Advertiser Disclosure

Mortgage

A Crucial Step in Qualifying for a Mortgage Is Getting Preapproved

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.

iStock

Buying a home can be a fulfilling yet frustrating experience. There’s a whole lot more involved than looking at well-staged photos online for hours at a time and then landing the home of your dreams.

One of the most important but overlooked to-dos of homebuying is demonstrating to potential lenders that you’re a creditworthy borrower. One of the best ways to do this is by getting a mortgage preapproval. Here, we’ll break down the preapproval process and explain what you can generally expect.

What is mortgage preapproval?

A mortgage preapproval is a conditional green light from a mortgage lender that you’re eligible to borrow a certain amount of money for a home purchase. Lenders share this information in writing, so you’ll often hear this referred to as a “preapproval letter.”

A mortgage preapproval is different from a mortgage prequalification, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. A prequalification provides a rough estimate of how much you might qualify for and comes from a surface-level review of your financial information.

A preapproval is more involved and gives you a more accurate idea of what a lender will offer in terms of a loan amount and interest rate. It also illustrates to home sellers that you’re a legitimate buyer — giving you a leg up in the bidding process.

How to qualify for a mortgage

In order to get preapproved for a mortgage, you first must qualify for one. Potential borrowers interested in a conventional mortgage are generally expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Provide at least a 3% down payment. The loan-to-value ratio — which is a calculation of the mortgage amount divided by the home’s price tag — can’t exceed 97%.
  • Have a minimum credit score of 620. Keep in mind that if your score is on the lower end, you’ll be required to provide a higher down payment at closing.
  • Have a maximum 45% debt-to-income ratio. There’s a threshold on how much of your gross monthly income can go to debt payments to qualify for a mortgage. In some cases, that ratio is capped at 36%, but the overall maximum across mortgage products is generally 45%.
  • Prepare to pay private mortgage insurance. If you put down less than 20% of the purchase price, you’ll pay PMI monthly. This is in addition to your mortgage payment.

There are also employment and income documentation requirements.

Government programs offer slightly more lenient guidelines for certain borrowers. FHA loans are available to people with credit scores as low as 580, and VA loans offer zero-down payment loans to military members and veterans.

The Home Possible® and HomeReady® homebuying programs offered by government-sponsored enterprises Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae also help low- to moderate-income borrowers looking for a conventional loan. It’s important to note that Fannie and Freddie don’t lend directly to borrowers; you’ll need to work with an approved lender to apply for a loan.

How to get preapproved for a mortgage

If you’re confident that you qualify for a mortgage, you can move on to getting preapproved. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

When to get preapproved for a mortgage

The best time to seek a mortgage preapproval is when you think you’re ready to buy a house, but before you start spending tons of time house hunting. That’s because it’s not worth falling in love with a home that’s outside the price range you can realistically afford.

Depending on the lender’s process and how quickly you submit the requested documents, a mortgage preapproval can be issued in as little as 24 hours.

Where to get preapproved for a mortgage

There are several types of financial institutions that offer mortgage preapprovals:

  • Banks
  • Credit unions
  • Mortgage brokers
  • Mortgage lenders

Depending on the institution, you may be able to submit your documents electronically for a mortgage preapproval. Check with individual lenders to learn more about their process.

It works in your favor to get multiple mortgage preapprovals — at least two or three. Before you commit to one lender, you want to be sure you’re getting the best available terms for your financial situation. According to LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney, homebuyers stand to save more than $27,000 in interest over the life of a $300,000 loan by comparison shopping for the best mortgage interest rates.

One thing to keep in mind about shopping around is that you want to keep it to a short window, typically 14 days. Each preapproval involves a hard inquiry on your credit report, and you’ll want to minimize the impact those inquiries have on your credit score. Getting your shopping done within two weeks means that a few inquiries will just count as one, according to FICO.

What you need to get preapproved

Lenders will request several documents and types of information from you for a mortgage preapproval. Those items typically include:

  • Government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license
  • Social Security number
  • 2 months of bank statements
  • 1 month of pay stubs
  • 2 years of W-2 or 1099 tax forms
  • Credit reports and scores from all three bureaus

This information helps lenders determine your debt-to-income ratio, creditworthiness and ability to repay if they lend you money.

Advantages of getting preapproved for a mortgage

A mortgage preapproval is close to a must-have for potential homebuyers. Here are some reasons why it’s an important step in the homebuying process.

  • You get a solid idea of the loan you’d qualify for, which makes it easier to determine how much house you can afford.
  • Home sellers will take you more seriously as a potential buyer and will be more comfortable accepting your offer.
  • Lenders are giving you a vote of confidence that you’re more than likely eligible to borrow money from them.
  • You’re given an opportunity to compare interest rates before committing to a specific lender.
  • You’re presented with a picture of where you stand financially and what short-term improvements to your credit you can make before closing, such as paying down more of your debt.

Things to watch for when getting preapproved for a mortgage

There are some caveats to mortgage preapproval, however.

  • A preapproval is not a guarantee that you’ll get a loan from the lender that issued it. Getting preapproved is conditional.
  • There should not be major changes to your financial situation between the time you’re preapproved and when you decide to move forward with a particular lender. Don’t apply for new credit such as an auto loan or credit card, change jobs or take any other action that would affect your eligibility.
  • Preapprovals aren’t indefinite — they often last for about 90 days. You’ll have to go through the process again if you haven’t closed on your home by the time your preapproval expires.

What happens after preapproval?

Once you have your home picked out, then it’s time to complete a full mortgage application.

After you submit your mortgage application, the lender has three days to provide you with a Loan Estimate, which tells you the estimated loan amount, interest rate, closing costs, monthly payment and taxes for your mortgage, among other important details. .

You’ll want to submit mortgage applications for at least two or three lenders and compare the Loan Estimate document you receive from each. Pay attention to all the estimated costs and fees associated with the mortgage transaction to make sure you choose the best deal.

When you’ve made a choice, you’ll need to express your “intent to proceed” with your chosen lender. Notify the lender within 10 business days of receiving your Loan Estimate, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You would then provide the lender with additional documentation related to your credit, income, proof of down payment funds and whatever else they require. After that, your loan goes through the underwriting process. You’ll get the property appraised and inspected during this period, as well.

If all goes well and you’re granted full approval, then you’re ultimately scheduled for a final walk-through and closing.

The bottom line

Getting a mortgage preapproval is a crucial step in the homebuying process, but it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to borrow from a lender just yet. Having a preapproval letter does give you a leg up over the competition, however.

Be sure you’re in the best financial shape possible before you reach out to lenders to begin the preapproval process. Pay down your outstanding debt, clean up any blemishes or errors on your credit report and find ways to increase your available down payment.

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

TAGS: , , ,

By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

Advertiser Disclosure

Mortgage

Commercial Mortgage Refinancing: How Does It Work?

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.

iStock

In business, there are many reasons why you may want — or need — to look into commercial mortgage refinancing. Maybe your credit score has vastly improved over the last few years and you’re hoping to score a better interest rate, or maybe you’re trying to avoid making a large balloon payment at the end of your current loan term. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to consider a new loan, the process can seem daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be. This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of refinancing a commercial mortgage so that you can make the financing decisions that will work best for you and your business.

Why refinance a commercial loan?

Lower interest rates

The first reason why you may want to refinance a commercial mortgage is to take advantage of lower interest rates. Interest rates are still at relative lows, historically, and if your financial situation has improved since the last time you were approved for a loan, you could be a candidate to take advantage of those lower rates.

Increased cash flow

The main benefit of those lower interest rates is that you’ll have a decreased monthly payment. That lower payment means increased savings, which can be a source of greater cash flow.

On the other hand, you also have the option of doing a cash-out refinance, in which you borrow more money than you currently owe. The excess comes to you as tax-free funds to be used however you wish. Usually, people use this method to undertake big projects like making improvements to the property or funding an expansion.

Better loan terms

Another reason why someone might consider refinancing is to create an opportunity to negotiate more favorable loan terms. This could mean moving from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a more stable fixed-rate option or simply tailoring the length of the loan to meet your current needs.

Avoiding balloon payments

Additionally, refinancing your loan could be a way to avoid having to make a sizable balloon payment — a larger-than-usual one-time payment at the end of the loan’s term. Mortgages with balloon payments generally come with lower, sometimes interest-only, payments over the life of the loan. However, when the balance of the loan becomes due, it could amount to thousands of dollars. If you don’t have that amount of cash on hand, refinancing will allow you to extend your repayment window.

What are the borrower requirements to refinance?

In order to get approved for a commercial mortgage, you’ll need to meet certain borrower requirements. Though the exact specifications will vary by lending institution, here’s a general overview of what you can expect:

Repayment ability

First and foremost, lenders want see that you have the ability to actually repay the loan. Typically, this is determined by something called a Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). It’s found by dividing your business’s net operating income by annual loan payments. In this case, it’s best to shoot for a ratio of 1.2 or more.

Management

Ideally, your business will have a strong management history in order to prove its longevity. For this reason, most lenders limit themselves to businesses that have been operating for two years or more. You may also be asked to show a resume or business plan detailing your experience and future projections.

Equity

In this case, equity refers to the stake that the owner has in the property. In some instances in which the property generates enough income on its own, it can serve as its own collateral. In others, the borrower must put up personal collateral of his or her own.

Credit history

Finally, lenders want to be sure that you have a history of paying off existing debts, so they’ll check your credit score. Be aware that both your business and personal scores may be evaluated.

How does a commercial refinance differ from a home loan refinance?

“Lenders look at this type of loan differently,” said James Hoopes, a senior vice president at NorthMarq Capital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“With home loans, your personal credit decides whether or not you get the loan. Here, the amount of income the property produces from its tenants is just as — if not more — important than your credit score.”

In addition to differences in qualifying requirements, Hoopes pointed out that there are huge differences in the way residential and commercial loans get paid off.

“Residential loans tend to amortize over the life of the loan,” he explained, “meaning that the homeowners will have usually paid off the loan in full by the end of the term.”

“Commercial loans, on the other hand, tend to have an amortization period that’s longer than the loan term, which means that borrowers can find themselves facing a large payment when the loan comes due.”

Above all, Hoopes cautions borrowers to think carefully before refinancing their commercial loans. These types of loans come with high penalties that aren’t seen when refinancing traditional home loans.

Types of commercial loans

These days, there are a few distinct types of commercial loans that you can choose from. Be sure to research each one before applying so that you know which type of financing is best for your business.

SBA 7(a) loans

The SBA 7(a) loan is the most common type of small-business loan. The loan is popular because it’s backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is geared toward serving businesses that might otherwise be turned down by banks. These loans come with a limit of $5 million, and the SBA agrees to back up to 85% of loans up to $150,000 and 75% of those above that amount.

CDC/SBA 504 loans

Another government-backed loan, the CDC/SBA 504 loan is different from the SBA 7(a) loan in the way it’s structured. For this, the SBA will provide 40% of the total project costs, while a Certified Development Company (CDC) will provide an additional 50%, and your down payment will account for the final 10%. Due to its structure, there is no limit on how much you can borrow for CDC/SBA 504 loans; however, the maximum amount that the SBA will provide is $5 million.

Private loans

Private loans are offered by a bank or mortgage company. Traditionally, these loans offer competitively low interest rates. In exchange, however, they typically come with higher qualifying standards in terms of acceptable credit scores and operating histories.

How can you find a lender?

Ideally, you’ll already have a lender in place from the last time you applied for a mortgage. However, if that’s not the case, don’t hesitate to do your own research. Ask your industry contacts who they use for financing, use the SBA website’s free lender match service and read online reviews.

The commercial loan refinancing process

“The first step to refinancing a commercial loan is figuring out what kind of loan you need,” advised Hoopes of NorthMarq Capital. This means taking a close look at why you want to refinance, whether it’s to secure a lower interest rate or to fund renovations via a cash-out option.

The next step is to shop around. “Talk to different lenders in your area to get a sense of what they can offer you. Ask about interest rates, fees and other terms until you find the best proposal for you,” he continued.

From there, it’s all about gathering the right documentation and filling out an application. Every lending institution will have different application requirements. However, in general, you should expect to need the following: a property description, a rent roll, proof of income (profit/loss or revenue/expense statements showing several years of operating history) and the borrower’s resume and financial statements.

“After that, you can enter what’s known as the underwriting period,” Hoopes said. “During this time, the lender will order an appraisal and other third-party reports to determine if you’re eligible to receive the loan.”

“Once the loan has been approved, the lender will issue a loan commitment and, at that point, it’s just a matter of preparing the legal documents for closing,” he concluded.

Fees and closing costs

Not surprisingly, fees can vary from lender to lender, as well; however, two common fees that you should watch out for are prepayment penalties and and a guaranty fee. Prepayment penalties can be hefty and result from paying off your existing mortgage early with your new loan.

For their part, only SBA loans are subject to the guaranty fee. This fee is charged to the lender but is passed along to you for the security of having a government-backed loan. Only the amount of the loan that’s backed by the SBA is taxed, rather than the loan’s face value.

Luckily, closing costs are a bit more predictable. “As a rule of thumb, for loans under $10 million, I would estimate 2% of the loan amount for both closing costs and lender fees, not including legal fees,” Hoopes said. “But they can move up from there.”

The bottom line

At first glance, commercial mortgage refinancing can seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of research, planning and forethought, you should be able to find a commercial loan that serves your and your business’s needs.

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

TAGS:

Compare Mortgage Loan Offers for Free

Home Purchase Quotes

Home Refinance Quotes

(It only takes 3 minutes!)

NMLS #1136 Terms & Conditions Apply

Advertiser Disclosure

Mortgage

What You Should Know About VA Construction Loans

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.

iStock

Ready to build your dream home? If you’re an active-duty service member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, you may not realize that the Veterans Administration (VA) backs construction loans to help offset the costs of turning that house in your head into a reality.

Jesse Gonzalez, broker of record at North Bay Capital in Santa Rosa, California, and member of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP), said these loans are relatively new and not well-known, even among active-duty service members. “There are not a lot of mortgage professionals doing these,” Gonzalez said. “My competition is sparse in this area because most mortgage professionals simply don’t understand it.”

But experts like Gonzalez say a VA construction loan is a fantastic resource for folks who want to build a home. Unlike conventional construction loans, VA construction loans offer a host of special benefits — from the possibility of 100% financing without a down payment to locked-in interest rates that won’t change over the years of the loan.

So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this resource? Do you need a special credit score or an approved contractor to build your new home? Let’s take a look at what you might need to do to get some help from the VA to build that house.

Qualifications for a VA construction loan

Much like VA loans designed to purchase an existing home, VA construction loans carry a number of eligibility criteria that lenders will look for before offering you this special type of mortgage.

Before you call a private lender (more on that later), take a look at some of the qualifications you’ll likely need to get one of these loans:

  • Loans are open to veterans, active-duty military or eligible surviving spouses of members of the Armed Forces. You can check your eligibility on the VA’s website.
  • Lenders require a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), a special form issued by the government to prove you’re eligible for a VA-backed loan.
    Homes must be built by a licensed contractor (building it yourself or with relatives is typically not allowed).
  • Homes must be built as a primary residence and occupied within 60 days of completion (exceptions are made for business units built on properties primarily intended for residential use).
  • A minimum credit score of 620 is typically required, although some exceptions can be made.

Minimum property requirements for VA construction loans

Even if you and your home plans fit the bill for a VA construction loan, you should be prepared to jump through a number of hoops once you actually start construction.

Although the VA doesn’t put restrictions on the overall design of the house — whether you build a cute bungalow or a sprawling McMansion is up to you — if you’re going to build with a VA-backed loan footing the bill, your property will have to meet several requirements regarding usage, utilities and the like.

Some of the major things to be aware of include

  • Usage — VA loans are intended to help people with housing, so it’s no surprise the VA construction loan requires the primary use be residential. Up to four units are allowed on certain properties, depending on size. Business units are allowed, provided they don’t “impair the residential character of the property,” according to VA rules, or exceed 25% of the gross floor area.
  • Living space — The size of the living space must accommodate living, sleeping, cooking and dining space.
  • Utilities — Water, sewer, gas and electricity must be available for the unit (or units, if there are multiple). Homes must have a means for safe sewage disposal, and connection to public sewerage is required, if it’s feasible.

Steps to getting a VA construction loan

If you’re interested in applying for a VA construction loan, a private lender may be able to help you, and some of the process will be similar to that of a conventional loan application.

  1. Certificate of Eligibility. This step is required only for VA-backed loans, not conventional loans, but it’s a must! To apply, you can fill out an online application, send in your documents by mail, or ask a lender for help.
  2. Prequalification. This is the first step of any loan process, and it will include a credit check as well as the need to provide the COE, income documents, and possibly proof of other assets. You may also be asked to undergo the following:
    1. Builder registration. This is a review of your chosen contractor to ensure it’s reputable and up to the task.
    2. Deal calculation. This number crunching will be done by the lender as he or she figures out a total loan amount that includes any closing costs, seller or building concessions, interest and more.
  3. Underwriting. This is step two of the process. Your lender will submit the loan for review. As with conventional loans, the underwriter will look at your income, credit, assets and construction plans. Information to verify your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio may also be requested by some lenders. In the case of a VA construction loan, the underwriter also will look to see that your builder is approved by the VA.
  4. Closing. VA construction loans allow for something called a “one-time close.” While traditional building loans usually require the borrower take out and refinance a construction loan as a permanent home loan once construction is complete, VA borrowers get to skip that second step. Instead, there’s a single closing, at which time the borrower and lender sign all necessary paperwork and money is handed over so that construction can begin. The builder will use the money to build, but payback of the loan won’t begin until construction is complete.

Pros of a VA construction loan

Why would you want to get a VA construction loan, if you’re eligible, when you could just buy an existing home?

According to Evan Wade, co-founder and partner of Philadelphia Mortgage Brokers in Philadelphia and member of the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), VA construction loans are especially popular in areas with limited housing inventory.

“The VA does not wish to restrict the type of homes a veteran is able to buy,” Wade explained. “If a veteran wishes to construct a brand new house while still being able to utilize their hard-earned benefits, they should definitely be able to do so.”

The benefits don’t stop there. A construction loan could allow the freedom to design a home that truly suits your and your family’s needs, instead of making do with a home that’s simply “almost right.” Here are some other benefits for which you might qualify with a VA construction loan:

  • Lower interest rates
  • Skipping a down payment
  • Avoiding Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which typically is not required

Cons of a VA construction loan

There are, of course, some aspects of a VA construction loan that might not make it a perfect fit. Before you approach a lender, you might want to take the following into consideration:

  • VA construction loans require builders be approved by the VA. That means you can’t build your home yourself or use friends and family helpers to cut construction costs.
  • Some building styles are banned under this construction loan, such as a tiny house.
  • Not all lenders, even lenders who offer VA loans, provide VA construction loans.

Where can you find a VA construction loan?

It can be tough to find a lender who is versed in VA construction loans; however, they are out there. Asking friends or family who are also in the military world for word-of-mouth recommendations can be a great way to find the perfect lender who can walk you through the process.

VAREP also offers a “find a member” option on its website to assist in locating military-friendly mortgage professionals located around the U.S.

Before you borrow

When it comes to building a home, the VA construction loan is a valuable option for would-be homeowners who qualify. If you’re not sure one is right for you, you might also want to consider a traditional construction loan.

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
Jeanne Sager |

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

TAGS:

Compare Mortgage Loan Offers for Free

Home Purchase Quotes

Home Refinance Quotes

(It only takes 3 minutes!)

NMLS #1136 Terms & Conditions Apply