Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

April 17, 2015

Reiss on Low Credit Scores and Mortgages

By David Reiss

MainStreet quoted me in A Low Credit Score Does Not Prevent You From Purchasing a Home. It reads in part,

While consumers who have low credit scores have fewer options to choose from, many can still qualify for a mortgage.

Lenders determine the mortgage rate based on a potential homeowner’s credit score, amount of down payment and how much debt he has compared to his current income.

What Your Credit Score Means

Credit scores play a large factor in the interest rate a borrower will receive because lenders are determining the likelihood of someone defaulting on a loan or missing payments, said Jason van den Brand, CEO of Lenda, a San Francisco-based online home mortgage service.

“It’s important to remember that the costs of a loan are closely associated to how ‘risky’ it is to give the loan,” he said. “If you look like a riskier borrower, your loan will cost more.”

Low mortgage rates can play a substantial factor in a homeowner’s ability to save tens of thousands of dollars in interest. Even a 1% difference in the mortgage rate can save a homeowner $40,000 over 30 years for a mortgage valued at $200,000.

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Both an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage are good options if homeowners are concerned about receiving a lower interest rate and have not been able to accumulate the standard 20% down payment.

The biggest benefit of ARMs is that they offer lower interest rates than the more common 30-year fixed rate mortgage and are good options for first-time homebuyers. Many ARMs are called a 5/1 or 7/1, which means that they are fixed at the introductory interest rate for five or seven years and then readjust every year after that, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School.

FHA loans can be a good option, because they require a much smaller down payment of 3.5%.

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Given that young households tend not to have the savings for a substantial down payment, FHA loans can be particularly attractive, Reiss said.

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