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The Pros and Cons of an FHA Loan

Thumbnail image for stock-photo-17214080-mortgage-loan.jpgRecently, many potential home buyers have been seeking (“FHA”) loans. FHA lenders will finance up to 96.5 percent of the purchase price for a property, and many buyers are attracted by the low down payment required to purchase a home (3.5 percent). Additionally, FHA lenders will allow a seller’s concession in the contract for sale of up to 6 percent of the purchase price. For example, if a property is being sold for $400,000 with a 3 percent sellers concession, the seller will pay $12,000 of the buyer’s closing costs, and the buyer will only need to pay $14,000 up front on the purchase price. If a buyer is obtaining a conventional mortgage, it will typically require at least 10 percent down at closing, or $40,000. The purchase of a home with an FHA loan which is structured with a seller’s concession can enable people who would otherwise not qualify to be able to purchase a home.

Additionally, FHA loans are assumable, which means the loan can be transferred to a qualified buyer when the home is sold, thus avoiding the costs associated with a new mortgage. Additionally, the new buyers can retain the low rate provided in the first loan. However, the transfer of an FHA mortgage can be a more difficult process than actually obtaining a new mortgage.

FHA loans, however, have disadvantages as well. FHA loans require borrowers to pay significant mortgage insurance premiums. There is at the onset of the loan, a fee equal to 1.75 percent of the principal amount of the loan. This can be rolled into the mortgage, however it increases the monthly payment. The borrowers will also be required to pay annual mortgage insurance premiums which are significantly higher than the mortgage insurance premiums required by convention loan for loans which exceed 80 percent of the value of the property. Additionally, if an FHA borrower makes a down payment toward the purchase which is less than 10 percent of the value of the property, the mortgage insurance will be required for the life of the loan. If an FHA borrower makes a down payment which is equal to or greater than 10 percent, the borrower can cancel the mortgage insurance after 11 years.

On a conventional mortgage, once the loan to value ratio is below 80 percent, the borrower no longer has to carry mortgage insurance. In a rising real estate market, this can happen quite quickly. Moreover, usually, when the outstanding balance on the loan reaches 78 percent of the home’s value at the time of the mortgage, the mortgage insurance must be cancelled even if the current value of the home has dropped. For this option, the borrower must not be in default on the mortgage, having made his or her payments on time throughout the life of the loan, and the 78 percent value must be reached through normal amortization of the loan, not by additional unscheduled payments being made by the borrowers.

If the only way you can buy a home is with a small down payment, then an FHA loan may be the only possible way and can be worth the additional costs over the life of the loan. If you opt for an FHA loan, keep in mind that as time progresses you may be able to refinance in the future and lower your monthly payments.

McLaughlin & Nardi’s real estate attorneys are experienced at all aspects of residential real estate and mortgage financing. E-mail us or call (973) 890-0004 for more information.