What is an FHA Loan?
An FHA loan is a mortgage insured by the federal housing administration. FHA insurance protects mortgage lenders and enables them to offer loans with below average interest rates, simpler loan requirements, and low down payments (from just 3.5%).
FHA loans are particularly popular with home buyers with low income and / or lower creditworthiness because of their flexibility and low interest rates. FHA funding isn't limited to any specific type of buyer, however – anyone can apply.
Check Your FHA Loan Eligibility (Aug 20, 2020)
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FHA loan requirements
To qualify for an FHA home loan, you must meet the following requirements:
A 3.5 percent deposit if your credit score is 580 or higher A. 10 percent deposit if your credit score is 500-579A Debt to income ratio from 50% or lessDocumented, stable Employment and incomeYou will live as your home Main residenceYou have had no foreclosure in the past three years
These FHA loan requirements are much milder than other mortgages.
For example, FHA allows credit scores of only 500, while the lowest allowable value for most other types of credit is 620 or higher.
And the FHA allows a debt-to-income ratio of up to 50% in some cases, while traditional loans are a maximum of 43%. That said, if you have a lot of current debt, the more likely you will qualify for a home loan with FHA.
Overall, these guidelines allow you to buy a home with FHA even if you don't have a particularly high credit score or have saved a ton of money.
Check Your FHA Loan Eligibility (Aug 20, 2020)
FHA lending rates
FHA loans usually have below market interest rates. That means they are lower on average than comparable conventional loans.
Today's 30-year FHA loan rates start at 2.25% (3.226% APR) for a borrower with a strong credit rating. In comparison, traditional mortgage rates on a similar loan start at 2.875% (2.875% APR). *
Estimated interest rate
30 year FHA loan
2.25% (3.226% APR)
30 year conventional loan
2.875% (2.875% APR)
Note that the APR for an FHA loan is often higher than the APR for a traditional loan. This is because the FHA interest rate estimates include mortgage insurance, while traditional rate estimates assume a 20% drop and no mortgage insurance.
For a borrower putting 3% on a traditional loan (comparable to the 3.5% minimum down payment on an FHA loan), the APR would be much closer to the APR on an FHA mortgage.
* Mortgage rate estimates are sourced from TheMortgageReports' network of lenders and are current as of August 20, 2020. You can find our full credit assumptions here.
Calculate your FHA mortgage payment
How FHA Loans Work
The first thing you should know about FHA mortgages is that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) doesn't actually loan you the money. You can get an FHA loan from a bank or lender, just like any other mortgage.
The FHA's job is to insure these mortgages and provide protection to lenders in the event that borrowers fail to repay their loans. This allows mortgage lenders to offer FHA loans with lower interest rates and looser qualification standards.
The only catch – if you want to call it that – is you are paying for the FHA insurance that protects your mortgage lender. This is known as the "Mortgage Insurance Premium" or MIP. This is how it works
FHA Mortgage Insurance: What Makes FHA Loans So Affordable?
The FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) makes the FHA program possible. Without the MIP, FHA-approved lenders would have little reason to make FHA-insured loans.
Two types of MEP are required for an FHA loan. One is paid as a lump sum when you take out the loan and one is an annual premium that gets cheaper each year as you pay off the loan balance:
Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) = 1.75% of the loan amount for current FHA loans and refinancingAnnual Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) = 0.85% of the loan amount of most FHA loans and refinances
The good news is that as a homeowner or home buyer, your FHA MIP rates have come down. Today's FHA MIP costs are now up to 50 basis points (0.50%) per year lower than in 2014.
You also have options to reduce your debt for FHA MIP. Depending on your down payment and loan term, you can reduce the term of your mortgage insurance to 11 years instead of the entire loan.
20, 25, 30 years
Less than 10%
Term of the loan
20, 25, 30 years
More than 10%
15 years or less
Less than 10%
Term of the loan
15 years or less
More than 10%
Or you can refinance FHA MIP at a later date.
With interest rates as low as today, a refinance can reduce your monthly payment and cancel your mortgage insurance premium if you have enough equity in the budget.
Find and Lock Down A Low FHA Mortgage Rate (Aug 20, 2020)
FHA home loan benefits
The FHA home loan has a lot going for it. Here are some of the biggest advantages.
Lower Down Payment: FHA allows 3.5% down payment
For today's home buyers, few mortgage options exist that allow down payments of five percent or less. The FHA is one of them.
With an FHA mortgage, you can pay as little as 3.5% down payment. This benefits home buyers who haven't saved a lot of money on the down payment. and home buyers who would rather save money on moving expenses, emergency funds, or other needs.
Check Your FHA Loan Eligibility (Aug 20, 2020)
FHA allows 100% gift funds for down payment and closing costs
The FHA is generous in terms of gifts for the deposit. Very few loan programs allow all of your down payment on a home to come from a gift. The FHA will.
Through the FHA, your total 3.5% down payment can be a gift from a parent or other relative, an employer, an approved nonprofit group, or a government homebuyer program. However, if you are using a down payment gift, you must follow the process of giving and receiving funds.
>> Relatives: How to give and receive a down payment for a home
FHA loans allow for a higher debt to income ratio
FHA loans also allow for higher debt-to-income ratios.
Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is calculated by comparing two things: your debt payments and your pre-tax income.
For example, if you make $ 5,000 a month and your total debt is $ 2,000, your DTI is 40 percent.
Officially, the maximum FHA-DTIs are as follows.
31% of gross income for housing costs 43% of gross income for housing costs plus other monthly obligations such as credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.
However, a DTI of 43% is on the low end for most FHA borrowers.
Mortgage software company Ellie Mae recently reported that the average DTI for closed FHA purchases in 2019 was around 44%.
And FHA will allow DTI ratios up to 50 percent. To get approval at such a high ratio, you will likely need one or more offsetting factors – such as excellent credit, significant savings, or a down payment that exceeds the minimum.
In any case, the FHA is milder than other loan programs in this area.
Most conventional mortgage programs – those offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – allow debt-to-income ratios between 36 and 43 percent.
For example, with down payments of less than 25 percent, you can get a 43 percent DTI for FICOs of 700 or higher with Fannie Mae. But most people don't get conventional loans with such high debt ratios.
Ellie Mae reported that the average DTI for conventional purchases completed in 2019 was 36 percent – compared with 44 percent for FHA loans.
FHA loans accept lower credit scores
Officially, the following minimum credit points are required for FHA's creditworthiness:
580 or higher for 3.5% down 500-579 for 10% down
In fact, the average credit score for FHA buyers in 2019 was 675.
High credit scores are great when you have them. However, past credit errors will take a while to repair.
FHA loans can help you get into a home without waiting a year or more for your credit to reach "excellent" levels.
Other loan programs are not as forgiving when it comes to credit.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the agencies that set rules for conventional loans) may say they accept FICOs as low as 620. In reality, however, the lenders require higher minimum amounts.
Stricter minimum credit scores are part of the reason the average credit score for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home loans completed was 753 in 2019 – nearly 80 points higher than the average credit score.
The FHA even allows applicants with no credit scores
What if an applicant has never had a loan account? Your credit report is essentially blank.
FHA borrowers with no credit scores can also qualify for a mortgage. In fact, HUD prohibits FHA lenders from rejecting an application based solely on a borrower's poor credit rating.
The FHA allows borrowers to build non-traditional credit as an alternative to standard credit history. This can be a huge benefit for someone who has never had credit scores due to poor credit ratings.
Borrowers can use payment histories for items like utility bills, cell phone bills, auto insurance bills, and home rentals to build non-traditional loans.
FHA loans can go up to $ 331,760 in most of the United States.
Most mortgage programs place limits on their loan sizes, and many of these restrictions are tied to local house prices.
FHA mortgage limits are set by the county or MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) and range from $ 331,760 to $ 765,600 for single family homes in most of the country.
The limit values are higher in Alaska, Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands and Guam as well as for duplex, triplex and quadruple apartments.
FHA also allows expanded loan sizes
As another FHA benefit, the FHA credit limits can be extended when house prices are more expensive. This allows buyers to finance their home with FHA even though property prices have skyrocketed in certain metropolitan areas.
In Orange County, California or New York City, the FHA insures up to $ 765,600 on one mortgage.
For 2, 3, and 4 unit homes, the FHA credit limits are even higher, going up to $ 1,472,550.
If you have an FHA loan, you can lower your interest rate with an FHA Streamline Refinance
Another benefit for FHA supported homeowners is access to FHA Streamline Refinance.
The FHA Streamline Refinance is an exclusive FHA program that offers homeowners one of the easiest and fastest ways to refinance. The FHA Streamline Refinance does not carry out any credit checks, no income checks and house reviews are completely dispensed with.
In addition, homeowners with a mortgage prior to June 2009 will have access to discounted FHA mortgage insurance rates through FHA Streamline Refinance.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the FHA Loan
FHA Loan FAQ
What are the requirements for an FHA loan?
Anyone can apply for an FHA loan; You don't have to be a first-time buyer. However, the FHA sets minimum requirements for borrowers.
To qualify for FHA funding, you typically need a credit score of 580 or higher and a debt to income ratio of 45% or less. However, some lenders are milder and allow credit scores from 500% and DTIs up to 50%.
You will also need a down payment of at least 3.5%, a steady, documented job and income, and you will need to plan to live in the apartment as your primary residence.
Finally, the home must pass an FHA rating and the mortgage must be within the current FHA credit limits.
Is It Easy to Get FHA Loan?
FHA loans are often considered to be easier to come by than other mortgages. One big reason is that they have lower creditworthiness requirements. FHA loans allow FICO scores from 580 in most cases, while traditional loans start at 620.
The FHA also allows for higher debt-to-income ratios, which is good news for borrowers with high debt – like student loans and auto loans – or other monthly payments.
Finally, FHA loans only require a 3.5% down payment, and the entire down payment can come from gift funds or down payment assistance if the buyer finds financial assistance.
All in all, FHA loans are extremely forgiving for home buyers who otherwise may have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage.
Is There a Maximum Income for FHA Loans?
There is no income limit to qualify for an FHA loan. You can apply with any salary. However, you must meet the minimum FICO score and stay below the maximum debt-income limit.
What is the downside of an FHA loan?
The main disadvantage of an FHA loan is that it comes with expensive mortgage insurance. And unlike traditional loans, FHA mortgage insurance cannot be canceled once you have built up equity.
However, it is possible to refinance from an FHA loan to a conventional loan with no mortgage insurance once you have reached 20% equity.
So when you have fewer credits or other barriers to qualifying for mortgages, an FHA can be a great way to get into a home now with a plan to refinance and lower your overall costs later.
How Much FHA Loans Can I Be Approved For?
The loan amount that you will qualify for on an FHA loan will depend on a number of factors including creditworthiness, interest rate, debt to income ratio, down payment, and more.
However, you cannot qualify for more than the FHA credit limit, which is currently $ 331,760 in most areas.
Get pre-approved by a lender to see how great an FHA loan you could qualify for today.
Which banks give FHA loans?
The majority of banks and lenders are FHA approved. This includes mortgage lenders, major banks and credit unions.
The market for FHA loans is huge, which increases competitive pressure among lenders to offer low FHA rates and low FHA fees. So it pays to “buy” an FHA loan.
Because different banks have different underwriting methods, your FHA loan can be rejected by Bank A but approved by Bank B.
If you meet the rules of the FHA, you can apply until your loan is approved.
What types of mortgages does FHA do?
You can get almost any type of mortgage through the FHA.
The agency is known for its traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, but the FHA also offers a 15-year fixed-rate loan and a range of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).
In addition, the FHA insures purchase and improvement credits if you want to buy a home that needs repair. Construction loans in case you want to buy a newly built home; and energy efficiency loans if you want to finance the cost of energy efficiency improvements in your loan.
The FHA also offers a full range of FHA refinancing products, including low-doc FHA rationalization refinancing.
What types of houses meet the FHA requirements?
The FHA will insure single-family homes, 2-unit homes, 3-unit homes, 4-unit homes, condominiums, mobile homes, and prefabricated homes.
In addition, FHA home buyers can purchase any type of apartment in any US neighborhood – be it in the US, the District of Columbia, or any US territory.
Are FHA Loans Acceptable?
Yes. A little-known FHA benefit is that the agency allows a home buyer to "take over" the existing FHA mortgage on the home purchased.
The buyer must still qualify for the mortgage on the existing terms. However, in an environment of rising mortgage rates, it can be attractive to take out a loan from a home seller.
In 5 years, for example, a buyer of an FHA-insured home could “inherit” a seller's mortgage rate below 3 percent. This can make it easier to sell the house in the future.
Does the FHA make construction loans?
Through its 203,000 program, the FHA is offering home loans to home buyers planning upgrades to a new home. and homeowners planning to do repairs on already owned homes.
Projects have been accepted through the 203,000 FHA loan, including new roofs, structural additions, and complete home demolitions. The 203,000 loan can be used for both homes in need of minor repairs and fixer tops.
The FHA is the only federal agency that makes such a loan.
Can You Buy a Home to Rent with an FHA Loan?
In some ways, FHA lets you purchase a rental property with a 3.5 percent decrease.
You need to select a multi-unit property – a duplex, triplex, or fourplex property – and live in one of the units. Renting the other units can partially or even fully offset your mortgage payment.
Traditional lenders lend to investment houses at a 15 percent decline when you have excellent credit, income, and assets.
Use FHA Funding to get less risk, and potentially more reward, rental experience.
Alternatives to FHA Home Loans
There are several government-sponsored and non-governmental (conventional) options that also offer low down payments and flexible underwriting. They include:
FHA mortgage eligibility is not limited to first-time buyers or low-income buyers. Alternatives like VA mortgages are restricted to eligible military and veteran applicants, and USDA loans are income-restricted and available in less populated areas.
Compliant and conventional loans often require higher credit scores.
No single mortgage program is best for all home buyers. So it's wise to compare.
Compare Your Loan Options Today (Aug 20, 2020)
Today's FHA Lending Rates
Current mortgage rates are at record lows. And FHA rates are generally some of the lowest.
Compare offers from FHA-approved lenders to find the cheapest loan. Here you can get started.
Check your new plan (August 20, 2020)