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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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: 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.
Fannie Mae's new Start-Up Mortgage will assist buyers with a 5 percent down payment who are at any income level. Yet 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.
Q: Are there no-down payment home loans?
A: Though some real estate experts advise against it, home buyers interested in buying a house with nothing down can do so. Occasionally, a builder will offer no-down-payment loans to induce sales in an otherwise slow-moving project. Desperate sellers will also promise to finance the down payment to get out from under a property. A veteran can buy a house with nothing down through a VA home loan, as can members of some pension funds
Q: What about nothing down?
A: Though some real estate experts advise against it, home buyers interested in buying a house with nothing down can do so. But it's not easy finding these loans and in some cases they can be risky. Occasionally, a builder will offer no-down loans to induce sales in an otherwise slow-moving project. Desperate sellers also may agree to finance the full purchase price to get out from under a property. The Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, loan program is one program that allows buyers to qualify for a no-down loan.