FAQ for FHA loans



What is the FHA?
The Federal Housing Administration is an agency of the federal government. The FHA insures private loans issued for new and existing housing, and for approved programs for home repairs. The FHA was created by Congress in 1934, and in 1965 became part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Housing. The FHA’s mission in the present day includes offering help borrowers get the amounts they qualify for, and to assist lenders by reducing the risk of issuing loans. To get situation-specific information and advice on how you might be able to take advantage of an FHA-insured loan, you’ll need to contact an FHA lender to get started. You can search for an FHA lender near you 
at HUD

I have credit problems; will this hinder my seeking help with the FHA?
The FHA recommends a Consumer Credit Counseling program for anyone who fears being denied a loan as a credit risk. You should, as a rule, be in a satisfactory payment situation for at least one year before applying for any FHA loan program. Your credit counselor can address issues such as income-to-debt ratio, how to maintain satisfactory payments for the required time and challenging unfair or erroneous entries on your credit report. It is very important to approach any FHA loan with an improved credit rating if you have had trouble in the past.

What kinds of information will I need to gather to get started with the FHA?
The FHA will ask for a lot of information, which will go on your loan application. Be sure to ask your loan officer for a complete list of required data and give yourself plenty of time to gather the information. You will need to provide the FHA with a wide range of details; this includes all the addresses where you have lived in the previous two years, your employers name and addresses for the last two years, plus the amount of your Gross Monthly Salary. If you have had multiple jobs over the last twenty-four months, you will need your W2s for all of them. You will also need your income tax forms submitted for the last two years. If you don’t have copies of your W2s, you should contact your employers for assistance. If you need replacement copies of your income tax returns, go to IRS’ site and follow the instructions on how to order replacements. A tax transcript is free of charge, and copies of actual tax returns cost thirty-nine dollars.

I’m a veteran; do I need to submit any additional paperwork when applying for an FHA loan?
Veterans are required to submit the DD Form 214 along with their FHA application paperwork. The DD Form 214 is the official record of discharge from the Armed Forces. If you have recently separated, retired or otherwise left active duty and don’t have your DD Form 214, you will need to request a copy from either your final outprocessing base (call the orderly room, records office or outbound assignments/outprocessing office), or request the form electronically from the Department of Defense. Click here to learn how to request a copy of your DD Form 214, or contact your nearest Veteran’s Administration office. Once received, submit the DD Form 214 in the same package with your FHA application.

I had an FHA/HUD insured mortgage issued after 1983. Am I entitled to a refund of any kind?
Do you have an FHA loan or HUD insured mortgage? In certain cases, if you paid an “up-front” mortgage insurance premium at the closing of your house and did not default on your mortgage payments, you may be eligible for a refund on part of your insurance premium. Loans granted after September 1, 1983 may be entitled to this refund. If you aren’t sure whether you paid an upfront premium, check your settlement paperwork or phone your lender to learn more. If you believe you are eligible, you can check the HUD database by clicking here and following the instructions on how to check online. You will need your FHA case number to perform the search. If you need further assistance, contact your FHA loan officer for help.

What is the most widely utilized FHA loan?
The 203(b) fixed rate loan is the most popular FHA home loan, especially among first time home buyers. If you have never purchased a home before, you may wish to consider the 203(b) FHA loan-it keeps your downpayment to a minimum. Your closing costs may also be reduced. The 203(b) FHA loan will finance up to ninety-seven percent of your loan. There are some debt-to-income rations you’ll be required to adhere to, but the 203(b) does not have a minimum income requirement. If you are unsure about your debt-to-income ratio, check with a financial planner or discuss your bills with a lender to see how you can maximize your standing with credit reporting agencies. Your FHA loan experience will be greatly enhanced by doing so.

How do I borrow money from the FHA?
FHA loans do not come directly from the FHA. Instead, the FHA is in the business of guaranteeing loans-reducing the risk to lenders and offering increased borrowing power to qualified applicants. This power includes getting better interest rates thanks to the FHA home loan insurance. FHA loans are particularly helpful for people just out of college who want a home, but have little or no money saved for a down payment. The FHA loan is also a good bet for newly married couples, and also those who have had credit problems in the past because of foreclosure or bankruptcy. You can get a wealth of information from a qualified lender, but the first thing you should do is to check out your credit rating and get a list of lending limits for FHA loans in your area. These limits vary from state to state, and may even vary by county depending on where you live.

What will be required for me to pre-qualify for an FHA home loan?
There are many factors you will need to pre-qualify for an FHA loan. You should be able to demonstrate employability, job stability and reliability. This reliability includes holding a steady job for at least two years with the same company or employer and increasing or at least consistent income. Any foreclosures on your record should be at least three years old. The same applies for bankruptcy. The FHA loan bottom line-make sure you can demonstrate that you have been a good risk for two years or more and you will have a much better chance at pre-qualifying for an FHA loan.

Will I have a chance at an increased FHA loan amount?
A HUD press release in 2014 announced the updated loan amounts for each county. This can be located at http://www.fhaloanmichigan.org/fha-loan-limits There has been a steady increase in the amount of FHA insured home loan money available to borrowers approved for loans on single-family home mortgages. This increase in availability means more borrowing power for those applying for FHA home loans, and lets more people than ever have the chance to own a home. With only a 3.5% down payment and a higher single-family home mortgage limits, now may be the best time for you to apply for an FHA home loan. Take a good look at your finances before you proceed; your monthly housing costs should not take up more than 31% of your gross monthly income. Some people make the mistake of calculating their housing budget using net income, which won’t help you when it comes time to apply for an FHA loan.

What kinds of fees should I expect to be charged as part of an FHA mortgage?
There are many `reasonable and customary’ fees that may be charged to the borrower for any kind of home loan. These fees can include appraisal fees, inspection fees, credit report fees, document preparation fees and other charges. You should ask your lender up front for a list of known fees in connection with your type of FHA insured home loan, FHA streamline refinance or other transaction. You should be provided with a full accounting of what you are expected to pay, when, and how it affects the bottom line of your loan.

What about “other fees”?
It’s true, there are fees included in the processing of some loans that are not directly related to closing costs. Some of these include courier fees, wire fees, real estate broker fees, recording fees and recording taxes. Depending on the nature of your FHA loan, you may be eligible to get state or local assistance for some or all costs related to home buying. Ask your lender what programs are available to you in your state for additional financing, grants or `forgivable’ loans. You may be surprised at the help you can find at your local level when seeking an FHA mortgage!

Are there any prohibited costs connected with my loan?
There are a set of payments, fees and other charges that are illegal. If you are seeking an FHA loan, do not pay any `unearned fees’. These can include a fee paid above and beyond the level of service, a kickback, fees charged for a service that was not delivered or that was different than the service paid for. FHA guidelines are not the sole regulation of these kinds of illegal fees-federal, state and local laws all prohibit some or all of these costs. If you feel you are being asked to pay a prohibited fee or cost, check with the FHA, or contact a housing counselor immediately to get advice, or consult a lawyer with expertise in home lending. Your FHA mortgage is designed to get you into a home for a fair price; you should not be required to pay above and beyond the normal fees associated with buying a home.

What should I avoid when I start the FHA loan application process?
There is one major mistake potential homebuyers can easily make when applying for an FHA home loan; a major credit purchase. Don’t cloud your debt-to-income ratio with a big purchase before closing on your home! Remember that your debt-to-income calculation is based on your current debts and the percentage of that debt to the amount of money you have coming in. Any major credit purchase will seriously alter the balance-sometimes enough to weigh against you when it comes down to FHA loan decision time by the lending institution. In fact, if you can afford to pay off your current auto loan before applying for an FHA loan, it may be a good decision. Don’t put yourself at a financial disadvantage to do so, but if you are able, getting rid of any debt on your record will help when you apply for the FHA loan. As always, if you have any doubts at all, consult a financial planner or ask your lender for advice.

How can I improve my credit rating before applying for an FHA loan?
One of the most important aspects of getting your credit rating in shape before applying for an FHA home mortgage is time. If you believe your credit is in poor shape, you’ll want to establish payment reliability over a period of at least one year before starting your FHA loan paperwork. Another smart idea is to eliminate your debt potential. If you have multiple credit cards, try to pay them down and get rid of one or two of them. This can improve your credit rating by showing you have less potential debt waiting to happen. The FHA loan process hinges on a good credit report. If you have erroneous items on your credit rating, challenge them in writing with the major credit reporting agencies. Be sure to get resolution before you begin work on the FHA mortgage. You may need several months to clear up contested entries on your credit report-its best to begin the contesting process early.

FHA Mortgage Insurance-The Hows and Whys
FHA mortgages are insured to protect lenders in case of a default on the FHA loan. An FHA mortgage is advantageous to the borrower because of the reduced cash investment needed to close on a home. The FHA mortgage is possible in part because the FHA is funded solely from income it creates itself. The FHA is not funded by tax dollars, but from the revenue generated by FHA mortgage insurance. This cost is borne by the homebuyer, but the insurance cost ends approximately five years later, or when the FHA mortgage balance is seventy-eight percent of the property value, whichever occurs last. Other home loans have more stringent requirements, but FHA mortgages have flexible payment schedules and more inclusive definitions of monthly income. All of this may be quite confusing to a first-time homebuyer. If you aren’t sure why an FHA loan may be right for you, ask your lender to do a side-by-side comparison between the FHA mortgage and the current non-FHA versions. It will soon become apparent which is the best value for your money, especially if you don’t have a lot to invest in a down payment.

Can I “streamline” an FHA loan?
Streamlining your FHA mortgage refers to a particular kind of refinancing plan. There are costs involved as in any refinancing, and an FHA mortgage must meet certain requirements before it can be streamlined. One of the most important of these requirements; your FHA mortgage must not be delinquent. Timely payment is the key, as with any loan application. Your mortgage must also be currently insured by the FHA, and the purpose of the streamline refinance should be to lower your payments and monthly principal. Streamlining refers to a reduction in the amount of paperwork needed to accomplish the refinancing, and while some lenders advertise “no cost” FHA mortgage streamlining, be aware that this will incur a higher interest rate than if you had paid the closing costs up front.

I am in the military on active duty. Do I qualify for a reduced rate on my FHA mortgage?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was passed in the 1940s to help military people cope with the requirements of being on active duty while trying to meet their financial obligations at the same time. Did you know that you can get an interest rate reduction to go to no more than six percent per year during your active duty service? This is true of both commercial FHA mortgages, but there is one catch. You must make a request to get this reduced rate. You may also be required to renew your request at periodic intervals as permitted by the Civil Relief Act. Make sure you completely understand the requirements of your lender and the rules of the Relief Act to take full advantage of this important FHA loan benefit.

What if I fall behind on my FHA Loan payments?
In some very important circumstances, your FHA mortgage will not be foreclosed upon for ninety days after the payment date. These circumstances include a reduction or loss of income from natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, wildfires, and other events if your home is in an area declared by the President as a natural disaster area. There are guidelines for this 90-day delay, and those who are current on their FHA mortgage payments should continue to pay if possible. If your income was reduced because of an injury related to the natural disaster, contact your FHA loan officer right away to discuss the details of your case. You may have more assistance and leniency than you realize as many people are unaware of the full extent of their options in the wake of such natural or manmade disasters recognized by the President. 

In other cases, falling behind on an FHA mortgage requires quick action. Regardless of your circumstances, do NOT ignore correspondence from your lender! It is very important to act immediately to avoid foreclosure. A housing counseling agency can be of great help. Contact (800) 569-4287 or TDD (800) 877-8339 to locate the housing counseling agency nearest you.

Can I get any help from the FHA once I have fallen behind on my mortgage payments?
Some FHA mortgage situations may qualify for help from the FHA in the form of a one-time payment from the FHA insurance fund. This will help bring your FHA mortgage up to date, but there are requirements. If your loan is at least 4 months, but not more than one-year delinquent and you can start making full payments once again, you may qualify for this special assistance. Be aware that you will have to sign a Promissory Note, and you will have a Lien on your home until the Promissory Note is fully paid off. Remember that this is a one-time only offer, and to protect your credit rating for future FHA loans, FHA mortgages or refinancing packages you’ll need to maintain good credit.

What is the FHA Connection?
The FHA Connection is an online system that allows authorized lenders and FHA business partners to access FHA computer systems to originate loans. The FHA Connection requires an FHA Connection user ID and password, and the ID can take between seven and ten days to reach an applicant. A company must designate no more than two people to act as the company’s Application Coordinators. These coordinators maintain FHA Connection user ID numbers for the entire company and carry out the FHA Connection work they are authorized to do. If you aren’t sure about how you can use the FHA Connection, check the website to learn more about FHA Connection. Using FHA Connection lenders can begin a new case using Computerized Home Underwriting Management System, update existing cases in the system and do insurance applications. These are just a few of the many functions available.

FHA Connection Part Two
Those who are just learning about FHA Connection may be distressed to learn that there is no user manual currently available, but there is help available. However, the FAQ located here can answer a wide range of questions including topics such as Single Family Servicing (Title II), Property Improvement/Manufactured Housing (Title I), Lender Assessment and Lender Approval. Other topics include how to process and track an FHA case using FHA Connection, and helpline numbers listed by state. FHA Connection is a very important tool in the FHA loan process and there is no charge to use the service, only the username and password requirements.

The Adjustable Rate FHA Mortgage
When shopping for an FHA home, you will need to consider carefully whether you would like a fixed rate loan or an adjustable rate FHA mortgage. If you choose the adjustable rate loan for your FHA home, you’ll need to do some homework about the index. The index is the measurement of how the interest rate changes. Your lender will use this index to determine interest rate flexibility. The real issue with the adjustable rate mortgage on your FHA home is that it’s impossible to predict when or how much the interest rate may change. Ask your lender to explain the index in detail and how it works. Also, be sure to ask how much the index for your potential adjustable rate FHA home mortgage has changed recently, and where the information is reported. The flexible rate may require you to be more informed since the interest is subject to change.

Are there limits to FHA mortgage loans?
The FHA does set limits on the amount you can get on an FHA mortgage loan. These limits are individually set in each county and state within the United States. You can view an itemized list of the limits at HUD. FHA mortgage loan limits are based upon the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac limits on regular mortgage loans. They are set according to the type of home-single family, plus two, three and four family dwellings. FHA mortgage loan limits may vary between counties. Check with your lender to get a detailed list of the differences in your area. If you find that mortgage loan limits in a nearby county are more competitive, you may wish to consider buying a home in the area with the higher limit. For many people this won’t be a consideration, but if you live on the edge of one county the difference in the limits may offer an advantage.

What is the FHA Loan Limit?
The FHA loan limit varies depending on the cost of the area. FHA loan limits can change based on factors including average area home prices. Check with your lender to confirm the current FHA loan limit amounts. Remember that loan limits increase with the number of units. A multi-unit home will qualify for a higher rate, but those FHA loan limits are subject to the same factors as single unit homes.

What should I know about FHA loan guidelines? (Part One)
An FHA loan can apply to many different circumstances. Did you know you could qualify for FHA home mortgages for a `fixer-upper” home? FHA loan guidelines cover this type of buying and several others. The fixer-upper type loan combines the purchase price of the house and the cost of repairs in one agreement. There are also FHA loans available for qualified borrowers over the age of sixty-two, to convert a portion of the equity in a home into cash. The FHA even has financing available for mobile homes and manufactured homes. (While the FHA has these programs, most FHA lenders either choose not to participate in them or have additional qualifying overlays which are more stringent than the FHA). It is not mandatory for an FHA lender to offer certain products and you should contact each lender to see if they offer the product you need. All of this information can be explained by your local FHA lender, and you can also get help from a HUD-approved counselor by calling (800) 225-5342. Be sure to ask or do research about pertinent state or local programs in your area that can assist you with any required down payment on your FHA loan.

What should I know about FHA loan guidelines? (Part Two)
In addition to the other types of FHA loan guidelines that pertain to specific types of purchases such as a fixer-upper home or a mobile home, there is also a special kind of FHA guideline pertaining to loans for energy efficient homes. This kind of FHA loan is called the Energy Efficient Mortgage, also known as EEM. It provides mortgage insurance for the borrower to buy or refinance a residence and include the cost of energy-saving upgrades in the amount. The best part of the FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage is that the borrower isn’t required to qualify for the extra money needed to include the energy upgrades, and there is no down payment required for the extra amount. The rationale behind this kind of FHA loan is that by saving money on utilities, the borrower can afford to make higher payments, or get a larger loan based on those savings. Anyone concerned about the environment, saving money or just getting the most efficient home they can afford should seriously consider the EEM. (While the FHA has these programs, most FHA lenders either choose not to participate in them or have additional qualifying overlays which are more stringent than the FHA). It is not mandatory for an FHA lender to offer certain products and you should contact each lender to see if they offer the product you need.

What would I need in order to qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage?
The FHA’s EEM is a very attractive proposition; it allows you to borrow additional money to incorporate energy saving features into your home and no additional “cost” to you in terms of having to qualify or make a down payment on the additional funds. Plus you get all of the energy saving technology and/or materials you desire to include into your living space. To qualify for the EEM, you’ll need to meet some FHA loan guidelines. These include being eligible for the maximum FHA-insured financing available, and the improvements must be cost effective. “Cost effective” according to FHA loan guidelines means that the cost of the improvements must be less than the total value of the energy savings over the life of the equipment or materials installed to save energy. That total value is calculated according to FHA loan guidelines at current levels. This kind of loan may take some extra homework on your part, but the savings would be well worth the effort. Contact your FHA approved lender to get help with resources in determining the cost of the materials and equipment versus the savings. Chances are your FHA lender has encountered your questions before and can give you a good head start on gathering the required information.

I’m interested in the FHA Mortgage for a manufactured home, but I don’t know whether I am allowed to buy for a unit on my own land or in a mobile home park.
The good news is, according to current FHA loan guidelines, you can get FHA-insured financing for either mobile homes or factory built houses. The loans for mobile homes located in mobile home parks are separate from the FHA loans for people who own the land where the mobile home would be located. Many people don’t realize that FHA loan guidelines do permit a retailer to make modifications to a manufactured or mobile home, but such alterations must comply with HUD code. According to FHA loan guidelines, the definition of “alteration” is the replacement, modification, addition or removal of any equipment or installation before the sale to the homebuyer. Your FHA loan officer has more information on FHA loan guidelines for buying mobile homes, but be sure to read “The Manufactured Home Consumer Guide” for up-to-date information on issues, which pertain to your FHA loan. (While the FHA has these programs, most FHA lenders either choose not to participate in them or have additional qualifying overlays which are more stringent than the FHA). It is not mandatory for an FHA lender to offer certain products and you should contact each lender to see if they offer the product you need.

What about refinancing an FHA mortgage?
Good news! The FHA does allow refinancing on an FHA loan. There are some FHA loan requirements, as always. These include FHA guidelines on the reasons for the refinancing, which must result in lower interest payments and principal on the FHA loan. Additionally, you are not allowed to take out cash on mortgages using the FHA’s “streamline refinancing” process. Remember that any amount to be refinanced must already be insured by the FHA in order to qualify. As part of the streamline process, lenders are permitted to include the closing costs into the new mortgage, as long as there is enough equity in the property. An appraisal may be required in order to properly determine the amount of equity on your home. Your FHA lender can tell you more about the refinancing process and what you will need to move forward with refinancing.

What are the advantages of refinancing an FHA home?
Refinancing your FHA home is a big decision, but one that can yield profitable results if handled correctly. Many people use refinancing, and an FHA refinance can give you the same benefits as other loans. You can use the FHA refinance to lower your monthly payment, and pay less interest. Some people use the FHA refinance to convert a thirty-year FHA mortgage to a fifteen-year mortgage! This can build equity in your home faster than taking the thirty-year route. Remember that an FHA streamline refinance-where the paperwork is reduced in order to speed the process-requires that you take out no cash on the mortgage, and the amount should be current and not delinquent. If you qualify for an FHA streamline refinancing package, you could be well on your way to higher equity and lower payments.

I want to get cash for the equity in my house. Can the FHA help?
According to FHA loan guidelines, some borrowers are eligible for what is known as a “reverse mortgage”. This allows the borrower to convert a part of the equity in the home into cash. The FHA reverse mortgage has some unique differences from a `traditional’ home equity loan that can be a huge benefit to anyone who qualifies for the FHA reverse mortgage. One of the best; no payment is necessary until the borrower does not use their home as the “principal residence” or primary dwelling. If the home is converted from the primary dwelling, for example, into a rental property or if the borrowers move into an assisted living community. This feature of the FHA reverse mortgage is quite helpful for those who qualify.

For additional information on MSHDA loans go to this page.

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