Loans that are backed by the federal government (i.e., the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are designed to make buying homes more affordable and typically offer low down payments. Because conventional loans are not guaranteed by the federal government if the buyer defaults, they’re a higher risk for the banks, credit unions and other lenders that offer them. Conventional loans require larger down payments than most federally backed loans, but may offer lower interest rates and the flexibility to negotiate fees – usually resulting in a lower monthly payment.
Loans that are backed by the federal government (i.e., the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are designed to make buying homes more affordable and typically offer low down payments. Because conventional loans are not guaranteed by the federal government if the buyer defaults, they’re a higher risk for the banks, credit unions and other lenders that offer them. Conventional loans require larger down payments than most federally backed loans, but may offer lower interest rates and the flexibility to negotiate fees – usually resulting in a lower monthly payment.
The first thing lenders will probably do when you apply for a mortgage loan is to check your credit; you should, too. There’s no better time for regular credit monitoring than when you’re trying to prove your creditworthiness to a lender so you can get the best possible rates. You want to make sure that your credit report is as accurate as possible, your scores are where you want them to be, and no one else is getting access to your credit, possibly harming your scores.

A defining characteristic of a mortgage loan is that the loan is insured by some sort of real estate or property, over which the lender has conditional ownership, called a mortgage lien. When mortgage loans are used to purchase property or a home, the mortgage lien is the legal claim of the lender to the property or home in question. If the borrower defaults on their payments, the lender then has the right to seize the lien as collateral (foreclosure). A common misconception about mortgage loans is that they can only be used for home or property-related purchases, when in fact, the loan money can be used for any purpose. The loan must be insured by some sort of real property, but if the borrower already has some sort of real property to offer as collateral, the mortgage loan money itself can be used to pay off debt, start a business, etc. Some lenders do have certain conditions regarding how their mortgage loan money can be spent, but this varies by lending organization and specific loan.


Down payment minimums vary and depend on various factors, such as the type of loan and the lender. Each lender establishes its own criteria for down payments, but on average, you’ll need at least a 3.5% down payment. Aim for a higher down payment if you have the means. A 20% down payment not only knocks down your mortgage balance, it also alleviates private mortgage insurance or PMI. Lenders attach this extra insurance to properties without 20% equity, and paying PMI increases the monthly mortgage payment. Get rid of PMI payments and you can enjoy lower, more affordable mortgage payments.
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No. The purpose of the Keep Your Home California Program is to keep struggling homeowners in their home and prevent avoidable foreclosures. This program is not available for second homes or investment properties, which includes using the home as a rental property. If you lease or rent your home after you receive Keep Your Home California assistance you will be ineligible to receive further assistance and may be responsible to repay the benefit proceeds if you sell your home in the future. If during the active benefit period of any Keep Your Home California program it is determined that your home is vacant, non-owner occupied, and/or rented, Keep Your Home California reserves the right to terminate benefit assistance.


Investopedia’s Mortgage Calculator is based on a complex formula that factors in your mortgage principal (how much you are borrowing), the interest rate you’re paying and the duration of the loan to determine how much that monthly mortgage payment will be. It lets you try out different scenarios of how much you might borrow and what varying interest rates will do to the amount you’ll be asked to pay. Read below to understand what each of these terms mean.

Find information on the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program, which is the new federal government short sale program. This is a plan created by the Obama administration that provides financial incentives to both homeowners and lenders. It both encourages the parties to use short sale process by providing financial aid to banks and homeowners, and it also simplifies the process. Find more on the short sale program from HAFA.


The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program is for borrowers who, although eligible for the government Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), are not able to secure a permanent loan modification or cannot avoid foreclosure. HAFA provides protection and money to eligible borrowers who decide to do a Short Sale or a Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure.
With this in mind, it’s important to do research before choosing a mortgage lender. You not only want to compare the rates but also the level of service each lender provides. When comparing rates, be sure to get the estimates on the same day as rates can change daily. When reviewing level of service, ask how quickly they can process your loan. Is the lender available to personally help you choose the right product and rate, or are you waiting on hold for “the next available representative”?  Do they make you jump through hoops just to get a rate quote?

A lot of borrowers choose to pick up the phone and call a handful of lenders to request interest rates. Those who do that may be surprised when the lender is asking questions before listing off rates. Again, interest rates vary and are dependent on many factors such as the loan program, your financial situation (including credit score), the cost of the home you’re looking to fund, etc. So, both the borrower and the lender should be interviewing one another to narrow down best options. Don't be alarmed if this happens to you! It's all part of the process of getting you into the best loan for your financial situation.
“Get pre-approved early, and know your numbers. Make sure you understand the monthly payment that goes along with your price point. Your expectations and your reality need to sync up. Also, rely on your professionals like loan officers and real estate agents. Never feel like you’re bugging them with questions, they should want you to bug them with questions. They’d certainly rather you get the correct info from them than the incorrect info from Google. Also, I think it’s ok to overpay a little for a house you love. If the market isn’t giving you many options to buy and you find a house you love, don’t get hung up on a couple thousand bucks, especially if you’re going to stay in the house long-term. If you can afford it, make it happen.”–Tyler Baker, Branch Manager, Olathe, KS
Lenders use the information you provide at the time of application for loan approval or denial. If you get approved, don’t change your employment or income status until after the loan process is complete. Changing your employment or income during the process will significantly delay the lending process at best, and at worst, it could cause you to be denied for your loan altogether.
When you apply for a mortgage, you will need to provide your lender with a number of financial documents. Having these documents already assembled will help accelerate the processing of your loan application. At a minimum, you should be prepared to provide your last two pay stubs, your most recent W-2, your last two years of tax returns, and current bank and brokerage statements.
Keep Your Home California uses the Note date as the start date for the Keep Your Home California lien. The Note date is the date of final Keep Your Home California approval. This will always pre-date the servicer’s application of Keep Your Home California funds to your loan. If you wish to know your Note date, you may contact Keep Your Home California at (888) 953-3722, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you have a hybrid ARM or an ARM and the payments will increase – and you have trouble making the increased payments – find out if you can refinance to a fixed-rate loan. Review your contract first, checking for prepayment penalties. Many ARMs carry prepayment penalties that force borrowers to come up with thousands of dollars if they decide to refinance within the first few years of the loan. If you’re planning to sell soon after your adjustment, refinancing may not be worth the cost. But if you’re planning to stay in your home for a while, a fixed-rate mortgage might be the way to go. Online calculators can help you determine your costs and payments.
Many Community Action Agencies have programs and resources that homeowners can take advantage of. While they primarily focus on providing counseling, some of the community action agencies can provide cash grants, mediation services, and other tools to help a homeowner prevent or stop a foreclosure filing. Even if they don’t offer direct financial aid or can’t meet your specific need, almost all agencies can provide referrals and guidance. Find how to apply for free foreclosure counseling from community action agencies.
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