Many first-time homebuyers cannot afford the payments on a conventional 30-year mortgage at interest rates of 10 percent or more. But they manage to buy nevertheless by carefully shopping for money.
A trade publication, 100 Highest Yields, recently offered these suggestions to help finance a house:- Get a lower interest rate by paying more points. Say you find a mortgage advertised at 10.25 percent with two points. Each point is 1 percent of the mortgage, so if you get a $100,000 mortgage the points would cost $2,000 up front.
You probably could get a lower interest rate - say, 9.88 percent - if you paid four points instead of two. And in many markets you could get the seller to pay that extra $2,000 worth of points.
The difference in monthly payments on a $100,000 mortgage between 10.25 percent and 9.88 percent is not great - $897 vs. $869, or $28 a month. But if you're right on the edge of qualifying, that might be enough to get you in.
Alternately, if you can afford the monthly payments but are short of cash, take the 10.25 percent rate and try to get the seller to pay the two points that go with it. That way you won't have to pay any points and your closing costs will be considerably lower.
- Shop around for a lender. Points are just part of the closing costs. Lenders stick a lot of other fees into the pot. Look for the one that seems most reasonable.
- Consider an adjustable rate mortgage. You can get one now at an interest rate of about 8 percent in many parts of the country. That's two percentage points or more below the rate for fixed mortgages. On a $100,000 mortgage, that would be a difference in payments of $142 a month. In the second year, however, the rate would most likely rise to 10 percent, so the savings would be short-lived.
Still, if you expect your income to rise and can live with some uncertainty, the savings in the first year are substantial - $1,700 on a $100,000 mortgage.- An alternative to an ARM is the widely offered two-step mortgage. These mortgages start out about a quarter of a percentage point lower than the market rate and stay there for seven years. Then they rise to somewhat above the market rate. If mortgages are being offered in your area for 10 percent, you might be able to find a two-step for 9.75 percent.
- Look for lenders or builders offering graduated payment mortgages, or "buydowns." Both these programs offer payments that start low and rise gradually. But the lender makes up for the lower rates somehow, either through higher rates later or through payments from a third party, such as a new home builder, your parents or the seller of a used home.
- If you're looking for a house in the $100,000 range, consider a federally guaranteed mortgage, backed by either the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Down payments and closing costs on these loans usually are lower than those on a conventional mortgage, and when you sell the house, buyers probably will be able to assume the loan.
- Look for seller financing. Many buyers who cannot qualify for a mortgage with a lending institution find that home sellers have more flexible standards. This is a good way for first-time buyers to get into a house, but there is a down side: Most home sellers won't hold a mortgage for longer than five or seven years. That means you will have to refinance somewhere down the line, a costly procedure.