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!

 

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Lately, I have been helping a lot of people purchase their home and it hasn’t been a traditional single family home.   Many MN first time homebuyers opt to purchase a townhome or condominium because it works in their price range or their lifestyle.

When I say “condo,” what do you visualize?  Do you see a high-rise building that resembles an apartment complex?  These are typical versions of condos, and believe it or not, many apartments have been converted to condos, which may explain why they look like your first apartment!  These properties are perfect for many people, but some might prefer a traditional townhome.

Be aware that some condos are like a wolf in sheep’s clothing — on the outside they look like townhomes and feel like townhomes, but on the legal description of the property, they’re condos.  So what does this mean to you?

Simply put, the difference between them has to do with ownership of the land beneath the unit.  You own the land if it’s a townhome, you don’t if it’s a condo.  This differentiation is really a moot point since both properties are part of an association which governs what you can do to the property, or what you can’t do, such as bulldoze it down and build something new.

Most condos have a shared water line.  Water comes into one meter at the complex and then individual lines go to the units.  The water is part of the association dues you pay on a monthly basis.  Usually, in a townhome, you will have your own water meter and will be responsible for this utility on your own.

The most important differentiation may come with financing.  Getting a loan on a condo can be tougher than a townhome.  Many years ago, condos got a bad rap.  Investors would buy condos as rentals and if their rent was not paid, they would let the properties fall into disrepair. Now there is a stigma tied to condos that’s been hard to shake!

Some loan types, such as FHA, require the complex to be approved by FHA in order to be eligible for financing.  If it’s not approved, you may have a difficult, or drawn out process buying a condo in the complex using FHA financing.  For some, conventional financing may be the only option available in this situation.

Regardless of financing types, even IF it’s FHA approved, the lender will receive a questionnaire completed by the association to make sure the complex is financeable.  The lender will consider how many units are rented, how many are owned by one person, what their budget looks like, and most importantly, if the association is currently in litigation.

The biggest thing to take from this is many townhomes are really condos in their legal descriptions.  And to be clear — just because it’s a condo doesn’t make it a bad property type to purchase, or make it a bad investment, it just means there may be some extra hurdles with financing.   Make sure you work with a lender and realtor who can help you be sure what you purchase is a sheep, and not a wolf in disguise!  It will make the financing process go that much more smoothly!

 

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

 

Confused Over Insurance?

Insurance is necessary.  Let’s face it, things happen and it’s best to be prepared.  There is life insurance,  health insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance,  insurance for our pets and we even have insurance for the gadgets we buy.  Insurance is big business because you’re paying for the “what ifs” that occur.  I certainly hope you never have to use insurance, but you’re always thankful when you have it.

As a homeowner, or soon to be homeowner, there are many types of insurance and they can be a little confusing.  Let’s examine insurance types the lender will require you to have in order to obtain financing.

ID-100259033Hazard insurance — also known as homeowner’s insurance or property insurance.  This will insure you against loss or damage to your home.  Lender’s require that you carry insurance for as long as you have a loan, though continuing to insure your home, as long as you own it, is advised.  The property serves as security for the loan and the lender wants to protect this security.  In most instances, your insurance will be included as part of your monthly house payment, but the insurance agent is your choice.  The benefit of this insurance is not only to protect your home, but it also protects your personal belongings (to what extent will be determined by your policy).

Private Mortgage Insurance — also known as PMI or mortgage insurance.  If you have less than 20% down using conventional financing, the lender can require that you carry mortgage insurance.  I say “can” as there are a few first time buyer programs that don’t require this insurance even with less than 20% down.  Unfortunately, this insurance does nothing for you.  It insures the lender in case you default on your loan.  The lender will choose the mortgage insurance company, though most PMI companies are priced similarily.  At some point, you may be able to remove this insurance from your monthly payment, if you meet certain requirements.

FHA loans always have mortgage insurance.  This is NOT PMI as it is not purchased through a private company.  FHA insures their own loans and the insurance is required on all FHA loans regardless of how much you provide for a down payment.  This also insures the lender in case of default and is included in your house payment.  The insurance will remain on the loan for the entire term of the loan when you take out a 30-year loan.

Flood insurance is another type of insurance the lender may require; however,  the chances that you need this are slim to none.  All lenders require a flood certification to prove the home they’re financing is NOT in a flood zone.  If it is in a flood zone, the lender will require you to carry flood insurance on the home.  This will also be part of your monthly payment, if required.

Title insurance — lender’s policy and owner’s policy.  The lender’s policy is required to be purchased on all transactions in MN.  The cost of this is determined by the title company with whom you close.  It insures the lender that they always have first lien position to the property, even if another lien comes up against the home. The owner’s policy is optional to purchase.  It is very inexpensive insurance and is highly recommended.

Insurance is complicated, yet necessary, and there are countless options.  The more you understand the options and requirements  that are available, the better you’ll understand the process of buying your home!

*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles – freedigitalphotos.net

Inspection and Appraisal – Two Peas in a Pod, Right?

The quick answer to this is no, but it helps to understand why they aren’t the same and what purpose they play in your home purchase process.

The inspection is for YOU.  This is the time you can decide to move forward with your purchase, or opt to cancel due to new information, or maybe, you just get cold feet.  The inspection period is the time to reflect on your purchase.

The inspection is NOT a requirement of financing for a home.  It’s optional, but highly recommended.  The cost of the inspection is not part of your loan closing costs.  It is a separate payment made directly to the inspector and can range from $250 – $400.  You choose the inspector, usually with guidance from your realtor.

Most people will make their offer “contingent” on an inspection.  That ID-100270859means, you’re telling the seller you want to move forward, BUT, you first want the home inspected.  Typically, you have a window of time to get the inspection done and that window is defined in the purchase agreement.

The inspector will look for hazards and any immediate concerns, as well as urgent repairs needed after you purchase.    For instance, if the basement shows major water damage or settling of the foundation, this may raise concerns about the soundness of the home.  You may opt to not buy the home knowing that you may be getting into something that you can’t afford in terms of repairs.

The inspector will also look at the positives – let you know what’s good about the house, such as new mechanical equipment or a new roof.  They will also walk you through basic information – how do you shut off the gas or the water in case of an emergency?  How often should you change the filter on the furnace?  They will provide you with great maintenance tips for homeownership.

The appraisal, on the other hand, is for the LENDER.  Of course, you will get a copy of it for your records, but the appraisal is required for you to obtain financing.  The lender wants to make sure that the home used for collateral is not only worth what you paid for it, but also has good future marketability.

As long as you’ve decided to proceed after the inspection, the lender will order the appraisal.  It’s done randomly, meaning the appraiser is not a choice.  This is to protect both the lender and buyer from steering or having influence on the appraiser’s decision.

The appraiser will also look for safety and hazards, but they will also dig a little deeper.  They will compare similar homes – if you’re buying a rambler, they will compare ramblers.  If you are buying a townhome, they will compare similar style townhomes, preferably in the same complex.  They must consider sold and closed properties within a certain radius of the home (typically within a mile) and within a certain time period (typically within 6 months).

There is so much more involved with appraisals and inspections.  Two peas, yes, but not the same pod.  The biggest thing to take from this is that one is optional and for your purposes – the inspection.  From this, you can determine if you want to move forward with the purchase.

The appraisal is for the lender in order to determine if the home is a good risk and will help determine if they can extend credit, as it’s required to secure financing.  In any instance, the hope is that both the inspection and the appraisal are in your favor!

*photo courtesy of hywards/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!

Shout it from the Rooftop!

Things just keep getting better over at MN Housing for our MN first time homebuyers. One of their popular loans is the HFA preferred risk sharing and they’ve made a great addition to this in terms of down payment assistance.

The HFA preferred risk sharing is a conventional loan allowing only 3% down. The selling point of this loan is that NO monthly PMI (private mortgage insurance) is required! Typically, mortgage insurance is required on all conventional loans with less than 20% down and is a type of insurance that doesn’t do anything for you — it’s to protect the lender in case of default on the loan.

Courtesy of Stuart Mills|freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of Stuart Mills|freedigitalphotos.net

If your conventional loan has PMI, you have the opportunity to get rid of it in the future. You need to have at least 2 years of on-time payments at a minimum, and then, by getting a new appraisal, if you can show you have 20% equity in the home, you may be able to remove the PMI from your payment. If you’re in this boat, I suggest talking to your current loan servicer (who you make payments to) in order to find out THEIR steps for removing PMI. Sometimes, you order the appraisal and sometimes they do. They all have different guidelines, so make sure you check with them first!

In comparison, FHA financing requires mortgage insurance on all of their loans regardless of the amount of down payment. The mortgage insurance will be on your loan for the full term of the loan. You don’t have the ability to remove it like the conventional counterpart.

Previous to this post, the only available down payment assistance with the HFA preferred risk sharing loan was the MPL — monthly payment loan. With this , you can get 5% of the sale price (no max loan) to use toward down payment and closing costs, but the assistance requires that you pay it back over a 10-year period via a monthly payment.

THE EXCITING NEWS is that MN Housing is now allowing their DLP (deferred loan payment) AND their Home Help assistance to be used with the HFA preferred risk sharing! This is GREAT news!!!

The income limits are LOWER with these two down payment assistance loans, so please inquire for your specific situation. The advantage is the DPL does NOT have a monthly payment tied to it. Like the MPL, you can get 5% of the sale price (max loan of $7500), but you won’t have to pay it back until you sell. No interest accrues either!

The Home Help loan is a bit different as there is a calculator to determine the qualifying amount, but you can get up to $10,000 and this is also a deferred loan. As a matter of fact, this has a forgivable amount. If you live in the home as your primary home for 6 years, 50% of your assistance is forgiven. Awe-some!

Great news all around for the MN first time homebuyer! Things are looking up and it gives us a reason to shout MN Housing’s praises from the rooftop!

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!!