Lender must be FHA-approved: Because the FHA is not a lender, but rather an insurance fund, borrowers need to get their loan through an FHA-approved lender (as opposed to directly from the FHA). Not all FHA-approved lenders offer the same interest rate and costs — even on the same FHA loan. That’s another reason Bott says borrowers should shop around.
“We encourage consumers — from a cost, service and underwriting standard—to shop around many lenders or mortgage brokers to make sure they understand what the best fit is for their particular situation,” she says.
Mortgage insurance is a must: Two mortgage insurance premiums are required on all FHA loans: The upfront premium is 2.25 percent of the loan amount, and the annual premium is 0.55 percent of the loan amount. The upfront premium must be paid when the borrower gets the loan but can be financed as part of the loan amount. The annual premium is paid in chunks of 1/12th of the total along with each month’s mortgage payment.
“The perception is that that sounds expensive,” Geist says. However, he added, borrowers need to compare the FHA-insured loan to a loan that’s not FHA-insured (and consequently requires a much larger down payment). In many cases, the FHA loan is still the best choice, he says.
Extra cash available for repair: The FHA has a special loan product for borrowers who need extra cash to make repairs to their homes. The chief advantage of this type of loan, called a 203(k), is that the loan amount is based not on the current appraised value of the home but on the projected value after the repairs are completed. A so-called “streamlined” 203(k) allows the borrower to finance up to $35,000 in nonstructural repairs, such as painting and replacing cabinets or fixtures, Geist says.
Financial hardship relief allowed: FHA insurance isn’t intended to be an easy out for borrowers who feel unhappy about their mortgage payments. But loan servicers can offer some relief to borrowers who have an FHA-insured loan, have suffered a serious financial hardship and are struggling to make their payments. That relief might be a temporary period of forbearance, a loan modification that would lower the interest rate or extend the payback period, or a deferral of part of the loan balance at no interest.
Marcie Geffner writes about mortgages and banking for Bankrate.com.
Distributed by MCT Information Services