Mortgages with No Money Down

zero down

These days, it’s a lot harder to find “mortgages with no money down,” as banks and mortgage lenders have toughened up quite a bit over the past few years thanks to the devastating financial crisis that took place.

They began requiring larger down payments because home prices weren’t appreciating like they once were; in fact, they were dropping steadily, shifting more risk to the lenders that issue low-down payment loans.

If homeowners don’t have any skin in the game, otherwise known as home equity, there’s a better chance they’ll walk away from their mortgages if they fall behind on payments, leading to costly foreclosures.

Conversely, if a homeowner is required to put down say 10 percent of the purchase price, the lender has a safety buffer, and the homeowner is more likely to continue making payments, as they won’t want to lose that initial investment.

Put simply, the reduced availability of 100% financing is probably a lack of lender confidence with regard to the direction of home prices. Once things improve, we’ll probably see a lot more zero down stuff making its way to market again.

No Money Down Mortgages Used to Be the Norm

Back in 2006 and 2007, you could easily obtain 100 percent financing from nearly any bank or lender in town, with the most common structure the 80/20 combo loan, which is a first mortgage for 80 percent of the purchase price and a second mortgage for the remaining 20 percent.

This allowed a home buyer to put nothing down and avoid mortgage insurance because the first mortgage remained at the key 80% LTV threshold.

These high-risk financing deals were rampant, and most homeowners took the bait and chose not to put any money down, assuming their home would appreciate endlessly.  This explains why millions of American homeowners became underwater on their mortgages and/or faced foreclosure.

And that’s pretty much why the days of no money down mortgages came to an end, with lenders quickly upping credit score and documentation requirements, while slashing maximum loan-to-value ratios.

So what options do potential homeowners have nowadays when it comes to a mortgage with no money down?  Amazingly, it’s still pretty easy to get a mortgage with zero down or close to no money down.

Let’s start with FHA loans, which have coincidentally skyrocketed in popularity since the mortgage crisis got underway, available with just a 3.5% down payment.

There was a time, not long ago, when you could actually get an FHA loan with no money down at all thanks to seller paid downpayment assistance, which has since been outlawed.

Additionally, mortgage financier Freddie Mac offers its Home Possible 97 Mortgage, which requires as little as three percent for down payment. Sister Fannie Mae offers a similar loan program called HomePath, which calls for just three percent down as well and allows gift funds for the down payment.

Both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae briefly stopped offering LTV ratios above 95% in 2013, meaning their 3% down loan programs were no longer offered for a period of time.

But in late 2014, the pair reintroduced a 97% LTV option that the masses could take advantage of with even more flexible underwriting guidelines.

How to Get 100% Mortgage Financing Today

I provided a little background above about the rise and fall of zero down financing. Now let’s look at what’s left.

Today, the most widely used zero down mortgage programs are offered by the USDA (only in rural areas) and the VA (military and their families). Unfortunately, these programs are only available to those who purchase properties outside the city or to those who serve this country.

If you don’t fall into either of those categories, it might be harder to secure a mortgage with nothing down.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. For example, NASA (astronauts) and other government agencies offer so-called high loan-to-value mortgages for select customers. And some private lenders even exceed 100 percent financing (125% second mortgages) despite the recent housing bust!

You can also buy a HUD home for as little as $100 down if you use FHA financing, which is pretty much zero down when we’re talking about the purchase of a home. However, you must be an owner-occupant and the homes are located primarily in Southeastern states.

Nationwide, if you are a law enforcement officer, teacher, firefighter or emergency medical technician, you may also qualify for “The Good Neighbor Next Door” initiative, which offers HUD-owned single-family homes (one-unit) to eligible buyers at a 50% discount AND with as little as $100 down.

Also be sure to look into what’s being offered by your state housing finance agency. For example, California home buyers can take advantage of the MyHome Assistance Program, which offers 5% of the purchase price to cover the down payment and/or closing costs. Combined with a first mortgage this could give buyers the opportunity to get a home with nothing out of pocket.

It’s also possible to get a Fannie Mae loan with an LTV of 105% thanks to a Community Second, a subordinate loan that can provide necessary funds for all of the down payment, closing costs, and even property renovations.

Freddie Mac has a similar program called an Affordable Second, which can be used for down payment
assistance, closing costs, and/or renovations.

Recently, TD Bank launched a 3% down mortgage as well that carries no mortgage insurance.

Qualifying for Zero Down Home Loans

  • Only available on one-unit primary residences
  • Purchases only, no refinance transactions
  • Loan amounts limited to conforming or lower
  • Must provide full documentation
  • Often must have two months of asset reserves
  • Often must be a fixed-rate mortgage
  • Often must be a first-time buyer
  • Must setup an impound account to pay taxes and insurance
  • May be subject to higher fees

Of course, not everyone qualifies for these types of loans because they’re reserved for certain types of buyers. I’ve provided a general list of requirements above that apply to many of these programs.

Typically, a zero down home loan will only be available to those purchasing a one-unit primary residence. This may include condos along with single-family homes.

However, multi-unit properties and secondary and investment properties will likely not qualify for maximum financing.

Don’t expect a 100% refinance these days, especially if you want cash out.

Often, you’ll need to be a first-time buyer and/or earn an income that is at or below the median in the county you wish to purchase the home. And you’ll need to document your income, employment, and assets.

This is to ensure that these types of programs foster safe, responsible, and affordable lending for those who need it most. In other words, if you’re a real estate investor you probably won’t be able to take advantage of these programs.

They are intended to help those most in need, who want to realize the dream of owning a home, but don’t necessarily have the means.

Outside the VA and USDA, which are pretty liberal when it comes to credit scores, you might be required to have good or excellent credit to qualify for zero down financing. I’ve seen credit unions require 720+ FICO scores. So if you want more options, work on your credit beforehand!

It may also be a requirement to take out a fixed-rate loan, as opposed to an ARM, to ensure you can keep up with monthly payments. Lenders know it’s riskier to give you a loan without a down payment, so they may limit you to a 30-year fixed only.

Loan amounts are typically capped at or below the conforming loan limit as well, unless it’s a specialty product, such as the POPPYLOAN in the Bay area, which is reserved for high-earners who lack down payment funds.

Lastly, expect to have to open an impound account to pay your taxes and insurance monthly with your mortgage payment. This is generally a requirement for anyone who puts less than 20% down.

As a rule of the thumb, the weaker the borrower credit profile and the more complicated the loan scenario, the lower the maximum loan-to-value.

For example, if you’ve got a bad credit score or an investment property you want financed, you won’t be able to get anywhere near a no money down mortgage.

But if you’ve got great credit and a steady job, 100% financing may be well within reach. So take the time to shop around to discover all the options available to you. It’s always surprising to see what’s out there…

The majority of banks and credit unions these days are offering mortgages with just five percent down, but only for conforming loan amounts.

Generally, jumbo loan amounts require higher down payments, so don’t expect to get 100% financing. The closest I’ve seen recently is 95% LTV, which is actually pretty aggressive and not something most lenders offer.

[3 Ways a Low Down Payment Can Raise Your Mortgage Payment]

Use Gift Funds to Get 100% Financing

One last note.  While many 100% financing programs have come and gone, there are still quite a few loan programs that require just three percent down or less.

In order to obtain a zero down loan, you can ask an eligible donor to provide you with a gift for the difference.  So if it’s an FHA loan that requires 3.5% down, get that 3.5% in the form of a gift from a family member.

Likewise, if it’s a conventional loan that calls for three percent down, ask a relative or your spouse for the three percent in the form of a gift. That way you can buy a home with nothing out of your own pocket.

In many cases, a minimum contribution from the borrower’s own funds is not required, so it’s effectively zero down despite the LTV coming in below 100%.

While it’s not traditional zero-down financing, the end result will be the same.  In fact, your mortgage payment will be lower because the amount financed will only be somewhere between 96.5%-97% of the purchase price.

However, keep in mind that 2-4 unit primary residences, second homes, and high-balance loans typically require a five percent minimum contribution from the borrower’s own funds.  So this trick won’t work on all transactions.

Read more: Primer on mortgage down payment requirements.


18 Comments

  1. mani parkash April 5, 2015 at 8:07 pm -

    want to know more about how i can get 100% home loan

  2. Colin Robertson April 6, 2015 at 9:05 am -

    Mani,

    The methods I mentioned above cover many of the zero down options today. Local housing agencies may also help with any down payment and closing costs to make the loan zero down as well.

  3. Linny Merrybird July 31, 2015 at 4:55 am -

    The only thing that was left out, Of those 100% financed USDA loans is that the buyer will still have to cough up between $4000-10,000 to close, and about another $600.00 for the home inspection. So I’ve found the 100% financing route a tad misleading.

  4. Jose Pablo October 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm -

    The National Homebuyer’s Fund offers an FHA loan that actually gives you a 5% grant to meet your down payment requirement. Credit score needed is 640. If you are in Oregon or Washington I can help. The program is also available in Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah, but you would have to find a licensed lender locally. If you need help in Oregon or Washington I would love to help answer any questions! My number is (503)750-5096

  5. Mary November 8, 2015 at 8:02 am -

    I am a pre-qualified VA home loan looking for a home. The problem is, sellers don’t want to sell to you because there is no down payment, therefore the risk of walking away from the deal is an issue. Call it discrimination, call it whatever you want, but it is hard to find property with no money down.

  6. Maica March 14, 2016 at 9:19 am -

    Well planned ahead strategy from developers, $$$big people, few went down, we had bad economy,yes, but it has been a plan from beginning.
    People were given loans, defaulted, some got help, but the government is aiding. Hud gives $100down no down knowing of all catches that will not let people get homes. So the only ones buying them is big $$, developers, scouts are paid, All Illegally done corrupted system..

  7. Alicia fayard March 22, 2016 at 4:22 am -

    I’m recently divorced and starting over. I’m 37 and cringe reach and every time I hand over $800+ to my landlord! If like to start putting my money towards a long term investment. Thank you
    Alicia Fayard

  8. Colin Robertson March 22, 2016 at 11:31 am -

    It’s never too late to start over. Good luck Alicia!

  9. Wilbraham April 11, 2016 at 8:51 am -

    Thanks for the post, Colin. I can’t believe the banks and financial institutions got away with selling/packaging on all those mortgages. And *we* get stuck with the cost, in terms of higher interest rates and fewer options.

  10. james May 21, 2016 at 9:28 am -

    Hello
    I hold a lease option on a property I current live in but I’m not in a position to buy yet my uncle has offered to purchase the home I have already gave $10,000 down to the owners but if my uncle buys the home how can he get credit for that $10,000. Also how can he obtain a loan with no money down I should mention he is 75 if he purchase the home he will be moving in with us.

  11. Colin Robertson May 23, 2016 at 8:38 am -

    James,

    Depends why your uncle is involved, is he helping you qualify with income or down payment? If you gave them $10k, how is that being reflected in the purchase? Will they sell the property for $10k less than the original agreed upon price? Or will it be applied to the purchase price once you go through with the purchase? If not, you may still need a down payment if you’re unable to obtain a no down payment loan. Or maybe the seller is offering their own financing?

  12. Stacy June 6, 2016 at 5:06 pm -

    Wanting to purchase a cabin as a rental investment . Just unsure how to make it work and obtain a mortgage for the property. I am limited to my down payment if any.. but see this as huge investment and game changer .

  13. Colin Robertson June 7, 2016 at 3:08 pm -

    Stacy,

    Unfortunately zero down and investment property don’t go well together these days. Typically, you need a hefty down payment to buy an investment property nowadays because of the risk involved.

  14. Bonnie November 22, 2016 at 9:40 am -

    Just secured a 100% loan from USDA, credit rating is better than 47% of Americans (over 740) and the homeowners were willing to absorb $8000 of the settlement costs. We did not ask for a reduction in the price of the home as we were asking for them to absorb the closing costs which will only effect their bottom line.

  15. Dailinda C. March 21, 2017 at 9:03 am -

    My husband’s credit score is 780 and mine is 684 coughing up $4,000 processing fee is no problem with us if the mortgage is 100% financing of a $260,000 4 br/3ba single family house with $950.00 monthly mortgage+ utilities. Anyone can lead us to the lender?

  16. Amy June 5, 2017 at 4:45 am -

    The American dream of home “ownership” is nothing but a joke! The average American has 62% of their net worth tied up in their home, but how much INCOME does that investment earn? Nothing! or better yet, NEGATIVE nothing! Property tax, insurance, upkeep, HOA dues, etc. on a paid off home can take a HUGE bite out of your Social Security check!

    Me? I’m either going to purchase a home for cheap (all cash) during the next crash, or just keep saving my money and renting! As I save money on rent, my cell phone ($20/month from MetroPCS), my car insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda), etc., I’ll be able to invest more into index funds with my freed up capital… something homeowners can NEVER do!

  17. Cc July 14, 2017 at 5:31 pm -

    I bought my first house 2 yrs ago, my mortgage lender told me 80/20 or 80/10/10 loans weren’t legal in Oregon anymore. I’m stuck in a fha loan with pmi, can I go after them at all for giving false info

  18. Colin Robertson July 15, 2017 at 1:22 pm -

    Cc,

    Weren’t legal, or weren’t available? I haven’t heard of that rule…you might not be stuck if you refinance into a conventional loan and have the equity now to avoid MI.

Leave A Response