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How to Get the Best Rate on a Jumbo Loan Refinance

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Sometimes the typical limits on loan amounts may not be enough to allow you to buy or refinance your home — especially if you live in a high-cost area. In that case, you may need to apply for a jumbo loan.Jumbo loans can be harder to get than their traditional, conforming counterparts, but it’s far from impossible. Follow these tips to learn how to get the best rate on a jumbo loan refinance.

What is a jumbo mortgage?

In order to understand what a jumbo loan is, it first helps to understand how the conventional mortgage system works. Most residential mortgages in the U.S. are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two government-sponsored enterprises buy mortgages from lenders, bundle the ones with similar terms together, and then sell them as mortgage-backed securities to Wall Street investors. More importantly, they guarantee that if a mortgage defaults, they’ll pay off the loan to investors.

Each year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sets maximum amounts for the loans that they agree to purchase from lenders. In general, most loans fall within these limits, so they’re known as “conforming loans.”

However, in some areas, where the cost of living is higher, the standard conforming loan limit may not provide sufficient funds to buy a home. In these cases, it’s possible to get a loan that exceeds these limits, though it will often cost more. These larger loans are known as “jumbo loans.”

In 2019, the standard conforming loan limit is $484,350, while the loan limit for high-cost areas like Hawaii and Alaska is $726,525.

When should you refinance a jumbo mortgage?

If you already have a jumbo mortgage, here are some reasons you might want to refinance it:

If you want a better interest rate

One of the main reasons to refinance is to get a better interest rate. Your interest rate closely affects how much you pay for your mortgage each month. A lower rate will mean lower payments.

The rates you’ll be offered are largely a consequence of current market conditions and your credit score. Now may be a good time to refinance if:

  • Current interest rates are much lower than they were when you first bought your home.
  • Your credit score has improved drastically since you applied for your mortgage.

The Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate four times in 2018, and two or three more rate hikes are expected in 2019, according to Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney.

Now is a good time to refinance, said Hillary Legrain, vice president of First Savings Mortgage Corporation in McLean, Va. “Because of the fluctuations in the stock market, rates are a lot lower than they were in the fall.”

If you need to cash out to cover expenses

Another reason to refinance is to tap into the equity of your home. Your home equity is the portion of your home that you own outright, or the difference between the value of your home and the balance on your mortgage.

When needed, that equity can be used to finance life’s big expenses, like medical debt, home improvements or college tuition.

One way to access your home equity is to do what’s known as a cash-out refinance. In a cash-out refinance, you replace your mortgage with another loan that’s bigger than what you owe on your home. You then receive that difference in the form of a cash payment, which you can use any way you want.

If you’re ready to change your loan terms

You may also be ready to refinance your mortgage if you’d like to change the terms of your loan. Usually, when we discuss loan terms, we’re referring to either the length of the loan or the type of interest rate.

Typically, a mortgage will be either 15 or 30 years in length. A 15-year mortgage lets you pay off your loan faster, but comes with higher monthly payments. A 30-year mortgage will keep your payments low, but it will take longer for you to truly own your home. Depending on how much you can afford to put aside for a mortgage payment each month, you may want to switch from one to the other with a refinance.

Alternatively, you may want to switch your interest rate type. There are two types of interest rates: fixed-rate and adjustable-rate. A fixed-rate mortgage stays the same over the life of the loan, while an adjustable-rate mortgage changes in accordance with current market interest rates. Many people decide to change to a fixed-rate mortgage because they want predictable monthly payments, but you may be able to get a lower interest rate if you go with an adjustable-rate option.

Challenges of refinancing a jumbo mortgage

Qualifying for a jumbo loan is more difficult than a conforming loan, Legrain said. “The lender is taking more of a risk because the balance on the loan is higher. As a result, the requirements that you have to meet in order to be approved are stricter.”

Below are some common qualifying requirements for jumbo loans:

Debt-to-income ratio

Looking at your debt-to-income ratio is a way for lenders to measure how likely you are to be able to repay your debts. It’s the measure of the sum of all your monthly debts divided by your total monthly income.

“For a conforming loan, your DTI has to be less than or equal to 50%,” Legrain said. “But for a jumbo loan, that number drops to 43%.”

Reserve requirements

When you go to buy a home, lenders will look to make sure that you still have money in the bank after your down payment and closing costs. This money is known as cash reserves, and is usually expressed as the number of monthly mortgage payments you’d be able to make using those assets.

“The reserve requirements you’ll face will vary according to the lender,” Legrain said. “However, on a jumbo loan they will be much higher. You’ll be expected to prove that you have anywhere between six and 12 months of mortgage payments in the bank.”

Credit score

The minimum credit score for a jumbo loan starts at 680, but could be even higher, according to Legrain.

In contrast, conforming loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) require a credit score of 580 to take advantage of its low 3.5% down payment. The FHA will accept even lower scores if you’re able to put down 10%. On the other hand, conventional loans require a credit score of at least 620.

Loan-to-value ratio

Your loan-to-value ratio (LTV) is how much you’re looking to borrow in comparison to the overall value of your home.

Loan-to-value limits are usually lower for jumbo loans than they are for conforming loans. “On a no-cash-out refinance, you can go up to 97% with a Fannie Mae conforming loan amount, but with a jumbo loan you are usually restricted to 85%,” Legrain said.

Ways to get a low jumbo mortgage refinance rate

You’ll need to give your lender some financial information to find out whether they can approve you for a loan and, if so, at what rate, according to Legrain. They’ll want documents similar to those you’d provide for any refinance. They include:

  • Copies of paycheck stubs for the most recent 30-day period
  • W-2 forms for the previous two years
  • A copy of your federal income tax returns for the previous two years

However, once you get one rate from a lender, don’t stop there. Shop around. Once you start getting pre-approved for a mortgage, you have a 45-day window during which all mortgage inquiries on your credit report will count as one. Credit bureaus agree to this because they realize that you’re only going to buy one home, and they want to give you a chance to find the loan that works for you.

In addition to getting loan estimates, Legrain stressed the importance of asking questions to find out if a particular lender is the right fit for you. She suggested the following questions:

  • What rate can you offer?
  • What are your fees?
  • What are the loan-to-value restrictions?
  • Are you local to my area?

“Working with a local lender is important because national lenders aren’t aware of local programs, so they get overlooked,” Legrain said. “Also, they may be using appraisers from out of the area, who may not know the differences in value between different neighborhoods.”

The bottom line

Getting a jumbo loan might be more complicated than getting a traditional mortgage. However, it can be done. By shopping around and making sure to ask the right questions, you should have a good chance of getting a jumbo loan refinance that works for you.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Tara Mastroeni
Tara Mastroeni |

Tara Mastroeni is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tara here

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Guide to Getting a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Mortgage

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Couple Celebrating Moving Into New Home With Champagne

Not all homebuyers have the money to make a traditional 20% down payment. The perception that you need one is one of the main financial obstacles that can discourage people from pursuing homeownership.

In reality, there are several options for buyers who want to get a mortgage but can only pull together a small down payment. One of the best ones, particularly for first-time homebuyers, is an FHA loan.

This article offers you a guide to getting an FHA mortgage, including details on how to qualify and the costs to consider.

Understanding the FHA mortgage program

FHA mortgages are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is a key way that people of moderate income can become homeowners. Nearly 83% of homeowners who borrowed an FHA loan in 2018 were first-time homebuyers, according to a report from HUD.

FHA mortgages are funded by FHA-approved lenders and then insured by the government. This backing protects lenders from loss if borrowers default. Because of this protection, lenders can be more lenient with their qualifying criteria and can accept a significantly lower down payment.

You can get approved for an FHA mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down payment and a credit score of 580. You may also qualify with a credit score as low as 500, though you’ll need to put down 10% instead.

On a $200,000 home, that comes out to a down payment of $7,000 to $20,000 when taking out an FHA loan, depending on your credit score.

Keep in mind you’ll also be responsible for closing costs, which typically cost 2% to 5% of a home’s purchase price. Closing costs are necessary to complete your transaction, and include services such as appraisals and home inspections. However, you may be able to negotiate to have some of these costs covered by the seller.

Is an FHA loan right for you?

FHA loans are particularly suited for several different types of homebuyers.

First-time homebuyers, who often have lower credit scores and smaller available down payments, tend to gravitate to FHA loans. Additionally, boomerang buyers — people who lost a home in the past due to a bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale — might also benefit from an FHA loan.

Negative credit events such as foreclosure can drop credit scores by more than 100 points in many cases, and there’s typically a waiting period of three years before you’re eligible to buy a home again. Once that’s up, the lower credit score requirements of the FHA loan program could help you become a homeowner again.

Types of FHA mortgages

The FHA offers both 15- and 30-year mortgages, each with fixed rates or adjustable rates.

With a fixed-rate FHA mortgage, your interest rate is consistent through the loan term. You know what your principal and interest payment will be for the life of the mortgage. However, your overall monthly payment may increase or decrease slightly based on your homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance premium and property taxes.

Adjustable-rate FHA mortgages start out with a low and fixed interest rate during an introductory period of time, usually five years. Once the introductory period ends, the interest rate will adjust annually, which means your monthly mortgage payments may increase based on market conditions.

A unique situation where signing up for a low, adjustable-rate FHA mortgage could make sense is if you plan to sell or refinance the home before the introductory period ends and the interest rate changes. Otherwise, a fixed-rate FHA mortgage has predictable principal and interest payments and may be the better option.

FHA loan limits

The FHA imposes a limit on the amount of money that homebuyers are allowed to borrow each year. For 2019, the FHA loan limits for one-unit properties are $314,827 in most U.S. counties and $726,525 for high-cost areas. You can find your county’s loan limit information for one- to four-unit properties by using the FHA’s lookup tool.

Qualifying for an FHA loan

Besides the low down payment, an undeniable benefit of the FHA mortgage is the low credit score requirement. You may qualify for a 3.5% down payment with a credit score of 580 or higher. You can qualify with a minimum credit score of 500, but you’ll have to make at least a 10% down payment.

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is another key metric lenders use when determining whether you can afford a mortgage. DTI measures the percentage of your gross monthly income that is used to repay debt. Lenders consider two DTI ratios when determining your eligibility — the front-end (housing debt) ratio and the back-end (total debt) ratio.

Your front-end ratio is the percentage of your income it would take to cover your total monthly mortgage payment. Lenders typically like to see a front-end ratio of no more than 31%.

Your back-end ratio illustrates the percentage of your income that covers your total monthly debts. Lenders prefer a back-end ratio of 43% or less, but may approve a higher ratio if you have compensating factors, such as a higher credit score or a larger down payment.

You’ll also need to have a steady income and proof of employment for the last two years. Additionally, the home you’re purchasing via FHA must also be your primary residence, at least for the first year.

FHA mortgage insurance

At first glance, an FHA mortgage probably seems like the ultimate hack to buying a home with minimal savings. The flip side to this is you must pay mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) in exchange for your lower down payment.

Remember, FHA-approved lenders offer mortgages that require less money down and flexible qualifying criteria because the Federal Housing Administration will cover the loss if you default on the loan. The government doesn’t do this for free.

FHA mortgage borrowers must “put money in the pot” to cover the cost of this backing through upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums. The upfront insurance premium costs 1.75% of the loan amount and can be rolled into your mortgage balance.

The annual mortgage insurance premium is divided into 12 installments and paid monthly as part of your mortgage payment. The annual premium ranges from 0.45% to 1.05%, based on your loan term, loan amount and loan-to-value ratio (LTV).

Your LTV is a metric that compares your loan amount to your home’s value. It also represents the equity you have in the property. For example, putting 3.5% down means your LTV would be 96.5%. In other words, you have 3.5% equity in the home, and your loan is covering the remaining 96.5% of the home value.

Here’s the annual MIP on a 30-year FHA mortgage (for loans less than or equal to $625,500):

  • LTV over 95% (you initially have less than 5% equity in the home) – 0.85%
  • LTV under 95% (you initially have more than 5% equity in the home) – 0.8%

As you can see, starting off with a smaller down payment will cost you more in mortgage insurance premiums. Additionally, in most cases, you’ll pay annual MIP for the life of your loan.

However, if your LTV was less than or equal to 90% at time of origination — meaning you made a down payment of at least 10% — you can cancel MIP after 11 years.

FHA loans vs. conventional loans

Government-backed home mortgages like the FHA loan are special programs serving borrowers who might not qualify for a traditional mortgage.

Conventional mortgages are offered by lenders and banks and typically follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s mortgage standards. Fannie and Freddie are government-sponsored enterprises that buy loans from mortgage lenders and banks that fit their requirements.

The qualifying criteria bar for conforming loans is usually set higher. For instance, you typically need to have at least a 620 credit score to qualify for a fixed-rate conventional loan. However, credit score minimums vary by lender, but in any case, a score above 620 will be necessary for the most competitive interest rates.

A misconception about conventional mortgages is that borrowers must have 20% for a down payment to qualify. Mortgage lenders may accept less than 20% down for a conventional mortgage if you have a high credit score and pay their version of mortgage insurance premiums, which is called private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Similar to FHA mortgage insurance, PMI is a private insurance policy that protects the lender if you default. Be careful not to confuse the two types of insurance policies.

If you have PMI on a conventional mortgage, you’re able to request the removal of those insurance payments when you build up 20% equity in your home. On the other hand, the mortgage insurance premiums for most new FHA mortgages can’t be removed unless you refinance.

When to choose a conventional mortgage instead

Choosing an FHA loan can be a shortcut to homeownership if you don’t have much cash saved or the credit history to get approved for a conventional mortgage. Still, the convenience comes at a price that can follow you for the entire loan term.

Furthermore, putting a small sum down on a home means it will take you quite some time to build up equity. A small down payment can also increase your monthly payments and interest rate.

Homebuyers with a strong credit score should consider saving a bit more money and shopping for a conventional home loan first before thinking an FHA mortgage is the only answer to a limited down payment.

If you plan to put down at least 5% toward your home purchase and have a good or excellent credit score, it might make sense to borrow a conventional mortgage instead. A conventional home loan with PMI may not require the same upfront insurance payment as the FHA home loan, so you can find some savings there. Plus, you’re capable of getting rid of PMI without refinancing.

There are a few conventional mortgage programs that allow a 3% down payment, including Fannie Mae’s HomeReady program and Freddie Mac’s Home Possible program. These products also have cancellable mortgage insurance.

Shopping for an FHA loan

So, you’ve reviewed all the information and determined that an FHA loan is right for you. Once you’re ready to start the homebuying process, one of the most important things on your to-do list is shopping around.

Gather quotes from multiple FHA-approved lenders to find the most competitive rate. If you’re unfamiliar with the approved lenders in your area, you can use the HUD’s lender list search to locate them.

Comparison shopping for the best mortgage rate can save you thousands in interest over the life of your loan, according to research from LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney. Be sure you also compare the various other costs associated with borrowing a mortgage, including lender fees and title-related expenses.

Don’t rush to a decision. If you’re still not sure which mortgage type will be the most cost-effective for you, ask each lender you shop with to break down the costs for a comparison.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Crissinda Ponder
Crissinda Ponder |

Crissinda Ponder is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Crissinda here

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2019 FHA Loan Limits in Wyoming

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you’re looking to buy a house in Wyoming, you probably already know the state boasts the nation’s smallest population and the lowest population density. Its rural nature makes Wyoming the perfect place for homeowners who want to enjoy the natural wonders of the West without living right on top of their neighbors.Wyoming is also a state where homeownership is a reality for a large portion of the population: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 69% of the homes in the state are occupied by their owners.

So how do you make your Wyoming homeownership dreams come true? One popular option is a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Last year, 0.23% of the nation’s FHA loans originated in Wyoming, where buyers took advantage of the federal backing to access benefits like lower interest rates and smaller down payments.

But keep in mind that FHA loans are subject to limits on the amount you can borrow. Those limits change every year to keep up with housing prices across the country. This year, FHA loan limits have climbed in Wyoming, allowing potential buyers who qualify for an FHA loan to borrow up to $314,827 for a single-family home.

Wyoming FHA Loan Limits by County

County NameOne-FamilyTwo-FamilyThree-FamilyFour-FamilyMedian Sale Price
ALBANY$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $239,000
BIG HORN$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $139,000
CAMPBELL$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $228,000
CARBON$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $174,000
CONVERSE$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $207,000
CROOK$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $199,000
FREMONT$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $77,000
GOSHEN$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $159,000
HOT SPRINGS$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $157,000
JOHNSON$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $225,000
LARAMIE$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $243,000
LINCOLN$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $253,000
NATRONA$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $215,000
NIOBRARA$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $165,000
PARK$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $241,000
PLATTE$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $175,000
SHERIDAN$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $253,000
SUBLETTE$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $235,000
SWEETWATER$316,250 $404,850 $489,350 $608,150 $259,000
TETON$726,525 $930,300 $1,124,475 $1,397,400 $789,000
UINTA$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $206,000
WASHAKIE$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $173,000
WESTON$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525 $184,000

How are FHA loan limits calculated?

FHA loans are backed by the federal government, and it sets the loan limits.

The government sets a floor limit, which is the maximum amount that buyers are allowed to borrow in areas deemed “low cost.” It also sets a ceiling limit, the maximum amount an eligible buyer can access in an area that’s considered “high-cost.”

The FHA bases its figures on the conforming loan limit — the biggest loan that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will buy — with the floor set at 65% of the conforming loan limit, and the ceiling at 150%.

All 23 counties in Wyoming are considered low-cost, and therefore have the loan limit of $314,827.

These are the limits that the FHA has set for low-cost areas across the United States this year:

  • One-unit: $314,827
  • Two-unit: $403,125
  • Three-unit: $487,250
  • Four-unit: $605,525

These are the limits set for high-cost areas across the USA in 2019:

  • One-unit: $726,525
  • Two-unit: $930,300
  • Three-unit: $1,124,475
  • Four-unit: $1,397,400

Are you eligible for an FHA loan in Wyoming?

Of course, just buying a house in Wyoming won’t guarantee you a $314,827 mortgage, nor does it grant you access to an FHA loan. There are requirements to meet regarding your credit score, debt-to-income ratio and other factors. You can find out more in MagnifyMoney’s complete guide to FHA loans.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jeanne Sager
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Jeanne Sager is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jeanne here

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