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Buying a home with challenged credit

Buying a home with bad credit can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Your credit score – whether it’s good or bad – is just one of the factors your home lender will use to decide whether you’re eligible for a loan.

What is a bad credit?
Bad or “low credit” typically means your FICO score is under 600. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850 and represent how likely you are to pay back a loan. Your score is calculated based on your payment history, amount owed, length of your credit history, new credit, and the mix of credit you have. Your score is used by lending agencies to determine whether you’ll be eligible for a loan and at what interest rate. The closer your score is to 800, the more loan options and lower interest rates you’ll have access to. Lenders tend to define the scores as:

Exceptional: 800+
Very good: 740 – 799
Good: 670 -739
Fair: 580 – 669
Very poor: 300 – 579

To check your credit report annually, you can visit annualcreditreport.com to see what your current FICO score is. It’s free to use once a year and it won’t impact your credit rating.

What’s the minimum credit score needed for a home loan?
There isn’t a universal minimum credit score needed to get a home loan. Instead, each mortgage lender decides the minimum credit score they’ll accept. But when a score is under 600 it’s classified as “subprime” and your loan options drop significantly. A score under 550 is going to have very limited loan options with very high interest rates.

Other factors mortgage companies use
Besides your FICO score, a lender will evaluate how much money you have for a down-payment, how much debt you already have, your credit history, and your income. To increases your chances at getting a loan with bad credit, the best option is to have as large a down payment as you can afford to minimize your risk to the lender.

A potential borrower with a low credit score but a sizeable down payment and a decent credit history is more likely to be approved for a loan than someone with low credit, a small down payment, and no credit history.

How much more will bad credit scores cost in the long run?
Since early 2020, interest rate on mortgages have dropped. Lower mortgage rates mean smaller monthly payments for principal and interest – and a lower cost for the loan over its life. That said, there’s still a big difference between how much someone with good credit will pay compared to someone with a bad credit score.

From the chart below, you can see a borrower with a credit score of 639 will end up paying $95,091 more in interest over the lifetime of the loan than a borrower with a credit score of 760.

Source: MyFICO.com

What home loans are available to someone with bad credit?
FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and are designed specifically for borrowers with low credit and lower-to-middle income. You’ll need a down payment to qualify for FHA loans, but your mortgage lender may be able to secure a loan through them even if you have a FICO score as low as 500.

The best way to evaluate your loan options is to speak with a local mortgage expert. Based on your financial goals, loan eligibility, and local real estate conditions, they’ll be able to help you find the right loan for your needs.

What is a cash-out refinance?

A cash-out refinance is when a borrower has a mortgage they’ve been paying off and they replace it with a new mortgage for more than their remaining principal. The difference between the principal balance of the first mortgage and the new one is given to the borrower in cash.

How is it different than a standard refinance?
In a standard refinance, borrowers work with their lender to get a lower rate of interest or a new payment schedule. Once the standard refinance is secured, they have a new monthly payment amount based on the new agreement – but their balance on the loan remains the same. In a cash-out refinance, a borrower works with their lender to pay off their home’s mortgage balance with a new loan based on their home’s current value. The difference between the original mortgage the borrower is paying off and the new loan is kept by the borrower. In order to have some equity in their home, most cash-out refinances limit the amount a borrower can receive at 80-90% of their home’s equity in cash (VA refinances don’t have this requirement).

In other words, don’t expect to pull out all the equity you’ve built into your home. If your home is valued at $350,000 and your mortgage balance is $250,000, you have $100,000 of equity in your home. You could do a cash-out refinance of somewhere between $80,000 to $90,000.

The benefits of a cash out refinance
If interest rates are at a new low, you have equity built into your home, and if you would like cash on hand to pay off high-interest credit cards or fund a large purchase, a cash-out refinance is something you might want to consider.

The cons of a cash out refinance
There are fees involved in a cash-out refinance, and you’ll have to make sure your potential savings are worth the cost. Like any refinance, you’ll pay closing costs of around 2% to 5% of the mortgage. And if your lender allows you to take out more than 80% of your home’s value, you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Freddie Mac estimates most borrowers will pay $30 to $70 per month for every $100,000 they borrowed.

And, don’t forget your overall debt load will increase with a cash-out refinance.

Alternatives to a cash-out refinance
One potential alternative is a home-equity line of credit (HELOC), which you could also use to pay for a home renovation or to pay off credit card bills.

>> Learn morre about a HELOC.

Should you get a cash-out refinance?
If you have enough equity built into your home and you get a great rate, they might be a great solution for a home improvement or renovation. To find out what the current rates are and to check your home’s current market value, contact your local Mann Mortgage expert today.

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