Thursday, August 16, 2012

Qualifying for a Home Loan - Jumping through the Hoops

As a recovering banker and branch manager who has processed hundreds of home and consumer loans over 30 years, I would like to provide my readers some insights into loan qualifying for a standard conforming home loan of $417,000 or less. If you have not checked lately, the approval bar for loan qualifying has been raised over the past few years. The first adjustment to the bar was on credit qualifying. The credit score required for a typical home loan five years ago was 680. That was the score everyone was shooting for. Today, that can be 720, 740, or even higher depending on the underwriting standards to which the borrower is being held. Each financial institution sets its own criteria based upon their risk tolerance.
The next criteria we will look at is the borrower’s income. Do they have enough to make their loan payments and other obligations? Lenders use a debt to income ratio to determine someone’s ability to make their monthly payments. The ratio usually varies between 30% and 40% of monthly income; meaning that the borrower’s loan payments and other credit obligations should be no more than 30%-40% of their total gross monthly income. If someone is at or below this ratio, they are in good shape for an approval. If they are over, they may need to consider a smaller house, paying off other debt, or adding a second job to improve their debt to income ratio.
We have looked into credit and income. There is a third rail in this mortgage process and that is the value of the home. Today, for the best interest rates, lenders are looking for borrowers to put down 20% of the appraised value or sales price of the home. What this gives the borrower is equity. In this case, equity is the amount of the value of the home that is not encumbered by a loan. So, if we are buying a $200,000 home, we would need to put down $40,000 as a down payment. This would mean you would be financing $160,000 and your payments would be based on that amount. Making a down payment can help with your debt to income ratio as well.
Why do lenders require so much equity? There are many reasons. There may be a downturn in the market and the lenders want to protect their loan and prevent the home from being “under-water” should a real estate market downturn take place again. If the lender needs to foreclose on the property, there is a cushion of equity to cover costs of the foreclosure process. But the main reason lenders require equity is that now the borrower has some skin in the game! In the case of the $200,000 home, the borrower has $40K invested in the home. Anyone with that sort of personal investment is not likely to walk away from the home should they have some hard financial times.
Qualifying for a conforming mortgage loan is no different today than it was ten years ago before the residential real estate bubble started. A borrower has to meet credit standards, income requirements, and the home must qualify under the loan to value ratio which is generally 80%, requiring a 20% downpayment for a standard conforming home loan of $417,000 or less.
Final Word to the Wise: This Spring, I refinanced my home with a new lender. It took less than thirty days to process my loan. Why? I provided all the documentation that was asked for up front with the application. If a borrower provides all the statements, taxes, paystubs, and other documents that the lender asks for to process the loan, their loan approval answer can be had very quickly. The thing that holds most loan approvals up is a lack of documentation. I have waited weeks for some clients to provide the required documents. If a person waits too long they may miss their window of opportunity for the interest rate. A rate “lock in” is where your interest rate is reserved for a fee paid to the lender. If a borrower is not forthcoming with the required documents in a timely fashion, the borrower may lose their preferred rate and the fee they paid for the interest rate lock in. Best advice, do your homework, research the rates, and have your documents prepared before you start getting serious.

Also, consider getting “pre-qualified” or “Pre-Approved” by your lender. Pre-Qualification will help you determine how much home you can afford, and what type of home you should be looking at. Pre-Approval will do the same, but will include a review of your personal credit. Lender’s often charge a small fee for Pre-Approvals.
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If you are interested in purchasing a home and wish to get Pre-Qualified or Pre-Approved, please see Meriwest Mortgage’s website  or contact them at 1-800-364-6636. Today’s rates are available here.
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For all of you out there looking for our next financial education workshops, your summer wait is over. Our next workshop will be "Reality Based Budgets for Teens" at our Milpitas Financial Center at 6PM on Aug. 22nd. 

Our next "Credit Myths and Repair Workshop" will take place at our Milpitas Financial Center on Aug. 29th at 6PM. 

I hope I will meet you at one of our seminars! Have a great week!

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