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FHA-Insured Mortgage Loans: Becoming a Homeowner

Guide To Single Family Home Mortgage Insurance

Many Americans dream of owning their own homes, but few families are able to pay cash for them. Many people who could not otherwise afford to own a house become homeowners with the help of FHA mortgage insurance programs.

Helping people obtain financing for their homes is one of the chief purposes of FHA. FHA is the Federal Housing Administration. It is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Once you have found the home you want to buy, you must decide how to finance your dream. This booklet gives you information about FHA programs to help you meet that challenge. It explains:

  • How FHA mortgage insurance works
  • How to shop for a HUD-approved lender.
  • How to apply for an FHA-insured loan.
  • How your payment schedule will operate.
  • What restrictions apply to FHA-insured mortgages.
  • Which specific FHA program can best help you.
How FHA Mortgage Insurance Works

FHA mortgage insurance allows a homebuyer to make a modest downpayment and obtain a mortgage for the balance of the purchase price.

The mortgage loan is made by a bank, savings and loan association, mortgage company, credit union, or other FHA-approved lender. FHA insures the loan and pays the lender if the borrower defaults on the mortgage. Because the lender is protected by this insurance, it can offer more liberal mortgage terms than the prospective homeowner might otherwise obtain.

FHA does not make direct loans to help people build or buy homes.

Who Can Get an FHA-Insured Mortgage

Almost any individual who has a satisfactory credit record, enough cash to close the loan, and sufficient steady income to make monthly mortgage payments without difficulty can be approved for an FHA-insured mortgage.

Generally, only people who will reside in the property are eligible for FHA-insured mortgages. However, investors can participate in FHA's Section 203(k) rehabilitation insurance program.

FHA sets no upper age limit for the borrower, nor does FHA require that the borrower have a certain income level to buy a home at a certain price. Income is simply one of several factors that help a lender and FHA determine whether the borrower will be able to repay the mortgage.

FHA mortgages are available to individuals regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, or marital status.

Special terms are available to qualified veterans purchasing a single-family home. The veteran must present a Certificate of Veterans Status from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There is no limit on the number of times an eligible veteran can use his/her eligibility in FHA programs.

Types of Mortgages FHA Insures

HUD insures mortgages to buy existing homes, to improve homes, to purchase a newly built home, and to refinance existing indebtedness. FHA-insured mortgages are available for many types of properties, including:

  • One-family residences.
  • Two-, three-, and four-unit properties.
  • Condominium units.
  • Houses needing rehabilitation.

The terms of FHA-insured mortgages can also be structured in different ways, such as:

  • Fixed rate, level payment mortgages.
  • Graduated payment mortgages.
  • Growing equity mortgages.
  • Adjustable rate mortgages.

Each of these mortgages is explained later in this brochure.

Shopping for an FHA-Insured Loan

After you have found the home you want to buy, you should call various lenders listed under "Mortgages" in the Yellow Pages to find the lender offering the best terms.

The costs associated with a loan can vary significantly from one lender to another. It pays to comparison shop for a mortgage. The most important factors to consider in comparing loans are:

  • Interest Rate
  • Discount points
  • Closing costs and other fees, such as charges to originate the loan, commitment fees to "lock in" the mortgage terms you and the lender have agreed to for a certain period, and mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).
  • Annual Percentage Rate.

All of these factors are negotiated between you and your lender. FHA does not establish minimum or maximum amounts for the interest rate, discount points, or most processing fees you pay the lender.

Interest Rate

The interest rate a borrower pays for the mortgage is negotiated between the borrower and the lender. Interest rates fluctuate daily, depending on conditions in the mortgage market. It is always a good idea to check with several mortgage lenders to make sure you are getting the best interest rate available.

The following chart shows how the principal and interest on your mortgage will vary according to the interest rate.

Monthly Payment for Principal and Interest on a 30-Year Fixed Rate, Level Payment Mortgage

Interest Rate:
7.0% 8.0% 9.0% 10.0%
$40,000 266.40 293.60 322.00 351.20
$50,000 333.00 367.00 402.50 439.00
$60,000 399.60 440.40 483.00 526.80
$70,000* 466.20 513.80 563.50 614.60
$80,000* 532.80 587.20 644.00 702.40
$90,000* 599.40 660.60 724.50 790.20

*The maximum FHA-insured mortgage is $67,500. In areas where the cost of housing is high, the limit may go up to $151,725.

Initial Investment (Downpayment)

The borrower's initial cash investment is the difference between the amount of the mortgage and the total cost of the home. The total cost includes the purchase price plus closing costs, but it does not include prepaid items that you have to pay at settlement, such as real estate taxes and hazard insurance. Most FHA programs require the borrower to invest a minimum of between 3 and 5 percent of the total cost of the home.

Discount Points

Lenders can charge discount points to borrowers. A point is $1 for every $100 of the mortgage amount. Points are charged when the interest rate is lower than the yield required by investors who buy mortgage securities. (Yield is the ratio of investment income to the total amount invested over a given period of time.) Securities are "packaged," usually in portfolios of $1 million dollars or more, and bought and sold in the financial markets. This creates additional mortgage money to lend to other homebuyers.

The numbers of points charged varies in different places at different times and among different lenders.

Discount points for an FHA-insured mortgage may be paid by homebuyer, the builder of the house, or the person selling the house. Discount points may not be financed as part of the mortgage amount (unless you are refinancing your mortgage and you have sufficient equity in the home to cover the points).

HUD does not control the number of points you agree to pay your lender. HUD does not set the points that a lender may require, and HUD does not receive any of this money.

Closing Costs and Prepaid Items

When your loan is finalized, you will have to pay closing costs. These fees may include a lender's service charge or origination fee, cost of the title search, fees for preparing, notarizing, and recording the deed and the mortgage, and other items. You will also be asked to make payments in advance for such items as taxes, property insurance, and interest to the end of the month.

Certain closing costs, such as recording fees and taxes, title examination, and credit reports, may be paid by the seller, or they may be shared between the borrower and the seller, depending on the terms of the sales contract. Most of the closing costs paid by the borrower may be financed as part of the mortgage.

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) requires that your lender give you an information booklet and a Good Faith Estimate of your closing costs within 3 days of receiving your written loan application. RESPA also requires that at closing or shortly afterward, you must receive a Uniform Settlement Statement , which is a permanent record of all the final settlement charges. You are entitled to review the Settlement Statement 1 business day before you close on your loan.

Origination Fees

Lenders may charge a service charge (called an origination fee) when you submit your mortgage application. In most cases, this charge cannot exceed 1 percent of the mortgage amount. However, if you are buying and rehabilitating your purchase under the Section 203(k) Program, a lender can charge an additional $350 or 2 1/2 percent of the portion of the mortgage that is escrowed for the rehabilitation.

Commitment Fees

The lender may charge a fee to "lock in" the interest rate, number of discount points, and other terms you have agreed to, or to limit the extent to which the terms may be changed. Lenders may agree to offer the loan terms for a definite period of time (30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.), or they may refuse to do so. The terms of your commitment agreement will determine to what extent, if any, the interest rate and discount points may change before your loan closes. Any increase in the number of discount points or a 1-percent increase in the interest rate requires that your mortgage application be reprocessed.

Mortgage Insurance Premium

FHA charges a premium to insure mortgages. The premiums are used to pay claims to lenders when a borrower defaults on an FHA-insured mortgage.

Most borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages currently pay an up-front mortgage insurance premium (MIP) and an annual MIP as well. The up-front MIP can be financed into the mortgage. Your lender can provide you with more information about MIP charges.

Annual Percentage Rate

The Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose to borrowers the annual percentage rate charged on a mortgage to finance the purchase of residential real estate. The annual percentage rate is calculated by adding the interest rate, the discount points, the initial service charge, the premium paid to insure the mortgage, and certain other charges collected by the lender. The Truth in Lending Act is administered by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Your monthly payment will be determined by the amount of your mortgage, the interest rate, and the length of the loan. A longer mortgage term will lower your monthly pay- ment, but it will increase the total amount of interest you pay. For example, if you borrow $50,000 with an interest rate of 10 percent, your payment to principal and interest will be:

Term Monthly Payment Total
15 years $537.50 $96,750
30 years $439.00 $158,040

Applying for the Loan

When you have selected a lender, arrange a meeting with the loan officer to fill out the application forms. At the interview, you will have to provide the lender with your most recent bank statement and pay stub, picture identification, and proof of your social security number. You will also have to pay fees for an appraisal and a credit report. The lender will take care of processing the loan for FHA insurance and will arrange to close the loan.

Many lenders are authorized to approve mortgage applications without submitting any paperwork to HUD. These companies are called Direct Endorsement lenders. Most FHA-insured loans are handled by these lenders. In some cases, however, HUD reviews information submitted by the lender and determines whether the property and the borrower are acceptable risks for an FHA-insured mortgage. Regardless of the type of loan you select, you will deal only with the lender, and the lender will handle all transactions with HUD.

Payments on an FHA-Insured Mortgage

Monthly Payments

The amount of your monthly payment will depend on how much money you borrow and the interest rate on your loan. Your monthly mortgage payment will include money to repay the principal amount you borrowed, the interest on that money, your FHA mortgage insurance premium, and amounts for taxes and property insurance. Typically, your combined monthly payment for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance should be no more than 29 percent of your gross (total) monthly income (before taxes.)

Advance Payments

With an FHA-insured mortgage, you can make extra payments toward the principal when you make your regularly monthly payment. By making extra payments, you can repay the loan faster and save on interest. However, extra payments do not relieve you from continuing to make regular payments every month.

You can also pay off the entire balance of your FHA-insured mortgage at any time.

Limits on FHA-Insured Mortgages

Amount of the Mortgage

There is a limit on the maximum mortgage FHA will insure. Generally, for a single family home, FHA insures mortgages up to $67,500. If you live in an area where the cost of housing is high, FHA may insure a mortgage up to $151,725. Information about the mortgage limits for the area you live in may be obtained from HUD-approved lending institutions or the local HUD Field Office.

Property Appraisal

For an existing home, HUD's estimate of the appraised value is based on the condition of the house and recent sales of comparable properties in the neighborhood. If there are obvious, serious defects, the house must be repaired before FHA insures the mortgage.

If your house has not yet been built, HUD will base the estimate of its value on the plans and specifications for the house and the value of the land where it will be built.

Existing houses are generally sold "as is" unless the buyer and seller agree, usually in writing, to repairs. Since there may be hidden defects in a home, the homebuyer should carefully examine the house or have the house inspected by a professional home inspection firm and be satisfied of its soundness before purchasing. An appraisal is not an inspection, and HUD does not warrant the condition of the house you buy.

The Most Frequently Used FHA Mortgage Insurance Programs

Section 203(b)
Home Mortgage Insurance
(Federal Domestic Assistance Codes 14.117 and 14.118)

Section 203(b) of the National Housing Act is the most commonly used FHA single family program. This program is available in all areas of the country, provided a market exists for the property and the home meets HUD's Minimum Property Standards. You may use the Section 203(b) Program to purchase a new or existing one- to four-family home in both urban and rural areas.

A Section 203(b) mortgage may be repaid in monthly payments over 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years.

Section 234(c)
Condominium Units
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.133)

Section 234(c) provides mortgage insurance for buyers who wish to purchase a unit in a condominium project. The condominium may consist of more than one building, such as a group of row apartments, high-rise buildings, townhouses, or any combination of these structures.

When you buy a unit in a condominium, you will own one unit in a multi-unit project, and you will have a voting interest in the condominium association that governs the day-to-day operation of the project.

You will share an undivided interest with other owners in the common areas and facilities that serve the project and share the obligation to maintain them. All owners pay a monthly condominium fee to the association to maintain the shared common areas and facilities, including common land areas, roofs, floors, main walls, stairways, lobbies, halls, and parking spaces. This payment is separate from the regular monthly mortgage payment.

Any condominium project must be approved by HUD before you can purchase a unit using an FHA-insured mortgage. HUD requires that 51 percent of the units in the project must be owner-occupied before FHA will offer mortgage insurance for individual units in the project.

Section 203(k)
Rehabilitation Home Mortgage Insurance
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.108)

Section 203(k) mortgages allow you to purchase or refinance and rehabilitate a home at least 1 year old. A portion of the loan proceeds are used to pay off the existing mortgage, and the remaining funds are placed in an escrow account and released as rehabilitation is completed.

The loan may be used to purchase a home and the land on which it is located and rehabilitate it; purchase a home on one site and move it onto a new foundation at another site and rehabilitate it; or refinance an existing mortgage to rehabilitate the home. In addition, a Section 203(k) mortgage may be used to allows you to have smaller initial monthly payments. The deferred interest is added to the loan balance in later years.

FHA offers five GPM payment plans, which vary in the rate of payment increases and the number of years over which the payments will increase. The greater the rate of increase or the longer the period of increase, the lower the mortgage payments in the early years. For example:

GPM Plan Increase in Monthly Payments Frequency of   Increase
Plan 1 2.5 percent First 5 years
Plan 2 5 percent First 5 years
Plan 3 7.5 percent First 5 years
Plan 4 2 percent First 10 years
Plan 5 3 percent First 10 years

To give you an idea of how a 245(a) GPM works, the following table compares the monthly payment schedule of a 203(b) FHA-insured loan with Plan 3, the most frequently used GPM plan. In Plan 3, payments increase 7.5 percent each year for 5 years before leveling off. The example uses a 30-year, $60,000 mortgage, with an interest rate of 10 percent:

Year 203(b) GPM Loan
1 526.80 400.22
2 526.80 430.24
3 526.80 462.50
4 526.80 497.20
5 536.80 534.49
6 526.80 574.57
526.80 574.57

life of the loan, the interest rate may not increase or decrease more than 5 percent from the initial interest rate.

Your lender must explain how the Adjustable Rate Mortgage is calculated when you apply for your loan. Your lender must inform you at least 25 days in advance if there is an adjustment to your monthly payment.

Other FHA Mortgage Insurance Programs

Although the following FHA mortgage insurance programs are still active, they are not used as much as the six major FHA programs, because they were designed to serve certain specific purposes.

Section 203(h)
Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.119)

You may use this program to finance the purchase of a home if your home was damaged or destroyed because of a major disaster. The President of the United States must designate the area a major disaster area. The loan may be used to purchase an existing home or a newly built home.

Disaster victims are not required to meet minimum investment requirements, and a downpayment is not required.

Section 203(i)
Mortgage Insurance for Outlying Area Properties
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.121)

You may use Section 203(i) to purchase a home in a rural area. You may also use it to purchase a new farm house on 2.5 or more acres of land adjacent to an all-weather road.

Section 220
Urban Renewal Mortgage Insurance
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.122)

This program is used in conjunction with local governments to rehabilitate existing dwellings for up to 11 families or to build new dwellings in redevelopment areas where concentrated housing, physical development, and public service activities are being carried out. If the building houses more than four families, the mortgage limit increases $9,165 for each additional unit.

Section 220(h)
Insured Improvement Loans in Urban Areas

These loans are used to finance alterations, repairs, or improvements to existing dwellings housing up to 11 families in a redevelopment area as defined in Section 220. The mortgage limit is the lessor of:

  • HUD's estimate of the cost of improvements;
  • $40,000; or
  • $12,000 for each family unit ($17,400 in high cost areas).

Section 221(d)(2)
Home Mortgage Insurance for Low and Moderate Income Families
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.120)

This program may be used by low- to moderate-income families to finance the purchase of a home. It may also be used by families displaced by urban renewal, code enforcement, condemnation, etc., or as a result of the President declaring an area a major disaster. The mortgage limit for a one-family unit is $31,000. This amount may be increased up to $36,000 in high cost areas determined by the Department.

Section 222
Mortgage Insurance for Service Members
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.166)

You may use Section 222 to purchase a home if you are on active duty with the Department of Transportation (Coast Guard) or the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While there is no upfront mortgage insurance premium, the employing agency pays the monthly mortgage insurance premium directly to HUD as long as you remain in active service. The employing agency must issue a certificate of eligibility.

Section 223(e)
Miscellaneous Housing Insurance
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.123)

You may use Section 223(e) to purchase a property in an older, declining urban area where normal requirements for mortgage insurance cannot be met. Only HUD can determine whether a property is eligible for Section 223(e) mortgage insurance. This program is intended to supplement other FHA mortgage insurance programs.

Section 237
Mortgage Insurance for Special Credit Risks
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.140)

Low- and moderate-income families who are unable to meet the normal underwriting standards of FHA's other single family programs because of their credit history may use Section 237 to finance the purchase of new, existing, or substantially rehabilitated single-family homes or condominiums.

To qualify for a Section 237 mortgage, you must obtain counseling assistance from a HUD-approved counseling agency. These agencies provide budget, debt-management, and related counseling services to families as needed.

This program is limited by law to mortgages up to $18,000 ($21,000 in high cost areas).

Section 238(c)
Mortgage Insurance in Military Impacted Areas
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.165)

You may use Section 238(c) to finance the repair, rehabilitation, or purchase of a home near any military installation in a federally
impacted area. The Secretary of Defense must certify the need for additional housing in the area.

Section 240
Purchase of Fee-Simple Title from Lessors
(Federal Domestic Assistance Code 14.130)

You may use Section 240 to finance the purchase of fee simple title if your home is on leased land. The maximum mortgage amount is the lessor of:

$10,000 per family unit ($30,000 if the property is in Hawaii);

The cost of purchasing the fee simple title; or

An amount that does not exceed the maximum mortgage insurable under Section 203(b).

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