Mortgage Daily

Published On: December 15, 2022

Options for Mortgages With 3% Down

Several low- and no-down mortgage alternatives are available to today’s homebuyers.

A conventional loan with a 3% down payment is frequently the best option if you have decent credit. With only 3% down, you may get the standard 97, HomeReady, and Home Possible loans.

An FHA loan with 3.5% down is a fantastic solution for people with bad credit.

Are you prepared to investigate your 3% down mortgage options? Start over here.

Conventional Loans With a 3% Down

Many homebuyers still link modest down payments to loans with government backing.

Low down payments are now also available for conventional loans, which are mortgages not covered by a federal agency.

There are several traditional choices with 3% down, including: 

  • The standard 97 loan, which has no income restrictions and is suitable for both first-time and repeats homebuyers;
  • Fannie Mae HomeReady loan: This conventional mortgage with a 3% down payment assists first-time homebuyers who satisfy the required income levels.
  • Freddie Mac Home Possible: This conventional loan with a 3% down payment is also feasible, given specific income parameters.

Their intended audience is the crucial distinction between these shows.

The HomeReady and Home Possible programs are geared toward intergenerational households and low- and moderate-income homebuyers. Although they are usually more aimed at first-timers, both programs are open to first-time and repeat home purchasers.

The traditional 97 loan is more popular. It’s excellent for purchasers who want to put down a small amount of money for a down payment to avoid having their money linked to real estate but who have strong credit but limited finances. Contrary to HomeReady and Home Possible, there are no household income restrictions with a standard 97 loan.

Let’s examine each lending program in more detail.

The Conventional 97 Mortgage

Today, a 3% down conventional 97 mortgages is being made available by an increasing number of lenders as an alternative to the typical 5% minimum down payment.

If you: 

  • Have good or excellent credit but modest savings; 
  • Don’t want to spend all of your savings on closing costs and down payment
  • Wish to terminate private mortgage insurance immediately;
  • Want to purchase a home for a higher price than what the FHA loan limits allow, then this loan might be ideal for you.

Conventional 97 has no income restrictions, unlike HomeReady and Home Possible. However, compared to loans requiring more significant down payments, this 3% option still has additional rules.

For instance, you must live in the single-family house you are purchasing as your primary residence. Vacation houses and investment residences are not permitted under the traditional 97 scheme.

Additionally, a homeownership education course is necessary if all borrowers listed on the loan application are first-time homebuyers. (However, given how beneficial these courses may be, this shouldn’t be viewed as a negative.)

The HomeReady Loan From Fannie Mae

The Fannie Mae HomeReady mortgage program is a fantastic low-down-payment choice for purchasers with lesser incomes.

Some of its main advantages are as follows: 

  • If you have lived with a renter for at least a year, their income can be included on your application;
  • On your loan application, you may include income from non-borrowing tenants as a compensatory element (however, income limits still apply)
  • You are not forced to make any out-of-pocket purchases. Gift money or down payment help might cover your whole down payment and closing costs (DPA)

HomeReady is particularly appealing for: 

  • Multigenerational households with working parents and children; 
  • home buyers who want to rent out one of their rooms; 
  • borrowers who have a roomate yet wish to purchase a property alone. This capacity to count extra sources of income toward qualifying for a mortgage is virtually unmatched by any other loan type.

As long as you reside in one of the apartments, you may even utilize the HomeReady loan to purchase a 2-, 3-, or 4-unit building and rent out the remaining units to generate additional revenue. But be aware that the conditions for multifamily loans are more stringent.

Your loan application’s total family income cannot go beyond Fannie Mae’s cap, which is set at 80% of the local median income in your region. The Fannie Mae Lookup Tool may be used to determine your area’s median income.

The Home Possible Mortgage From Freddie Mac

Home Ready by Fannie Mae and Home Possible by Freddie Mac are incredibly similar.

If the tenant has been with you for at least a year, you may use boarder income in your application. The complete down payment and closing fees may be covered by gift funds or down payment assistance (DPA)

One significant distinction is that Freddie Mac will solely consider your application’s rental revenue. Family members and roommates’ incomes cannot be used to increase one’s chances of being approved for a loan.

Freddie Mac, like Fannie Mae, enables borrowers to put down as little as 3% for a 2- to 4-unit building as long as they reside in one of the units full-time.

Mortgage Eligibility With a 3% Down Payment

The underwriting guidelines for the standard 97, HomeReady and Home Possible mortgages are comparable:

620 credit score Reliable minimum income & work Clear credit history (no foreclosures or bankruptcies in recent years)

A primary residence must be the property being purchased, which means you will live there full-time. The mortgage cannot be for more than the conforming loan limit, which is currently $647,200 in most areas. A course on first-time homebuyer education may be required. Gifts and down payment assistant programs may cover closing fees and the down payment.

Find a lender with authority to approve all three loan kinds. Your loan officer will then be able to assist you in determining which option best suits your needs.

A 97 LTV Mortgage: What Is It?

These lending schemes may also be known as “97 LTV mortgages.” The term “loan-to-value ratio” (LTV) refers to a comparison between the loan amount and the market worth of your house.

Your loan amount is 97% of the value of your house in the event of a 97 LTV mortgage.

Another method of calculating down payments is LTV. The maximum LTV is 97% if a loan includes a 3% down payment requirement since you are paying at least 3% of the home’s purchase price out of pocket.

As a result, all “97 LTV mortgages”—conventional 97, HomeReady, and Home Possible—are 97 percent loan-to-value loans.

Additional Low- And No-Down Payment Mortgage Alternatives

Potential buyers now have an easier time becoming homes thanks to conventional loans with a three percent down payment. However, there have long been low- and no-down payment lending choices available through several government-supported loan programs.

For the purchase of your property, one of these government loans could be more practical:

3.5% Down for FHA Loans

Despite the rise in popularity of conventional loans with modest down payments, the FHA loan is still helpful in some situations.

A 3.5 percent down payment is necessary for FHA loans. Any income level and FICO scores as low as 580 can qualify borrowers.

Due to the Federal Housing Administration’s insurance of FHA loans, lenders are protected from losses in the event of borrower failure. Borrowers use two methods to pay for this insurance: an upfront cost and yearly fees added to their monthly mortgage payments. The term “mortgage insurance premium” refers to this cost (MIP).

The only practical alternative for consumers with credit scores between 580 and 620 is often an FHA loan. The same frequently holds true for debtors whose monthly debt-to-income ratio is higher than 43%.

Even if they are eligible for a conventional loan, some purchasers might save money with an FHA loan. But if you have solid credit and lengthy credit history, you can get a standard mortgage that costs less and doesn’t demand an upfront MIP.

VA Loans: 0% Down

V.A. loans may cover the total cost of a house purchase. The house buyer is not required to put any money down.

Additionally, VA loans can go above conforming loan limitations with only a one-time financing cost and no recurring mortgage insurance. However, they are only accessible to veterans and active-duty American military members.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backs V.A. loans. Because of this support, V.A. mortgage rates frequently fall by around 25 basis points (0.25%) compared to rates for comparable conventional loans.

A VA loan is probably your best option if you qualify.

USDA Loans: 0% Down

The U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantees USDA loans, which enable low-interest rates and no down payment necessities. Compared to FHA loans and most conventional mortgages, these loans also feature reduced mortgage insurance costs.

Even though they are occasionally referred to as “Rural Housing Loans,” USDA loans can be applied in many suburban locales. Most U.S. landmass falls within the USDA’s definition of a “rural region.”

However, purchasers are subject to income limitations. A USDA loan cannot be obtained if your salary is higher than 115% of the median income in your area. The income threshold in your region may be found here.

Additionally, USDA loans have stricter credit score requirements: usually 640 or more.

Mortgage Insurance and Loans With Low Down Payments

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums are needed for all loans, including the Conventional 97, HomeReady, and Home Possible.

All conventional loans requiring less than 20% down must pay this monthly charge, which safeguards the mortgage lender in case of failure.

The “MIP” premiums, exclusive to FHA loans, are necessary.

How, then, can you determine the best kind of mortgage?

When a Traditional Loan With PMI Is Preferable

A conventional loan with a 3% down payment has several advantages versus an FHA loan.

Conventional loans do not levy an upfront mortgage insurance price: rather an annual fee paid in monthly installments is assessed. 

In contrast, FHA loans impose upfront and yearly mortgage insurance. Conventional PMI can be canceled after you achieve a 20% equity position. FHA mortgage insurance usually lasts the whole term of the loan. You can acquire conventional PMI at lower rates if your credit score is higher. Regardless of credit, FHA mortgage insurance costs remain the same.

Despite these benefits, not all qualified borrowers will conserve money with a conventional loan.

When a MIP-Backed FHA Loan Is Preferable

An FHA loan is frequently preferable to a conventional loan with a 3% down payment for buyers with bad credit. This is so because FHA does not base the cost of its mortgage insurance on credit score.

If you have a poor credit score for a conventional loan (620 or less) and make a 3% down payment, conventional PMI may be much more expensive than FHA mortgage insurance. Additionally, the conventional mortgage rate may be greater than the FHA mortgage rate.

In addition, both HomeReady and Home Possible have income restrictions, whereas FHA does not. If you need a loan program with permissive requirements, FHA may be an option, but your salary is too high for Fannie and Freddie’s programs.

Homebuyers should evaluate all of their low-down-payment loan alternatives to determine which offers the optimal balance of interest rate, upfront fees, and mortgage insurance premiums.

The ‘appropriate’ loan kind for each borrower will vary.

Compare Loan Choices With Minimal Down Payments

Some homebuyers choose a larger down deposit since it reduces their monthly mortgage payment and interest rate. However, a substantial down payment is not necessary.

Buyers can avoid rising home prices and build home equity by making a smaller down payment. Low down payment choices include:

Uncertain about the sort of mortgage you need? You may use a mortgage calculator to explore your possibilities, or you can receive pre-approval from a lender to determine which loan programs you qualify for.


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