A very common question I get is “How soon after my foreclosure can I buy another home?” There are a couple of answers to this question and they depend on how soon and how badly you need a home.

The first option to getting a new home is to simply pick one and buy it with conventional financing. The lender who will be looking at your credit will be very reluctant to finance another home for you. However, with a large enough down payment (20% minimum) and your willingness to pay a higher interest rate, you could have a new home in 45 days.

Most conventional lenders will not allow financing another home after a foreclosure for as much as 12 – 24 months. It probably has to do with the ideal that if your previous home was lost to foreclosure, why would you be able to afford the new one. While this is good logic, it doesn’t take into account special issues with the original loss such as job loss, divorce, medical issue, or any similar problem that has had a final resolution.

I just heard of a women losing her home to foreclosure because of a job related injury and her employer not keeping her on the payroll. She became permanently disabled and was schedule to collect disability that would have easily paid her mortgage and forestalled the foreclosure. However, the first check was not sent until two weeks after the foreclosure sale and she lost her home. This is not the end of the story. I suggested she go to Legal Aid Services and fight the sale despite being beyond the redemption period. Her case is still pending but she had to get an apartment in the interim.

There are generally a couple of sources for the funds to buy a new home. The first is conventional lenders who will generally look at a foreclosure financing in 12 – 24 months at a rate about 1.25% to 1.5% above current rates for a “B” paper lender, and with a hefty deposit. The problem is that the 1%+ differential amounts to nearly a hundred thousand dollars in excessive interest over the life of the mortgage.

If getting another home is absolutely necessary, and you have a large down payment (35%), hard money lenders will loan for up to one year while you attempt to get another long term loan in place. The cost is usually 4% or “points” to close plus the usual closing costs and 12% to 15% per month. There are seldom pre-payment penalties for obvious reasons, but if there is one it should be for a maximum of three months of interest payments. Obviously, this is an expensive method of owning a home.

The next method requires a small down payment (usually 3%) and no closing costs. You should be able to move in within a week or less and the seller will be happy to work with you. This method is a Contract for Deed or a Lease Option. The Contract for Deed has the home transferred into your name with the financing in place by the seller. The agreement is that you will get permanent financing within a given time period, usually one year. However, your timely payments on the existing mortgage will go a long way with your new lender to get a better financing rate.

The Lease Option method keeps the home in the name of the seller, and gives you an option to purchase the property for as many as five years in the future. Each year the option price (“Strike price”) goes up, but this is negotiable. Should you decide not to buy the home, you will lose your deposit (“option consideration”). This method of getting a home quickly is the most cost-effective of the various options and all the aspects of the lease, purchase, partial credit for each payment toward the purchase price, no initial financing credit requirements, minimal cash, etc. are negotiable with the seller.

The key to doing a lease option is to get one document from the homeowner. The reason is that if you do have to go to court to enforce the option agreement or get your option consideration back, one agreement has been adjudicated by the courts as an equity-type agreement. This means that with every lease payment you make, you build equity in the property. If you sign two agreements, you can easily be evicted from the property and lose your option consideration with few or no grounds for recourse.