Five Reasons to Buy a Home in the Winter

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5 Reasons to Buy a Home in the Winter

Baby, its cold outside—and its only going to get colder. Before you put your home search on hold for the next four months, check out these benefits of buying a home in the winter!

1. Less Competition

During the winter months, there are less buyers shopping, and therefore less offers to compete with. While other buyers are traveling for the holidays, tying up year-end projects at work, or bundling up at home, you’ll get the jump on the next hot new listing. There’s also less of a chance you’ll get caught up in a bidding war, keeping your purchase price low.

2. See the Home at its Worst

During the warmer months, it may be more difficult to inspect certain essentials like HVAC and windows. You’ll get a better idea of how a house holds up when the weather is at its worst. Is the basement dry? Are the windows drafty? Are there frozen pipes? How often does the furnace run? These questions provide you the unique opportunity to see how a home tolerates Michigan’s worst weather.

Related: Include Renovation Costs in your Mortgage

3. Sellers are Motivated

Just as buyers are less likely to begin their house hunt in the winter, sellers are less likely to put their home on the market during the winter months. This means winter sellers fit into one of two categories: they’re trying to sell a property that didn’t sell during the peak real estate season, or they’re eager to sell quickly and didn’t care to wait until the Spring. Either way, winter sellers are more likely to negotiate terms such as closing costs, possession time, and most importantly— the sales price.

4. Get the VIP Treatment

Now, let me preface this by saying that any Realtor worth their weight will work hard for you no matter what time of year it is—but the truth is you’ll be receiving responses to your emails much faster in the winter months than you will come April. They’ll be juggling fewer clients in the cold and snow, and have more time on their hands to focus on finding you your dream home.

5. Get Settled Before Spring

I don’t know about you, but my spring and summers are busy. After a long Michigan winter cooped up inside, the last thing I want to do is waste my warm sunny weekends moving, unpacking, painting, or remodeling. Buying a home during the winter months allows you to finish off those first few projects before vacations, weddings, festivals and trips to the beach fill up your weekends.

So there you have it! Don’t let the impending frigid temperatures keep you from finding your dream home this winter. A true Michigander wouldn’t be scared off by a little snow, would they?

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us? Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

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To apply for a Mortgage or Refinance call Riverbank Finance today at 1-800-555-2098.

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Refinance Your Home Without an Appraisal

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Refinance Your Home Without an Appraisal

Soon, homeowners will be able to refinance their homes without an appraisal! Beginning December 10th 2016, Fannie Mae will offer an Enhanced Property Inspection Waiver (PIW) for ONE-IN-FOUR transactions.

What is a Property Inspection Waiver?

A Property Inspection Waiver is Fannie Mae’s offer to waive the requirement for an appraisal on certain refinance transactions. It is unclear at this time whether or not purchase transactions will be offered a PIW, but more information will be released as the launch date approaches.

“When a DU loan casefile receives a PIW offer and it is exercised by the lender, Fannie Mae accepts the value estimate submitted by the lender as the market value for the subject property.” -Fannie Mae

To exercise a PIW offer, the lender must provide a Special Feature Code and the borrower must pay a $75 fee at time of loan delivery to Fannie Mae. This $75 PIW fee provides a desirable alternative to traditional appraisals, which carry an out-of-pocket cost of $400-$600 to the borrower.

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Related: Refinance your FHA mortgage without an appraisal 

What is the Benefit of a Property Inspection Waiver?

The Enhanced PIW provides many benefits to both the lender and the consumer, such as:

  • Provides a lower-cost alternative to a traditional appraisal
  • Shortens the loan origination process by removing the need to review an appraisal
  • Eliminates the expense of appraisal-related delays

Who Will Receive a Property Inspection Waiver?

Fannie Mae will use proprietary analytics and a large database of appraisal reports to determine the minimum property value for new loans. Not all transactions will receive a PIW offer—some will still require an appraisal to determine market value.

“PIW offers are issued through Desktop Underwriter® using Fannie Mae’s database of more than 20 million appraisal reports in combination with proprietary analytics from Collateral Underwriter® to determine the minimum level of property valuation required for loans delivered to us.” -Fannie Mae

What Transactions Are Eligible for a Property Inspection Waiver?

  • Single-Family Properties and Condominiums
  • Principal Residence, Second Home, and Investment Properties
  • Limited Cash-out Refinances up to 90% LTV (principal residences)
  • Cash-out Refinances up to 70% LTV (principal residences)
  • Approve/Eligible Casefiles

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us? Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

Get More Information

To apply for a Renovation Mortgage or Refinance call Riverbank Finance today at 1-800-555-2098.

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Home Improvements and How to Finance Them

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Home Improvements and How to Finance Them

I don’t know what it is about the fall, but it seems to bring out the DIY-er in all of us. Instead of flocking to the beach or heading north for a quick getaway, everyone is spending their weekends at home improvement stores. If you’ve been contemplating a remodel of your own, but don’t know quite where to start, take a look at this short list of ideas below. These improvements may be small, but they will drastically transform both the look–and increase the value–of your home sweet home.

Related: Home Loans for First Time Home Buyers

The Kitchen

Kitchen improvements tend to add the most value, especially in older homes. And given it is one of the first rooms a guest sees, you’ll want yours to make a great first impression. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, spice up the cabinets with new door handles, and swap out old, dated light fixtures with new, brighter, more modern ones. Have a little more to spend? Hire a refacing company to refinish your cabinet boxes, and add new doors and drawers.

The Baths

Second only to the kitchen, baths are extremely important to update, and they too can be given new life without too much cash. For a shower that has seen its better days, replace broken or missing tiles, and re-grout the rest while you’re at it. Then finish the area off with a fresh coat of caulking, and continue around all other fixtures. If you’d like to take things a little further, consider swapping out the hardware, as I mentioned in the kitchen, including faucets, door handles, lighting fixtures, and a new toilet seat.

The Exterior

It may sound like a no-brainer, but a well manicured lawn and tasteful landscaping goes a long way toward increasing your home’s curb appeal. If you’ve got a green thumb and a shovel, plant a few evergreen shrubs and patch thin areas of grass or sod. Pick up any branches or debris lying around and sweep the walkways. If applicable, you may also want to consider painting your basic steel front door and upgrading to a more substantial looking handle and lock set, to give your home a more impressive front entrance.

Storage Space

Older homes are especially notorious for their lack of storage space. Think about any under-used space you have in your home—under the stairs, in the garage, the unfinished attic– then take advantage of the many DIY closet and cabinetry systems available today. Most companies even allow you to redesign your space on their website, then pick up what you need at your local home improvement store. Still struggling to store your stuff? There’s always room in the walls—recessed cabinets are designed to fit in between the studs, and take just a few hours to install.

The Basics

Certain essentials, such as roofs and windows, should be kept in good working order. Both can be expensive to repair or replace, but not doing so could be significantly more costly–not to mention the extra you money you could be paying in utilities each month. If you’re unsure of your home’s structural condition, hire an inspector to check things out. They may discover hidden issues, allowing you to take care of them now, so they don’t become a bigger, more expensive problem down the road.

Financing Home Repairs

Now, if you aren’t the handy-type or don’t have loads of cash lying around to fund your dream remodel, you might be wondering, can Riverbank Finance help me finance that? Absolutely! There are several ways to go about it, but most notable are our renovation mortgage programs. Both the Conventional Homestyle Renovation Loan and the FHA 203(k) Loan are unique programs that can be used for both home purchases and refinances. These programs allow you–the homeowner–to finance repair costs, appliances, and other home improvements into your mortgage with one low monthly payment.

For homeowners with a fair amount of equity, an even better option may be to Cashout Refinance. This option allows you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value in the Conventional Loan program, or 85% in the FHA Loan program. The interest rate on a cashout refinance is typically lower than that of a renovation mortgage, and both are significantly lower than a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us?  Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

Get More Information

To apply for a Renovation Mortgage or Refinance call Riverbank Finance today at 1-800-555-2098.

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Manufactured vs Modular Homes: What is the Difference?

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Manufactured vs Modular Homes: What is the Difference?

There has always been a great deal of confusion regarding what constitutes a manufactured home and what constitutes a modular home. A large portion stems from incorrect word usage, as many people use these terms interchangeably. However, these two types of homes are largely different and do not reference the same type of home. The other issue lies in the fact that modular homes are technically manufactured but do not fall under that classification. Manufactured probably isn’t the best naming device since both types are technically factory made. At the end of the day, knowing the difference is important as it could have a rather large impact on your home mortgage.

Manufactured, Modular, Mobile… oh my!

As if there was not enough confusion between manufactured and modular homes, there are also mobile homes. In all honesty, all of these types of homes could possibly be referred to as mobile, but here’s the real difference; by definition, mobile homes are factory built and made before 1976 when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code standards for those homes was instituted. After the codes, they came known as manufactured. Manufactured homes are essentially trailers (single, double, and triple wide) that are standardized by HUD. In contrast, although they are factory built, modular homes are actually difficult to distinguish from traditional stick-built onsite homes.

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), there is a list of items that help distinguish between a Manufactured home and a Modular home:

Manufactured Homes Checklist

  • conform only to HUD code. Some homes contain a red tag that confirms that the unit was manufactured in compliance with this code;
  • are inspected, but do not have to be structurally approved by an inspector;
  • are manufactured in sections at factories;
  • are never more than one story;
  • do not have a permanent or conventional foundation;
  • tend to lose value over time because they are difficult to expand or improve;
  • are transported to the site on their own wheels;
  • are transported on steel chassis that are never removed;
  • are often placed on property owned by others, such as public land that is leased by the homeowner;
  • are treated as a separate lending category from modular and on-site built homes; and
  • are rarely custom-designed. The buyer can choose from homes that have already been built and receive it within days.

Modular Homes Checklist

  • must conform to the same local, state and regional building codes as homes built on-site;
  • are treated the same by banks as homes built on-site. They are easily refinanced, for example;
  • follow the same market trends as site-built houses;
  • must be structurally approved by inspectors;
  • can be of any size, although the block sections from which they are assembled are uniformly sized;
  • are often more basic than homes built on-site, but they tend to be sturdier;
  • are highly customizable. Design is usually decided by the buyer before construction has begun; and
  • generally, take eight to 14 weeks to construct. Differing from a site-built home, the foundation can be dug at the same time that the house is being constructed.

Are you interested in purchasing a manufactured or modular home? Riverbank Finance can help you finance that! Learn more about Manufactured Home Financing here.

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us?  Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

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Renovation Mortgage Programs

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Renovation Mortgage Programs

If I had a dollar for every time someone responded to my comment about remodeling and DIY projects with the phrase “welcome to home ownership!”– I’d be rich!  Not everyone has the means to build their pinterest-inspired dream home from the ground up– but what if I told you there are mortgage programs designed to help renovate existing structures?  What if your dream home already exists, and just needs some updates to make it your own?  No DIY-ing required!

Renovations programs are not very well known, and were rather unappealing before the housing crisis.  They were thought to be confusing and complicated.  As a result of the distress caused by the negative housing situation, these type of programs became more attractive to potential home buyers who sought ways to buy homes at a lower price and improve upon them.  The shift in the focus of the consumer has brought the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203(k) rehabilitation loan and Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage to the forefront of financing options for prospective home buyers that are in the market for a fixer-upper. Both of these programs function to refinance existing homes as well.

Two Types of Renovation Mortgage Programs

When purchasing a home with a FHA 203(k) Renovation Mortgage or a Conventional HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage, the funds designated for repairs to the property are placed in an escrow account with the mortgage lender after closing. After all repairs have been made, a final inspection takes place. At this time, all contractors may submit their invoices to the lender to be paid. Renovations may not be completed by the homeowner.

FHA 203(k) Renovation Loan VS. Conventional HomeStyle Renovation

Now, you might be wondering, what is the difference between the two programs? Essentially, 203(k) is an FHA Loan Program while HomeStyle Renovation is a Conventional Loan Program. Each program, therefore, must adhere to its respective guidelines for credit score and debt-to-income limits. FHA has more strict requirements on what types of repairs can be complete to the home while the rule of thumb for the HomeStyle Renovation loan is that it can be anything that increases the value of the home and is fixed to the property. The HomeStyle Renovation Loan can be used to buy or refinance a primary residence, second home (vacation home) or even an investment property while the FHA 203(k) loan is only available on primary residences.

Which Renovation Mortgage Program is Best for Me?

If you have low credit and the property is only in need of minor repairs, the FHA 203(k) would probably be best for you, as it allows credit scores down to 580 and only requires as little as 3.5% down. If your credit score is over 660 however, and you have 5% to put down, you may be better off with a HomeStyle renovation loan, as it would likely give you a lower overall mortgage payment. In any case, if you are unsure, contact a loan officer at Riverbank Finance to discuss each program’s specific guidelines and determine which would be the best fit for you.

Take a look at Fannie Mae’s guidelines for HomeStyle Renovation Loans
Also check out FHA’s 203k Renovation guidelines

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us?  Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

Apply for a Renovation Mortgage

To apply for a Renovation Mortgage call Riverbank Finance today at 1-800-555-2098.

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Who has the Best Fall Donuts in West Michigan?

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Cider & Donut Season in West Michigan

Fall is officially upon us, and every good Michigander knows what that means– cider and donuts! A friendly office debate about where to find the best apple cider and donuts in West Michigan inspired a donut tasting at the Riverbank Finance office today.  So, here are the results; a definitive ranking of fall flavored donuts available in West Michigan.

The Donut Participants

  • D’Arts Donuts – Grand Rapids
  • Robinette’s Apple Haus- Grand Rapids
  • Klackle Orchards – Greenville
  • DeBoer’s Bakery- Holland
  • Vander Mill – Spring Lake

The Donut Judging

We judged each donut based on four categories; presentation, freshness, fall flavor, and overall taste. We used a scale of 1-5, 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. Our entire team participated, and we took the average of all categories to come up with our totals.

The Results

  • Best Presentation: TIE between D’Arts and DeBoer’s (4.44)
  • Freshest: Robinette’s (4.88)
  • Fall Flavorful: Klackle’s (4.77)
  • Best Taste: Robinette’s (4.72)

The Winner of the Best Donut in West Michigan

If we HAD to pick just one, it would be Klackle’s in Greenville. Their combined overall score was a 4.36 and their cider was just plain delicious. The market bakery features more than just donuts– they have dozens of mouthwatering goodies and gifts. While you’re there, don’t forget to pick your own apples and pumpkins, and check out all of the farm fun activities!

DONUT settle for just any mortgage company, call Riverbank!

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Trended Credit Data Has Arrived

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You may have heard some buzz this spring about mortgage giant Fannie Mae and trended credit data, changes which were set to take effect in June. Just days before the launch, however, the new system was delayed unexpectedly. Well folks, long-awaited Desktop Underwriter 10.0 launched this past weekend, and with it, the requirement that lenders use trended credit data on all new loan casefiles.

What is Trended Credit Data?

Trended credit data is a detailed record of credit history, including payment history and total balance each month. The addition of this new information will allow lenders to more accurately tell the difference between ‘transactors’—borrowers with large balances who pay in full each month—and ‘revolvers’—borrowers with large balances who pay only the minimum payment each month. Until now, existing credit reports could not distinguish the two.

The new credit report will feature trended credit data history on credit cards, HELOCs, student loans, car loans, and mortgages. The actual appearance of credit reports will change very little, but will include 30 months’ history with Transunion and 24 months’ history with Equifax; Experian plans to add trended credit data in January 2017. Neither FICO or VantageScores incorporate trended data into their system at this time.

Example of Trended Credit Data on a Credit Report

The example above shows a revolving account with trended credit data.

Why is This Important?

The addition of trended credit data provides a more detailed picture of a borrower’s credit behavior, rather than the traditional moment-in-time credit snapshot. It allows lenders to better predict your future payment behavior and assess your risk.

“The trended credit data will be used by the DU risk assessment to evaluate how the borrower manages his/her revolving credit card accounts. A borrower who uses revolving accounts conservatively (low revolving credit utilization and/or regular payoff of revolving balance) will be considered a lower risk. A borrower whose revolving credit utilization is high and/or who makes only the minimum monthly payment each month will be considered higher risk.” – Fannie Mae

How will this affect my credit score?

Fannie Mae has not yet released conclusive guidelines as to how trended data will be scored or impact the underwriting process. Financial institutions across the country, however, speculate that this will open up the credit window to potential borrowers previously deemed unworthy. That’s right—trended credit data can turn a denial into an approval!

Even the most responsible borrowers make mistakes, but forgetting to make a payment will cost you more than just a large late fee—it can lower your credit score upwards of 100 points, in some cases! Until now, only years of hard work and waiting for delinquencies to season could rebound a credit score. With the addition of trended data, however, a borrower can effectively counter that late payment within a couple of months. Tendencies such as paying off revolving balances in full, making additional payments, and reducing total amount borrowed over time all demonstrate positive repayment ability and behavior.

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us?  Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

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Using a Gift for your Down Payment

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Using Gift Funds for your Down Payment

Not everyone has thousands of dollars lying around for a down payment when they are in the market to purchase a home, so receiving a gift can be a great option!  Here’s what you need to know, if you’re lucky enough to receive a down payment gift.

There is a common misconception that you can use whatever monetary gifts your friends and family give you toward your down payment, but it isn’t quite that simple—the source of the funds actually matters more than the amount in your bank account.  If your great aunt’s neighbor’s friend hands you $1,000 in cash, don’t deposit it!  Not only will it be a problem because it is untraceable, but you cannot accept a gift from just anyone.

Who can give a down payment gift?

So, who can give you a down payment gift?  Any immediate family member—parents, grandparents, siblings, or children—can gift funds.  Your significant other can also give you a gift, but only if you are engaged to be married.  Unfortunately, extended family such as aunts, uncles, or cousins would not be permitted to give a down payment gift.

What is a “gift letter”?

Once an eligible family member has committed to giving you a monetary gift, they’ll need to complete a gift letter.  Each lender’s gift letter looks slightly different, but includes the same basic information; the subject property address, the amount of money being gifted, the relationship of the gifter to the giftee, and a statement that the gift is indeed a gift, not a loan in disguise, and will not be repaid.  Both the gifter and giftee must sign and date the letter.

Want an example? Click here to see an Example Home Loan Gift Letter

Don’t do anything without a paper trail

Let’s say, for example, that your grandparents are going to give you a gift of $25,000.  They plan to pull $15,000 from their retirement account and $10,000 from their savings.  In addition to the gift letter, they may need to provide the following documentation:

  • Retirement account statement showing $15,000 available to give
  • Bank statement showing $10,000 available balance in savings account
  • Bank statement showing transfer of $15,000 going in, and $25,000 total available funds

Although the actual requirements may vary depending on the loan program you have chosen, it is best to let the gifter know ahead of time that these documents may be needed.  Next, you will need to provide:

  • Copy of the check from your grandparents to you
  • Bank statement showing the $25,000 cleared your account

Don’t forget to thank your gifter!

Related: Documents You Need to Get a Mortgage

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us?  Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

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USDA Lowers Upfront and Annual Fees for RD Loans

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USDA Lowers Fees for RD Loans

Great news for homebuyers considering a USDA rural development home loan (RD Loan)!  The already popular zero down mortgage is getting even better. The USDA announced this week that they will be decreasing both the upfront guarantee fee—a closing cost which is financed into the total loan amount at close; and the annual fee—the USDA version of PMI, which is paid monthly.  Effective October 1st, the first day of fiscal year 2017, the upfront guarantee fee will decrease from 2.75% to 1%, and the annual fee will decrease from .5% to .35%.

Now, unless you spend your spare time studying loan program guidelines, that might sound like gibberish—so let’s do some math to show the savings.  On a $200,000 home purchase, the upfront guarantee fee would decrease from $5,500 to $2,000 and the annual fee would decrease from $83 to $58.  That is a savings of $3,500 on the total loan amount and $25 per month over the life of the loan!

Requirements for a USDA Rural Development Loan

You might be thinking, that’s great, but how do I know if a USDA rural development loan is the right fit for me?  I’m glad you asked!  Qualifying for a USDA RD loan is very similar to an FHA mortgage, but requires no down payment and has two important requirements for income limits and location.

Traditionally, when purchasing a home with less than 20% down, most loan programs require private mortgage insurance (PMI) to be added to your monthly payment.  For this reason, USDA loans are more favorable, because their annual fee of .35% is significantly smaller than the .85% required for FHA loans.

Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us?  Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers, or check out our USDA Mortgage Calculator.  We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

Apply for a Rural Develoment Mortgage

Buying a home with no down payment has never been better. Call Riverbank Finance today at 1-800-555-2098.

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What is a Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio?

What is a LTV

If you’ve ever been in the market for a mortgage, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘loan-to-value ratio’ or ‘LTV’ for short.  Obtaining a new mortgage can be nerve-wracking, even without the financial jargon and acronyms—so let’s talk about LTV, what it means, and how it affects you and your mortgage.

How are Loan-to-Value ratios calculated?

The Loan-to-Value Ratio is essentially the financed amount divided by the home’s value or purchase price, expressed as a percentage.  Let’s say for example that you’ve found a home you’d like to purchase for $200,000 with a down payment of 20% ($40,000).  You would be financing $160,000 of the $200,000 purchase price, which gives you a loan-to-value ratio of 80%.

Why are Loan-to-Value ratios important?

Now that you know what LTV means, let’s talk about why it is important.  The higher your LTV, the greater ‘risk’ you are to your lender.  This, among other factors, determines the interest rate your lender will offer you.  You may be thinking ‘What if I don’t have 20% to put down? What other options do I have?’ Well, I’m glad you asked!  There are many loan programs available today; each with benefits, and its own unique set of guidelines.

  • Conventional loans require, at a minimum, a 3% down payment.  Our new 1% down option, however, allows the borrower to put only 1% down and we contribute the other 2%, leaving the borrower with 3% equity and a 97% LTV.
  • FHA loans require, at a minimum, a 3.5% down payment.  The interest rates are typically higher on FHA than on Conventional, but are more forgiving of borrowers with lower credit or bankruptcy/foreclosure in the past.
  • VA loans and USDA loans are zero down programs, but require that the borrower be a US Veteran (for VA loans) or that the home be located in an eligible, rural area (for USDA loans). 

Generally, the greater the down payment you are able to provide, the lower your LTV will be; the lower your LTV, the better loan terms you will receive.  The most significant rate changes happen in increments of 5%, and when you reach an 80% LTV.   

Still unsure? Have a specific scenario you’d like to run past us? Give us a call to speak with one of our licensed loan officers. We would love to recommend the best loan program for you and your situation.

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