Low Down Loans

Questions & Answers
Get the answers on home selling and buying.

Low Down Loans - Q & A
Q:      Are there low-down-payment home loans?

A:      A host of private lenders offer low-down-payment loans. In addition, there are government programs to help cash-strapped buyers.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a variety of programs through the Federal Housing Administration that require approximately 4 to 5 percent cash down. Loan limits vary depending on the county where the property is located.

Fannie Mae's Community Home Buyers program allows people to buy with just 3 percent down. For details, contact lenders who offer government-insured loans. In addition to calling lenders for information, contact Fannie Mae directly at (800) 832-2345.

Q:      Can I get a HUD home for as little as $100 down?

A:      If you are strapped for cash and looking for a bargain, you may be able to buy a foreclosure property acquired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for as little as $100 down.

With HUD foreclosures, down payments vary depending on whether the property is eligible for FHA insurance. If not, payments range from 5 to 20 percent. But when the property is FHA-insured, the down payment can go much lower.

Each offer must be accompanied by an "earnest money" deposit equal to 5 percent of the bid price, not to exceed $2,000 but not less than $500.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers foreclosure properties which can be purchased directly from the VA often well below market value and with a down payment amount as low as 2 percent for owner-occupants. Investors may be required to pay up to 10 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. This is because the VA guarantees home loans and often ends up owning the property if the veteran defaults.

If you are interested in purchasing a VA foreclosure, call 1-800-827-1000 to request a current listing. About 100 new properties are listed every two weeks.

You should be aware that foreclosure properties are sold "as is," meaning limited repairs have been made but no structural or mechanical warranties are implied.

Q:      How can Fannie Mae help a home buyer?

A:      Fannie Mae's Community Home Buyers Program allows first-time buyers with little cash to obtain 95 percent financing. Participants may put down as little as 3 percent of their own money, with the remainder permitted in the form of a gift from family members, a government program or nonprofit agency. Mortgage insurance is required on all loans above 80 percent loan-to-value ratio when borrowers do not use their own funds for at least 5 percent down.

The program is administered through participating lenders. There are income limits in different states. However, the income restriction is waived when borrowers participate in the Fannie Neighbors program. Fannie Neighbors also has lower income requirements for borrowers who want to buy in designated central cities.

People who are borrowing in either of these programs must attend a seminar on home ownership and the home buying process.

For a list of participating lenders, call Fannie Mae at (800) 732-6643.

Q:      Do states offer help to home buyers?

A:      Most states have a housing finance agency, usually located in the state capital, which offers help for first-time home buyers.

Q:      Is PMI always required on low-down home loans?

A:      A growing number of private lenders are loosening up their requirements for low-down-payment loans. But private mortgage insurance, or PMI, usually is required on very low-down loans.

Q:      Do I have to disclose a parent's gift?

A:      Having generous parents is nothing to hide. An estimated one-third of first-time buyers purchase their home with a loan or a money gift from their parents.

Lenders will ask for a gift letter stating that no repayment of the "gift" is expected. In addition to the letter, a lender can ask for two or three months' worth of statements for the account where the down payment funds are located. If the money was recently placed into that account, the lender may ask where it came from and request verification of that source as well.

* "The Homebuyer's Survival Guide," Kenneth W. Edwards, Dearborn Financial Publishing, Chicago; 1994.

Q:      How do some of these low-down programs work?

A:      Most of the private and government low-down loan programs have special requirements. These rules range from requiring borrowers to be first-time home buyers to limits on family income.

In general, cities and counties require that borrowers earn no more than 100 percent to 120 percent of the county's average household income. However, some programs such as the Federal Housing Administration have no income restrictions and do not require the borrower to be a first-time buyer.

Many private low-down loan programs insist borrowers have good credit and also that they obtain private mortgage insurance, which is a small monthly insurance payment that insures the lender against default. Some of the city and county programs are available only in targeted neighborhoods where local leaders are trying to spark reinvestment or increase the homeownership rate.

* "Unlocking the Doors to Homeownership," Freddie Mac publication 183; call (800) FREDDIE.

Q:      Who do I call for a low-down-payment loan?

A:      Here are seven popular programs available to home buyers, along with the appropriate telephone numbers for more information:

*The Federal Housing Administration has programs which require as little as 3 or 4 percent cash down. FHA loans are originated and serviced by private lenders. Check with local lenders to find the best source for your loan.
* Veterans who qualify can buy a home with no money down through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Call 1-800-827-1000 to find out more.
* Both the VA and FHA offer foreclosure properties for sale, some requiring as little as $100 down. Anyone interested in a VA foreclosure can call 1-800-827-1000 to request a current listing. For FHA-insured properties, call your local U.S. Housing and Urban Development office for more information.
Fannie Mae helps buyers who can put down as little as 3 percent of their own money. To see if this can work for you, call 1-800-732-6643.
* Many cities and counties offer special housing loans in order to promote the benefits of home ownership in their communities. To find out what funds may be available to you, inquire at your local housing department.

Q:      What is a low down payment?

A:      A low down payment is anything less than the standard 20 percent. Many people borrow with less than 20 percent down by obtaining private mortgage insurance, or PMI. There also are numerous programs to help first-time buyers with little or no down payment, including FHA, VA and Fannie Mae's Community Home Buyers Program.

Q:      Should I put more or less down, if we can afford it?

A:      Putting down as little as possible allows buyers to take full advantage of the tax benefits of home ownership, many experts say. Mortgage interest and property taxes are fully deductible from state and federal income taxes. Buyers using a small down payment also have a reserve for making unexpected improvements.

Other real estate experts, however, advise that it is more prudent to make a larger down payment and thereby reduce the amount of debt that must be financed.

Q:      Are there alternatives to low-down-payment loans?

A:      There are a variety of alternative financing arrangements such as equity sharing, employer housing assistance, seller-financing and lease options that may reduce the size of the down payment.

Q:      Where do I get information on PMI?

A:      Look for tips in "A Mortgage Insurance Guidebook," or "How to Buy a Home with a Low Down Payment," published by the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America,805 15th St., N.W., Suite 1110, Washington, DC 20005; call (202) 393-5566 to order.

Q:      What is Fannie Mae's low-down program?

A:      Fannie Mae is expanding the availability of low-down-payment loans in an effort to help more people nationwide qualify for a mortgage.

Two new programs will help potential buyers overcome two of the most common obstacles to home ownership, low savings and a modest income.

To address many first-time buyers' struggles to save the down payment, Fannie Mae developed Fannie 97. The program provides 97 percent financing on a fixed-rate mortgage with either a 25- or 30-year loan term through Fannie Mae's Community Home Buyers Program.

Fannie Mae's new Start-Up Mortgage will assist buyers with a 5 percent down payment who are at any income level. Applicants do not need as much income to qualify and less cash for closing than with traditional mortgages. Borrowers will receive a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a first-year monthly payment that is lower than the standard fixed-rate loan.

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae's counterpart, also offers low-down-payment loan programs.

Copyright 1999 Inman News Features