How to Get a Mortgage With Bad Credit
If you have a credit score that’s considered fair, poor or even bad, you may be assuming that qualifying for a mortgage is out of the question. While that’s true for some would-be borrowers who need to improve their finances as well as their credit, there are some mortgage options for homebuyers with less than perfect credit.
Your Credit Profile
Mortgage lenders rely heavily on your credit score to evaluate your qualifications for a home loan because your score indicates how you have handled credit in the past, which serves as a predictor of your future repayment pattern. According to Credit.com, excellent credit gets a score of 750 or above; good credit, 700-749; fair, 650-699; poor, 600-649; and bad credit is a score under 600.
Rather than guess at your credit profile, you need to request your free credit report and pay a small fee to get your credit score from www.annualcreditreport.com. Fix any errors and take steps to improve your score with improved financial behavior before applying for a mortgage loan. A lender can help you determine which steps will boost your credit score fastest, but depending on your situation it could take at least several months or even a year before you can push your score high enough to qualify for the lowest interest rates on a conventional loan.
Loans for Borrowers With Poor Credit
In the thick of the housing boom borrowers were approved for home loans without providing documentation of their income and assets. Subprime lenders approved loans for borrowers with low credit scores, although they often charged higher interest rates to those borrowers. Since the housing crisis, the majority of subprime lenders went out of business, but, depending on your circumstances, you may still qualify for a home loan.
The most commonly used loan product for borrowers with lower credit scores is the Federal Housing Administration’s loan program. The FHA insures lenders against potential default and requires a minimum credit score of 580 or above for a loan with a down payment of 3.5%. Most lenders, though, require a credit score of 620 or 640 and above to approve an FHA loan. In addition to your credit score, you will need to provide full documentation of your income and assets and meet the lender’s debt-to-income ratio, which is typically a maximum of 41% to 43% of your monthly gross income that goes toward the minimum payments on all of your revolving and installment debts.
The downside of FHA loans is that they have higher mortgage insurance requirements than conventional loans. The mortgage insurance payments must be made for the entire life of the loan unless you make a larger down payment. However, FHA mortgage rates are comparable to conventional loans regardless of your credit score, so you won’t be stuck paying a higher-than-average mortgage rate.
Special Programs for Credit Challenges
The financial crisis and recession hurt a lot of consumers who lost their homes and jobs. If your bad credit is a result of a personal financial hardship rather than your own mismanagement, you may qualify for the FHA’s “Back to Work” program, which allows borrowers to qualify for a home loan more quickly after a period of unemployment or reduced income.
The only way to know with certainty about your ability to qualify for a mortgage is to meet with a lender who can go over your individual financial circumstances. There is no charge to consult a lender, so even if you are not ready yet to get a loan approval, you can still benefit from a lender’s advice about how to prepare for a loan application.
By: Michele Lerner