Jumbo Loans: How Conforming Loan Limit Increase Affects the Jumbo Market

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If you bought a house that was over $484,350 prior to 2020, you had to get a jumbo loan, which is a non-conforming loan. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) increased the limit on conforming loans to $510,400 in most areas. The FHFA also increased the loan limit to $765,600 in some high-cost areas, which include Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. FHFA increased the loan limit for conforming loans because home prices increased by an average of 5.38 percent from the third quarter of 2018 to the third quarter of 2019.

What is a Conforming Loan?

A conforming loan follows standardized rules set by the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA / Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC / Freddie Mac). The two companies are government-sponsored, and they drive the home loan market. The most common standardized rule is the loan limit. Still, the two organizations dictate how much a loan-to-value ratio can be, your debt-to-income ratio, higher interest rates based on your credit score and what documentation you might need for a home loan. A conforming loan must also have private mortgage insurance (PMI) if the down payment is less than 20 percent.

Jumbo and Other Non-Conforming Loans

Banks do not like to write non-conforming loans because they cannot sell those loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or most of the other smaller organizations that buy loans. The most common non-conforming loan is a jumbo loan – a loan that is outside the loan limit, which is increasing for 2020. Other types of non-conforming loans might include loans for people who do not meet the debt-to-income ratio or the loan-to-value ratio. Because those loans are riskier, they often come with higher interest rates. Generally, you must also have a very good credit score to qualify for most non-conforming loans, especially jumbo loans.

High-Cost Areas

While some states and territories were mentioned as high-cost areas above, some places in the continental United States are also considered to be high-cost areas. Washington, D.C. and some parts of California have the higher limit of $765,600 for 2020 because the prices of single-family homes are higher than average.

Qualifying for a Jumbo Loan

To qualify for a jumbo loan, you’ll have to jump through more hoops. Some factors a lender look for include:

  • A credit score of at least 700. Some lenders require a score of at least 720.

  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). While non-conforming loans may go outside the typical DTI, some lenders might refuse to go over 45 percent.

  • The lender might require you to have cash reserves of several months to a year in the bank.

  • The lender might require extensive documentation. You might have to supply your complete tax returns and several months of bank statements for a jumbo loan.

  • Lenders might require a second appraisal of the home.

  • A larger down payment.

  • You might get a higher interest rate, depending on the lender, your financial situation and market conditions.

  • Closing costs are often higher because of the extra steps you must go through to qualify for the loan.

As with any loan, shop around for a jumbo loan instead of jumping at the first loan offered.

The Difference Between Pre-Qualified and Pre-Approved

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, odds are you’ve thrown the words “prequalified” and “preapproved” interchangeably. However, when it comes to home loans, there are some very important differences between the two.

For buyers hoping to purchase a home with a few missteps and misunderstandings as possible, it’s vital to understand the procedures involved in acquiring financing for a home.

Today, we’ll break down these two real estate jargon terms so that you can go into the mortgage approval process armed with the knowledge to help you succeed in securing a home loan.

Mortgage prequalification

Let’s start with the easy part–mortgage prequalification. Getting prequalified helps borrowers find out what kind and what size mortgage they can likely secure financing for. It also helps lenders establish a relationship with potential customers, which is why you will often see so many ads for mortgage prequalification around the web.

Prequalification is a relatively simple process. You’ll be asked to provide an overview of your finances, which your lender will plug into a formula and then report back to you whether or not you’re likely to get approved based on your current circumstances.

The lender will ask you for general information about your income, assets, debt, and credit. You won’t need to provide exact documents for these things at this phase in the process, since you have not yet technically applied for a mortgage.

Prequalification exists to give you a broad picture of what you can expect. You can use this information to plan for the future, or you can seek out other lenders for a second opinion. But, before you start shopping for homes, you’ll want to make sure you’re preapproved, not prequalified.

Mortgage preapproval

After you’ve prequalified, you can start thinking about preapproval. If you’re serious about buying a home in the near future, getting preapproved will simplify your buying process. It will also make sellers more likely to take you seriously, since you already have your financing partially secured.

Mortgage preapproval requires you to provide the lender with income documentation. They will also perform a credit inquiry to receive your FICO score.

Mortgage applications and credit scores

Before we talk about the rest of the preapproval process, we need to address one common issue that buyers face when applying for a mortgage. There are two types of credit inquiries that lenders can perform to view your credit history–hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

A soft inquiry won’t affect your credit score. But a hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points for a period of 1 to 2 months. So, when getting preapproved, you should expect your credit score to drop temporarily.

After preapproval

Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can safely begin looking at homes. If you decide to make an offer on a home and your offer is accepted, your preapproval will make it easier to move forward in closing on the home.

Once the lender checks off on the house you’re making an offer on, they will send you a loan commitment letter, enabling you to move forward with closing on the home.

Grow Your Portfolio with an Assumable Mortgage

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It’s easy to think that investing in real estate is an incredibly expensive venture. You may think you need thousands if not tens of thousands saved before you can even think about it. But there are ways to jumpstart your portfolio even if you’re renting one of the cheapest apartments in your neighborhood. Learn more about assumable mortgages and how you can use them to get ahead. 

Taking Charge 

An assumable mortgage is one that’s allowed to be transferred to another person. So if a property owner no longer wants to pay their mortgage, they have the option to put the property in someone else’s name. You’ll still need to qualify for the loan, and you’ll need to go through the lender to work it out properly. Informal assumptions are liable to be canceled immediately (with the lender demanding full repayment on the loan).

The Terms 

You cannot assume all types of mortgages. As a general rule, insured loans, such as USDA, FHA, and VA loans, are assumable while conventional loans are not. In an assumable mortgage, the terms of the loan stay the same. A buyer won’t have to worry about the interest rate or deadline changing. So a 15-year mortgage taken out three years ago gives you 12 years to pay it off. 

Why Choose an Assumable Mortgage?

There are a few ways to get started in investing without saving for a large down payment, so it helps to understand the perks of each option before choosing one. The biggest advantage of an assumable mortgage is that you have the chance to lock in a property at a relatively low-interest rate. The closing costs are also more reasonable, given the strict limits on FHA, VA, and USDA fees for buyers.

Why Skip an Assumable Mortgage?

Assumable mortgages are not always recommended for buyers in rapidly exploding neighborhoods. This is because you’re still paying the total value of the home at the time of sale. So let’s say the property was originally sold for $100,000 two years ago and $20,000 has already been paid off, but the home is now worth $150,000. You’ll still need to make up the difference in the home’s value to complete the sale — which usually means taking out a second loan. 

Assumable mortgages can be a great way to get started in real estate, but they’re not for everyone. If you’re shopping around for one, consult a real estate agent or financial advisor who can answer the nitty-gritty questions about how the loan works and what you can expect. 

Down Payments 101: Saving for a Home Loan

If you’re hoping to buy a house in the near future, you’ll want to focus on saving for a down payment.

Down payments are a way to let a lender know that you are a low-risk investment, and a way to save money on interest over the term of your loan.

If you have your other finances in order–a good credit score and stable income–there’s a good chance that making a 20% or more down payment will land you a low interest rate that can save you thousands while you pay off your loan.

How large should my down payment be?

The larger the down payment you can afford, the more money you’ll likely save in the long run. While there are ways to get a loan with no or very small down payments, these aren’t always ideal.

First, if you put less than 20% down on your home loan, you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. These are monthly payments that you make in addition to the interest that is accrued on your loan.

So, if you don’t put any money down on your home, you’ll accrue more interest over your term length and you’ll pay PMI on top of that.

What affects your minimum down payment amount?

Lenders take a number of factors into consideration when determining your risk. If you’re eligible for a first-time home owners loan, a veteran’s loan, or a USDA loan, your loan can be guaranteed by the government. This means you can likely pay a lower down payment while still receiving a reasonable interest rate.

When applying for a mortgage, be sure to reach out to multiple lenders and shop around for the rates that work for you. Many lenders use slightly different criteria to determine your eligibility to pay a lower down payment.

Other things that affect your minimum down payment include:

  • Credit score

  • Location of the home you want to buy

  • Value of the mortgage

Saving for a down payment

You’ll get the most value out of your mortgage if you put more money down. However, if you’re currently living in a high-rent area, it could mean that it’s in your best interest to get out of your apartment and start building equity in the form of homeownership.

If you want to buy a home within the next year or two, there are a few ways you can help increase your savings.

First, determine how much you need to save. Depending on your housing needs and the current market, everyone will have different requirements. Do some home shopping in your area online and look for homes that are within your spending limits. Remember that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on housing (mortgage, property taxes, etc.)

Next, find out what a 20% down payment on that home would be, adjusting for inflation.

Once you have the amount you need to save, remember to leave yourself enough of an emergency fund in your savings account to last you a month or two.