West Virginia Mortgage Rates

Living in West Virginia

John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was released back in 1971, but it still tells the story of present-day West Virginia’s allure. Serving as a love letter to the state, the song mentions several of its defining features, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Shenandoah River to the coal mining industry that continues to prop up the economy. Today, West Virginia is the No. 2 coal-producer in the country, behind Wyoming, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Also key to West Virginia’s appeal are its 45 state parks and forests, 600-plus miles of trails and 450 year-round fairs and festivals. West Virginia’s cost of living is also lower than 33 other states and the District of Columbia, according to a survey from the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER). It also has one of the country’s lowest property tax rates. These two factors contribute to West Virginia’s 74.7% homeownership rate — tops in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Despite some of the advantages of living in West Virginia, the state’s population has been in decline recently. Census estimates put the state’s population at 1.85 million in 2010 and just 1.81 million in 2018.

However, the state’s housing market is on an upswing. Housing starts and new residential permits are way up from last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s July 2019 report. Mortgage delinquencies have also dropped, and home appreciation is up 1.4% year over year.

The rules and costs of buying a home in West Virginia

Regulations and costs related to homebuying vary from state to state. Here we take a look at West Virginia’s real estate laws, taxes and conforming loan limits.

Home seller and buyer laws

By law in West Virginia, home sellers are required to provide a disclosure form in writing that reveals any known defects of the property. The form must be completed by the seller at the time the property is listed for sale and presented to the buyer before any offer is made. The buyer may, however, waive the disclosure requirement.

The form covers a wide range of potential defects, including those related to: water, sewer and septic systems; structural systems, such as roofs and foundations; plumbing and electrical; heating and air conditioning; and fireplaces. Disclosures must also be made regarding termites and other pest infestations; underground storage tanks and hazardous materials; and damage from events such as floods or sewage seepage.

Several types of sellers are exempted from having to provide this disclosure, including trustees, creditors and beneficiaries, as well as those for whom the home transfer is triggered by a court order, will, foreclosure, a failure to pay taxes or similar circumstance.

West Virginia allows both judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, which means lenders are not required to go through the court system to foreclose on a home. While non-judicial foreclosures are most common, a lender may file a lawsuit after the proceedings to receive a deficiency judgment. This would allow the lender to collect the outstanding amount due if the foreclosure sale did not recoup enough funds to pay off the mortgage.

West Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means that assets acquired during a marriage, including property, are not necessarily split 50/50. A couple, or the court, may take various factors into consideration, such as the length of the marriage, each party’s contribution to the finances and whether the couple has children, in determining how property should be divided. There may be exceptions to the equal division for several reasons, including fraud,the existence of a separate agreement between the parties or because of a disparity in the overall contribution to the couple’s marital assets.

An attorney is typically required to handle the legal paperwork when you close on a home in West Virginia. A real estate agent and escrow officer may handle other aspects of the closing, including earnest money deposits and preparing and reviewing any mortgage documents.

Taxes

Typical property taxes

At just 0.49%, West Virginia enjoys one of the lowest median property tax rates in the country, according to Tax-Rates.org. Homeowners pay a median of only $464 per year in property taxes (that’s for a home worth $94,500). Buyers in the state will want to check the county rates, however, as the tax rate can vary dramatically. While rural Webster County has the lowest average property tax in the state, at $235 per year, or 0.4% of home value, pricier Jefferson County levies an average annual tax of $1,379, or 0.54% of home value.

A transfer tax must be paid in several states in order to transfer the title. In West Virginia, that tax is $1.10 for each $500 of property value (or fraction thereof), plus a county fee of $0.55 per $500. An additional $20 must be collected by the clerk of the county commission before a real estate transfer can be made. Each county in the state may also set its own transfer tax. For instance, Jefferson County increased its property transfer tax in 2019 from $1.10 to $1.35 for each $500 of property value (or fraction thereof).

Property tax exemptions

There are several property types that are not required to pay property taxes in West Virginia, including some government-owned property, certain charitable organizations, agricultural property and property intended for educational, literary, scientific or worship purposes. The state also provides an exemption for persons age 65 or older and disabled individuals. This permanent exemption protects the first $20,000 of assessed value of their owner-occupied residence.

You can find out more about West Virginia’s property tax exemptions here.

Conforming loan limits

The conforming loan limit for 2019 is $484,350 for one-unit properties in every West Virginia county but one. The limit rises to $726,525 in Jefferson County, the easternmost county in the state, located about 90 minutes from both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Conforming loan limits represent the maximum amount that will be backed by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Each year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) sets these limits.

Programs for homebuyers in West Virginia

The West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) offers several loan programs with competitive rates for buyers in the state, including the Homeownership Program for first-time homebuyers and the Movin’ Up Program for existing homeowners looking to buy another residence. There is also a program that provides down payment and closing cost assistance.

Homeownership Program

This program offers a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage loan with up to 100% financing. This program can be paired with down payment and closing cost assistance for eligible borrowers. Properties must be located in West Virginia, must not exceed five acres and can include: new construction or existing single-family homes; townhomes; condos, units in approved planned-unit developments and new manufactured homes.

Who qualifies:

The borrower must be a first-time buyer or an eligible veteran unless the home is located in a targeted county. Income and home price limits must also be met for the county in which the home is being purchased. Homebuyer education is required.

Learn more.

Movin' Up Program

The Movin’ Up Program is aimed at moderate-income homebuyers in West Virginia and does not have a first-time buyer requirement. Down payment and closing cost assistance is available for eligible borrowers. Properties can include: new construction or existing single-family homes; townhomes; condos; units in approved planned-unit developments and new manufactured homes. The property must be located in West Virginia, but, unlike the Homeownership Program loan, there is no maximum limit on acreage.

Who qualifies:

Borrowers’ income must be within the statewide program limits:

  • $113,760 for a household of one or two persons
  • $132,720 for a household of three or more persons

Homebuyer education is required.

Learn more.

Down payment and closing cost assistance

The WVHDF offers down payment and closing cost assistance for borrowers purchasing homes in West Virginia in the form of a 15-year, fixed-rate loan at a current rate of 2%. Assistance is available for eligible borrowers in both the Homeownership and Movin’ Up programs.

Two loans for the Homeownership Program are available:

  • $7,500 with a loan-to-value (LTV) of 90% or greater
  • $10,000 with a loan-to-value (LTV) under 90%

Two loans for the Movin’ Up Program are available:

  • $5,000 with a loan-to-value (LTV) of 90% or greater
  • $8,000 with a loan-to-value (LTV) under 90%

Learn more.

Rate shopping tips

Mortgage rates and loan terms can vary from one lender to another, which is why it’s important to shop around and talk to several lenders. The following tips can help you secure the best rate possible.

Contact at least three lenders on the same day.

Mortgage interest rates can be quite volatile. This means a quote from a lender on one day can’t truly be compared to one from another lender on a different day, as overall rates may have changed in that time. Because of this, it’s important to get all home loan quotes as close as you can to one another. You want to have a decent amount of quotes to compare, so three should be the minimum amount of lenders you contact in a day.

Give each lender the same information.

Giving lenders the same data will help you to more accurately compare mortgage rates. Write down the necessary information before you contact lenders to make sure you have all the correct information handy. Among the information you will need to supply is your name, income, Social Security number, the address of the property you’re hoping to buy and the desired loan amount.

Add up all the lender fees to confirm the costs.

It’s also important to pay attention to each quote’s loan terms; it may be that any savings you get from a rate that is a bit lower than others is wiped out by higher lender fees and other closing costs. Remember, though, that while some fees are set in stone, others may be negotiable. Borrowers may be able to save some money by asking for an adjustment on some of the lender-specific fees, such as loan origination charges, appraisal fees and credit report fees. The most important thing is to understand is exactly what you’ll be paying when all costs and fees are applied, so you don’t encounter any nasty surprises.

Know when to lock your rate.

Locking the rate on a mortgage loan allows you to “lock in” the offered interest rate for a specific amount of time, preventing a rate increase if rates rise during the homebuying process. You should understand that the lock will come with an expiration date, typically 30 days ahead, although the range could start as low as 15 days and go as high as 60 days. You may be able to ask your lender for a rate-lock extension, although that might come with a fee. If the rate decreases after you lock it in, ask your lender about the “float down” option.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.