How Soon Can We Buy After A Short Sale

(Courtesy of REALTOR.COM Ask Michele, Buy, Finance |  By: Michele Lerner)

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QUESTION: We had to do a short sale on our home in Nevada last year, but now we have landed on our feet again and want to buy a home in our new location in Oregon. We have enough money saved up for a 20 percent down payment for a house we can afford. Is it possible for us to qualify for a mortgage?

ANSWER: It’s great that you landed on your feet and have been able to save money for a down payment on a new house. Your bigger down payment can be a compensating factor that some lenders will use to qualify you for a loan in spite of a negative credit profile that’s a likely result of the short sale.

Conventional loan guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say that you must wait two years after the closing date on your short sale to finance another home, if you have 20 percent for a down payment. You would have to wait longer if you had less cash for a down payment (four years with 10 percent and seven years with less than 10 percent). So if you want a conventional loan, you’ll need to wait another year.

FHA-insured loans are available with a down payment of as little as 3.5 percent after a three-year waiting period. Veterans Administration loans, which don’t require a down payment at all, are available after a two-year waiting period.

However, the FHA recently introduced a “Back to Work – Extenuating Circumstances” program to help the many people who lost their homes during the recent housing crisis and recession. You may qualify now for this program if you lost your home due to a job loss or a drop in income or both. This temporary loan program will be available for FHA loans issued between Aug.t 15, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2016.

To qualify, you’ll have to meet standard FHA guidelines for a loan approval and a mortgage lender’s requirements. Typically, this means that your credit score must be 620 or 640 and above and your debt-to-income ratio must be 41 percent to 43 percent or less.  You’ll be required to fully document your job history, income and assets.

In addition, the Back to Work program has other specific requirements. You must:

  • Participate in an FHA-approved housing counseling program.
  • Provide documentation for the “economic event” that caused the bankruptcy, which must have reduced your income by 20 percent or more for at least six months. In other words, you’ll need a W2 or tax returns or a termination letter.
  • Prove that you had good credit before the economic event damaged it.
  • Prove that you’ve fully recovered from the event by having a credit report without any late payments for at least 12 months on installment debt and without any major derogatory comments on revolving credit accounts. Your report cannot show any judgments or collections unless they’re related to medical bills or identity theft.

Consult a mortgage lender to see if you can qualify for this FHA program, but remember that FHA loans require mortgage insurance for at least 11 years, even if you make a down payment of 20 percent. You may want to consider asking a mortgage lender if any exceptions are possible for individuals who want to apply for a conventional loan after a short sale. If not, you should weigh the benefit of waiting one more year to buy a home rather than committing to years of mortgage insurance payments.

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