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Understanding the psychology of lender risk
The reason investment property loans are more expensive, harder to obtain, and more restrictive than loans on personal homes, is that investment property mortgages are inherently riskier than home lending. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge higher rates for investor property loans, much more than for primary home loans because of these higher risk factors. It’s a simple axiom – the greater the risk, the higher the cost. Of course, the opposite axiom is likewise the same – the lower the risk, the smaller the cost. For lenders, real estate investors are inherently more dangerous as a group to make loans to than are homeowners.
Thinking like a bank thinks…
Banks have to look objectively, and ruthlessly so, at their bottom line. What’s their worst case scenario in any lending situation? Naturally, a foreclosure. And in the case of those investing in rental property who are unable to make their monthly loan payments, since they have no emotional stake in the property, they will be more likely to walk away from their loan obligations in any worst-case scenario. Much more so than any homeowner would, since homeowners are emotionally grounded to their home – which is most probably their single greatest asset. This helps explain why total mortgage costs run higher for real estate investments, as well as why investment property mortgage rates are higher than homeowner rates.
Real estate investors understand that buying a rental property is simply a game of numbers. A homebuyer views their purchase decision in much more emotional ways – deciding what emotional benefits will accrue him if he buys a particular home. Conversely, this makes it much more difficult for the homebuyer to give up “his baby” so to speak. And this single reason is what makes lenders value the homebuyer as much less risk than anyone buying rental property.
Mortgage rate differentials
Regardless of the specific area of the U.S. you may look to buy in, real estate investments will have mortgages that will generally run about half a point greater than home loans on average. In addition, many fees tend to be added to loans on investment properties – many more than home mortgages. Thus, the overall cost of any rental property mortgage will be greater as well. Some of the factors involved in the overall costs associated with an investment property loan include the borrower’s current credit score, the loan-to-value ratio for the loan, the property character (ie. – single family, duplex, multi-family, multifamily with owner-occupying one unit) and the specific mortgage program being applied (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or no government-insured program).
In many instances, when in investing in real estate, lenders set up loan-to-value (LTV) ratios at higher overall amounts than home loans. The greater the amount you put down on the rental property you’re trying to finance, the less overall risk to the lender. Most lender these days have maximum loan-to-value ratios of 70% of the purchase price, where you, the buyer, must put down at least 30%. But if you put down 40%, or even 50%, you’ll find your interest rate and overall costs of the mortgage loan will come down substantially. This is also because you are helping to substantially lessen the lenders overall risk. (After all, it’s much harder to walk away from a property you have 50% down in equity than it is if you had only 30% down.)
Using rents as income qualifiers
Traditionally, banks will allow 75% of gross rents currently in place on units in any property you’re thinking of acquiring to help offset the monthly carrying cost of the loan. Keep in mind that this applies only to actual rentals…not hypothetical “market” rents. In addition, the tenants need to already be in place. Typically, the same 75% figure can be used to offset monthly loan costs in any refinance situation for your rental property.
You should also remember that lenders usually require those buying rental property to have better credit scores than their homebuyer counterparts. Lenders like to see scores of at least the low to mid-700’s before extending any rental property mortgage. (That’s not to say that it’s impossible to obtain a loan if your score is in the 600’s – but it will be more difficult, and certainly, it will come with a much higher interest rate. The bank, after all, is always looking to defray their risk.)
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