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Did you recently lose your home to foreclosure? It’s not uncommon to feel like a failure and that your world is collapsing given the stress and headache it causes. But it is possible to start again, and to buy another home. In fact, it’s even possible to get a mortgage to buy a home.
We’re not saying it’s easy. But if you want to explore home buying after foreclosure, you’re in the right place to get started.
How long after foreclosure can you buy a house?
Generally, borrowers whose homes have been foreclosed must undergo a waiting period before another institution will lend them money for a new mortgage. Extenuating circumstances for certain types of loans, however, can actually shorten the time frame. Generally, though, if you want to get a second-chance mortgage after foreclosure, here’s how long you’ll have to wait:
- Conventional loan (3–7 years) – After a foreclosure, it can take you as long as seven years to get a conventional loan (one that mortgage market-makers like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will buy). However, this can be shortened to a mere three years if certain circumstances led to the foreclosure, such as a loss of employment, medical issue or incorrect information on your credit report, according to Jilyn Crawford, former senior loan officer and sales manager at American Family Funding in Santa Clarita, California.
- FHA loan (3 years) – You’ll have to wait three years to get a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The waiting period begins when the foreclosure case ends, generally when the foreclosed home is sold. As with a conventional loan, if you can prove circumstances beyond your control caused the foreclosure, you may be able to request a shorter waiting period.
- VA loan (2 years) – For veterans and those still serving in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires only two years between a foreclosure and seeking a new loan. Note that if you qualify for a VA loan, you’ll get a home loan entitlement, which is the maximum amount the VA guarantees it’ll pay the lender in case of default. “I’ve had veterans lose part of their entitlement in a foreclosure, but they still have entitlement left. It’s all about the foreclosed amount,” Crawford explains.
- USDA loan (3 years) – Available in largely rural areas, USDA loans have a waiting period of three years to qualify if you have a foreclosure in your credit history, Crawford says.
- Non-qualified mortgage (0 years) – With a non-qualified mortgage (non-QM), or a loan that doesn’t meet government standards, you could possibly get another loan right after your foreclosure, Crawford says. Note that non-QM loans have more expensive fees, higher interest rates and also different eligibility criteria than qualified mortgages (QM).
How to get a mortgage after foreclosure
Despite the foreclosure, you can own a home again with patience and strong financial habits. Before you attempt to make the purchase, though, do the following:
1. Check your credit report
Get a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, and look for any delinquent accounts that were sent to a collection agency.
Scan your credit report for errors. If you find any, gather any supporting documents you have handy and file disputes by mail, phone or online with the applicable credit reporting agency — Experian, Equifax or TransUnion — to have them resolved.
2. Focus on improving your credit score
You can count on a foreclosure putting a dent in your credit score. If you want to figure out how to buy a house after foreclosure, you need to rebuild it.
To help improve your credit score, strive to pay every bill on time — late payments are very hard to get off your credit report, Crawford says. Most creditors will give you a one-time goodwill adjustment, so you can try asking for it if late payments aren’t a regular habit. Set up your bills on automatic payment, if possible, to avoid forgetting to pay them.
If you have any credit cards, try to pay more than the minimum balance due, as well. But if you can’t afford the minimum due to a temporary hardship, try reaching out to the creditor and requesting a payment arrangement to avoid additional damage to your credit score.
3. Re-establish income
Lenders generally like to see consistency in employment and income. So if you lost your job, make it a priority to find another one — ideally, one with some stability.
Note that your new employer may review your credit report, which will contain information about the foreclosure. While that generally shouldn’t have an impact on your prospects, it could if you’re a candidate for a role that deals directly with money. In all cases, it’s best to be forthcoming and honest about how you’re taking steps to move past your past credit mishaps.
4. Save if you can
To qualify for another mortgage after foreclosure, you’ll need funds to demonstrate to the lender that you’re able to repay the loan even if emergency expenses arise.
This can be hard, Crawford says, but if you can, cut back on little things like restaurant meals, and look for ways to save, such as changing your auto insurance or cell phone plan or dropping your cable television or streaming subscription.
5. Find a lender based on your needs and situation
As you figure out how to buy a house after foreclosure, a new lender can be an ally. Seek out a lender familiar with your situation, or one with several programs to choose from that can fit what you need, Crawford recommends. For instance, if you’re looking for a VA loan, go for a lender who specializes in them.
“All lenders are fishing in the same pond,” Crawford says. “The difference is in the loan officer, and the knowledge that officer has.”
How does foreclosure affect your credit?
A foreclosure means bad news for your credit score. It stays on your credit report for up to seven years and will lower your credit score significantly, often by as many as 100 points, according to Equifax. That’ll make it tougher to qualify for credit cards and loans. If you do get approved, you’ll likely get a much higher interest rate. However, the impact will lessen over time if you manage your other debt obligations responsibly.
What to consider before buying a home after foreclosure
Before jumping in to buy another home after foreclosure — especially if you’ll need another mortgage to do so — check in with yourself and your finances. Do you feel ready to take on the responsibility of homeownership again? Think about the costs that come with owning a home, such as repairs and upkeep, in addition to the monthly mortgage payment. Think about what led to the loss of your old home.
And finally, assess the current real estate scene in your area. “You need to examine what the market looks like at that time and will a lender work with you,” adds Crawford.
Overall, assess whether having your own home again is the best financial move for you. Sometimes renting for a little longer can help you repair your credit, pay down your debt and build up your assets. And all of those things will make home buying after foreclosure a lot less stressful down the road.
Additional reporting by Kacie Goff