Finding Funds for a Down Payment

October 26, 2022

A soft second loan, sometimes called a silent second, is subordinate to the first mortgage, whose payment is deferred or forgiven until a specific date or the resale of the property.  This would mean that buyers would not have to contend with regular payments thereby keeping their debt-to-income ratio lower and more affordable.

While normal lending institutions may not be open to such types of financing, family and friends may be.  In some cases, these relatives and friends may be inclined to make a gift to help buyers get into a home.  Instead of an outright gift, if the person makes the loan, they have options to be repaid at some point in the future or in other cases, they could forgive the debt but don’t have to make that decision today.

There are more than 2,000 down payment assistance programs nationwide.  State, county, and city governments run many of them.  Other programs could be from churches, employers, non-profit organizations, regional Federal Home Loan Banks, federally recognized Native American tribes and their sovereign instrumentalities or public agencies.

Various local or state Housing Finance Agencies have used “soft second” mortgages for down payment and closing costs to eligible borrowers.  For example, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority offers down payment assistance in the amount of 3 to 4 percent of the purchase price of the home at zero percent interest with no monthly payments. The loan is fully forgiven after two years if the borrower remains in the home.

In a more mainstream application, let’s say that a parent or other relative was willing to help a buyer with their down payment and possibly, closing costs to purchase a home now.  However, they will need the money for their retirement at some determinable point in the future, possibly, five to ten years.

The sales contract would disclose a “soft second” together with the terms which could include interest and due date such as ten years from execution of note or when they sell or refinance the property whichever comes first.   It would also specify that no payments would be made until the maturity.

The mortgagor of the “soft second” may also retain the right to forgive the loan.

The lender of the first mortgage must be aware of the intended soft second and it should be mentioned in the sales contract so it can be underwritten by the lender appropriately.  Failure to disclose a soft second to the lender is illegal and borrowers who fail to do so could be prosecuted.  Mortgage fraud is classified as a Class C felony under federal law.

Both liens would be recorded for public record for the safety of all parties concerned.

Since this procedure is not commonplace, the advice is to run this concept past your lender prior to writing the offer.  With full disclosure in the contract and the proper terms to satisfy underwriting, you should be able to structure a transaction to get a qualified buyer without a down payment into a home.

Some things to consider in the second mortgage note is a firm due date far enough down the road that it isn’t going to trigger risk issues.  An example would be ten years or when the property is sold or refinanced, whichever comes first.  Specify an interest rate and arbitrary payments which would give the buyer the option to make payments if they wanted.  By doing this, the underwriter can calculate payments and amount owed at the term.

In today’s economy, there are a lot of companies that have rich cash reserves, as well as plenty of individuals also.  Once buyers have identified a friend or relative to become the lender on the second mortgage, your agent will help you find a lender for the first mortgage who is willing to participate.

The buyer will become pre-approved and the process of finding the home can begin but not until the other steps have been finished.

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