Important FHA Guidelines for Borrowers
The FHA, or Federal Housing Administration, provides mortgage insurance on loans made by FHA-approved lenders. FHA insures these loans on single family and multi-family homes in the United States and its territories.
It is the largest insurer of residential mortgages in the world, insuring tens of millions of properties since 1934 when it was created. Learn more about FHA loan requirements and guidelines.
FHA Mortgage Insurance
FHA insured loans require mortgage insurance to protect lenders against losses that result from defaults on home mortgages.
FHA Loan Limits
FHA lending limits vary based on a variety of housing types and the state and county in which the property is located.
Your Loan Checklist
Before you start the loan process, you’ll want to be prepared for the loan application. Have your information organized and ready for your loan officer. Be prepared to pay for property appraisal and a credit report.
FHA Closing Costs
While FHA defines which closing costs are allowable as charges to the borrower, the specific costs and amounts that are deemed reasonable and customary are determined by each local FHA office.
FHA Debt Ratios
In order to prevent homebuyers from getting into a home they cannot afford, FHA guidelines have been set in place requiring borrowers and/or their spouse to qualify according to set debt to income ratios.
FHA Credit Issues
An FHA loan applicant’s past credit performance that demonstrates good credit history and a solid track record of timely payments will likely be eligible for the mortgage.
FHA Loan Requirements
For borrowers interested in buying a home with an FHA loan with the low down payment amount of 3.5%, applicants must have a minimum FICO score of 580 to qualify. However, having a credit score that’s lower than 580 doesn’t necessarily exclude you from FHA loan eligibility. You just need to have a minimum down payment of 10%.
The credit score and down payment amounts are just two of the requirements of FHA loans. Here’s a complete list of FHA loan requirements, which are set by the Federal Housing Authority:
- Borrowers must have a steady employment history or worked for the same employer for the past two years.
- Borrowers must have a valid Social Security number, lawful residency in the U.S. and be of legal age to sign a mortgage in your state.
- Borrowers must pay a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent. The money can be gifted by a family member.
- New FHA loans are only available for primary residence occupancy.
- Borrowers must have a property appraisal from a FHA-approved appraiser.
- Borrowers’ front-end ratio (mortgage payment plus HOA fees, property taxes, mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance) needs to be less than 31 percent of their gross income, typically. You may be able to get approved with as high a percentage as 40 percent. Your lender will be required to provide justification as to why they believe the mortgage presents an acceptable risk. The lender must include any compensating factors used for loan approval.
- Borrowers’ back-end ratio (mortgage plus all your monthly debt, i.e., credit card payment, car payment, student loans, etc.) needs to be less than 43 percent of their gross income, typically. You may be able to get approved with as high a percentage as 50 percent. Your lender will be required to provide justification as to why they believe the mortgage presents an acceptable risk. The lender must include any compensating factors used for loan approval.
- Borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 580 for maximum financing with a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent.
- Borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 500-579 for maximum LTV of 90 percent with a minimum down payment of 10 percent. FHA-qualified lenders will use a case-by-case basis to determine an applicants’ credit worthiness.
- Typically borrowers must be two years out of bankruptcy and have re-established good credit. Exceptions can be made if you are out of bankruptcy for more than one year if there were extenuating circumstances beyond your control that caused the bankruptcy and you’ve managed your money in a responsible manner.
- Typically borrowers must be three years out of foreclosure and have re-established good credit. Exceptions can be made if there were extenuating circumstances and you’ve improved your credit. If you were unable to sell your home because you had to move to a new area, this does not qualify as an exception to the three-year foreclosure guideline.
- The property must meet certain minimum standards at appraisal. If the home you are purchasing does not meet these standards and a seller will not agree to the required repairs, your only option is to pay for the required repairs at closing (to be held in escrow until the repairs are complete).