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Loan Options for Aspiring Homebuyers with Bad Credit

Buying a home is hard enough while having good credit. You have to shop for a loan, pray that you get approved for an ample amount, look for a home that you can afford with that loan, make an offer and hope that the seller will accept your price. However, having a bad credit score can halt this process dead in its tracks. Before the recession, you could get a home loan as long as you could fog a mirror. Post collapse, the prospect of getting a mortgage is equivalent to getting your teeth pulled. Lenders have become stricter and more cautious regardless if the individual has a decent income or a good credit score.

In April, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released data, which revealed that mortgage credit availability went up in March. According to the MBA's Chief Economist, Mike Fratantoni, over the last few months "many lenders and investors are providing borrowers seeking higher loan amounts with a broader range of financing options by introducing new jumbo loan programs." He added that "some lenders made a complete exit from wholesale lending operations, while other lenders moved to enter that space or expanded operations."

Proof of improving lending conditions were seen recently as Wells Fargo, Bloomberg reported, lowered its minimum credit score for individuals who had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans from 660 to 620. In January, Wells Fargo also decreased its credit criteria from 640 to 600 for those with FHA loans. As a result of this loosening of credit requirements, the chances of getting a mortgage loan have risen.

improve their score. The site recommends making payments on time and in full. Weinberg also reveals that it is best to not open any additional lines of credit and show a steady sign of employment for a minimum of one year.

Elizabeth Weintraub, a real estate broker with Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, suggests that borrowers should take out a credit report and check to see if there are any inaccuracies that can be disputed. If there are any errors in the report, borrowers can then hire a company that is "recommended by a reputable mortgage broker" to advise on how to repair those issues.

However, if waiting to improve a credit score is not an option, applying to the Federal Housing Administration loan program is an ideal option. Besides their credit score, loan applicants need to present their income and assets and be able to fit the requirements of their debt-to-income ratio.

Weintraub reveals that the FHA is a "good program to consider for buyers with bad credit" due to its low credit score requirements. However, she adds that mortgage loan applicants with "FICO scores below 600 might not qualify for any FHA program due to bank overlays and their common refusals to fund such loans."

She notes that while it is "rare to obtain an FHA loan with a FICO under 600," it is also not impossible. There is an additional drawback to an FHA loan, according to Weinberg, which involves paying a "mortgage insurance premium (MIP) up front and then a monthly premium for a full five years, even if they have built up sufficient equity."

A good alternative to an FHA loan, Weintraub suggests, is to simply go to a "mortgage broker who handles loans for many different lenders." She explains that mortgage brokers "will have more options at his or her disposal than a bank."

Gary Foreman of posted on his Q&A column, the "New Frugal You," ways in which people with bad credit can get a home. His top suggestion is to find a landlord who is open to doing a lease that has an "an option to buy," but homebuyers should make sure they have a lawyer present. Another alternative that Foreman includes involves private lenders, which he believes "may be more willing to give you credit." However, borrowers may expect to pay a higher interest rate on that mortgage.

If paying a higher interest rate or an insurance premium is not something aspiring homebuyers can afford, renting for a longer period of time may be the most sensible choice. Taking this course of action may give hopeful homebuyers a chance to improve their credit score and get a better deal when it comes to applying for a mortgage loan.

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