larger loan amount.

Veterans can have previously used entitlement “restored” to purchase another home with a VA loan if: The property purchased with the prior VA loan has been sold and the loan paid in full, or a qualified veteran transferee (buyer) agrees to assume the VA loan and substitute his or her entitlement for the same amount of entitlement originally used by the veteran seller.

Remaining entitlement and restoration of entitlement can be requested through the nearest VA office by completing VA Form 26-1880. The entitlement may also be restored one time only if the veteran has repaid the prior VA loan in full but has not disposed of the property purchased with the prior VA loan.

VA Appraisal – Certificate of Reasonable Value

The CRV (certificate of reasonable value) is based on an appraiser’s estimate of the value of the property to be purchased. Because the loan amount may not exceed the CRV, the first step in getting a VA loan is usually to request an appraisal. Anyone (buyer, seller, real estate personnel or lender) can request a VA appraisal by completing VA Form 26-1805, Request for Determination of Reasonable Value. After completing the form, it can either be mailed to the Loan Guaranty Division at the nearest VA office for processing or an appraisal can be requested by telephoning the Loan Guaranty Division for assignment of an appraiser. The local VA office may be contacted for information concerning its assignment procedures. The appraiser will send a bill for his or her services to the requester according to a fee schedule approved by VA. To simplify things, VA and HUD/FHA (Department of Housing and Urban Development/Federal Housing Administration) use the same appraisal forms. Also, if the property was recently appraised under the HUD procedure, under certain limited circumstances, the HUD conditional commitment can be converted to a VA CRV. The local VA office can explain how this is done.

It is important to recognize that while the VA appraisal estimates the value of the property, it is not an inspection and does not guarantee that the house is free of defects. You should carefully inspect the property or hire a reputable inspection firm to help in this area. VA guarantees the loan, not the condition of the property.

Application

The application process for VA financing is no different from any other type of loan. In fact, the VA application form is the same as that used for HUD/FHA and conventional loans. The mortgage lender verifies your income and assets, and obtains a credit report to see that other obligations are being paid on time. If all is well and the appraised value of the property is enough to cover the loan needed, the lender, in most instances, can then close the loan under VA’s automatic procedure. Only about 10 percent of VA loan applications have to be submitted to a VA office for approval before closing.

  1. To buy a home including townhouse or condominium unit in a VA approved project
  2. To build a home
  3. To simultaneously purchase and improve a home
  4. To improve a home by installing energy related features such as solar or heating/cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, weatherstripping, caulking, storm windows/doors or other energy efficient improvements approved by the lender and VA. These features may be added with the purchase of an existing dwelling or by refinancing a home owned and occupied by the veteran. A loan can be increased up to $3,000 based on documented costs or up to $6,000 if the increase in the mortgage payment is offset by the expected reduction in utility costs. A refinancing loan may not exceed 90 percent of the appraised value plus the costs of the improvements. Check with a lender or VA for details.
  5. To refinance an existing home loan up to 90 percent of the VA-established reasonable value or to refinance an existing VA loan to reduce the interest rate.
  6. To buy a manufactured home and/or lot.

More than 29 million veterans and service personnel are eligible for VA financing. Even though many veterans have already used their loan benefits, it may be possible for them to buy homes again with VA financing using remaining or restored loan entitlement.

  1. Before arranging for a new mortgage to finance a home purchase, veterans should consider some of the advantages of VA home loans
  2. The most important consideration is that no down payment is required in most cases.
  3. Loan maximum may be up to 100 percent of the VA established reasonable value of the property. Due to secondary market requirements, however, loans generally may not exceed a certain amount set by the VA.
  4. Flexibility of negotiating interest rates with the lender.
  5. No monthly mortgage insurance premium to pay.
  6. Limitation on buyer’s closing costs.
  7. An appraisal which informs you of the property’s value.
  8. Thirty year loans with a choice of repayment plans:
    • Traditional fixed payment (constant principal and interest; increases or decreases may be expected in property taxes and homeowner’s insurance coverage);
    • Graduated Payment Mortgage – GPM (low initial payments which gradually rise to a level payment starting in the sixth year); and
    • In some areas, Growing Equity Mortgages – GEM (gradually increasing payments with all of the increase applied to principal, resulting in an early payoff of the loan).
  9. For most loans for new houses, construction is inspected at appropriate stages to ensure compliance with the approved plans, and a 1-year warranty is required from the builder that the house is built in conformity with the approved plans and specifications. In those cases where the builder provides an acceptable 10-year warranty plan, only a final inspection may be required.
  10. An assumable mortgage, subject to VA approval of the assumer’s credit.
  11. Right to prepay loan without penalty.
  12. VA performs personal loan servicing and offers financial counseling to help veterans avoid losing their homes during temporary financial difficulties.

How do I apply for a VA guaranteed loan?
You can apply for a VA loan at any mortgage company that participates in the VA home loan program. At some point, you will need to get a Certificate of Eligibility from VA to prove to the mortgage company that you are eligible for a VA loan.

How do I get a Certificate of Eligibility?
To get a Certificate of Eligibility, you need to submit form 26-1880, Request for Determination of Eligibility and Available Loan Guaranty Entitlement. A copy of the form can be obtained by calling 800-827-1000. Send it to any VA Regional Office. You must include a copy of your DD-214 with the form 26-1880. If you are on active duty, you must submit a statement of service signed by, or by direction of, the adjutant, personnel officer, or commander of your unit or higher headquarters showing date of entry on your current active duty period and the duration of any time lost.

I have already received one VA loan. Can I get another one?
Yes, depending on the circumstances. If you have paid off your prior VA loan and disposed of the property, you can have your entitlement restored for additional use. To obtain restoration of entitlement, you must send VA a completed VA Form 26-1880, along with evidence that the property has been disposed of and the loan repaid in full. This evidence can be in the form of a payoff statement from the former mortgage company, or a copy of the HUD-1 settlement statement completed in connection with the sale of the property. The application can be presented to any VA Regional Office. A veteran can also obtain restoration of entitlement, on a one time basis, if the prior VA loan has been paid in full but the property has not been sold.

I have sold the property I obtained with my prior VA loan on an assumption. Why can’t I get my entitlement restored to purchase a new home?
In this case your entitlement can be restored only if the assumer is also an eligible veteran who is willing to substitute his or her entitlement for that of your original entitlement. Otherwise, you cannot have entitlement restored until the assumer has paid off the VA loan.

My prior VA loan was assumed, the assumer defaulted on the loan, and VA paid a claim to the mortgage company. VA said it wasn’t my fault and waived the debt. Now I need a new VA loan but am told that I am not eligible. Why not? or My prior loan was foreclosed on, or I gave a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, or VA paid a compromise claim. I was released from liability on the loan and/or the debt was waived. Can I get another VA loan?
Although your debt was waived by VA, the Government has still suffered a loss on the loan. The law does not permit your entitlement to be restored until the loss has been repaid in full.

Veterans who served on active duty and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, during World War II and later periods are eligible for VA loan benefits. World War II (September 16, 1940 to July 25, 1947), Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955), and Vietnam era (August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975) veterans must have at least 90 days service. Veterans with service only during peacetime periods and active duty military personnel must have had more than 180 days active service. Veterans of enlisted service which began after September 7, 1980, or officers with service beginning after October 16, 1981, must in most cases have served at least 2 years of continuous active duty or the full period (at least 181 days) for which you were ordered or called to active duty and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, or have completed at least 181 days of active duty and been discharged under the specific authority of 10 USC 1173 (Hardship), or 10 USC 1171 (Early out), or have been determined to have a compensable service-connected disability; or have been discharged with less than 181 days of service for a service-connected disability. Individuals may also be eligible if they were released from active duty due to an involuntary reduction in force, certain medical conditions, or, in some instances for the convenience of the Government.

If you served on active duty during the Gulf War, you must have completed 2 years of continuous active duty or the full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty, and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable; or completed at least 90 days of active duty and been discharged under the specific authority of 10 USC 1173 (Hardship), or 10 USC 1173 (Early out), or have been determined to have a compensable service-connected disability, or have been discharged with less than 90 days of service for a service-connected disability. Individuals may also be eligible if they were released from active duty due to an involuntary reduction in force, certain medical conditions, or, in some instances, for the convenience of the Government.

If you are now on regular active duty (not active duty for training), you are eligible after having served 181 days (90 days during the Gulf War) unless discharged or separated from a previous qualifying period of active duty service.

If you are not otherwise eligible and you have completed a total of 6 years in the Selected Reserves or National Guard (member of an active unit, attended required weekend drills and 2-week active duty for training) and were discharged with an honorable discharge; or were placed on the retired list; or were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable service; or continue to serve in the Selected Reserves. Individuals who completed less than 6 years may be eligible if discharged for a service-connected disability. Eligibility for Selected Reservists expires 09/30/2009.

Eligibility may also be established for certain United States citizens who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in WWII and individuals with service as members in certain organizations, such as Public Health Service officers, cadets at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy, midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, officers of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, merchant seaman with WW II service, and others.

  1. Apply for a Certificate of EligibilityA veteran who doesn’t have a certificate can obtain one easily by completing VA Form 26-1880, Request for a Certificate of Eligibility for VA Home Loan Benefits and submitting it to one of the Eligibility Centers with copies of your most recent discharge or separation papers covering active military duty since September 16, 1940, which show active duty dates and type of discharge.
  2. Decide on a home to buy and sign a purchase agreement
  3. Order an appraisal from VA. (Usually this is done by the lender.) Most VA regional offices offer a “speed up” telephone appraisal system. Call the local VA office for details.
  4. Apply for a VA loan.
    While the appraisal is being done, the lender (mortgage company, savings and loan, bank, etc.) can be gathering credit and income information. If the lender is authorized by VA to do automatic processing, upon receipt of the VA or LAPP appraised value determination, the loan can be approved and closed without waiting for VA’s review of the credit application. For loans that must first be approved by VA, the lender will send the application to the local VA office, which will notify the lender of its decision.
  5. Close the loan and move in.

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.

Homeowners 62 and older who have paid off their mortgages or have only small mortgage balances remaining are eligible to participate in HUD’s reverse mortgage program. The program allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their homes.

Homeowners can receive payments in a lump sum, on a monthly basis (for a fixed term or for as long as they live in the home), or on an occasional basis as a line of credit. Homeowners whose circumstances change can restructure their payment options.

Unlike ordinary home equity loans, a HUD reverse mortgage does not require repayment as long as the borrower lives in the home. Mortgage companies recover their principal, plus interest, when the home is sold. The remaining value of the home goes to the homeowner or to his or her survivors. If the sales proceeds are insufficient to pay the amount owed, HUD will pay the company the amount of the shortfall. The Federal Housing Administration, which is part of HUD, collects an insurance premium from all borrowers to provide this coverage.

The size of reverse mortgage loans is determined by the borrower’s age, the interest rate, and the home’s value. The older a borrower, the larger the percentage of the home’s value that can be borrowed.

For example, based on a loan at an interest rate of 9 percent, a 65-year-old could borrow up to 26 percent of the home’s value, a 75-year-old could borrow up to 39 percent of the home’s value, and an 85-year-old could borrow up to 56 percent of the home’s value.

There are no asset or income limitations on borrowers receiving HUD’s reverse mortgages.

There are also no limits on the value of homes qualifying for a HUD reverse mortgage. However, the amount that may be borrowed is capped by the maximum FHA mortgage limit for the area. As a result, owners of higher priced homes can’t borrow any more than owners of homes valued at the FHA limit.

HUD’s reverse mortgage program collects funds from insurance premiums charged to borrowers. Senior citizens are charged 2 percent of the home’s value as an up front payment plus one half percent on the loan balance each year. These amounts are usually paid by the mortgage company and charged to the borrower’s principal balance.

FHA’s reverse mortgage insurance makes HUD’s program less expensive to borrowers than the smaller reverse mortgage programs run by private companies without FHA insurance.

FHA energy efficient mortgage program provides mortgage insurance for a person to purchase or refinance a principal residence and incorporate the cost of energy efficient improvements into the mortgage. The mortgage loan is funded by a lending institution, such as a mortgage company, bank, savings and loan association and the mortgage is insured by HUD.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Borrowers are eligible for approximately 97% financing. Borrowers are able to finance closing costs and the up front mortgage insurance premium into the mortgage. Borrowers are also responsible for paying an annual premium.
  • Eligible properties are one to two existing units and new construction.
  • The cost of the energy efficient improvements that may be eligible for financing into the mortgage is the greater of 5% percent of the property’s value (not to exceed $8,000) or $4,000.
  • To be eligible for inclusion in the mortgage, the energy efficient improvements must be cost effective, meaning that the total cost of the improvements is less than the total present value of the energy saved over the useful life of the energy improvement.
  • The cost of the energy improvements and estimate of the energy savings must be determined by a home energy rating system (HERS) or energy consultant.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) makes it easier for consumers to obtain affordable home improvement loans by insuring loans made by private lenders to improve properties that meet certain requirements. This is one of HUD’s most frequently used loan insurance products.

The Title I program insures loans to finance the light or moderate rehabilitation of properties, as well as the construction of non residential buildings on the property. This program may be used to insure such loans for up to 20 years on either single or multi family properties.

These are fixed rate loans, for which lenders charge interest at market rates. The interest rates are not subsidized by HUD, although some communities participate in local housing rehabilitation programs that provide reduced rate property improvement loans through Title I lenders.

Only lenders approved by HUD specifically for this program can make loans covered by Title I insurance. While most lenders and contractors use this program responsibly, HUD urges consumers to use caution in choosing and supervising home repair contractors conducting Title I repair/renovation work. A recent HUD review of Title I uncovered many instances of “unscrupulous contractors performing shoddy work, falsifying documents, overcharging homeowners, and using deceptive advertising.” HUD encourages homeowners to work directly with their lender in selecting a home repair contractor in order to prevent inflated estimates.

FHA’s single family ARM program provides mortgage insurance for a person to purchase or refinance a principal residence at a lower initial interest rate. The mortgage loan is funded by a lending institution, such as a mortgage company, bank, savings and loan association and the mortgage is insured by HUD.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Borrower must meet standard FHA credit qualifications.
  • Borrower is eligible for approximately 97% financing. Borrower is able to finance closing costs and the uppermost mortgage insurance premium into the mortgage. The borrower will also be responsible for paying an annual premium.
  • ARMS can only be used in conjunction with Sections 203(b), 234(c), and 203(k).
  • The index used to determine the interest rate is the U.S. Treasury Security adjusted to a constant maturity of one year.
  • Eligible properties are one to four unit structures.

Section 203(i) provides mortgage insurance for a person to purchase a principal residence in a rural area. The mortgage loan is funded by a lending institution, such as a mortgage company, bank, savings and loan association and the mortgage is insured by HUD.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Borrower must meet standard FHA credit qualifications.
  • Borrower is eligible for approximately 97% financing. Borrower is able to finance closing costs and the up front mortgage insurance premium into the mortgage. The borrower will also be responsible for paying an annual premium.
  • Eligible properties are one to four unit structures, including farm housing located on 2 acres or more of land adjacent to an all weather road.

Section 203(k) insurance enables homebuyers and homeowners to finance both the purchase (or refinancing) of a house and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage or to finance the rehabilitation of their existing home.

Section 203(k) is one of many FHA programs that insure mortgage loans, and thus encourage mortgage companies to make mortgage credit available to borrowers who would not otherwise qualify for conventional loans on affordable terms (such as first time homebuyers) and to residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods (where mortgages may be hard to get).

Section 203(k) fills a unique and important need for homebuyers in another way as well. When buying a house that is need of repair or modernization, homebuyers usually have to follow a complicated and costly process, first obtaining financing to purchase the property, then getting additional financing for the rehabilitation work, and finally finding a permanent mortgage after rehabilitation is completed to pay off the interim loans. The interim acquisition and improvement loans often have relatively high interest rates and short repayment terms.

However, Section 203(k) offers a solution that helps both borrowers and mortgage companies, insuring a single, long term, fixed or adjustable rate loan that covers both the acquisition and rehabilitation of a property. Section 203(k) insured loans save borrowers time and money, and also protect mortgage companies by allowing them to have the loan insured even before the condition and value of the property may offer adequate security. For housing rehabilitation activities that do not also require buying or refinancing the property, borrowers may also consider HUD’s Title I Home Improvement Loan program.

The extent of the rehabilitation covered by Section 203(k) insurance may range from relatively minor to virtual reconstruction: a home that has been demolished or will be razed as part of rehabilitation is eligible, for example, provided that the existing foundation system remains in place. Section 203(k)-insured loans can finance the rehabilitation of the residential portion of a property that also has non residential uses; they can also cover the conversion of a property of any size to a one to four unit structure. The types of improvements that borrowers may make using Section 203(k) financing include:

  • Structural alterations and reconstruction.
  • Modernization and improvements to the home’s function.
  • Elimination of health and safety hazards.
  • Changes that improve appearance and eliminate obsolescence.
  • Reconditioning or replacing plumbing; installing a well and/or septic system.
  • Adding or replacing roofing, gutters, and downspouts.
  • Adding or replacing floors and/or floor treatments.
  • Major landscape work and site improvements.
  • Enhancing accessibility for a disabled person.
  • Making energy conservation improvements.

FHA has permitted streamline refinances on insured mortgages since the early 1980′s. The word streamline refers only to the amount of documentation and underwriting that needs to be performed by the mortgage company, and does not mean that there are no costs involved in the transaction.

The basic requirements of a streamline refinance are:

  • The mortgage to be refinanced must already be FHA insured.
  • The mortgage to be refinanced should be current (not delinquent).
  • The refinance is to result in a lowering of the borrower’s monthly principal and interest payments.
  • No cash may be taken out on mortgages refinanced using the streamline refinance process.

Companies may offer streamline refinances in several ways. Some companies offer “no cost” refinances (actually, no out of pocket expenses to the borrower) by charging a higher rate of interest on the new loan than if the borrower financed or paid the closing costs in cash. From this premium, the company pays any closing costs that are incurred on the transaction.

Companies may offer streamline refinances and include the closing costs into the new mortgage amount. This can only be done if there is sufficient equity in the property, as determined by an appraisal. Streamline refinances can also be done without appraisals, but the new loan amount cannot exceed what is currently owed, i.e., closing costs may not be added to the new mortgage with those costs either paid in cash or through the premium rate as described above. Investment properties (properties in which the borrower does not reside in as his or her principal residence) may only be refinanced without an appraisal and, thus, closing costs may not be included in the new mortgage amount.

There may be closing costs customary or unique to a certain locality, but closing costs are usually made up of the following:

  • Attorney’s or escrow fees (yours and your lender’s if applicable)
  • Property taxes (to cover tax period to date)
  • Interest (paid from date of closing to 30 days before first monthly payment)
  • Loan origination fee (covers lender’s administrative costs)
  • Recording fees
  • Survey fee
  • First premium of mortgage insurance (if applicable)
  • Title insurance (yours and your lender’s)
  • Loan discount points
  • First payment to escrow account for future real estate taxes and insurance
  • Paid receipt for homeowner’s insurance policy (and fire and flood insurance if applicable)
  • Any documentation preparation fees

The down payment for an FHA mortgage can be 100% gift funds. This is one of the key benefits to the FHA program.

Verification of the source of gift money is not required. However, it is necessary that the gift funds be deposited in the borrower’s bank or savings account, or in an escrow account, prior to underwriting approval. Proof of deposit is required.

Gift donors are restricted primarily to a relative of the borrower. They can also be certain organizations, such as a labor union or charitable organization. Contact your local branch for complete information.

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.

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.

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.

Interest Only Loans

“Interest only” products are an easy way to save money and a very popular alternative to traditional fixed rates but they are not without risk. An “Interest Only” loan can offer consumers greater purchasing power, increased cash flow and a number of other benefits which are listed later in this article.

First let us start with a quick explanation of how the product works. With Interest only loans the borrower has the flexibility of paying only the interest due on the mortgage. Most of these products allow you to pay extra if you choose.

The positive aspects of these loans are as follows:

  • They work well for borrowers that are restricted by a tight budget, and the savings can be as much as $300-400 per month!
  • Interest Only loan can allow you to qualify for a bigger home. If the underwriter considers only the “Interest Only” payment, you may be able to upgrade to a nicer or larger home.
  • This type of loan works well for people who only want to stay in a home for a just a few years. During the first couple of years with a conventional 30 yr mortgage, most of your mortgage payment is being applied directly to the interest of the loan. If you want to stay in the house for only 3-5 years, an “Interest Only” loan may be the right loan for you. You can receive a lower payment and have almost the same principal balance as the borrower who chose a 30 year, conventional mortgage if you choose to sell in 3-5 years.
  • You want to buy a very expensive home. Most people who buy very expensive home have no desire to pay off their home completely, and the rate of appreciation on the house is usually very good. An “Interest Only” loan allows these borrowers to deduct their interest payments, and the money they save can be directed to other investments.
  • You want to buy a rental property. The lower payment can help improve cash flow on a rental property.

As with every loan program, with positives there are always negatives.

  • You are not paying down your principal on your mortgage. If your property doesn’t appreciate in value over those 3-5 years, you may even have to pay money if you choose to sell the home. While the likelihood of this happening is high, it is a risk that must be considered when thinking about using Interest Only loans.
  • Most “Interest Only” products have a specified term. For example, on most 30 year fixed “Interest Only” loans, most lenders allow interest payments for 10 years, and then you must repay the loan during the last 20 years. This loan now must be amortized over a 20 year period, and this will carry a higher payment than a 30 year fixed mortgage. These loans may be a good option for you as a borrower, but each person’s situation is unique.
  • Lastly, when in a period of incredibly low fixed rates “Interest Only” products will be very attractive. But, if you are planning on staying in your home for an extended period of time, you may want to consider a traditional fixed product.

Conventional loans are secured by government sponsored entities or GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Conventional loans can be made to purchase or refinance homes with first and second mortgages on single family to four family homes.

In general, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s single family, first mortgage loan limit is $417,000 in 2006. This limit is reviewed annually and, if needed, changed to reflect changes in the national average price for single family homes. The current loan limit applies to all conventional mortgages delivered after January 1, 2006.

2006 Conventional Loan Limits

First mortgages

  • One-family loans: $417,000
  • Two-family loans: $533,850
  • Three-family loans: $645,300
  • Four-family loans: $801,950

Note: Maximum original loan amounts are 50 percent higher for first mortgages on properties in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Second Mortgages

  • $208,500 (in Alaska, Hawaii, and the US Virgin Islands: $312,750)

Loans which are larger than the limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are called jumbo loans. Because jumbo loans are not funded by these government sponsored entities, they usually carry a higher interest rate and some additional underwriting requirements. A strategy to lower your overall interest payments if your purchase or refinance balance is above $417,000 is to use a combination of both first and second trust money, referred to as an 80/10/10, 80/15/5 or 80/20. Every situation is different, but it is one more option to consider.

In addition to common loan structures such as fixed rate, adjustable rate and balloon loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also have loan programs for low to no down payments, community lending and affordable housing initiatives, construction to permanent, home improvement and reverse mortgages.

There isn’t a single or simple answer to this question. The right type of mortgage for you depends on many different factors:

  • Your current financial picture
  • How you expect your finances to change
  • How long you intend to keep your house
  • How comfortable you are with your mortgage payment changing

For example, a 15-year fixed rate mortgage can save you many thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of the loan, but your monthly payments will be higher. An adjustable rate mortgage may get you started with a lower monthly payment than a fixed rate mortgage, but your payments could get higher when the interest rate changes.

The best way to find the “right” answer is to discuss your finances, your plans and financial prospects, and your preferences frankly with a mortgage professional.