Are Mortgage Insurance Companies Affecting Your Owner Builder Construction Loan?

An owner builder construction loan, just like any construction loan, will not have any mortgage insurance payments while you build. So, why is it then that mortgage insurance companies are having a huge impact on your ability as an owner builder to secure your loan? The answer lies within the banks’ rules for converting you to permanent financing once the home is built.

Even though an owner builder loan has no mortgage insurance to worry about during the construction phase, the lender has to have a plan for when you are done building your home. They need to know that there is a way to secure financing once the home is built. Otherwise, the construction lender will be stuck holding the mortgage and unable to free up enough capital to lend to other owner builders. In fact, the best owner builder construction loan programs are designed to convert automatically from construction to permanent financing without making the borrower go through two rounds of closing costs.

Therefore, construction lenders have to take the permanent loan into consideration when qualifying a borrower for the construction phase. And, thus, the mortgage insurance guidelines that apply to permanent financing will greatly affect the construction loan, whether it’s for an owner builder or for someone who has hired a general contractor.

So, what are the recent mortgage insurance guidelines that are reeking havoc on banks’ ability to provide loans? Let’s start with the basics. Mortgage insurance companies provide a safety net to banks in the events that the borrower does not make payments on time – or at all. Therefore, banks do not like to lend money without having mortgage insurance in place.

In the past, an owner builder lender, just like other banks, could easily purchase mortgage insurance for its loans. The mortgage insurance companies had very lenient guidelines on what was required to get a mortgage insurance commitment. However, with all of the foreclosures that have been dumped on the market and all of the people having trouble making their mortgage payments on time nowadays, these mortgage insurance companies have come up with some stricter guidelines to protect their investment in the loan.

For example, let’s say you are an owner builder who wants to build his own house for his family to live in. Even though there is no mortgage insurance during construction, the owner builder lender will want to have a permanent loan lined up for you so that you can move into your new home once construction is complete. Even if a bank is willing to lend money based on their set of guidelines, they still need to acquire the mortgage insurance commitment for the loan. If the mortgage insurance company has stricter guidelines than the bank, then the bank will have to default to the stricter requirements in order to get the mortgage insurance commitment and fund the loan.

Looking back to the example of our owner builder construction loan, the bank might be willing to fund your loan based on the fact that the value of your future home is going to be well above the total cost to build. In other words, when you’re done building as an owner builder, your total loan amount will be less than the appraised market value of the home. For example, the bank might be willing to fund the construction loan based on the fact that your total loan amount will be 90% or less of the future appraised value.

In this way, the owner builder lender can say to the borrower that no cash is needed out of pocket. Indeed, the lender is willing to treat the future equity in your home as a replacement for a down payment. But, if the mortgage insurance companies refuse to provide mortgage insurance without seeing some cash into the deal from the borrower, then the lender is forced to tighten their requirements to meet the mortgage insurance company’s guidelines.

Owner builder construction loans have certainly fallen victim to these tightening guidelines, making it difficult for them to provide financing without a down payment. So, what’s the solution? Really, there are only two basic ways to work around this. One way is to simply require the owner builder to bring cash to closing for the construction loan. The second way is to try to lend without mortgage insurance.

The only way to avoid mortgage insurance with most lenders is to have a loan that is less than 80% of the appraised market value of the home. In the lending world, this typically requires a 20% down payment. But, owner builder construction offers a unique way to achieve this without putting 20% cash into the project.

Instead, the owner builder can create 20% in sweat equity while they build their home, saving money by eliminating the general contractor and doing some of the labor themselves. Therefore, when an owner builder finishes construction on his new home, it is not unreasonable that there will be 20% or more in instant equity built into the home.

If owner builder construction loans can finance the construction based on an approved budget that shows that the permanent loan will be no more than 80% of the finished appraised value, then these owner builder lenders do not have to get a commitment for mortgage insurance. If there is no need for mortgage insurance, then the lender can fund owner builder loans without having to adhere to any extra requirements from the mortgage insurance company.

Because owner builder construction loans typically have their own minimum construction budget requirements, it may be tough for a borrower to get a budget approved at the 80% level. In some cases, the owner builder will still have to bring some minimal amount of cash to closing to make up the difference. But, even in these cases, it is a far cry from the larger requirements from the mortgage insurance companies. This is something every owner builder can be grateful for.

Chris Esposito provides owner builder construction loans through Owner Builder 101, a program designed specifically for someone who wants to build his own home without paying the costs of a general contractor. For more information, please visit, or call (877) 876-3688.

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