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Low Down Payment Home Loans

March 6, 2024

FHA Loan

Many potential homeowners are intimidated by saving up for a down payment.

But resources are available that make getting your down payment money together easier, including down payment grants and low down payment mortgages like the FHA home loan program. What do you need to know about low down payment loans?

FHA Home Loan Down Payment Rules

FHA loans only require a 3.5% down payment for borrowers who qualify with FICO scores of 580 or better (FHA standards; lender standards will also apply).

Where Does Your Down Payment Money Come From?

FHA loans allow you to pay your own down payment or receive help with a down payment grant or gift funds.

FHA loan rules require the source of your down payment funds, including gift funds, to have proper sourcing, and that means not breaking the rules for where your gift money comes from.

If you receive a down payment grant from a local agency, the agency should help you provide documentation. If you receive it from a private source, you must provide documentation.

Obtain a letter with any down payment gift from the gift giver that explains the amount, states that the money is a gift with no expectation of repayment, and explains that the gift did not come from unallowed sources like cash advances on a credit card or payday loans.

Seller Concessions Can Help

Indeed, home sellers cannot help their buyers with the down payment. However, the seller is permitted to provide help with closing costs up to six percent of the sale price of the home when purchasing with an FHA mortgage.

This practice is called a seller concession. It is NOT automatic and must be negotiated with the home seller.

The seller is restricted to providing up to six percent. Any more amount is considered an inducement to purchase, and the loan amount is reduced dollar for dollar by over six percent.

Are FHA Loans The Only Low Down Payment Option?

Why do FHA home loans feature lower down payments than some conventional mortgages? Part of the answer comes from the fact that FHA loans are backed by the federal government, reducing the lender’s risk.

While it’s true that there is a three percent down loan called the Conventional 97, which actually features a lower down payment requirement than FHA mortgages, this loan can have restrictions that make it far less flexible than an FHA mortgage.

FHA Low Down Payment Loans Versus Conventional 97 Mortgages

Conventional 97 loans are what their name implies–these are home loans that only require three percent down.

But they can feature restrictions, including allowing only fixed-rate mortgages (FHA loans allow you to apply for an adjustable-rate mortgage if you so choose), the home must be only a single unit, and you cannot buy a manufactured home with some Conventional 97 mortgages.

What does the FHA home loan offer in contrast to the Conventional 97 loan? Quite a bit for a slightly higher down payment:

  • 3.5% down
  • Manufactured homes, mobile homes, and modular homes are FHA loan-eligible
  • Gift funds accepted for the down payment
  • Purchase a home with up to four living units
  • No first-time homebuyer requirement
  • FHA loans permit Jumbo loans in excess of the loan limit for that housing market unlike Conventional 97 loans
  • No penalty for early payoff of the loan
Joe Wallace - Staff Writer

By Joe Wallace

Joe Wallace has been specializing in military and personal finance topics since 1995. His work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and a member of the Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Association. He was Managing editor for www.valoans.com for (8) years and is currently the Associate Editor for FHANewsblog.com.

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FHANewsBlog.com was launched in 2010 by seasoned mortgage professionals wanting to educate homebuyers about the guidelines for FHA insured mortgage loans. Popular FHA topics include credit requirements, FHA loan limits, mortgage insurance premiums, closing costs and many more. The authors have written thousands of blogs specific to FHA mortgages and the site has substantially increased readership over the years and has become known for its “FHA News and Views”.

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