You'd just need to have the employment contract prior to closing - underwriter needs to review, so probably give 2 business days from when you deliver it to the loan officer until the underwriter has signed it off. If that is the last item on your conditional loan approval then you could in theory go to closing 2 days after it's been signed off by the underwriter.
There are a couple more forms that need to be signed on an FHA loan rather than a conventional loan, but if the loan officer and real estate agents are all on the ball from the beginning then the processing time should be practically identical in both transactions. FHA 203k (rehab version of FHA) can take about a week longer since there is a contractor approval process, but if that part is lined up ahead of time then the contractor approval process can run concurrently with the credit/loan approval portion.
I'd say a good 8-9 out of 10 residential mortgage lenders offer FHA financing, over the past 3-4 years it's become more and more popular, particularly in California when FHA increased it's maximum loan amounts. One of the more important items you'll need to look for in a lender is one that accepts the employment contract, not all lenders do and I'd estimate out of a sample size of 9 lenders who offer FHA financing I've found on average that 4 will want to see you have a paycheck stub covering 30 days of pay prior to being able to close. Additionally you'll also want to make sure the lender offers a pre-approval process that involves an underwriter reviewing your loan, rather than just the loan officer & their processor. This ensures that the only thing that will stop you from buying a home is the property itself (doesn't appraise, in bad condition, etc).
If you get fully pre-approved ahead of time then you should be able to get down the total escrow time to around 3 weeks, but a 30 day escrow period is standard.
You should start shopping for a home now. There are a lot of nice neighborhoods around LL, like Redlands. Here is an ad -free MLS site . Get an agent known for being a buyers agent! I have heard good things about Janet Burke at C-21 Lois Lauer
Make sure you get a good inspector. Redlands has a couple that have been doing it for over 20 years.
There are good deals, but, many houses have been vacant for quite some time. best of everything to you!
Transferring with your current employer is the ideal situation when making a long distance move and aiming to qualify to buy a home in the new location simultaneously... however not everyone's situation is deal. When you are instead going to be starting employment with a new employer FHA financing requires typically either requires a paystub showing that you've been paid for a total of at least 30 days OR a non-revocable contract for employment with a start date no later than 60 days from the closing date on the home.
You must also have sufficient income or cash reserves to support the mortgage payment and any other obligations between loan closing and the start of employment, so if you have $3k in the bank after closing, and your new mortgage payment is $1.5k, and your other payments are $500/mo (car payment, credit cards, student loans, etc.), because your 1st mortgage payment usually doesn't happen until the rest of the month you close in + the entire following month have elapsed (so closing on June 8th usually has a first payment due date of August 1st ) you'd really only have 1 month of mortgage payment + 2 months of the other payments to cover, or $2.5k, and your $3k would cover those until the employment begins.
Then later after closing, and after you begin employment, you need to provide a paystub or the lender contacts your employer to confirm you have begun.
You can find FHA's exact verbiage on it at: http://www.fhaoutreach.gov/FHAHandbook/prod/infomap.asp?addr
It's never too early to go over your situation in full detail with a loan officer, and it doesn't mean your credit needs to be checked either. But unless you absolutely know that your income, plans, etc. are all going to work down the road, I suggest you start planning as soon as you are ready. Keep in mind that some pertinent details won't be known such as employment and exact income, but you can get a plan of attack with the missing variables that can be filled in along the way, so you can "hone" your situation until you have pretty much everything figured out.
CalHFA is a popular 3% down down payment assistance program available throughout most of California: http://www.calhfa.ca.gov/homebuyer/programs/index.htm - it has some limitations, the processing time is on the longer side and sometimes their funding runs out, but if it's available it's an excellent way to get into a home with little money out of pocket.
San Bernardino County has some, but may not help out your precise situation: http://www.sbcountyadvantage.com/Housing-Assistance.aspx
Shane, thank you for your explanation regarding choosing a lender. I've made contact with a few lenders in San Bernardino County that are equipped to process CalHFA loans and also inquired about the employment contract, and so hopefully I'll find a good match with one of them.
We are hoping to be able to have an employment contract set up for my wife as early in 2012 as possible. If we continue with our plans of having closed on a house before we arrive there in mid-May, when would a realistic deadline be for needing the contract in hand? (We will obviously only be able to obtain a pre-approval letter once we have her new contract, as our current income is significantly lower). Also, I have heard that the escrow period can sometimes be slightly longer when an FHA loan is involved, as opposed to a conventional loan, so I know we would have to keep that in mind as well, if that is in fact true.
I know that not all lenders work with FHA mortgages. Are there certain lenders that would possibly be significantly easier to work with considering our situation?
Again, I really appreciate any information/help that is given!
That being said I suggest you shop craigslist for duplexes in Loma Linda and Redlands a month prior to moving. If it becomes too difficult to find a private owned unit there are several month to month units in Redlands for under $1100 a month. After you have a sense of job security and cost of living then start looking for a home. You'll find your needs and budget will change greatly.
If you'd like, hold on to my info and I could show you around when you get here.
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