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Home buyers will now be able to put down 1% on their home, Rocket Mortgage says

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Home buyers will be able to put as little as 1% down as payment for a home under a new program launched by Rocket Mortgage
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A new product by one of the biggest non-bank mortgage lenders in the U.S., called ONE+, will allow low and moderate-income aspiring homeowners to buy homes in their area with just 1% of a home’s purchase price down, the company said, as well as avoid paying mortgage insurance, both of which reduces the overall cost of owning a home.

To ensure the mortgages that originated by Rocket are sold and guaranteed by Fannie Mae
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and Freddie Mac
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government agencies that buy home loans and supply funds to banks and mortgage lenders and support the housing sector, Rocket will pay 2% of the borrower’s loans, the company said. Their mortgage premium, which is typically required if a home buyer puts down less than 20% on a home, will also be slashed.

“I’m very, very excited that we’re rolling this out — this is going to be a big deal for a lot of people,” Bob Walters, CEO of Rocket Mortgage, told MarketWatch in an exclusive interview.

Unlike low or no down payment plans that flourished and resulted in the subprime loan crisis — where lenders made loans to people who were eventually unable to repay them — requiring borrowers to meet specific and stringent credit standards will prevent the same scenario from repeating again, Walters stressed.

Poor underwriting practices were a big part of why the subprime mortgage crisis began in the U.S., the International Monetary Fund wrote in 2008.

“We are not reducing the qualifications and putting people into loans they can’t afford,” Walters said. He added that the performance of these types of loans has historically been “very, very high.”

Rocket estimates that 90 million people in the U.S. qualify under these guidelines. 

With the new program, home buyers who are purchasing single-family and manufactured homes and whose income is equal to or less than 80% of the median income in their area, will be able to put down only 1% for their home. Rocket estimates that 90 million people in the U.S. qualify under these guidelines. 

The typical first-time homebuyer puts down between 6% and 7%, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the first quarter of 2023, the typical home buyer put down roughly $24,000, Realtor.com said. 

The ability to put as little as 3% down already exists, through government-backed Federal Housing Administration loans, but a buyer would have to pay mortgage insurance. 

The ability to put even less down has been available for certain groups. For instance, veterans who take out a Veterans Affairs mortgage don’t need to put any money down and also don’t need to pay mortgage-insurance fees. 

Some private lenders have also begun offering very low to no down payment programs. Last year, Bank of America
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introduced zero down payment mortgages with no closing costs for first-time buyers in certain Black and Hispanic neighborhoods such as in Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Miami. There was no minimum credit score nor mortgage insurance involved. The San Francisco Federal Credit Union also offers mortgages with zero down payment requirement, but it’s an adjustable-rate mortgage. That means that the interest rate and monthly payments are only fixed for the first five years of the loan, and will reset thereafter. Plus, the home loan is only available to those who work in San Francisco or San Mateo County.

Rocket’s 1% down program, launched on Monday, will be available to qualifying homebuyers in all 50 states.

Rocket Mortgage is one of the biggest non-bank mortgage lenders in the U.S. The company recently reported a net loss of $411 million in the first quarter of 2023.

Aside from mortgage rates doubling from last year to above 6%, the housing market is facing a major shortage of homes for sale on the market: 14 million homeowners who had refinanced their mortgage to ultra-low rates during the pandemic find it difficult to give up their loan, and sell their home. 

“While a program like this isn’t going to solve the supply problem in America,” Walters said, “what it does is level up some of the folks who really are struggling in a market that’s often competitive, and where prices have risen.”

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