Mortgage Loans – Conventional Lending Pros and Cons

When seeking a home loan for a purchase or refinance, it seems like conventional financing is the most sought after option. This is not always because it is the best loan. It just has been assumed to be the best option in most lending circles. Understanding what a conventional loan is will help you make an informed choice.

A conventional home mortgage is any loan that follows Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or private label home loan lending criteria. This includes subprime, negative amortization ARM’s, jumbo, and interest only loans. Excluded loans are FHA, VA, USDA, business financing, and commercial loans.

Conventional mortgage loans offer definite advantages for some borrowers. One advantage is that there are no loan limit restrictions. This will not affect the average person, but if you are in the market for a home loan greater than roughly $800,000, this is your only real option.

Another advantage is the option of eliminating mortgage insurance and not having your taxes and insurance included in your mortgage payment. This option is available only if you have a 20% equity stake. These are not options with other types of home loans. Although you will not pay mortgage insurance for the duration of the loan, there will be an insurance cost. You will not be allowed to pay your taxes and insurance on your own. These payments must be escrowed and included in your monthly mortgage payment.

If your income is not easily verified, conventional lending has alternatives that allow for limited or no documentation of income. You will need excellent credit and either a large down payment or a lot of equity due to the inherent risk to this type of loan. The interest rates are also higher due to this risk. Limited income, no income, or stated income loans are largely for a self employed borrower who receives no pay stubs or W-2’s.

In today’s market, conventional home loans do carry some definite disadvantages. The major disadvantage is that the required equity stake is higher than on non-conventional loans. This means a purchaser will need to invest a greater down payment and someone looking to refinance will need a higher value vs. the loan amount requested. Credit underwriting is also stricter and current interest rates tend to be higher for those with average credit scores. The debt to income ratio is less flexible.

Understanding all of your options will help you choose the right mortgage for your needs and qualifications.

Visit the FHA Loans page for expert information about FHA, 100% USDA, and VA financing options.


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