Category Archives: Assistance for Down Payment

Need Money for Closing Costs?

Most of the first time buyer assistance programs require that the assistance you receive, for down payment and/or closing costs, is paid back. Usually it’s paid back over a period of time or the repayment of it is deferred until the house is sold or no longer your primary residence.  Either way, the entity providing the funds gets their money back to help the next home buyer in need.

MN Housing just announced a new grant program which doesn’t require any money to be paid back!  As with all MN Housing programs, there are eligibility requirements.  These vary depending on WHICH MN Housing program you use and there are three of them – Start Up, Step Up and MCC (Mortgage Credit Certificate).  The grant works with all three of their programs AND you can pair it WITH the assistance!

In any case, you still must meet guidelines set forth by the underlying loan type you are securing — FHA, VA, RD (Rural Development) or conventional. If you meet those guidelines, then we look to see if we can layer the loan type with the MN Housing program.

Generally speaking, they have income limits that your household must be under, and as with the underlying loan program, there are minimum credit score requirements. Being a first time home buyer is a pre-requisite for two of the three programs – Start Up and MCC.  And the definition of a first time home buyer is not having ownership interest in a principal residence in the last three years.

The grant is only available when using a conventional loan with your MN Housing program. It cannot be used with VA, FHA or RD.  The grant amount will differ depending on which guidelines your underlying loan is following – Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Who are Fannie and Freddie you ask?  These are the agencies that provide the guidelines lenders follow for conventional financing.  Your lender will determine the best underlying loan for your needs and situation.

To be eligible for the grant, you must have annual qualifying income under $72,320. Qualifying income is the income your lender uses to determine your qualifications for your loan.  For instance, if you are the only one on the loan, but your spouse is not, then the qualifying income is just your income.  This limit is for the 11-county metro area, which encompasses Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright Counties.  Income limits are lower in the remaining MN counties.

If using Fannie Mae, the grant amount is a flat $1,500 to use toward your closing costs only.

If your lender determines Freddie Mac guidelines are your best fit, the grant will vary based on the loan amount you’re securing and qualifying income – (which still needs to be below the aforementioned limits).  The grant can be used for BOTH closing costs and down payment.  Minimally, you would be looking at ½% of the loan size, but you could be eligible for a larger grant if your income meets lower limits set for the program.  Any lender participating with MN Housing can give you further details.

As always, when working with a lender, make sure they offer these great programs with MN Housing and any other agencies to help you get into your house with as much assistance as possible. And who can say “no” to grant money!?!

Homebuyer Education that is an A+

Goodness – there is a lot of information available for homebuyers, especially for first time buyers. You can search online and find plenty of information, tips and opinions.  Your family, friends and co-workers are typically willing to give their advice too, not to mention all the books on the subject of home-buying.

With so much information from multiple sources, it can be a little overwhelming, not to mention daunting. There is a wonderful resource that we have in Minnesota that can help take the mystery out of buying your first home and give you the one-stop-shop of homeownership research.

It’s called Homestretch. The Minnesota Homeownership Center developed a required class for people who want to utilize first time buyer assistance programs.  This class, however, is not just for first time buyers.  It’s for ANYONE looking to buy a home.  And so much has changed in lending, that getting a refresher after being a homeowner for years isn’t a bad thing!

The class is eight hours long, but is well worth the time investment – not only for the education piece, but also it enables you, if eligible, to participate in many different assistance programs. Talking to your lender will help you determine the programs you might be eligible for.

Homestretch is taught in many locations which you can choose from and can be found by clicking their link on the right side of my blog. You can attend ANY class that’s convenient for you.  If you’re planning on doing any special assistance program, like Neighborhood LIFT or NSP, you will need to attend a HUD-approved Homestretch class.  Their website can direct you appropriately.  As of this writing, there are no more funds in the LIFT program.

During the class, you will learn about becoming a homeowner, how to prepare for this “move” financially, determine your comfort level for a house payment by completing a budget, learn about credit, different loan types, home inspections, the offer process and MUCH MORE! I know I sound like a commercial for Homestretch, but I truly believe in being as educated as possible about the BIGGEST purchase you will ever make.

The in-person class is really the way to go. Since there are other people in the same situation as you, others’ questions can help you learn more than you would from the manual you receive.  Typically, the class will have a few different presenters, possibly a loan officer, a Realtor or a home inspector, to name a few.  These experts can add more value to the printed material too since they know the ropes!

The Homestretch class does come with a cost and each agency that teaches it will charge a different amount ranging from $20 – $50 (typically per household). Also, there are classes taught in different languages, so if English isn’t your primary language, you may be able to find a live class that meets your needs.

But what if you don’t have time to share eight hours with new home-buying strangers? Then you may opt to take the Framework class which is the online version of Homestretch.  This probably won’t take you as long as the in-person class, but you will still learn the same information.  The fee for Framework is $75.  Depending on the program you end up using, as discussed with your lender, you may want to confirm Framework is an option over Homestretch.  Some programs do require the in-person class.

Regardless of what method of learning you choose, in-person or online, this class is the perfect “starting point” for your home-buying journey. It’s best taken prior to even starting your pre-approval process or shortly after meeting with your loan officer.

Being educated on what to expect, what questions to ask and things to avoid is priceless. Homestretch is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for the one-stop-shop for homebuyer education!

Out with the Old, In with the New

In August, MN Housing retired one of their popular MN first time homebuyer programs – Home Help. This program was very beneficial for borrowers with lower incomes and allowed a borrower to get a larger amount of down payment assistance – up to $10,000, as a deferred loan. Home Help had some obstacles making it a little more difficult to obtain, such as a special home quality housing inspection. Though the borrower qualified for the program, the home may not have.

Fortunately, MN Housing didn’t leave us hanging without a replacement – one that’s similar in terms of assistance, but different in that the previous obstacles are now gone!  As of October 1, 2014, MN Housing is now offering the Deferred Payment Plus program (DPP for short). This is a secondary alternative to the current Deferred Payment Loan program.

For some clarification, a deferred payment loan is just that – deferred. There is no interestID-100246872 rate tied to it and no monthly payments are required. Full repayment of the loan is due upon sale of the property, or when it’s no longer your primary residence, or if you were to refinance the home without using a new MN Housing loan.

The current Deferred Payment loan allows a borrower to get up to 5% of the sale price with a maximum assistance amount of $7,500. For a household of 1-3 people, the maximum household income is $60,000. Larger households have higher income limits depending on the number of members. Household income is defined as ANY income derived from any of the borrowers on the loan, whether consistent or not, as well as any spousal income from a spouse NOT on the loan.

You could qualify for more than the $7500, depending on your need, with the Down Payment Plus program. To qualify for more funds, which go up to $10,000, there are some additional parameters that must be met. At least TWO of the following items must apply to your situation in order to be eligible for the higher assistance.

  • You’re a single head of household with dependents
  • You have a household of four or more people
  • One of your household members is disabled
  • Your front end ratio is over 28%

The first three are pretty simple to understand. The fourth parameter, the “front end ratio,” may need some explanation. As lenders, we look at how much of your GROSS monthly income is used toward your house payment, which we call the front end or “housing” ratio. We also look at how much you spend toward your housing AND other monthly obligations, this we call the “debt” ratio. For the “front end ratio” to be one of the two items for you, the proposed housing payment must be higher than 28% of your gross monthly income. Your approved MN Housing lender will help you determine this.

The DPP loan with MN Housing is a wonderful opportunity to help you and your family make homeownership attainable. With all the MN Housing programs, there are other qualifying parameters. You can find further information about these requirements on their site or allow us to go over those guidelines with you. We’d love to help determine your eligibility to make your home buying dreams a reality!

Image compliments of Stuart Mills – freedigitalphotos.net

Why Buy?

“Why not?”  is my response to that!  I’ve seen a lot in the two decades I have been in this industry.   The market can change, which is out of our control.  Due to this, there are certainly better times to buy than others, but making an investment in a home is a positive step for most.

As you have seen in the news, rates continue to be near all-time lows.  This won’t last forever.  At a Minnesota Mortgage Association conference I attended, a chief economist from Freddie Mac spoke on predictions.  His prediction is that by this time next year, 30-year rates could be in the 5’s.  Relatively speaking, rates in the 5’s are still good.  Of course, for those of you who were able to take advantage of 30-year rates in the 3’s, this may seem “high.”  It’s all relative.  When I got in the business over 20 years ago, a 30-year was over 9.5% — sure makes the 4’s and 5’s look pretty good, right?

ID-10017957 (1)Appreciation is another great reason to buy.  I understand that since the fall of the market in 2006, our housing appreciation has not been a factor, but overall in the picture of homeownership, you will likely have home appreciation.  In the early 2000’s, home appreciation was obnoxiously high with double-digit value increases.  This isn’t typical and helped play a part in the fall.  That said, it’s quite normal to expect 2-3% increases each year and luckily for most homes in MN, that is currently the trend.

You can thank the federal government for another reason to buy – mortgage interest deductions.  There are discussions in Congress to take this deduction away, which will be a shame if that’s the case.  As of now, the interest you pay on your loan is tax deductible.  Depending on your tax bracket and standard deduction, you may have excess deductions above the standard deduction to reduce your taxable income – meaning less in taxes for you!

There are many programs available for first time and subsequent buyers to help with down payment and closing costs.  In years past, these assistance programs were limited to just MN first time homebuyers.  That is not the case anymore with the popular MN Housing program.  If homeownership is on hold so you can save money, you may want to talk to a lender versed in these programs to see if you are eligible.

Of course, the last reason I have (I am sure there are more)  – is pride in homeownership.  There is something to be said for owning your own home – having a place to call yours, a place you can improve or change at your discretion, a place of safety and a place you can be proud of.  It’s an accomplishment to own and quite a wonderful benefit to be working toward YOUR goals of building equity, versus helping your landlord meet their goals of YOU paying for their property.

Why buy?  Again, my response is, “why not?”  If I can assist in helping you determine how homeownership can benefit you, please let me know.  I am here to help!

Image compliments for jscreationzs/freedigitalphotos.net

No Credit = No Loan … or Not?

You hear all over the news and in advertisements how important your credit score is. I agree … your score is absolutely important and has become the first go-to thing lenders look at. We want to know what the score is, how long you’ve had credit and how well you pay your bills on time.

But what if you’re one of those people who don’t have a credit score? It happens, even to some people who have some credit established. Maybe the history isn’t enough for a FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score to be generated or there are just too few items on the report.

credit  cardI’m here to give you some hope. Not all loan programs require a credit score. The main criteria – you must meet the eligibility requirements of a Minnesota first time homebuyer program. In conjunction with this, we will use FHA financing which allows us to evaluate credit not necessarily reported to the credit agencies.

Really, what it all comes down to is what you have for debt obligations outside of a traditional credit report. It’s imperative that we review credit for the lending process. This means we’re looking for accounts that you pay on a monthly basis, ON TIME and over the last 12 months. Our goal is to analyze three accounts, but that’s not set in stone.

So, what do we look at? Are you renting? Are your payments on time? If it’s a management company or apartment complex you pay, we can verify directly with them your timeliness. If you pay a private party, such as a private landlord, or your parents, we want to see the last 12 months cleared checks, or auto withdrawal, from you to demonstrate you’ve paid on time. As a tip, if you’re living at home, it makes sense to pay something to your parents, EVERY month, for 12 months, always due the same time (say, the 1st of the month) and by check. This way, regardless of the amount, we can look at your history as a source of credit.

What about other sources? Here is a quick reference list of items that you may pay monthly that can be used to develope your credit history. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but a way to get you thinking about what you have out there and how it can help you get your first home! Remember, these items must be in your name.

Utilities, cell phone, car insurance, weight loss plans, lot rent for a mobile home, renters insurance, health club payments, child support/alimony paid separately from your work paycheck, Netflix, gaming sites, internet services, lay-away or monthly payments to a doctor

Not all lenders allow the evaluation of credit from these sources, so you’ll want to ask ahead of time. The main idea I want to get across is that having no credit doesn’t necessarily mean no loan. It’s best to find a lender you’re comfortable with and one that has the ability to walk alongside with you to make your dreams become reality! I am here to help if you so desire!

 

Dakota County + Conventional Financing = Happy Homebuyers

Shout out to our partners at the Dakota County CDA!  For as long as I can remember, they have only allowed FHA or VA loans to be used in conjunction with their MN first time home buyer program.  They now allow a 30-Year fixed conventional financing option via the HFA Preferred conventional program and this is great news.

As a refresher, all MN first time home buyers must qualify for a basic loan program — FHA, VA or conventional financing.  I look at this as the cake.  As long as you meet the parameters for credit, income and assets for the specific program, you can qualify for your loan — the cake.

One step further, if you meet the parameters of the first time home buyer program, such as the one in Dakota County, you could then get down payment and closing cost assistance — which is the frosting on your delicious cake!  Now wouldn’t that be sweet?

There are guidelines for the conventional loan that must be met in order to qualify.  First, ID-10039817there is a minimum credit score of 640  to even be eligible for the Dakota County  program.  The required down payment is at least 3% and you must contribute $1000 of your own money (no gift) to the transaction.

Since you have less than 20% down, you will be required to have private mortgage insurance, also known as PMI.  The good news is that the PMI for this first time buyer program has reduced coverage requirements which may result in lower monthly PMI payments.

You can learn more about the Dakota County program here, but as a quick recap, they offer three different down payment options.  These are dependent on your household income, but range from 3.5% of the purchase price (max of $7500)  up to 10% of the purchase price (max of $10,000).  As with all MN first time home buyer programs, the assistance is a second loan against your property.  If you sell or refinance your home, the second loan becomes due and payable.

Another requirement for this program, as with other MN first time buyer programs, is to attend the Homestretch class.  This is a worthwhile, 8-hour class that will teach you everything you need to know about buying a home, the process, as well as keeping your home.  You can find classes at the Homeownership Center. Costs for these classes will vary on the location you choose, such as directly from Dakota County or another provider.

I am an advocate of the in-person class because you can learn so much from other attendees.  If it doesn’t work in your schedule, you can “attend” the class online via their Framework class.  If you go this route, you will also need to set up a one-on-one meeting with a first time buyer specialist at the Dakota County CDA.

I am excited we can now offer conventional financing with Dakota County.  They have a wonderful program and for those of you with higher credit scores, it may be a much better financial option to FHA financing in terms of your monthly payment.

As always, it would be a pleasure to discuss your situation to see which cake you qualify for and what type of frosting we can layer on top!

*photo courtesy of  Salvatore Vuono, freedigitalphotos.net

 

Pre-Approved for What?

If you’re a MN first time home buyer or are in the home buying market, it’s crucial to obtain pre-approval.  This terminology can mean different things to different lenders.  How much information are they gathering to determine your eligibility for financing?  Are they just asking some general questions via a website and going off what you entered?  What information are they looking at to confidently send you out looking for a home?   Again, this process varies from lender to lender.  Regardless of who you choose to work with, you want to make sure a few things happen.

Compliments Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net
Compliments Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

First, you’ve provided an application.  The application provides the lender with the stepping blocks to dig deeper into your situation.  It gives them the keys to check credit — which helps them to know if you meet today’s guidelines for a loan.  For instance, are your credit scores where they need to be?  Do you have any derogatory credit that could prohibit you from obtaining financing?  Or even simpler, do you have enough credit established?

Second, they request supporting documents from you.  I’ve heard many people say that they were pre-approved just off of their credit and information they provided on the application.  My concern is nothing was verified.   Different types of income have different requirements on whether we can use it in qualifying or not.  Without seeing paystubs, W2s, bank statements, taxes, and possibly verifications of employment, we can’t really say if someone’s pre-approved.

Third, they’ve taken the time to go over your options and your comfort level.  It’s all good to be told you can buy a house for $250,000, but do you know what a payment looks like for that size home?  Is it even a payment you’re comfortable with?  What are the costs involved with buying a home?  Are you eligible for any assistance if you’re a MN first time home buyer?  Do you know where you will be getting the money from for down payment and closing costs?

Even more important, for “what” are you pre-approved?  Many people say they’re pre-approved for a certain house price.  And while that is partially true, it’s not really what the lender is approving you for.  Based on your income and debts, you will be pre-approved for a PAYMENT.  This will include principal, interest, taxes and insurance (both homeowner’s and possibly mortgage insurance).

Depending on the home type you want, this payment may also include association dues and if you’re using a first time buyer program, it may include a payment for the assistance you’re getting.  This payment will determine the price of the single family home, townhome or condo you may purchase, BUT, the interest rate, taxes and association dues will truly determine the actual purchase price while keeping you within the payment limit.

There’s a lot to know about getting pre-approved.  The most important thing is education.  Understanding what pre-approval means, knowing your options and being comfortable with these are key.  We’d love to help make sure your pre-approval is a “YES!”

Dakota County Makes Similar Changes to MN Housing

MN first time buyer programs are required to follow specific guidelines in terms of maximum income limits and sale price limits. Recently, MN Housing announced changes to their income and sale price limits. Dakota County has as well.

Like MN Housing, they have reduced their income limits DOWN.

  • 1-2 Person Household Max $82,900
  • 3+ Person Household Max $95,335

    courtesy of Ponsulak|freedigitalphotos.net
    courtesy of Ponsulak|freedigitalphotos.net

They have also changed their maximum sale price to $273,570. This means that the purchase price of the property you’re purchasing cannot be higher than this price, not even by $1!

Dakota County is a fantastic opportunity for the those MN first time home buyers looking to purchase in the Dakota County area. They offer competitive rates with only a .5% charge in origination fee.

Their program has three different levels of down payment assistance which is based on the household income and household size. The levels are either 10%, 5% or 3.5% of the sale price toward down payment and/or closing costs. You must have at least $1000 of your own money into the transaction.

Dakota County also offers the MCC program which means not only can you get their assistance, but you can also get a credit of up to $2000/year toward your tax liability for as long as you have your loan. It’s always a good idea to check with an accountant to determine if this part of the program is right for you.

There is a separate approval process with Dakota County to determine if you’re eligible for their assistance. Your loan officer will run the income calculations to make sure you’re within their limits, but the ultimate decision as to whether you get the assistance is up to our partners at Dakota County.

We’re fortunate south-of-the-river to have such a great program. I’d love to help you figure out what programs are best for you!

MN Housing Makes a Few Changes

So many of my blogs have to do with MN Housing and their great programs.  It’s true, I love working with MN Housing.  They have fantastic programs for MN first time home buyers and even NON first time home buyers.

They offer quite a few different assistance programs to help buyers with down payment, as well as closing costs.  They even offer a conventional loan program with just 3% down and NO monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI).  That’s a huge savings — and another blog post!

up down arrowAs with all MN first time home buyer programs, there are income limits and purchase price limits.  To be eligible for these programs, you need to fall under the household income limits.  These limits have just been revised DOWN a tad.

The new income limits for their Start Up, Step Up and MCC programs have been revised:

  • $82,900  1-2 person household
  • $95,335  3+ person household

Household income is calculated differently depending on the program.  The Start Up program looks at ONLY the income of the people on the loan.  If the person is married, and the spouse is NOT on the loan, the spouse’s income is STILL counted.  All income is counted, even if the lender isn’t using it for qualifying.  For instance, if the borrower gets overtime, but it’s been less than a 2-year history, the lender will not use this in qualifying.  BUT, the income must be calculated for household income purposes.

The Step Up program uses “qualifying income” for the household income.  That means, if the spouse is not on the loan, their income is NOT calculated.  It also means if we don’t use overtime, like in the example above, then that income isn’t used in calculating the household income.  The benefit to this is more people will be eligible for this program!!

As a point of differentiation, MN Housing actually has TWO programs under Start Up which have DIFFERENT income limits than the above.  These limits have not changed and can be found at their site.  The respective programs are the deferred payment loan and the Home Help loan.

They made another change to the purchase price limits.  The maximum price of the property has been increased to $310,000 for the 11-county metro area.  This means if you purchase a home for $310,001, it will disqualify you for the MN Housing program — just make sure you purchase it for $310,000 and you’re golden.  Less is good too!

As with all programs, guidelines change.  That said, some of my older blogs may reference income limits or purchase price limits that are out of date.  Please always check with me, or the respective first time buyer site, on the current guidelines to make sure you’re eligible for the program you want!

Would You Like to Save $2000 Each Year?

Kind of a general title.  So how do you save the money?  Do you have to clip coupons, cancel your Netflix or DirectTV or sign up at save-2000-a-year.com?   The simple answer … you need to buy a home.  And, well, you need to use a MN first time home buyer program with the MCC.

Pretty easy, right?  What is MCC?  It stands for Mortgage Credit Certificate.  This is available to MN first time home buyers.  Both MN Housing offers this credit, as does the Dakota County program, for homebuyers buying in Dakota County.

courtesy ddpavumba | freedigitalphotos.net
courtesy ddpavumba | freedigitalphotos.net

So what is it?  It’s not cash paid to you or a big fat check you get yearly, but it’s almost as good.  It’s a credit you can use AGAINST your federal tax liability.  Yes, I said liability.  That means, you need to actually OWE the IRS money.

Pretty scary especially if you’re accustomed to getting money back.  Some words of advice — you should plan your exemptions to break even.  This way you get more money in your paychecks to use throughout the year and not let the government hold it like an unaccessible piggy bank, paying no interest.  That’s my soap-box.

Back to the topic at hand.  The MCC credit … how does it work?  As you may know, when you’re a homeowner, you have a tax deduction of the interest you pay annually, along with the property taxes.  In order to take advantage of this, the deductions need to EXCEED the standard deduction you are allowed by the government.  Sometimes, the loan amount isn’t high enough to accomplish this.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could still get a benefit or get one in addition to the allowed deductions?

Before I go on, let me say, I am not an accountant, so this is where you should consult one to determine if the MCC is right for you.  As I mentioned, you need a liability.   If you break even or get money back, you won’t get the MCC advantage.

The MCC is equal to 35% of the mortgage interest you paid, NOT to exceed $2000.  Let’s say your loan amount was $150,000 with a rate of 4.25%.  That means, you had $6375 in interest paid for the year.  35% of this is $2231.  As you may recall, you’re capped at $2000, so in this scenario, you can use the FULL $2000.  This credit is something you can use EVERY year  you have your mortgage, so you can see this credit can totally add up!

To take the example further, let’s say you owe the IRS $1000.  That credit will wipe out what you owe the IRS.  The other unused $1000 you can carry over for up to 3 years to use, but in each year, you’re still maxed at the $2000.  On the other hand, let’s say you owe the IRS $2500.  In this case, you can wipe out $2000 and you only need to write a $500 check.  Yup, it’s that awesome!

A few things to note.  You had a full $6375 in interest.  If you use the full $2000, then you can only use the remaining $4375 as a tax deduction on your taxes.  Still not too shabby to literally get FREE money to offset what you owe the IRS.  Here is where the accountant comes in.

You need to work with them to determine what you should claim as your federal exemptions in order to create a tax liability.  Not only is getting FREE money so cool, BUT, each paycheck you realize MORE money because less is going to the IRS.  It’s a win-win all around.  Oh, and if this isn’t enough, if you qualify, you can get down payment assistance WITH the MCC!

Not all lenders offer the MCC program, even if they do handle the MN Housing or Dakota County programs.  I do, of course, and would love to help you make the most of buying your first home!  Yea tax liability!!