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Conventional Refinance Loan Requirements 2021

Nice suburban houseA conventional loan is a mortgage that meets the lending guidelines of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, in theory, compete with each other for the purchase of mortgages from banks and other lenders. These two companies are protected from default by the Federal government.

Unlike the government backed home loans, FHA, VA, and USDA mortgages conventional loans do not require a funding fee that is paid at settlement or financed with the loan amount. Most loan officers encourage prospective borrowers to refinance to a conventional mortgage because the funding fee cost, mortgage insurance premium (if applicable) and other considerations.

Most loan officers encourage prospective borrowers to refinance to a conventional mortgage because the funding fee cost, mortgage insurance premium (if applicable) & other considerations. The conventional loan is used to reduce the interest rate & or term or provide cash out

Loan programs

Under the umbrella of the conventional loan program are the loan "types". fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, and a combination of the fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages. Hybrid mortgages (i.e. 3/1, 5/1 & 7/1 arms) are loans that carry a fixed interest rate for a pre-determined number of years, one, three, five or seven-year terms, and then convert to an adjustable interest rate that is subject to change every 12 months. Read more about adjustable-rate mortgages

Conventional loan options

Limited cash out or cash out

There are two refinance options with the conventional mortgage, limited refinance and cash out refinance. The limited cash out refinance is defined as a new loan that is used to pay off an existing first mortgage loan (including an existing home equity line of credit in first-lien position); or for single-closing construction-to-permanent loans to pay for construction costs to build the home, which may include paying off an existing lot lien. Only subordinate (2nd and 3rd) liens used to purchase the property may be paid off and included in the limited cash out mortgage. If there is a 2nd mortgage (i.e. home equity loan or line of credit) and it was not used toward the purchase of the property, and the applicant desires to payoff the second mortgage, the new loan is classified as a "cash out" refinance. The only other option is to obtain permission from the 2nd mortgage company to remain in 2nd position with the new mortgage. Cash out mortgages are usually more costly and require more equity.
Read more about limited cash-out refinance requirements.

The borrower is permitted to get cash back from a limited cash-out refinance, but the amount borrowers receive at settlement cannot be more than the lesser of two percent of the new refinance loan amount or $2,000. The cash back at settlement can be built into the new loan amount.

A cash out refinance mortgage is similar to the limited refinance option, however, this choice permits the payoff of any unpaid principal balance of the existing first mortgage; the payoff of any outstanding subordinate mortgage liens of any age; taking equity out of the subject property that may be used for any purpose. Read more about cash out refinance mortgages.

How much can I borrow?

The following chart details the equity requirement for limited and cash out loans. For example, the limited cash out loan payoff plus closing costs (if financed) should not exceed (ideally) 95% of the appraised value. Ex. $100,000 X 95% = $95,000 (payoff + closing costs). The cash out option requires 20%% equity. That means that the loan payoff (if applicable) and closing costs should not exceed $80,000.

Owner Occupied Residence Number of Units fixed-rate and adjustable-rate
Limited Cash-Out Refinance 1 unit 97% fixed-rate (conditions apply)
95% adjustable-rate
  2 unit 15% (or more)  - equity required for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate
  3 - 4 units 25% (or more) -  equity required for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate
Cash out refinance 1 unit 20% (or more) equity required for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate
Cash out refinance 2 - 4 unit 25% (or more) equity required for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate

I estimate my appraised value at
My first mortgage balance is
My 2nd mortgage balance is
My third mortgage balance is
(1) I estimate the closing costs at ($)
(2) My annual real estate taxes are
(3) My annual homeowner's insurance is
Loan to value

Loan term

The conventional loan terms are available for 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30-year. The FHA and VA loan programs only allows for 15 and 30-year terms. The USDA only permits a 30-year term. The interest rate is usually lower with the shorter loan term.

Second home or investment property

The conventional loan permits refinancing of second homes and investment properties (1 - 4 residential units). The FHA, VA and USDA loan programs do not permit a second home or investment property refinances.

A second home refinance is only permitted with single-family homes or approved condominiums.

Second Home Number of Units fixed-rate and adjustable-rate
Limited Cash-Out Refinance 1 unit Minimum 10% equity (90% loan to value)
Cash out refinance 1 unit Minimum 25% equity (75% loan to value)

Investment Property Number of Units fixed-rate and adjustable-rate
Limited Cash-Out Refinance 1 - 4 unit Minimum 25% equity (75% loan to value)
Cash out refinance 1 unit Minimum 25% equity (75% loan to value)
Cash out refinance 2 - 4 unit Minimum 30% equity (70% loan to value)

Here's how a conventional mortgage refinance is structured:

The loan officer starts the refinance calculation with the loan payoff and usually adds in any additional liens (i.e. lines of credit, home equity loans, etc.). The second step is to add in the closing costs, such as title insurance, settlement fees, lender's fees, etc. The lender will also add in enough property taxes for 6 to 12 months. A new homeowner's insurance policy will be required.

The lender will then divide the total refinance cost by the estimated appraised value.

For example, let's say the loan payoff is 100,000 and the closing costs and real estate taxes add up to $4,000, the total refinance cost is $104,000. And if the estimated home value is $150,000, then dividing $104,000 by $150,000, we get 69% loan to value. That's good. If the loan amount is greater than 80%, the loan would require mortgage insurance.

Monthly mortgage insurance premium

The conventional mortgage requires "mortgage insurance" when the loan amount is greater than 80% of the appraised value. For example, if the value of the home is $100,000 and the loan amount is $90,000, mortgagee insurance is required. If the loan amount is $80,000 or less, no mortgage insurance is required. Mortgage insurance on a conventional loan should not be confused with life insurance. The proceeds of a life insurance policy is paid to the beneficiary on the death of the insured. Mortgage insurance is paid to the bank or lender if there is a default on the loan.

There are several payment plans with private mortgage insurance. The most popular payment plan is the monthly payment. The mortgage insurance premium decreases with the equity in the home.

Conventional loans (usually) have higher loan amounts

Another advantage of the conventional mortgage is the increased loan amounts. Each year the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) establishes the maximum lending limit for conventional loans and the government mortgages. For most US counties, the maximum loan limit for conventional loans is 35% higher than the FHA mortgage. The lending limit increases with two, three, and four-unit residential properties. The VA single-family loan limit is the same as the conventional loan limit for a one-unit dwelling. The VA does not have higher lending limits for 2 - 4 unit owner occupied properties. The USDA does not impose a lending limit, however, the USDA has other guidelines that lower the loan amount for a refinance mortgage.

When the loan amount exceeds the lending limit of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the loan is known as a jumbo loan. Jumbo mortgages cannot be sold to either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac due to the purchase limitation. The lender holds the loan in the mortgage portfolio or sells the loan to a lender who is willing to accept the risk. Since there is a risk with holding on to a high-value mortgage, the interest rate is increased.

Loans are said to "conform" when the loan amount is at or below the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lending limits and meet the agency's lending guidelines. Lenders will use term conventional conforming loan to describe a conventional loan that meets the guidelines and meets the lending limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Conventional loan interest rates

You might be surprised to know that the interest rate on conventional loans are "adjusted" based on the applicant's credit score, whether the refinance mortgage is a limited refinance or a cash out loan. Cash out loans cost more. Two to four-unit properties cost more, low credit scores increase the interest rate or closing costs. Fannie Mae calls interest rate adjustments "Loan
-Level Price Adjustments
". Freddie Mac also adjusts the interest rates based on similar factors. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not originate conventional mortgages, but purchase loans that meet their lending guidelines. The interest rate adjustments are sent down to the lender, who usually pass the additional cost to the borrower. See today's interest rates