An FHA loan is a mortgage loan in the United States insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The loan may be issued by federally-qualified lenders. FHA loans have been helping people become homeowners since 1934. FHA’s mortgage insurance programs help low and moderate income families become homeowners by lowering some of the costs of their mortgage loans. The FHA does not make home loans–it insures them. If a home buyer defaults, the lender is paid from the insurance fund. To get an FHA home loan, you’ll need to have a good credit history, and sufficient income to qualify for the loan.
FHA mortgage insurance also encourages mortgage companies to make loans to otherwise credit worthy 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–including 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, that helped open the suburbs for returning veterans in the 1940s and 1950s, and that helped shape the modern mortgage finance system.
Section 203(b) has several important features:
Down payment 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.
Down Payment Gifts
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.
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.
FHA Mortgage Insurance Costs
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 of .50%. 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 in subsequent years as low as .300% in subsequent years.
Should you choose an FHA loan?
Many people, especially first-time buyers, use FHA loans because the qualifications are a bit more lenient and they can purchase a house with a 3-percent down payment. While it is possible to get a 3-percent down payment for a conventional loan — and even zero-down loans — interest rates are normally higher than with FHA-backed loans.