mortgage

These mortgages pay for home renovations

Shepherd says he recently helped a couple who bought a foreclosed house in Kansas City, Mo., for $26,000 and borrowed $136,000 to renovate the property. An appraisal estimated the home would be worth about $135,000 after the work is completed. The couple was able to take out an FHA 203(k) mortgage totaling $144,000, which covered the price of the house, renovations, and loan costs, minus a down payment. "It's a great way to buy low and renovate to the buyer's specific style and taste," says Sandoval.

But how do you know which loan is best? It depends on the situation.

203(k) vs. HomeStyle

Those who don't have great credit should probably opt for an FHA 203(k). Most HomeStyle lenders require a credit score above 680. To get the best rate on a HomeStyle mortgage, borrowers need to have a minimum 740 credit score, Sandoval says.

"If you have a 740 score and 10 percent down, a HomeStyle is definitely cheaper," she says. That's because FHA mortgages carry higher mortgage insurance premiums for borrowers who put the least amount down. FHA 203(k) home renovation mortgages have a 1 percent upfront fee that is rolled into the loan amount.

For borrowers with credit scores lower than 740, it's best to compare estimates, Sandoval says.

FHA does not set a minimum score requirement for 203(k) loans, but many lenders require a score of 640 or greater. There are a few exceptions and some lenders accept scores as low as 600, Shepherd says.

Under the FHA's 203(k) program, borrowers can get a mortgage with a down payment as little as 3.5 percent. HomeStyle requires a minimum 5 percent down payment.

The FHA 203(k) program is available only for owner-occupants. The HomeStyle program allows investors.

How much do you need?

Another key factor a borrower should consider when deciding whether to go with a 203(k) or a HomeStyle home renovation mortgage is the size of the loan.

The 203(k) rehab mortgage has to comply with FHA loan limits. The limit varies by county but is $271,050 in most places. In high-cost areas, the limit is as a high as $625,500 starting Oct. 1. The upper limit in highest-cost areas is $729,750 through September.

You may be able to borrow more with the 203(k) than with HomeStyle if you are borrowing up to the local loan limit.

With a 203(k) loan, borrowers can get up to 110 percent of the home's appraised value, compared to 95 percent with a HomeStyle loan. Both appraisals are based on what the house is expected to be worth after repairs.

What do you want to fix?

FHA's 203(k) rehab loan does not allow borrowers to use the money for luxury items such as adding a swimming pool or a spa, but HomeStyle does.

Borrowers can opt for a streamline FHA 203(k) home rehabilitation loan if they need less than $35,000 and don't have to do any structural repairs or major landscaping work. The streamline 203(k) is similar to a standard 203(k) but is easier to get and involves less paperwork and less bureaucracy, Shepherd says. Streamline loans don't require the borrower to hire a consultant.

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