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Bad Credit Mortgage

By: Kirk Haverkamp
Updated and reviewed: May 29, 2013

Many mortgage companies are reluctant to finance people with bad credit or no money for a down payment. But certain mortgage lenders are willing to work with people who have a bad credit score, low income or face other obstacles to getting a loan.

A bad credit mortgage lender can help you get your loan approved, but there is a price to be paid. The loan you get will have a higher interest rate and closing fees than mortgages offered to borrowers with a better credit profile.

Where to find poor credit lenders

Bad credit mortgage lenders fall into several categories. The first are simply regular lenders who deal in products such as FHA or VA loans, which have less stringent credit requirements than conventional mortgages. These include much shorter minimum waiting periods after a foreclosure, which can be as little as 2 years for a VA loan or 3 years for an FHA mortgage.

Another type are small banks and credit unions, which may have more flexible lending standards than the big national banks and mortgage companies. Often, these focus on serving a local community or region where they know the housing market and local economy very well, so they don't take a "one-size-fits-all" approach to evaluating borrowers for loans.

A third way to get a bad credit mortgage is through a private lender. Rather than a bank, this may be an investor, a private lending company or even a person of your acquaintance. The costs for private mortgages are higher than for conventional home loans and the rules are different as well - it's highly advisable to consult with an attorney when arranging such a loan. Private mortgages also tend to have fairly short terms, such as five years, with a balloon payment at the end.

Shopping for a bad credit mortgage

It is advisable to check the rates with several bad credit lenders and compare. Even though you have to pay a higher rate, find the one that has the best rate and most favorable terms. Don't forget to take into account closing fees and other loan terms - those can have a significant impact on the cost.

A broker can be very useful when shopping for a bad credit mortgage. Brokers don't issue loans themselves, but instead work with a large number of lenders to try to find the best loan for you. Because they're familiar with the credit requirements and mortgage products of these various lenders, they can often find a lender who'll approve you much faster than you could find one yourself.

Some bad credit loans carry a pre-payment penalty. This means if you pay off the loan sooner than expected - say you refinance within less than 3 years - you have to pay a penalty so the lender can recoup the interest payments it was expected. It's a good idea to avoid these when possible, but some lenders may demand them when you're looking for a bad credit loan.

Improving your credit

You can also try to improve your credit score so that you can qualify for a mortgage or obtain a better rate and terms down the road. Many people don't realize that the impact of most negative items on your credit report begins to fade after about two years, although foreclosures and bankruptcies will stay with you longer. Otherwise, you should be able to see a significant improvement in your credit score simply by keeping up on your bills.

How much you owe also affects your credit. Lenders don't like to make loans to people who are already loaded down with other debt. Avoid carrying a balance higher than 25 percent of your limit on any individual credit card, and preferably even lower. Keep your total debt under control - it'll be easier to get a mortgage if your debt payments are no more than 10 percent of your monthly income.

Bad credit vs. no credit

Somewhat different from the problem of bad credit is no credit - that is, someone who's never or rarely used credit cards, had an auto loan or made any other type of installment payments on a debt (monthly payments for things like utilities or cable TV typically don't affect your credit).

To build credit, you can try to get someone to co-sign a loan for you (good for autos) or try to obtain several credit cards where you charge small amounts and pay off the balance each month (don't let it accumulate!). If you have trouble getting approved for a credit card, a secured card, which you back by posting a deposit of several hundred dollars, may be an option.

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