What Is a Conventional Loan?
A conventional loan is any mortgage loan that is not insured by any government agency (i.e. FHA, VA or USDA). Today, most conventional loans are considered “conforming loans” because they are written to the guidelines set by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The maximum conforming loan amount is currently $453,100 as of 2018.
Most conventional loan programs require 5% down. However, you can obtain a conventional loan with 3% down through specific conventional loan programs designed to enhance affordable lending to creditworthy low to moderate income borrowers.
Fannie Mae is the commonly used name for the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA). It is a government-sponsored enterprise and is a leading source of financing for mortgage lenders and offers the traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that is otherwise known as a conventional loan along with other mortgage products. Fannie Mae provides uniform mortgage underwriting guidelines on a nation-wide basis.
Fannie Mae HomeReady Mortgage
HomeReady is Fannie Mae’s 3% down mortgage product. It has expanded underwriting guidelines to allow more flexibility and so it can be combined with down payment assistance in the form of grants, gifts and approved second mortgages offered by public, nonprofit and employer funds to finance down payment and closing costs.
In Arizona, the Fannie Mae HomeReady program is offered through the Arizona Housing Finance Authority, acting on behalf of the Arizona Department of Housing. The program is known as Fannie Mae HFA Preferred in Arizona. HFA stands for Housing Finance Authority. It offers fixed rate mortgages with terms between 15 and 30 years throughout most of Arizona (Pima County is excluded). It is one of the various loan options offered through the Arizona HOME Plus loan program.
Freddie Mac is the commonly used name for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). It is a government-sponsored enterprise that was created in 1970 to provide competition for the previously established Fannie Mae and to further increase the availability of mortgages for home ownership in the United States. Freddie Mac also offers traditional conventional loan products with slight variations to its underwriting guidelines from those of Fannie Mae.
Freddie Mac Home Possible Advantage Mortgage
Home Possible Advantage is Freddie Mac’s 3% down mortgage program. It is intended to help first time homebuyers, military families and low and moderate-income borrowers. The Home Possible Advantage mortgage program can also be combined with down payment assistance in the form of grants, gifts and approved second mortgages offered by public, nonprofit and employer funds to finance down payment and closing costs.
This 3% down conventional loan program is also offered as an option in Arizona through the Arizona HOME Plus loan program. It is referred to as the Freddie Mac HFA Advantage Mortgage and is offered in all of Arizona except for Pima County. It is a fixed rate loan with a term not to exceed 30 years.
Why Would You Choose a Conventional Loan?
The main advantage to a conventional loan is that there is more flexibility related to mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects the lender against borrower default. Because it is risk-based, it can cause a large increase in a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payments if they are putting less money down. Mortgage insurance is typically cheaper with a conventional loan than it is with a FHA loan. So, your payments could be lower.
Most of the government loan programs require mortgage insurance and some last the life of the loan. Conventional loans require mortgage insurance if your down payment is less than 20%; however, you have the option of removing it in the future. If you have a conventional loan, you can request that the mortgage insurance is removed if your home value increases or you have paid down your loan balance enough to have 20% equity. This is a result of the Homeowners Protection Act and it applies to single family, owner-occupied homes. In fact, the mortgage insurance is required to automatically cancel at 78% loan-to-value if you are not delinquent on your home.
Waiting Periods – Conventional Loans
The following are the standard conventional loan waiting periods for the major derogatory credit events.
- Conventional loans after bankruptcy: The waiting period for getting a conventional loan after a chapter 7 bankruptcy is 4 years. The waiting period for getting a conventional loan after a chapter 13 bankruptcy is 2 years.
- Conventional loans after foreclosure: The waiting period for getting a conventional loan after a foreclosure is 7 years after the foreclosure.
- Conventional loans after short sale: The waiting period for getting an USDA loan after a short sale is 4 years.