Advertiser Disclosure

Mortgage

Is the FHA Streamline Refinance Program Right for You?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Written By

When it comes to refinancing your mortgage, the process can become quite tedious, thanks to all the paperwork involved. That’s why many homeowners turn to the FHA Streamline Refinance program. As the name implies, this mortgage product seeks to simplify the application process, something many homeowners find very appealing.

See Mortgage Rate Quotes for Your Home

See RatesSee RatesSee RatesTerms Apply. NMLS ID# 1136

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

A quick overview

In simple terms, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Streamline Refinance Program allows homeowners to refinance their existing FHA mortgage in an effort to reduce their current interest rate while avoiding much of the paperwork, including a home appraisal, that accompanies a traditional mortgage refinance application.

As Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, put it, the FHA Streamline Refinance program makes the loan underwriting process for a new mortgage less cumbersome. “It’s not necessarily a different type of loan,” he said. “It’s really about the process of how the loan gets done.”

Therefore, choosing the FHA Streamline Refinance program should be an easy choice, right? Well, yes and no. As with all mortgage products, there are pros and cons to this program, all of which should be thoughtfully evaluated and thoroughly discussed with your financial planner before moving forward.

Benefits of FHA Streamline Refinance loans

Most of the benefits of the FHA Streamline Refinance program revolve around the streamlined application process for the mortgage loan. For example, because your existing mortgage must be an FHA loan, you have already established your creditworthiness for a new FHA mortgage. As a result, there’s no need to run a check on your credit history or provide employment or income verification. “What they are saying is they already have your information,” Kapfidze said.

Homeowners looking to refinance under the FHA Streamline Refinance program may not need a new appraisal on their home, either. Because the new mortgage amount cannot exceed the amount of the original mortgage, there’s no need to prove the home’s value again. Not having to pay for an appraisal as you would with a traditional refinance mortgage product reduces the costs associated with a Streamline Refinance mortgage, another factor that makes this product attractive.

In addition to less paperwork, an FHA Streamline Refinance offers tangible benefits as well. The primary tangible benefit is a lower interest rate, which could reduce the amount of your monthly payments. As with any mortgage product, this rate may be fixed or adjustable.

Also, when using the FHA Streamline Refinance program, there may be lower closing costs than those associated with a traditional mortgage product. It’s important to note these closing costs must be paid separately from the mortgage amount. Unlike traditional mortgages that allow borrowers to roll closing costs into the mortgage amount, the FHA does not permit lenders to do the same with a Streamline Refinance.

However, some lenders may offer products that work around this exclusion by charging a higher interest rate and using those monies to pay the closing costs on the transaction. Therefore, the borrower would incur “no costs” at the onset of the Streamline Refinance mortgage.

Limitations of FHA Streamline Refinance loans

While the FHA Streamline Refinance program seems like a win-win for everyone, it’s actually not for all. There are certain requirements in place that limit eligibility for taking advantage of this mortgage product.

First and foremost, the original mortgage must already be an existing FHA home loan. Having an FHA-insured loan in place is the primary reason why you can usually skip a credit check, income and employment verification, along with the home appraisal.

Second, you must be current on your existing mortgage payments and ideally should not have missed any payments. Your mortgage must be at least 210 days old and you must have made at least six monthly payments. Exceptions can be made if, for example, you’ve had your loan for less than 12 months and haven’t missed any payment deadlines by more than 30 days.

Third, through the program, the FHA requires that the Streamline Refinance provides the borrower with a “net tangible benefit.” The definition of this “net tangible benefit” will not be the same for every homeowner because it varies by type of loan, interest rate, mortgage amount and term of the loan.

When discussing the FHA Streamline Refinance Program with your lender, make sure you both determine what the net tangible benefit is for you so you can make an informed decision on this product before moving forward.

Also, unlike a traditional cash-out refinance mortgage, homeowners using the FHA Streamline Refinance program cannot receive extra cash from the loan to use for expenses like home renovations, college tuition and paying off credit cards. In fact, borrowers are prohibited from taking more than $500 out of mortgages in this program.

FHA Streamline Refinance mortgage insurance requirements

Because the FHA Streamline Refinance program is an FHA-insured mortgage, meaning the FHA will pay the loan if the homeowner defaults, homeowners are required to carry mortgage insurance on this loan, just as they did under the original mortgage. However, under a Streamline Refinance, there may be a reduction in those annual mortgage premiums.

For all case numbers assigned starting Jan. 26, 2015, mortgages with terms of greater than 15 years and loan amounts of less than or equal to $625,000 with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio less than or equal to 95%, the annual premium dropped from 130 basis points (bps) to 80 basis points, or 0.80% of the loan amount. For LTV ratios greater than 95%, the annual premium dropped from 135 basis points to 85 basis points, or 0.85% of the loan amount.

For loans of more than 15 years and more than $625,000 with an LTV ratio less than or equal to 95%, the annual premium dropped from 150 basis points to 100 basis points, or 1% of the loan amount. If the LTV ratio is greater than 95%, the annual premium dropped from 155 basis points to 105 basis points, or 1.05% of the loan amount.

For all FHA-insured mortgages endorsed on or before May 31, 2009, the annual mortgage insurance premium is 55 base points, or 0.55% of the loan amount, regardless of the base loan amount, mortgage term or LTV ratio.

When refinancing through the FHA Streamline Refinance program, you may receive a refinance credit on the upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) paid on the original mortgage. This credit can be applied to the Streamline Refinance. Talk with your lender to ensure any credits you’re due are received and applied to the new mortgage.

Conclusion

Under the FHA Streamline Refinance program, the key benefits are reducing your interest rate and, maybe, the term of your mortgage loan. However, it’s important to evaluate all of the pros and cons of the program before deciding if this mortgage product is right for you and your financial needs and goals.

In fact, Kapfidze recommends homeowners shop for a mortgage refinance product by looking at all their options rather than just settling for the FHA Streamline Refinance program.

“Don’t just say, ‘I am shopping for an FHA Streamline Refinance,’ because that may not be the best product for you,” he said. “It may turn out that the FHA Streamline Refinance is the best product for you, but you want to let that be a result of your search and not something that you preordained as you look to refinance.”

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.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

Advertiser Disclosure

Mortgage

How to Recover From Missed Mortgage Payments

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Written By

Reviewed By

understanding good faith estimate vs loan estimate
iStock

Can you bounce back from a missed mortgage payment or two? The answer is yes, but there’s work involved. After all, your payment history has the greatest impact in determining your credit score.

Falling behind on your mortgage payments can affect your credit and finances, and you could lose your home to foreclosure. It’s critical to be proactive and not wait until it’s too late to get help.

How missed mortgage payments affect your credit

In most cases, mortgage lenders give you a 15-day grace period before charging a fee — often around 5% of the principal and interest portion of your monthly payment — for late payments. But your credit history typically isn’t impacted until you’re at least 30 days behind on a mortgage payment. At this point, your mortgage servicer may report your late mortgage payment to the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Your credit score could drop by 60 to 110 points after a late mortgage payment, depending on where your score started, according to FICO research. Being 90 days late on your loan could lower your score by another 20 points or more.

It can take up to three years to fully recover from a credit score drop after being a month behind on your mortgage, FICO’s research found. Once you’re three months behind on your mortgage, that time can increase to seven years.

Recovering from missed mortgage payments

Falling behind on your mortgage can be a frustrating and scary experience, particularly if you’re facing the threat of foreclosure. Here are some options to help you get back on track after missed mortgage payments:

  • Repayment plan. Your loan servicer agrees to let you spread out your late mortgage payments over the next several months to bring your loan current. When your upcoming payments are due, you’d also pay a portion of the past-due amount until you catch up.
  • Forbearance. Your servicer temporarily reduces or suspends your monthly mortgage payments for a set amount of time. Once the mortgage forbearance period ends, you’ll repay what’s owed by one of three ways: in a lump sum, a repayment plan or by modifying your loan.
  • Modification. A loan modification changes your loan’s original terms by extending your repayment term, lowering your mortgage interest rate or switching you from an adjustable-rate to a fixed-rate mortgage. The goal is to reduce your monthly payment to a more affordable amount.

Be proactive about getting back on track and reaching out to your lender for help instead of waiting until you get late payment notices. If you think you’ll be behind soon or are already a few days behind, make contact now and review your options.

Extra help for homeowners affected by COVID-19

If you’re behind on mortgage payments because of a financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may qualify for a mortgage relief program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Homeowners who have federally backed mortgages, and conventional loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, can request mortgage forbearance for up to 180 days. They can also request an extension for up to an additional 180 days.

Federally backed mortgages include loans insured by the:

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Reach out to your mortgage servicer to request forbearance. Even if your loan isn’t backed by a federal government entity, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, your servicer may offer payment relief options. You can find your servicer’s contact information on your most recent mortgage statement.

How many mortgage payments can you miss before foreclosure?

Your lender can begin the foreclosure process as soon as you’re two months behind on your mortgage, though it typically won’t start until you’re at least 120 days late, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Still, it’s best to check your local foreclosure laws since they vary by state.

Here’s a timeline of how missed mortgage payments can lead to foreclosure.

30 days late

Your lender or servicer reports a late mortgage payment to the credit bureaus once you’re 30 days behind. Your servicer will also directly contact you no later than 36 days after you’re behind to discuss getting current.

45 days late

You’ll receive a notice of default that gives you a deadline — which must be at least 30 days after the notice date — to pay the past-due amount. If you miss that deadline, your servicer can demand that you repay your outstanding mortgage balance, plus interest, in full.

Your mortgage servicer will also assign a team member to work with you on foreclosure prevention options. This information will be communicated to you in writing.

60 days late

Once you’re 60 days late, expect more mortgage late fees, as you’ve missed two payments. Your servicer will send you another notice by the 36th day after the second missed payment. This same process applies for every month you’re behind.

90 days late

At 90 days late, your servicer may send you a letter telling you to bring your mortgage current within 30 days, or face foreclosure. You’ll likely be charged a third late fee.

120 days late

The foreclosure process typically begins after the 120th day you’re behind. If you live in a state with judicial foreclosures, your loan servicer’s attorney will file a foreclosure lawsuit with your county court to resell the home and recoup the money you owe. The process may speed up in nonjudicial foreclosure states, because your lender doesn’t have to sue to repossess your home.

You’re notified in writing about the sale and given a move-out deadline. There’s still a chance you can keep your home if you pay the amount owed, along with any applicable legal fees, before the foreclosure sale date.

Can you get late mortgage payment forgiveness?

If you’ve otherwise had a good payment history but now have one missed mortgage payment, you could try writing a goodwill adjustment letter to request that your servicer erase the late payment information from your credit reports.

Your letter should include:

  • Your name
  • Your account number
  • Your contact information
  • A callout of your good payment history prior to missing a payment
  • An explanation of what led to the late mortgage payment
  • The steps you’re taking to prevent late payments in the future

End the letter by requesting that your servicer remove the late payment from your credit reports, and thank your servicer for their consideration. Print, sign and mail your letter to your servicer’s address.

The letter is simply a request; your servicer isn’t required to grant late mortgage payment forgiveness. If your servicer agrees to remove the late payment info from your credit reports, your credit scores may eventually increase — so long as you continue to make on-time payments.

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.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

Advertiser Disclosure

Mortgage

What Is the Minimum Credit Score for a Home Loan?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Written By

If you’re hoping to become a homeowner, your credit score may hold the keys to realizing that dream. Knowing the minimum credit score needed for a home loan gives you a baseline to help decide if it’s time to apply for a mortgage, or take some steps to boost your credit first.

It’s possible to get a mortgage with a score as low as 500 if you can come up with a 10% down payment. Keep reading to learn the minimum credit score requirements for the most common loan programs.

What are the minimum credit scores for home loans?

Your credit score plays a big role in determining whether you qualify for a mortgage and what your interest rate offers will be. A higher credit score means you’ll likely get a lower rate and a lower monthly mortgage payment.

There are four main types of mortgages: conventional loans, and government-backed loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Conventional loans, which are the most common loan type with guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have a credit score minimum of 620. Although some loan programs don’t specify a minimum credit score needed to qualify, the approved lenders who offer them may set their own minimum requirements.

The table below features the minimum credit scores for these home loans, along with minimum down payment amounts and for whom each of the loans is best.

Loan type

Minimum credit score

Minimum down payment

Who it’s best for

Conventional6203%Borrowers with good credit
FHA500-579 with 10% down payment
580 with 3.5% down payment
10% with a score of 500-579
3.5% with a minimum score of 580
Borrowers who have bad credit and are purchasing a home at or below their area FHA loan limits
VANo credit minimum, but 620 recommendedNo down payment requiredActive-duty service members, veterans and eligible spouses with VA entitlement
USDA640No down payment requiredBorrowers in USDA-eligible rural areas with low- to moderate-incomes

What is a good credit score to buy a house?

Meeting the minimum score requirement for a home loan will limit your mortgage options, while higher credit scores will open the doors to more attractive rates and loan terms. A good credit score can also provide you with more choices for home loan financing.

  • 740 credit score. You’ll typically get your best interest rates for a conventional mortgage with a 740 (or higher) credit score. If you make less than a 20% down payment, you’ll pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects the lender in case you default on your home loan.
  • 640 credit score. Rural homebuyers need to pay attention to this benchmark for USDA financing. Exceptions may be possible with proof that the new payment is lower than what you’re paying for rent now.
  • 620 credit score. The bare minimum credit score for conventional financing comes with the largest mark-ups for interest rates and PMI.
  • 580 credit score. This is the bottom line to be considered for an FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment.
  • 500 credit score. This is the lowest credit score you can have to qualify for an FHA loan, but you must put 10% down to qualify.

Annual percentage rates by credit score

Your mortgage rate is a reflection of the risk lenders take when they offer you a loan. Lenders provide lower rates to borrowers who are the most likely to repay a mortgage.

Here’s a glimpse of the annual percentage rates (APRs) and monthly payments lenders may offer to borrowers at different credit score tiers on a $300,000, 30-year fixed loan. APR measures the total cost of borrowing, including the loan’s interest rate and fees.

FICO Score

APR

Monthly Payment

760-8503.011%$1,267
700-7593.233%$1,303
680-6993.410%$1,332
660-6793.624%$1,368
640-6594.054%$1,442
620-6394.6%$1,538
*Based on national average rate data from myFICO.com for a $300,000, 30-year, fixed-rate loan as of May 4, 2020.

As the credit score ranges fall, the interest rates are higher. Borrowers with a score of 760 to 850, the highest range, saw an average monthly payment of $1,267. Borrowers in the lowest credit score tier of 620 to 639 saw their monthly payment jump to $1,538. The extra $271 in monthly payments adds up to an additional $97,560 in interest charges over the life of the loan.

Steps for improving your credit score

Now that you have an idea of the extra cost of getting a minimum credit score mortgage, follow some of these tips that may help boost your score.

  • Make payments on time. It may seem obvious, but recent late payments on credit accounts hit your scores the hardest. Set your bills on autopay if possible to avoid forgetting to pay one.
  • Pay off balances monthly. Try to pay your entire balance off each month to show you can manage debt responsibly.
  • Keep your credit card balances low. If you do carry a credit card balance, charge 30% or less of the available credit limit on each account.
  • Have a mix of different credit types. Mortgage lenders want to see you can handle longer-term debt as well as credit cards. A car loan or personal loan will help demonstrate your ability to budget for installment debt payments over time.
  • Avoid applying for new accounts. A credit inquiry tells your lender you applied for credit. Even if you were applying to get your best deal on a credit card or car loan, multiple inquiries could drop your scores, and give a lender the impression you’re racking up debt.

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.