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Loan for the "Credit-Challenged"

Various Mortgage Loan Types for Low-Risk Borrowers

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Many people who are interested in mortgages do not fit the traditional profile of a low-risk borrower. Examples of what the lending industry calls "sub-prime" borrowers include:
  • Borrowers whose credit history is less than perfect
  • People who need a mortgage for more than the value of their home
  • People who want to escape the really high interest rates that they are paying on outstanding credit card balances
With a mortgage loan, some of the lender's risk is mitigated by the fact that the loan is secured by your property. In recent years, mortgage lenders have developed various innovations to serve borrowers whose needs fall outside of the box of traditional underwriting.
  • Risk-based Pricing. In the past, major financial institutions simply refused to deal with borrowers with flawed credit histories. As a result, sub-prime borrowers were forced to go outside the mainstream financial system and pay interest rates of 30 percent or more. Today, many reputable lenders are willing to lend to sub-prime borrowers. Using risk-based pricing, these lenders charge interest rates that are above the rates they offer their best borrowers but still well below the rates that you used to have to pay if you did not have perfect credit.
  • 125 percent LTV mortgages. "LTV" stands for "Loan-to-Value," or the ratio of the amount of the loan to the value of the property that secures the loan. If the LTV is 125 percent, this means that the lender actually is willing to lend you more than the value of the property. When a family is hit with a sudden increase in expenses, refinancing their mortgage into a 125 percent LTV mortgage can help to solve the cash flow crisis.
  • Home equity loans. When homeowners are paying high interest rates on credit card balances, sometimes they can reduce their interest expense by taking out a second mortgage. Often, these are called "home equity loans," because the loan is backed by the equity in your home, which is the value of your home less the amount you owe on your existing mortgage.
Here are a few Do's and Don'ts for people who are considering one of these new loan products.
  • Do try to clear up as many outstanding credit issues as you can. If your credit report incorrectly has you late in making a payment to an account, this could end up leading to a higher interest rate on your mortgage.
  • Don't use a "credit doctor" to try to fix your credit report. They charge outlandish fees and often their recommendations are counterproductive or even illegal.
  • Do compare rates from at least two lenders. Because of risk-based pricing, it probably will turn out that the only way to get an accurate quote is to complete an application. The lender needs all of the information from the application, as well as your credit report and other data, in order to determine the interest rate to charge.
  • Don't pay a hefty application fee to a broker who promises to "handle your difficult case." The application fee, which covers the process of evaluating your loan application, usually is about $200. In addition, you may be charged about $50 for a credit report and about $300 for an appraisal. Many lenders will charge less than those amounts. Paying more does not increase your chances of getting a loan. Remember that lenders are competing for your business and expect to earn a profit from making the loan. They should be happy to take your application, and their incentive ought to be to make the loan.
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