Steve Antonucci's Blog
The gig economy has exploded over the past decade. Today, around 36% of the US workforce is freelancing and many more or self-employed small business owners.
While being your own boss does afford you great freedom to set your hours and often work where you want, you may face extra scrutiny when trying to get financing to buy a home.
Because your income comes from many sources and you may do your own bookkeeping, it's more challenging to prove your income. But fear not. Freelancers can get financing. You just need to be prepared.
Note that every lending institution may be a little different. But here's your quick guide for home financing for freelancers and other self-employed professionals.
1. You may need to work at freelance a little longer
If you just left a nine to five and started freelancing six months ago, you do not yet have the track record of consistent income that a loan officer will be able to see. The loan officer needs to know that you have the money coming in to pay this loan.
In most cases, loan officers like to see applicants who've been successfully freelancing for at least two years.
2. Clean up your bookkeeping
Are you the kind of person who pulls out a box of receipts on April 14th and then scrambles for the next 18 hours trying to account for last year? You may struggle with a loan officer. They need to see well-organized records of incoming and outgoing, just like any business.
You don't have to take an accounting course. But anyone should be able to follow behind your numbers on a spreadsheet to see exactly how you reached the figures that went on your tax return.
3. Get a CPA signature
You may need to get the signature of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) on your books for at least the last six months. But please don't do this before they ask for it because it will cost money. The more disorganized your financial records, the more it may cost.
If you'd be embarrassed to show your bookkeeping to a CPA, please see the tip immediately above. You can do this.
4. Make your case
If your income fluctuates wildly or has dropped in the most recent year, that may be a red flag for a loan officer. Even if they don't ask about it, make sure they know why that dip occurred.
Perhaps you were taking care of an aging parent or a sick child. Some of your income may have been delayed for some reason. Be prepare to explain the ebb and flow of your income.
Don't appear to be a victim of circumstance. But do communicate irregularities that don't reflect the success you're experiencing as a freelancer.
5. Have a strong savings
Freelancers' income varies from month to month, but your mortgage payment does not. Show that you're stable and have a backup plan. These savings should be in addition to a down payment.
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If you’re hoping to buy your first home in the near future, you’re likely wondering about the different types of mortgages that you may qualify for. Since the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been insuring home loans for first-time homeowners across America.
This program helps people achieve homeownership who typically wouldn’t be able to afford the down payment or pass the credit score requirements to secure a traditional mortgage.
In today’s post, we’re going to answer some frequently asked questions about FHA loans to help you decide if this is the best option for your first home.
Does the FHA issue loans?
Although they’re called “FHA loans,” mortgages are not actually issued by the FHA. Rather, they’re issued by mortgage lenders across the country and insured by the FHA.
Will I have to make a down payment?
With an FHA loan, your down payment can be as low as 3.5%, significantly lower than traditional loans at 20% down payment. However, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) in addition to your monthly mortgage payments until you have paid off 20% of the home. So, the best case scenario would be to save as much as possible for a down payment to reduce the amount of mortgage insurance you have to pay.
What are the benefits of an FHA loan?
The three main reasons to secure an FHA loan are:
You can qualify with a low credit score
You can make a smaller down payment than traditional mortgages
Your closer costs will be less expensive
Where do I apply for an FHA loan?
You can apply for an FHA loan through a mortgage lender. You can also work with a mortgage broker to help choose a lender.
Is an FHA loan the only loan option for low down payments?
There are multiple loan programs offered at the state and federal level to help individuals secure a mortgage with a lower down payment. They can be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the USDA, or state-sponsored programs. Lenders also often sponsor their own programs to attract potential borrowers. However, always make sure you compare these programs to make sure you’re making the best long-term financial decision.
Do all FHA loans offer the same interest rates and costs?
No. Since the loans are only insured by the FHA, it’s up to the lender to determine your interest rate and fees. So, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best lender.
How high does my credit score have to be to qualify for an FHA loan?
You can secure a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% with a credit score of 580 or higher. However, if you can afford to make a larger down payment, you can secure an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500.
If your score is in the 500-600 range, it’s typically a better idea to spend a few months building credit before applying for a home loan.
What information will I need to apply?
You’ll need to gather all of the same information that you would for a typical mortgage. This includes W2s from your employer(s), two years of submitted tax forms, your current and former addresses from the past two years, and your gross monthly salary.
I’ve owned a house before, can I still qualify for FHA loans?
Even if you’re not a first-time homebuyer you can still qualify for an FHA loan. However, you cannot qualify if you’ve had a foreclosure within the last three years or have filed for bankruptcy within the last two years.
Securing a mortgage can be quite challenging if you do not meet specific requirements and demands made by the lenders. But really, you can’t blame lenders or mortgage companies for setting up these rules. Most of these demands are made to ensure the borrower can repay a loan without too much of a problem.
Everyone has one or several bad habits that have affected them or will affect them one way or another. When it comes to securing mortgage though, some bad habits might interfere with that decision. These habits will cast a shadow over your profile, putting doubts in the mind of the lender. Bad habits like any of the ones listed below will affect your chances of securing a mortgage.
Gambling is a terrible financial habit that could also be addictive. Betting away some of your money on rare occasions is not enough to affect your chances of securing a mortgage. Taking out credit or a short-term loan to finance your gambling habit, however, will affect your chances of obtaining a mortgage – your gambling habit might also make you default on your credit card repayment.
Having substantial private debt will most likely cast doubt on your mortgage request. Lenders would be skeptical about your ability to pay back a new loan. Before you go ahead and apply for a mortgage, pay off all outstanding debts and keep a clean savings profile.
Defaulting on payments
Having a history of defaulting on previous loan repayment will reduce your chances of getting a mortgage. Defaulting is the single worst thing you can do to yourself. Lenders would not want to provide a loan to an individual who has a bad habit of defaulting.
Another bad habit that will cast doubt in the minds of lenders is exceeding your overdraft limit. If you don’t have an arranged overdraft limit, contact your bank. If lenders go through your bank statement and find your account messed up irrespective of how much income Is in there, they would probably turn down your application for a mortgage.
Late Credit Payments
Making a late payment on your credit card and other loans is an excellent way to dig your own grave when requesting for a mortgage. A single late payment can mess up your credit score and would remain on your credit history for as long as seven years.
If you are guilty of any of these habits and intend to secure a mortgage, you need to have a clear record first before proceeding with your application for a loan. If you are worried about whether you will qualify for a mortgage, talk to your real estate agent about your options and use prequalification forms to determine your likely approval.
There are so many factors that go into finding and securing the financing to buy a home. While lenders require quite a bit of information for you to get a loan, you still need to be aware of your own financial picture. Even if you’re pre-approved for a certain amount of money to buy a home, you still need to dig into your finances a bit deeper than a lender would. The bottom line is that you can't rely solely on a lender to tell you how much you can afford for a monthly payment on a home. Even if you’re approved to borrow the maximum amount of money for your finances to buy a home, it doesn’t mean that you actually should use that amount. There are so many other real world things that you need to consider outside of the basic numbers that are plugged into a mortgage formula.
Run Your Own Numbers
It’s important to sit down and do your own budget when you’re getting ready to buy a home. You have plenty of monthly expenses including student loan debt, car payments, utility bills, and more. Don’t forget that you need to eat too! Think about what your lifestyle is like. How much do you spend on food? Do you go out to the movies often or spend a regular amount of cash on clothing? Even if you plan to make adjustments to these habits when buying a home, you’ll want to think honestly about all of your needs and spending habits before signing on to buy a home.
Now, you’ll know what your true monthly costs are. Be sure to include things like home insurance, property taxes, monthly utilities, and any other personal monthly expenses in this budget. If you plan to put down a lower amount on the home, you’ll also need to include additional insurance costs like private mortgage insurance (PMI).
The magic number that you should remember when it comes to housing costs is 30%. This is the percentage of your monthly income that you should plan to spend on housing. Realistically, this could make your budget tight so this is often thought of as a maximum percentage. By law, a lender can’t approve a mortgage that would take up more than 35% of your monthly income. Some lenders have even stricter requirements such as not allowing a borrower to have a mortgage that would be more than 28% of monthly income. This is where the debt-to-income ratio comes into play.
As you can see, it’s important to take an earnest look at your finances to avoid larger money issues when you buy a home.
If you’ve been considering taking the next step toward homeownership, you’ve likely heard about FHA loans. Offered by the Federal Housing Administration (hence, “FHA”), these loans are great for a number of people hoping to purchase a home but who don’t have a large down payment saved.
There are many misconceptions about FHA loans since they’re often advertised by large, private mortgage lenders but are technically a government program. In order to clear up some of the confusion, we’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions regarding FHA loans.
Read on to learn about FHA loans and how they might help you purchase a home.
Who issues an FHA loan?
FHA loans aren’t issued by the government. Rather, they’re issued by private lenders but insured, or “guaranteed,” by the government.
Since lenders want to make sure they’ll see a positive return from lending to you, they typically want you to have a high credit score and a large down payment (typically 20%). However, not everyone is able to meet those requirements. In this situation, the FHA is able to help you acquire a loan by giving your lender a guarantee.
Are there different types of FHA loans?
Yes. In fact, there are nine distinct types of loans guaranteed by the FHA. These include fixed rate mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, refinance loans, reverse mortgages, VA loans, and more.
What do you need to qualify for an FHA loan?
It’s a common misconception that you need to be a first-time buyer to qualify for an FHA loan. However, if you have previously owned a home that was foreclosed on or if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, the foreclosure and bankruptcy have to be at least three years old.
You’ll also need to demonstrate a stable employment history, usually including two years of employment with the same employer.
Finally, the FHA will ask you for your current and previous addresses, the last two years tax returns, and the W-2 forms from any of your recent jobs.
What is the most I can borrow with an FHA loan?
The FHA sets mortgage limits on loans depending on the state and county you’ll be living in. For a single-family home, the limit ranges from $275,000 to $451,000. So be sure to check the limits for your state and county.
Can you refinance an FHA loan?
Refinancing a loan is a great way to receive a lower interest rate or to shorten the term of their mortgage to save in the total number of interest payments. In fact, the FHA typically only allows refinancing when it will result in lower interest payments on a loan.
What is the minimum credit score needed to qualify for an FHA loan?
While you don’t need excellent credit to qualify for a loan, the FHA will require you to have a score of at least a 580. You can check your score for free online from a number of companies, such as Mint or Credit Karma. Be aware, however, that scores vary between credit bureaus. So, it’s a good idea to check your FICO score once per year, which is the score used by mortgage lenders.