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  • Writer's pictureJeff Schultheis

Top 5 Factors Lenders Use to Qualify You for a Home Loan

If you want to buy a house, you will need to qualify for a loan. Loans can be obtained from banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. However, before giving you a large sum of money to buy a house, any lender will want to ensure you meet some basic requirements.

The qualifications you need to get a home loan will depend on the lender you work with and the type of mortgage you want. For example, the Veterans Administration and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) help qualified borrowers get loans by guaranteeing them. This means that the government insures the loan. This protects the lender from losing money and protects them from giving loans to people who are a higher risk.

Before you can get a loan from most lenders, you will usually need to meet specific criteria that show you meet the lender's general expectations. Here are some of the most important things a lender will think about when deciding whether or not to give you a loan.

5 Factors Lenders Use to Qualify You for a Home Loan

Your Current Credit Rating

Your credit score is based on how much you've borrowed and paid back in the past and how well you've paid your bills in the past. When you apply for a loan, most lenders will check your credit score as one of the first things they do. The better your credit score, the more likely you will get a loan and the lower your interest rate.

The minimum credit score needed to qualify is much lower for a loan backed by the government, like an FHA or VA loan. For example, you can get a loan from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) with a score as low as 500, and there is no minimum score for a loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

On the other hand, a conventional home loan usually requires a credit score of at least 620. But if your score is below the mid-700s, you may have to pay a higher interest rate.

If you have bad credit and want to buy a house, you will have to pay a higher loan payment every month for as long as the loan is in effect. You should try to improve your credit score as much as possible by lowering the amount of debt you have, making payments on time, and not applying for new credit before buying a loan.

Ratio of Debt to Income

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is the amount of debt you have compared to how much money you make. This includes your monthly mortgage payment. If you had a monthly income of $5,000 and total monthly debt payments of $1,500 for housing, auto loans, and school loans, your debt-to-income ratio would be 30 percent of your income or $1,500 divided by $5,000.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but generally, the most debt you can have concerning your income and still get a traditional home loan is around 43%. Smaller lenders may be more willing to let you borrow a little bit more money, but larger lenders may have stricter rules and limit your DTI ratio to no more than 36%.

In contrast to the rules for credit scores, the rules for FHA and VA loans regarding DTI are very similar to those for conventional loans. When you apply for a loan through the VA, the most debt you can have compared to your income is 41%. On the other hand, the FHA usually lets you have up to 43% debt. But there are times when it is still possible to qualify even if your DTI is higher. For instance, the VA would still give you a loan, but if your ratio is higher than 41%, you'd have to show more proof that you can pay back the loan.

If you have too much debt, you won't be able to borrow money for a property until you either pay off your debt or buy a home that costs less and has a lower mortgage.

Your Initial Deposit of Funds

Lenders usually need down payment from people who want to buy a home so that the buyer has some equity in the property. This protects the lender because if you don't repay the loan, the lender will try to get back all the money they gave you. If you borrow the total amount that the property is worth now and then don't pay back the loan, the lender may not get all of their money back because of the costs of selling the home and the chance that home values will continue to go down.

When you buy a house, the best down payment is 20% of the total price, and you should borrow 80% of the rest of the money you need. Most people, though, put down a lot less than that. Most traditional lenders require a minimum down payment of 5%, but if you are a good candidate, some may let you put as little as 3% down on the property.

You can get an FHA loan with as little as a 3.5% down payment. If your credit score is at least 580, you don't have to put anything down for a VA loan unless the property is worth less than what you're paying. If the property's value exceeds what you're paying, you can get an FHA loan with as little as a 3.5 percent down payment.

If you put less than 20% of the purchase price down on the house with a standard loan, you must pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). This usually leads to an annual cost between 0.5% and 1% of the total amount borrowed. You won't be able to stop paying PMI on your mortgage until more than 80% of what you still owe on it has been paid off.

Get a loan through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). You will have to pay a mortgage insurance premium upfront and every month for either the first 11 years of the loan or for the life of the loan, depending on how much money you borrowed at the start. Even if there is no down payment, a VA loan doesn't need mortgage insurance, but the borrower usually has to pay an upfront financing fee.

Work Experience

Whether applying for a conventional loan, a VA loan or an FHA loan, every lender will ask you to show proof that you are currently working.

Lenders usually want to see that you've worked for at least two years and have a steady income. If you don't have a job right now, you will have to prove that you are getting money from somewhere else, like disability payments.

The Home's Valuation as Well As Its Current State

Last but not least, lenders want to ensure that the property you are buying is in good shape and worth the amount you are paying for it. The lender usually won't give you money to participate in a questionable real estate deal unless you have the house inspected and the property evaluated.

If the house inspection finds significant problems, they may need to be fixed before the loan can be closed. The property's appraised value also affects how much money the lender will let you borrow.

If you want to buy a house that is only worth $100,000 according to an appraisal, but you want to pay $150,000 for it, the lender won't give you money for the total amount. They will give you a loan for a portion of the property's appraised value of $100,000, but you will also need to come up with the agreed-upon additional payment of $50,000.

There is never a good reason to pay more than necessary for real estate. If an appraisal comes in lower than the price you gave for a home, your best bet is to either negotiate a lower price or back out of the deal. If you can't get financing, the purchase agreement should have a clause letting you back out of the deal without paying any money.

Compare the Terms and Rates Offered By a Variety of Lenders

Even though all mortgage lenders consider these things, each lender has rules for who can get a loan and how much they can borrow.

Make sure to look into all the different kinds of loans you can get and compare mortgage lenders to find a loan with the best interest rate, given your current financial situation.

Final Words

Since purchasing a house is a significant financial and emotional choice, you should consider all the criteria listed above and select the correct type and quantity of loan so you won't be burdened down the road. Additionally, conducting in-depth web research before selecting a loan is wise. By performing a fast internet search, you could uncover cheaper deals on interest rates and other costs. However, you should also talk to your primary banker because they can provide you with the greatest offers and services.

Each lender is unique. Finding out in advance what various lenders are searching for can help you present yourself in the best possible light.

In the end, if you want to get accepted for a loan, you must be truthful with your lender. It won't help your predicament if you mislead your lender or keep facts from them. And if you're left with a loan you can't afford to pay off, it can come back to haunt you.

Don’t be discouraged—we know this is a lot. That’s why our team at JS is so committed to serving homebuyers. We want to make the home buying experience one that preserves the excitement but sheds the anxiety. We provide clear guidance and advice to help you find the right home, at the right price, in the right neighborhood. Download our FREE planning kit and connect with us today! Let’s go find your first home!


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