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Best Fixer Upper Mortgage Programs
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Best Fixer Upper Mortgage Programs

Harry Jensen, Trusted Mortgage Expert with 45+ Years of Experience
, Trusted Mortgage Expert with 45+ Years of Experience

Getting a mortgage for a fixer upper can be challenging for several reasons. First, most standard loan programs do not use the after renovation property value to determine what size mortgage you qualify for. This significantly limits your mortgage amount, especially if you are making major repairs or renovations that add a lot of value the property. In short, lenders prefer to lend against the current, or pre-renovation, value of the property because of the additional risk associated with with a fixer upper.

From the lender's standpoint, there is no guarantee that the renovations you intend to make will be completed or increase the value of the property. If something happens over the course of the renovation project, such as permits getting cancelled or cost overruns, you may decide to put the work on hold. Or the renovations you make may not add as much value as you thought, especially if mistakes are made along the way. If the work is not completed or done poorly, the property value remains the same or potentially declines, which gives the lender less protection for their loan. In short, fixer upper mortgages mean more risk for lenders which makes them harder to find.

How Fixer Upper Mortgages Work

Despite these challenges, however, there are multiple fixer upper mortgage programs available to borrowers. There are several items you should focus on to determine the lender and program that are right for you.

First, make sure that the mortgage program uses the after renovation property value to determine what size loan you qualify for. Using the after renovation property value enables you to afford a much larger mortgage which means you have more money to put into the home for renovations.

For example, let’s say you want to buy a home with a pre-renovation value of $350,000 and an after renovation value of $500,000. If the lender applies a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 80% and uses the after renovation property value, you may be able to obtain a $400,000 mortgage ($500,000 (property value) * 80% (LTV ratio) = $400,000 (loan amount)), assuming you can afford the monthly payment. But if the lender uses the pre-renovation property value, you can only qualify for a $280,000 mortgage ($350,000 (property value) * 80% (LTV ratio) = $280,000 (loan amount)). So using the after renovation property value is very important when you apply for a fixer upper mortgage.

The second point you should focus on is that you want one loan to pay for both the property purchase (or refinance) and the cost of renovations or remodeling. Some construction loan programs are broken into two separate mortgages. The first mortgage finances the property purchase and construction and is temporary and short term. The second mortgage is put in place when the construction is completed and is long term. A lot can change in between when the two loans are put in place, including an increase in mortgage rates.

Ideally, a fixer upper mortgage should be a single loan that does not need to be replaced with a permanent loan later in the process. This means that your loan terms are not subject to change so you know what your mortgage rate and monthly payment are going to be when the renovation project is complete. Most fixer upper mortgage programs have a single closing with part of the proceeds going to purchase the property and the remaining proceeds are deposited into an escrow account to pay for renovation costs as they are incurred. After the renovations are finished, the escrow account is closed, your mortgage is already in place and you move into your home.

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Another item you should keep in mind is to understand the key loan terms for the fixer upper mortgage program. For example, some programs limit the amount of renovations you can make relative to the value of the property which may be an issue for serious fixer uppers that require substantial rehabilitation. Other programs may have loan limits that cap what size mortgage you can obtain. You should always check to see if your fixer upper fits within the program’s project and loan limit.

Additionally, make sure you understand how the application process works including the documents, engineering and architectural reports and renovation plans you are required to submit. Lenders want to make sure that you are ready to start the work as soon as your mortgage closes. Time is money for both borrowers and lenders so being prepared and organized is key.

Below we summarize some of the best fixer upper mortgage programs available to borrowers. Each program has its pros and cons but can be very useful to someone who needs to finance significant property repairs, remodeling or renovations. The construction to permanent (C2P), FHA 203(k) and HomeStyle Renovation programs enable you to finance the purchase of the property plus renovation costs without taking out a separate construction loan, which can be expensive and time consuming.

Because these programs apply to home purchases and refinancies they are beneficial to both prospective home buyers and existing homeowners who would like to finance a fixer upper. Click on the program titles to find more detailed information including program eligibility, loan terms and borrower qualification requirements.

Fixer-Upper / Renovation Mortgage Program Summary
  • A construction loan is a short-term mortgage that enables a borrower to finance the cost of building a new home or significant renovations including for a tear-down or fixer upper
  • Construction loans are typically six months to a year in length depending on the timeframe to build or remodel the property
  • A construction to permanent loan, or C2P loan, enables a borrower to finance the cost of building a new home or significant renovations, including for a tear-down or fixer upper, with a single mortgage
  • A construction to permanent loan is an attractive alternative to a borrower arranging two separate loans to build or renovate a home
  • The CHOICERenovation Mortgage Program enables you to both buy a home and pay for significant property renovations with a single mortgage, which saves you time and money as compared to taking out multiple loans
  • The program uses the after renovation property value to determine the loan amount you can afford, which enables you to qualify for a larger mortgage
  • When combined with certain loan programs, a CHOICERenovation requires a down payment of only 3% for a single unit property, which makes it an ideal fixer upper loan program
  • The FHA 203(k) Loan Program enables home owners to finance both the purchase of a home as well as the cost of significant rehabilitation, remodeling and repairs to the home with one FHA mortgage
  • The FHA 203(k) Loan Program allows borrowers buying a home to finance the cost of significant home remodeling or rehabilitation without having to obtain a separate construction loan which can be costly, complicated and time-consuming to arrange
  • Instead, the FHA 203(k) Loan Program enables borrowers to finance the purchase of a home and pay for a significant (greater than $5,000) home improvement project with a single FHA mortgage
  • Although you do not have to be a first-time home buyer to qualify for the FHA 203(k) Program, the program works well for first-time home buyers looking to buy a "fixer-upper"
  • The Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage program is similar to the FHA 203(k) program and enables borrowers to purchase a home that needs renovations or refinance the mortgage on their existing home and include funds for renovating the property in the loan amount
  • Unlike the FHA 203(k) program, the Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage program does not charge a one-time and ongoing FHA mortgage insurance premium, which are extra costs for the borrower
  • Additionally, the Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage program applies to both owner-occupied and investment properties as compared to the FHA 203(k) program that only applies to owner-occupied properties
  • The FHA program can be used as the permanent mortgage for a construction-to-permanent loan
  • In this case, you work with a lender to arrange both the construction loan and the permanent FHA mortgage used to refinance the construction loan when the building is complete
  • The FHA program only requires a down payment of 3.5% and uses more flexible qualification guidelines including a lower applicant credit score
  • The USDA home loan program can be used to finance both the cost to buy land as well as construction costs to build a new home on the land
  • The USDA program applies to land or properties located in designated rural areas.  A USDA home loan normally enables you to buy a home with no down payment but if you use the program as a construction loan you are usually required to make a down payment
  • Available to eligible military personnel and veterans, the VA program can be used to both buy an existing home or to build a new home
  • This enables you to use a VA home loan as a construction mortgage
  • The VA program requires no down payment and typically offers lower mortgage rates than conventional loan programs
The Difference Between a Fixer Upper Mortgage and a Fix & Flip Loan

Please note that the fixer upper mortgage programs below assume that you live in the property when the renovations are complete. If you are looking to renovate the property and then sell, or flip, it instead, you need a fix & flip loan, which is usually provided by a hard money lender, which is also knows as a private money lender. Fix & flip loans are short-term and usually much more expensive than the fixer upper mortgages outlined below.

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Sources

"203(K) Rehab Mortgage Insurance."  Federal Housing Administration.  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2020.  Web.

"HomeStyle Renovation."  Mortgage Products.  Fannie Mae, 2020.  Web.

"CHOICERenovation Mortgages."  Single Family.  Freddie Mac, June 2019.  Web.

About the author
Harry Jensen, Mortgage Expert

Harry is the co-founder of FREEandCLEAR. He is a mortgage expert with over 45 years of industry experience. Over his career, Harry has closed thousands of loans for satisfied borrowers and now offers his advice and insights on FREEandCLEAR.  Harry is a licensed mortgage professional (NMLS #236752). More about Harry

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