There’s nothing like Southern living. Alabama has deep historical roots and vibrant culture. Here are the ins and outs of what you should expect as an Alabama first time homebuyer.
Best Mortgage Lenders in Alabama for First Time Home Buyers
Choosing a lender is a big decision. Here are the best Alabama lenders for first time buyers.
The Housing Market in Alabama: An Overview
Before you start looking for a mortgage, it helps to know the Alabama housing market.
Here’s a quick overview:
Total households: 1,856,695
Median list price: $178,649
3 most expensive cities in Alabama to buy a house:
- Gulf Shores
3 most affordable cities in Alabama to buy a house:
Preparing for a Mortgage
As a first time homebuyer, start by getting preapproved for a mortgage. This helps you know how much house you can afford. You should contact multiple lenders to get a purchase quote for preapproval so you know you’re getting the best rate.
The next step is finding a real estate agent to help you find a home. Your agent should be someone knowledgeable about the local area and willing to work within your budget.
Once you’ve found a home, your agent will help you put in an offer. If it’s accepted, put in a full application with your lender. You’ll need to provide financial documents, including:
- W-2s from the past 2 years
- Your tax returns from the past 2 years
- Paystubs from the past month
- Your 2 most recent bank statements
- A copy of your driver's license
- Your Social Security number
- Proof of any other income
- Documentation of the source of your down payment
If you’re applying for a VA loan, you’ll also need to provide your certificate of eligibility.
Next, your lender underwrites your application. During underwriting, the lender may order an appraisal. An appraisal is when a neutral party comes to your property and determines its value. You will need to pay for the appraisal if your lender requires one. Your lender may also ask for additional documents. Once your lender finishes underwriting you will know your approval status for your mortgage.
Your credit score plays an important role in the process. Lenders use your credit score to determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and what interest rate to offer you. Lenders consider borrowers with a high credit score a lower risk, so lenders offer them lower rates.
Here are the minimum credit scores required by several Alabama lenders:
As you consider the best mortgage companies for your Alabama home, you’ll also find a variety of mortgage options. Here are the most common types of mortgages:
- Conventional: A conventional mortgage is a mortgage that isn’t backed by a government agency. This means that a conventional mortgage may be more difficult to get. You may need a higher credit score to qualify for a conventional mortgage than you would for an FHA mortgage, for example.
Conventional mortgages come in 2 varieties: conforming and non-conforming. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back conforming loans. The government sets limits on these loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private companies started by the government to stabilize the mortgage market. Nonconforming loans are conventional loans that don’t qualify to be insured by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
- FHA: The Federal Housing Administration insures and sets the rules for FHA mortgages. Borrowers with a credit score of 580 or higher can make a down payment of 3.5%. Borrowers with a credit score of 500–579 can qualify with a down payment of 10% or more. An FHA mortgage may cost more overall than a conventional mortgage if you have good credit.
- USDA: The U.S. Department of Agriculture backs USDA mortgages. These programs are designed to help moderate- and low-income borrowers purchase homes in rural areas. These mortgages are available with low or no down payment.
- VA: The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees VA mortgages. These mortgages are available to qualifying current and former service members. They have low or no down payment requirements and competitive interest rates.
- Jumbo: A jumbo mortgage is a nonconforming conventional mortgage that exceeds the limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Conforming loans are limited to $484,350 in most areas, but can go up to $726,525 in higher-priced housing markets. A jumbo mortgage is higher than these limits.
Private lenders offer government-back mortgages. Each government agency approves its lenders.
First Time Home Buyer Programs in Alabama
Buying your first Alabama home might seem intimidating. Alabama offers a few programs that might help. Here are Alabama’s first time homebuyer programs:
- Step Up: The Step Up program helps homebuyers with an income of $97,300 or less buy a home. Although it’s not specifically for first time homebuyers, first time homebuyers do qualify. It offers a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and a second mortgage to help with your down payment. Step Up offers up to 3% of the purchase price of your home in down payment assistance.
- Mortgage Credit Certificate program: The MCC program offers first time homebuyers a tax break. The MCC lowers your federal taxes by a percentage of the interest you pay on your mortgage. The credit ranges from 20% to 50% of your mortgage interest, depending on the size of your mortgage. You must meet income and purchase price limits to qualify.
- Affordable Income Subsidy grant: This program offers $2,500 to help with closing costs as a grant, which means you don’t need to repay it. To qualify, you need to meet income and credit score requirements and complete a homebuyer education class.
- First time homebuyer savings account: If you’re a first time homebuyer, you can open a tax-free savings account at any bank or credit union in Alabama. You can deduct your deposits and interest from your Alabama taxes.
The Alabama Housing Finance Authority doesn’t offer loans directly. You can apply for these programs through approved lenders.
Current Mortgage Rates in Alabama
Your mortgage rate is the amount of interest you pay on your mortgage. Alabama’s mortgage rates are close to the national average. Mortgage rates change daily. Lenders change rates due to changes in the economy and the housing market. At Benzinga, we update mortgage rates frequently to reflect the most relevant data.
Here are the current rates in Alabama:
|7/1 ARM (adjustable rate)
|5/1 ARM (adjustable rate)
Closing a Mortgage
Closing is the end of the mortgage application process. You may be able to choose the company that handles your closing. If you can, shop around for the company with the best rates and service.
You can request your closing documents 3 days before your closing date. Request them in advance so you can review them before closing. Review your closing disclosure and make sure you understand the document. If there are any changes that you weren’t expecting, review them with your lender.
You’ll also need to pay your down payment and closing costs at closing. Make sure you’re clear on the instructions. Confirm them with your closing company. At closing, you’ll sign all your closing documents. Take your time and sign when you’re comfortable.
It takes time to close a mortgage. Here are the average closing times for several Alabama lenders:
Buying Your First Alabama Home
Buying your first home is exciting. Get quotes from at least 3 lenders to ensure you get the best rate. Down the road, you can always get a refinance quote to see if you qualify for a better rate. Take your time looking for the right home and the best loan.
Get Ready for Take Off
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