No down payment: Navy Federal
Navy Federal Credit Union, the nation's largest in assets and membership, offers 100 percent financing to qualified members who buy primary homes. Navy Federal eligibility is restricted to members of the military, some civilian employees of the military and U.S. Department of Defense, and family members.
The credit union's zero-down program is similar to the VA's. One difference is cost: Navy Federal's funding fee of 1.75 percent is less than the VA's funding fees.
No down payment: USDA
The USDA's Rural Development mortgage guarantee program is so popular that it has been known to run out of money before the end of the fiscal year.
"That's the cat's meow, my favorite loan program," says Jeff Tufford, mortgage consultant for Epic Mortgage Group in Grand Blanc, Michigan.
Some borrowers are surprised to find that Rural Development loans aren't confined to farmland.
"It's not all rural," Tufford says.
The USDA has maps on its website that highlight eligible areas. In addition to geographical limits, the USDA program has restrictions on household income, and it is intended for first-time buyers, although there are exceptions.
The USDA mortgage comes from a bank, and there is no mortgage insurance. Instead, the USDA levies a 1 percent upfront guarantee fee, which can be rolled into the loan amount, and an annual guarantee fee of 0.35 percent of the loan balance.
Low down payment: Mortgage insurance
Qualified borrowers can make down payments as low as 3 percent with private mortgage insurance, or PMI. For most borrowers, PMI costs less than FHA mortgage insurance. But PMI has stricter credit requirements.
PMI has another edge over FHA: Once your mortgage balance is under 80 percent of the home's value, you can cancel PMI. You can't get rid of FHA insurance unless you refinance into a non-FHA loan.
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Low down payment: FHA
With a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent, the FHA is the low-down-payment option that's available to people with imperfect credit histories.
The FHA charges an upfront premium of 1.75 percent of the mortgage amount. On a 30-year loan with the minimum down payment, there's an annual premium of 0.6 percent of the mortgage amount, or $600 a year for each $100,000 borrowed -- about $50 a month.
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