Decades ago, Federal Housing Administration mortgages were "freely assumable," meaning the buyer could assume a seller’s current mortgage rate, principal balance and other terms of the mortgage. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees FHA mortgages, has made some changes in recent years. There are still many advantages to an FHA mortgage assumption, including no need for a down payment, but the FHA now requires participation of a lender and approval of an assumed loan.
There’s also a downside to mortgage assumption, but you can avoid this potential issue by contacting the lender. Just as you assume a mortgage’s terms, you also assume any delinquencies. If the owner isn’t current on the mortgage, then that falls on you if you don’t do your homework. You may work out a loan modification plan with the lender.
Mortgage assumption is virtually unknown outside of federal programs such as HUD and the VA. In a mortgage assumption, the existing borrower transfers the obligation to an assuming borrower. Under the new HUD regulations, such transfers can no longer go forward without the lender’s consent. How does the process work? Say you find a house where the seller has an FHA mortgage loan of $200,000, and they are asking $350,000 for the property. If you can come up with $150,000 cash, you can "assume" their FHA loan without bothering to go through a formal loan application process. However, the lender must find that you meet the credit standings for obtaining such a loan.
Expect the lender to examine your employment history, verify your income and perform a credit check. Credit scores for FHA loans are lower than they are for conventional mortgages. If the person is assuming the mortgage of a house that has been left to him as an heir, the FHA does not require a credit check. If the person assuming the loan has gone through foreclosure within the prior three years or bankruptcy within the previous two years, the FHA may deny the loan assumption.
FHA mortgages were established in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Because the FHA is the insurer, it can offer lower down payments and closing costs along with easier qualifications. For some buyers, a 3.5 percent down payment is all that is required. An assumable FHA mortgage doesn’t require the down payment, but if it did, the amount would prove to be much lower than that for a conventional mortgage. You will have to pay nominal closing costs on an FHA mortgage assumption.
To qualify for an FHA mortgage assumption, you must make the home your primary residence, or HUD must formally approve its use as a secondary residence. There is an exception granted by HUD for investors to assume such mortgages, but only in cases where the original mortgage closed on or before December 15, 1989. Nearly 30 years later, that leaves very few such homes where the mortgage has not been paid off or nearly paid off. If an investor does find such a property, the maximum loan-to-value for such an assumption is 75 percent.
Items you will need
- Copy of the seller's loan contract
- Credit report