The advent of online banking makes it easier than ever to save small amounts of money without even realizing it. Some major banks, including Bank of America (Keep the Change) and U.S. Bank (S.T.A.R.T.), empower deposit account holders to save their spare change from every transaction using apps that automatically round debit card payments up to the nearest whole dollar and sock away the remainder in a savings account.
Government-backed loans require borrowers to pay for some form of mortgage insurance. With FHA and USDA loans, it’s called MIP, or Mortgage Insurance Premium. For VA loans, it’s called a Funding Fee. The insurance covers potential losses suffered by mortgage lenders when borrowers default. Because insurance protects lenders from losses, they are willing to allow these low down payments.
Before contacting a lender, it’s smart to check your credit report. By law, you can get a free report once a year through Annualcreditreport.com. The report pulls data from the three major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Having the information in hand before you talk with a lender lets you dispute any errors in the reporting. Based on your credit report, Fair Isaac & Co. (FICO) assigns you a credit score ranging from 350 to 850. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate on your mortgage. Scores are based on:

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Nevertheless, scraping together a down payment is a tall order, especially for first-time homebuyers in expensive coastal markets. According to CoreLogic, the average home price in California’s Bay Area topped $700,000 in 2016 – and that figure includes relatively inexpensive bungalows in East Bay suburbs, as well as ultra-pricey row houses in San Francisco proper.
In turn, the lender will use this info to decide whether or not to loan you money, as well as how much and at what interest rate. If a lender sees some late payments on your credit cards or other blemishes in your credit report, this can lower your odds of getting a loan with a great interest rate, or perhaps even jeopardize your chances of getting any loan at all.
Of course, most of these programs depend on factors like your income, a maximum home price, and even your profession. For example, government employees in the Washington, DC, area may be eligible for $10,000 in down payment assistance, and teachers in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA, can get up to $15,000 to help them with their home purchases. Ask your real estate agent about these types of programs that you are eligible for.
You'll be inundated with possibilities, especially in the beginning of your home search. Your agent will send listings to your cellphone. You'll probably pick up "House For Sale" magazines and read classified ads in your local newspapers. You'll probably spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the Internet for homes. You might even plan afternoon drives to preview neighborhoods.
Your credit reports are an ongoing record of how you've managed your finances. You should know exactly what they say about your financial history before you apply for a mortgage. These reports and your credit score play an important role in the loan approval process, and they also determine your interest rate and other loan terms that lenders will offer you.

Buyers are also taking advantage of two Fannie Mae offer loans; Conventional 97 and HomeReady mortgages, which both allow for a minimum down payment of just 3 percent. HomeReady mortgages are designed for creditworthy, low-to moderate-income borrowers, with expanded eligibility for financing homes in designated low-income, minority, and disaster-impacted communities. Conventional 97 mortgages are designed to help creditworthy home buyers who would otherwise qualify for a mortgage but may not have the resources for a larger down payment.

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Pre-approval requires the lender to pull the credit information (see Step 1) and assess your financial situation. The lender will then give you a letter that states the amount they would be willing to lend you. If you get in a multiple-offer scenario, being pre-approved may give you an edge because the seller will have more confidence that you will be approved for a loan large enough to purchase their home.
"Down payment": It's amazing that these two little words have such a profound influence on your homeownership process—and your life! Ask most people what is an acceptable down payment on a house, and nine times out 10 they'll tell you it's 20% of your home's selling price. So you do the math, figure you'd have to put down $50,000 on a $250,000 house, and break out in hives when you realize that the chances of your getting out of that tiny one-bedroom apartment are slim.
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