Sue Graves' Blog
As the workforce changes and a growing number of companies seek out contractors and freelancers, many Americans find themselves in a gray area when it comes to their income. They may put in full-time hours, but on their taxes they work for themselves.
Mortgage lenders are cautious about who they lend to. They want to make sure you are a low-risk investment who has reliable, predictable income to ensure that they’ll earn money off of your loan.
This can sometimes make it difficult for freelancers, contract workers, or the self-employed. Not only might your taxes be unconventional, but your income could vary depending on the time of the year and the amount of business you receive.
It’s easy to see why many people would be anxious about applying for a mortgage under these circumstances. However, if you’re self-employed, there’s no need to worry. You can still get approved for a mortgage at a fair interest rate--you just need to do a bit of work to provide the right documents to your lender.
In this article, we’ll show you what documents and proof of income you’ll likely need and how to present it to a lender to make the process run as smoothly as possible to get you approved for your mortgage. Here’s what you need to do.
Organize your records
Before applying for a mortgage, it’s a good idea to take a look at your record-keeping process. As a self-employed worker, you’re probably already used to tracking your own income. However, this will help the lender analyze your income easier and move the process along more quickly.
Having a master spreadsheet of your dated invoices, paid amounts, and the names of your clients is a good place to start. You’ll also want detailed, easy to read information for your previous employers, landlords, references, and any other information you think will be pertinent.
Next, gather your tax documents for the last three to five years. As a self-employed worker, you likely file a Schedule C (Form 1040) and a Schedule SE. Make sure you have copies of these forms.
Dealing with deductions
Many self-employed workers write off business expenses in their tax returns. Travel expenses, internet, and other costs associated with doing business are all ways to save by reducing your taxable income. Doing so can save you money, but it can also reduce your net income which is what lenders will see when you provide them with your information.
If you’re hoping to get approved for a bigger loan, one solution is to plan your taxes in the year prior to applying for a mortgage. Make fewer deductions than you normally would to increase your net income.
Be ready to clarify
When a mortgage lender is reviewing your information, make sure you are open and available to provide any information that can be helpful to them in considering your application. Being prompt and accurate with your responses will signal to your lender that you are willing to work with them.
Few people can save up the cash required to buy a house. If you're contemplating buying your first house, your first stop will probably be your local bank to inquire about a mortgage. When you talk to the mortgage officer, they will ask you to provide several documents.
Various documents will be required at different stages of the application process, from pre-qualification to the final closing of the real estate deal.
What you need for mortgage pre-qualification
Getting pre-qualified for a home loan allows you to gauge how much you are eligible to borrow based on your income. It will help you be more realistic when shopping for a home and frees your real estate agent to scan through listings with confidence. Homeowners or listing agents will give your offer priority if backed by a pre-qualification letter. It is comparable to the bank vouching for you, saying you have the power to make the purchase. In order to become pre-qualified, your bank will ask for:
- Your full names and the names any co-buyer
- Your current address
- Your net worth
- Sources of income
- The estimated annual income of your household
- The estimated yearly household debt expenses
What you need for mortgage pre-approval
Pre-qualification is optional, though it comes with several advantages and literally costs you nothing to do. Once you're through with that step, you can move on to the actual mortgage application. The first step of that is to apply for pre-approval by filling the full mortgage application form. Below are some of the critical bits of information you will need to supply for this:
- All of your checking and savings bank account statements for the past few months
- Asset statements for items you will use as security for the loan
- Your current residential address
- Address history over the past two years
- Addresses and names of your landlords over the past two years
- Paycheck stubs over the past few months
- W-2 or I-9 forms for each of the past two years from your employer
- Two years of tax returns if you're self-employed
After submitting this information, there will be a waiting period at the end of which your application will be approved or rejected. If their response is positive, you can begin the process of closing the deal.
Contact your local bank and find out what you need to do to get a loan.
FHA loans have long been a valuable resource for Americans who want to fulfill their goal of homeownership but who don’t have the benefit of a lengthy credit history and equity.
If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future but want to explore all of your options in terms of financing, this article is for you.
Today we’re going to talk about FHA loans and how to know if you qualify for one.
What are FHA loans?
FHA loans are issued by private mortgage lenders across the country, just like regular mortgages. The difference, however, is that an FHA loan is “guaranteed” by the federal government.
Lenders decide your borrowing eligibility, and how much you can borrow, by determining risk. If you don’t have a sizable down payment (oftentimes 20% or more) and you have a low credit score, most mortgage lenders will see you as a risky person to lend to.
When you get an FHA loan, however, the federal government assumes some of that risk, allowing you to secure the loan anyway.
This means you can buy a home with a low credit score, a smaller than usual down payment, and save on some closing costs.
How do I qualify for an FHA Loan?
To find out if you qualify for an FHA loan, you’ll head to the same place as a traditional mortgage--a mortgage lender. Oftentimes, you can simply call or visit the website of lenders to get the process started.
As with all things, it’s a good idea to shop around for a mortgage lender. Their offerings will be largely similar, but there might be minor differences that make one better than another for your particular circumstances.
Down payment requirements
To secure an FHA loan, you will need to make a down payment of at least 3.5%. However, this low down payment comes with a price. You’ll typically be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) fees on top of your accruing interest for your loan.
Credit score requirements
While you can often secure a mortgage with a lower credit score through an FHA loan, there are still some requirements. To secure a loan with the lowest possible down payment (3.5%), you’ll need a credit score of 580 or above.
Previous homeowners and FHA loans
A common misconception about FHA loans is that they are only for first-time homeowners. However, you can still qualify for an FHA loan if you’ve owned a home before as long as it has been three years since you’ve had a foreclosure or two years since filing for bankruptcy.
If you meet these three conditions, you should be able to secure an FHA loan through a traditional mortgage lender.
There are a number of programs, government-sponsored and otherwise, that are designed to help aspiring homeowners find and get approved for a mortgage that works for them.
Among these are first-time homeowner loans insured by the Housing and Urban Development Department, mortgages and loans insured by the USDA designed to help people living in urban and rural areas, and VA loans, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you a basic rundown of VA loans, who is eligible for them, and how to apply for one. That way you’ll feel confident knowing you’re getting the best possible deal on your home mortgage.
What is a VA Loan?
VA loans can provide soon-to-be homeowners who have served their country with low-interest rates and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If you’re hoping to buy a home soon and don’t have at least a 20% down payment, you typically have to take out private mortgage insurance. This means paying an extra insurance bill on top of your monthly mortgage payments. The downside of PMI is that it never turns into equity that you can then use when you decide to move again or sell your home.
Loans that are guaranteed by the VA don’t require PMI because the bank knows your loan is a safer investment than if it wasn’t guaranteed
VA loans may also help you secure a lower interest rate, or give you some negotiating power when it comes to discussing your interest rate.
Finally, VA loans set limits on the number of closing costs you can pay in your mortgage. And, if you’ve ever bought a home before, you’ll know how quickly closing costs can add up.
Who is eligible?
There are some common misconceptions about who can apply for a VA loan? So, we’ll cover all the bases of eligibility.
If you meet one of the following criteria, you may be eligible for a VA loan:
You’ve served 90 consecutive days during wartime
You’ve served 181 days during peacetime
You’ve served six or more years in the Reserves or National Guard
Your spouse died due to their work in the military
There are some restrictions to these eligibilities. For example, your chosen lender may still have credit score minimums.
Applying for a VA Loan
There are two main steps for applying for a VA Loan. First, you’ll have to ensure your eligibility. You can do this by checking the VA’s official website. Be sure to call them with any questions you may have.
Next, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility. The easiest way to acquire one is through your chosen lender. If you haven’t chosen a lender, you can also apply online through the eBenefits portal, or by mailing in a paper application.
Once you have a certificate, you can apply for your mortgage and you’ll be on your way to buying a home.