How Soon Can You Refinance an FHA Loan to Conventional?

By Melissa Brock · December 18, 2023 · 8 minute read

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How Soon Can You Refinance an FHA Loan to Conventional?

There is no waiting period for borrowers who want to refinance an FHA loan and switch to a conventional loan. But that doesn’t mean it’s automatically a good idea. When you refinance a mortgage, you want to benefit — maybe enjoy lower monthly payments, or perhaps save money on interest over the loan term.

To decide whether or not to refinance, it first helps to understand the difference between an FHA loan and a conventional mortgage. An FHA loan is a home loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA doesn’t directly loan to borrowers; instead, it insures loans for lenders to alleviate some of the risk the lender takes on when lending money. Borrowers can usually meet FHA loan requirements with a lower credit score, and can provide a lower down payment than would be necessary with some conventional loans. For this reason, FHA loans are popular with first-time homebuyers.

A conventional loan, on the other hand, is a home mortgage loan not backed by the federal government. Borrowers with less-than-stellar credit ratings or minimal down payments aren’t always able to get a conventional loan. Or if they do, a conventional loan might have a higher interest rate than an FHA loan.

You don’t have to wait to make the switch from FHA loan to conventional. But why would you want to refinance, should you do it, and what are the pros and cons? Let’s have a look at these questions.

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Can You Refinance an FHA Loan to a Conventional Loan?

Yes, you can refinance an FHA loan to a conventional loan. However, a lender won’t just approve you for a refinance immediately. If you currently have an FHA loan, you must qualify to refinance to a conventional loan.

Why Should You Refinance From an FHA to a Conventional Loan?

One reason you might refinance from an FHA to a conventional loan is that FHA loans require you to pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP). First, there is a required upfront mortgage insurance premium that you make when you purchase your home. You also pay an additional mortgage insurance premium on top of your mortgage payments each month. The ongoing annual MIP of 0.45% to 1.05% is divided by 12 and added to your monthly mortgage payment.

FHA borrowers must pay MIP for either 11 years or throughout the loan term, depending on the amount you put down. Getting rid of MIP is one of the top reasons to refinance to a conventional loan.

You may also find that you can get a lower interest rate by refinancing to a conventional loan. If that’s the case, a refinance could save you thousands of dollars over your home mortgage loan term.

It’s also possible that you can increase or lower your mortgage payment with a refinance. If you find it difficult to make your monthly payments, a refinance may help you lower them. But note that a lower payment often comes with a longer loan term. On the other hand, you may decide you can pay off your mortgage faster, and so you refinance to decrease your loan term from 20 to 15 years, saving time and money.

Ultimately, you want a refinance to benefit you, so learn more from lenders and use an FHA loan mortgage calculator.

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Requirements to Refinance From an FHA Loan to Conventional

You must qualify for a refinance through your credit score and debt-to-income ratio (DTI):

•   Credit score: Many lenders look for at least a 620 credit score for a conventional mortgage refinance.

•   DTI: Your DTI refers to the amount of debt you have relative to your income. There are no hard-and-fast requirements for DTI, but many lenders like to see a DTI of at least 43%. You can calculate your DTI by dividing your monthly debt payments by your gross income and converting that figure into a percentage.

Once you think you have your ducks in a row with your credit score and DTI, you must fill out applications with several lenders. Consider checking out the same type of interest rate and loan term so you can compare apples to apples among several lenders.

Get ready to submit your documents to prove your income and assets — pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, proof of investments — to show underwriters that you indeed have those assets at your disposal.

Not sure you’ll qualify? A lender can walk you through all the requirements and help you determine whether a refinance to a conventional loan makes sense for you.

💡 Quick Tip: You can use money you get with a cash-out refi for any purpose, including home renovations, consolidating other high-interest debts, funding a child’s education, or buying another property.

Pros of Refinancing From an FHA to Conventional Loan

Refinancing from an FHA to a conventional loan has some definite benefits. Let’s look at a few reasons:

•   Get a lower interest rate: Many lenders require a minimum 580 credit score (or 500 with a larger down payment). You may qualify for a lower interest rate if your credit score has increased from the 500s.

•   Get rid of MIP: As noted above, lenders charge MIP to compensate for an FHA loan’s lower credit and down payment requirements. Getting rid of MIP will save you money.

•   Save on interest: Qualifying for a lower interest rate could save you thousands of dollars over your loan term.

Cons of Refinancing From an FHA to Conventional Loan

There are downsides of refinancing from an FHA to a conventional loan.

•   Tougher qualifications: You must meet stiffer requirements to qualify for a conventional loan than an FHA loan. Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules governing qualifications, but so your best bet is to talk to lenders about your situation.

•   Private mortgage insurance (PMI): You may not be off the hook for mortgage insurance. If you don’t have at least 20% equity in your home, you must pay PMI, which automatically cancels once you reach 22% equity. Consider how much you’d pay in MIP vs. PMI over time before you refinance your home.

•   Closing costs: Refinancing requires you to pay closing costs, typically between 2% and 5% of the full loan amount.

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Alternatives to Refinancing Your FHA Loan to a Conventional Loan

Instead of a conventional loan, you can choose to refinance your existing FHA loan to another FHA loan using a few options:

•   FHA streamline refinance: A streamline refinance allows for limited documentation and underwriting. In order to obtain a streamline refinance, you may not be delinquent on your current loan, and refinancing must confer a net tangible benefit, meaning it must save you money. Some lenders offer “no cost refinances” by charging a higher interest rate in lieu of closing costs.

•   FHA simple refinance: A simple refinance replaces your existing FHA loan, just like a streamline refinance. You get a new fixed- or adjustable-rate loan faster than when you received your original loan. A fixed-rate loan stays the same throughout a loan term, while an adjustable-rate loan interest rate changes over the loan term. One difference between the simple and streamline refinance is that the simple version typically requires a credit check and an appraisal of your home.

•   FHA cash-out refinance: A cash-out refinance allows you to refinance with a larger loan amount and take the difference out in a lump sum. A cash-out refi could make sense if you need cash for a home project, education, or other reasons. The amount you can take out depends on how much your home is worth.

•   FHA 203(k) refinance: How do FHA loans 203k work? An FHA 203(k) refinance allows you to roll any home improvement or renovations you want to make into your home loan. You can choose from a limited 203(k) refinance or a standard 203(k) refinance. The standard doesn’t have a ceiling on the amount you can spend, while the limited refinance supplies up to $35,000.

You may face time and payment restrictions when replacing an existing FHA with an FHA refinance. For example, an FHA streamline refinance requires you to have an FHA loan for at least 210 days and make on-time mortgage payments for six months.

The Takeaway

You don’t have to wait to refinance from an FHA to a conventional loan. Still, it’s essential to consider all the ramifications of refinancing — especially the costs and savings. You may have qualified as a first-time homebuyer for your original FHA loan. The process looks different when you refinance. If you plan to refinance to a conventional loan, check your credit report, debt-to-income ratio (DTI), and other factors, and talk through what you need to present to a lender to get a conventional loan. Ultimately, you want to ensure that you will benefit from a switch before you make your move.

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Can you refinance an FHA loan within 6 months?

Yes, you can refinance from an FHA loan to a conventional loan within six months. However, you would first want to consider whether doing so would save you money.

How long do you have to wait to refi a conventional loan?

In most situations, you can refinance a conventional loan immediately. However, you might have to wait six months before refinancing with the same lender. Check with your lender for more information about how long you’ll have to wait for a conventional loan refinance.

Can you have an FHA loan and a conventional loan at the same time?

You might find it difficult to qualify for a conventional loan with an FHA loan because FHA loans typically go to borrowers who have less financial stability. Lenders will want to ensure that you can make payments on both your first and second home before they approve you for a conventional loan. Talk to your lender for more information about your options.

Photo credit: iStock/jhorrocks

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¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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