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Whether you’re looking to ease into the responsibilities of homeownership, downsize or buy a rental property, a condominium could be a fit. A condo is an individual unit in a community of other units, typically managed by a homeowners association, or HOA, and can come with access to common spaces like a gym or pool. As with buying a single-family home, buying a condo can be a worthwhile investment, but there are key differences between the two.
There are some differences in the process of getting a mortgage for a single-family home versus getting a mortgage for a condo.
Condo mortgages call for additional documentation, because lenders screen both the borrower (you) and the condo project. The lender looks at how many units the community has, for instance, the proportion of owner-occupied to tenant-occupied, as well as its financial footing and insurance coverage. Lenders also consider whether other owners in the community are current with their dues, and how many units are owned by a single entity. All of these factors have to check out in order for the lender to approve the loan.
These extra steps can also cost you more at closing, both in terms of time — it can take longer for the lender to do a thorough assessment — and money, since there could be fees to obtain the documents.
Getting financing for a condo might also require a higher down payment, depending on the type of loan you get. This might be easier to come by, however, since condos are generally less expensive than single-family homes.
Condo mortgage rates vs. single-family home mortgage rates
Condo mortgages tend to have slightly higher interest rates compared to a loan for a single-family home, because lenders need to compensate for the additional risk of financing property in an association.
If you’re planning to buy a condo to live in, you can finance it in the same way you’d finance a single-family home. Your options include:
- Conventional loans – 3 percent or 5 percent down, with a 620 minimum credit score
- FHA loans – 3.5 percent down with a 580 minimum credit score, or 10 percent down with a 500 minimum credit score; must be an FHA-approved condo
- VA loans – No minimum down payment or credit score; must be an eligible service member or veteran; must be a VA-approved condo
- USDA loans – No minimum down payment or credit score; must be in an eligible location
In addition to meeting down payment and credit requirements, you’ll also need to meet debt-to-income (DTI) ratio requirements, which vary based on loan. For a conventional condo mortgage, lenders generally look for a DTI ratio of no more than 36 percent; for an FHA loan, 50 percent; and for a VA or USDA loan, 41 percent.
If you’re considering investing in a condo and renting it out, you’ll need a higher down payment, as well.
- Compare mortgage lenders and offers. Before setting out to look for a condo, compare mortgage lenders, loan types and offers. There are many ways to finance a condo, so doing the legwork can help you uncover the best — and lowest-cost — option.
- Get preapproved. Once you have a lender in mind, get preapproved. That way, you can confidently make an offer when you find the right property.
- Do your homework on the property. Get as much information about the community as you can. If an association you’re interested in is in financial trouble, that could make it more difficult to get approved for a loan, or ultimately cost you more for the riskier undertaking.
You can refinance a condo mortgage, but as with getting a mortgage for the purchase of the property, there can be additional hoops to jump through, and you and the condo project need to meet the requirements of the specific type of loan you’re refinancing into. This doesn’t apply to all types of refinances, however — a comprehensive condo review isn’t required for a Fannie Mae High LTV Refinance, for instance.
Similar to refinancing a mortgage on a single-family home, you can prepare to refinance your condo mortgage by checking your credit and home equity level; gathering proof of income (including bank statements, pay stubs and W-2s) and other documentation; and preparing to pay for closing costs. It’s also important to consider why you want to refinance — most homeowners are looking to lower their rate, but there can be other worthwhile reasons to refi, too.
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