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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Finding the perfect house may be difficult, but financing has never been easier

Tony Byrne, a Spokane mortgage broker with Heritage Home Loans, say the lending options available to homebuyers “are incredible.” (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Tony Byrne, a Spokane mortgage broker with Heritage Home Loans, say the lending options available to homebuyers “are incredible.” (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Buying a home has seldom been this easy, especially if you have a solid credit rating and aren’t hampered by student loans or other debt.

The loan process is more streamlined than ever – thanks to online apps – though promises of instant approval are still unrealistic.

And while there’s still plenty of paperwork, the journey is smoother than ever.

“In terms of the ease of applying, everyone has an online app,” said Tony Byrne, a Spokane mortgage broker with Heritage Home Loans.

“The options out there are incredible,” he said.

Even better news: A 20 percent down payment isn’t a requirement, Byrne said.

“Everybody says you have to put 20 percent, but that’s not the case – there are all sorts of options,” said Byrne, who noted the average down payment these days is about 7 percent.

FHA-backed mortgages require only 3.5% down, conventional mortgages ask for only 3% – “and many are zero down,” Byrne said.

“At the end of the day, we’re fine with whatever they put down,” he said.

Prospective buyers have several financing options.

Conventional loans are the most common and can be used to buy several different property types, including a second home or rental property.

Generally, they require no additional monthly mortgage insurance payment with a down payment of at least 20 percent.

On the other hand, buyers generally must have higher credit scores, lower debt-to-income ratios and larger down payments.

That can be an obstacle for millennials who may be burdened by student loans, Byrne said.

“It’s a huge issue,” Byrne said, noting the requirement to qualify applicants. “We’re seeing kids with $50,000 in student debt who are making minimum wage, but they don’t qualify because of the student loans.”

There are three types of government-insured loans: a Federal Housing Administration loan for first-time buyers, a VA loan for veterans and active armed service members, and USDA loans for rural homebuyers. All are backed by the government, which usually allows lenders to provide lower interest rates to those who qualify.

The biggest advantage is that buyers can qualify for a mortgage despite lower down payments and credit scores.

On the other hand, these loans can be used only for specified types of property, and buyers may be required to pay private mortgage insurance each month.

Terms and conditions are also up to the buyer, to a certain extent. The traditional 30-year, fixed-rate loan isn’t for everyone. Some prefer the predictability of a fixed-rate loan, while others might seek the lower initial payments of an adjustable-rate loan; it’s important to understand which type of loan best suits your needs.

Regardless of the type of mortgage, buyers must submit financial information to a lender, who will assess what terms you may qualify for (including loan amount, interest rate and mortgage points).

During the pre-approval process, you’ll submit financial information to a lender to assess what loan terms you may qualify for (including loan amount, interest rate, and mortgage points.

Experts suggest shopping multiple lenders, as they may offer different terms.

And if you don’t qualify?

Sometimes, Byrne said, prospective buyers set their sights too high.

“I don’t know that the market is necessarily friendly for first-time homebuyers,” Byrne said.

“It’s a matter if the prices, and with some of the bidding wars that we’re seeing, they’re kind of priced out of the market sometimes,” said Byrne, who suggested a house that “isn’t a fixer-upper, but perhaps needs just a little bit of help.”

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