How much you can afford. Lenders will be happy to tell you how much they’re willing to lend you, but that’s not actually a good indication of how much house you can afford. Check out our affordability calculator to get an idea of where you stand before you start looking for houses. Remember that your monthly payment will be more than just principal and interest. It will also include homeowner’s insurance, property taxes and, potentially, mortgage insurance (depending on your loan program and down payment). You’ll also need to factor in utilities and maintenance.
Homeowner’s Insurance. Homeowner’s insurance is insurance that covers damage to your home from fire, accidents and other issues. Some lenders require this insurance be included in your monthly mortgage payment. Others will let you pay it separately. All will require you have homeowner’s insurance while you’re paying your mortgage—that’s because the lender actually owns your home and stands to lose a lot of it you don’t have insurance and have an issue.
With an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM, the interest rate—and therefore the amount of the monthly payment—can change. These loans start with a fixed rate for a pre-specified timeframe of 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 years typically. After that time, the interest rate can change each year. What the rate changes to depend on the market rates and what is outlined in the mortgage agreement.
However, it's perfectly acceptable to work seller-paid closing costs into your offer in order to reduce your out-of-pocket expense. In other words, if you want to offer $195,000 on a home, you can offer $200,000 and ask the seller to pay up to $5,000 in closing costs for you. This can be an excellent strategy for first-time buyers with limited savings to improve their ability to get a mortgage.

A third option – usually reserved for affluent home buyers or those with irregular incomes – is an interest-only mortgage. As the name implies, this type of loan gives you the option to pay only interest for the first few years, and it’s attractive to first-time homeowners because of the low payments during their lower earning years. It may also be the right choice if you expect to own the home for a relatively short time and intend to sell before the bigger monthly payments begin.
It’s short for private mortgage insurance. It’s usually required if you put less than 20 percent down on your house, and it protects the lender in case you default. The cost varies, as do the methods to get rid of the PMI once you have 20 percent equity in your home. Government loan programs, such as FHA or VA loans, are backed by the government rather than PMI. There is no monthly mortgage insurance on VA loans, however you will have monthly mortgage insurance on a new FHA loan.
The prices for mortgage-backed bonds, and by extension, the mortgage rate a lender offers, are constantly responding to economic factors. In a strong economy, the rise in inflation (i.e., the general price level of goods and services) speeds up as greater demand increases competition for financing, goods, services and labor. This drives mortgage rates higher. A slow-down or recession causes mortgage rates to fall. The U.S. stock market is considered a leading indicator of economic activity. If it tanks, demand for investment shrinks and mortgage rates drop. Conversely, rates rise when the stock market is strong. When there is high unemployment, the economy is relatively weak and mortgage rates tend to fall. If jobs are easy to find, the economy is strong, and rates rise. Like the stock market, rising foreign markets indicate a strengthening world economy and higher rates. When foreign markets tumble, it puts downward pressure on interest rates.
You don’t need a zero balance on your credit cards to qualify for a mortgage loan. However, the less you owe your creditors, the better. Your debts determine if you can get a mortgage, as well as how much you can acquire from a lender. Lenders evaluate your debt-to-income ratio before approving the mortgage. If you have a high debt ratio because you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt , the lender can turn down your request or offer a lower mortgage. This is because your entire monthly debt payments — including the mortgage – shouldn’t exceed 36% of your gross monthly income. However, paying down your consumer debt before completing an application lowers your debt-to-income ratio and can help you acquire a better mortgage rate.
Your credit score. Your credit score is one of the most significant factors in getting approved for a mortgage, and it also influences the interest rate you’ll end up with. The better your score, the lower your rate will likely be and the less you’ll pay in interest. You’re entitled to free credit reports each year from the three major credit bureaus, so request them from annualcreditreport.com and dispute any errors that may be dragging your score down.
Mortgage loan repayment works through a process called amortization. When you take out a mortgage loan, you agree to pay back the principal amount (actual loan money) in addition to interest over a specified period of time. Because the interest can add up to more than the principal amount, an amortization schedule (provided by your lender) balances out the interest and principal cost over the course of the loan repayment. A borrower pays off more interest to start, and the ratio gradually reverses to where the borrower pays off more of the principal as the loan nears its end. This way, the payment amount is able to remain stable over the course of the loan. If you're considering refinancing your mortgage, an amortization schedule is an essential tool in learning how much money you can save.

Look at properties that cost less than the amount you were approved for. Although you can technically afford your preapproval amount, it’s the ceiling — and it doesn’t account for other monthly expenses or problems like a broken dishwasher that arise during homeownership, especially right after you buy. Shopping with a firm budget in mind will also help when it comes time to make an offer.
Modify your mortgage loan. In many cases your payment is no longer affordable due to changing personal or financial circumstances. A loan modification can reduce your payments, waive fees, lower your interest rates, and more. Banks and lenders are also offering loan modifications with interest rates as low as 2%. They have determined this is in their best financial interest as well. Learn more on low interest rate loan modifications. Find all of the pros and cons as well as details on modifying mortgages.
In today’s competitive market, many buyers skip this important step when they start looking for a home. A pre-approval allows you to confirm how large of a loan you can qualify for based on several factors. It also positions you to make a serious offer when you find the home you want to buy. For a pre-approval, the lender verifies the buyer’s application information through income and asset documents provided by you or retrieved directly by the mortgage company. Many lenders can also provide a “prequalification” online, based on unverified information provided by the buyer. However, most sellers don’t give much value to a letter that doesn’t state the information has been validated. The most important thing is to take the time to provide what is needed for a thorough pre-approval process.

Once you find a home you want to put an offer on, you have to obtain the actual mortgage loan. Apply for a loan with your chosen mortgage lender. Within three days of your application you should receive a loan estimate that includes closing costs, the interest rate, and the monthly amount you’ll pay for the principal, interest, insurance, and taxes. After that, it’s off to the underwriter, who will review all of your financial information and make the final call to approve or deny your loan.


Prepare to spend some time sitting back and waiting. Each application is thoroughly reviewed by the grant-making agency, sometimes causing a long lag time between when you submit your application and when you are notified about the decision. In the meantime, don't stop making your mortgage payments, or at least pay as much of them as you are able to, or it may look like you aren't taking your mortgage obligation seriously.

Typically, you'll need a minimum of a 620 FICO score to qualify for a conventional mortgage, and it can be difficult to qualify with a score that's near the minimum if your other qualifications aren't stellar. Another option is the FHA mortgage, which is designed for borrowers with qualifications that don't meet the standards of conventional lenders. The downside is that FHA loans can be significantly more expensive, but they can be great resources for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to qualify for a mortgage.
The Federal Housing Authority gives mortgage assistance to anyone with a FHA loan. You can refinance your mortgage without going through a lot of difficult begging or bureaucratic red tape. They let you reduce your mortgage rates and skip a month's payment without a third-party appraisal. In order to qualify for this, you need to a) not have any late payments on your current loan, b) have a decent credit score and c) wait a minimum of six months between streamlining processes. Refinancing doesn't always reduce your rates - it just lowers them to the current rates. Always make sure you're getting a good deal before deciding to streamline or refinance.
The Salvation Army provides financial assistance to help with basic needs. If funding permits, the charity offers a rent and mortgage assistance program. To qualify for mortgage assistance, a foreclosure notice from the mortgage company is required. Applicants are screened to determine eligibility. You must have an income sufficient to resume making the payments. Prepare to provide proof of all bills, such as credit cards and utilities. If approved, a check for the month's mortgage is mailed directly to the lender.
The Salvation Army provides financial assistance to help with basic needs. If funding permits, the charity offers a rent and mortgage assistance program. To qualify for mortgage assistance, a foreclosure notice from the mortgage company is required. Applicants are screened to determine eligibility. You must have an income sufficient to resume making the payments. Prepare to provide proof of all bills, such as credit cards and utilities. If approved, a check for the month's mortgage is mailed directly to the lender.
Look at properties that cost less than the amount you were approved for. Although you can technically afford your preapproval amount, it’s the ceiling — and it doesn’t account for other monthly expenses or problems like a broken dishwasher that arise during homeownership, especially right after you buy. Shopping with a firm budget in mind will also help when it comes time to make an offer.
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.
So one thing that makes a mortgage different from other types of loans is that it is backed up by something – in this case, your home. They call this a “collateralized loan.” Credit cards are also loans, but they aren’t backed up by anything. If you fail to make your credit card payments, the credit card companies can’t take your home away from you.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is working aggressively to halt and reverse the losses represented by foreclosure. Through its National Servicing Center (NSC), FHA offers a number of various loss mitigation programs and informational resources to assist FHA-insured homeowners and home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) borrowers facing financial hardship or unemployment and whose mortgage is either in default or at risk of default.
If you can afford the higher payments, or are willing to buy a less expensive home, a 15-year mortgage can save you thousands of dollars in interest and can allow you to own your home free and clear in half the time. Fifteen-year interest rates are about one percentage point lower than 30-year rates, and you might be surprised how much the combination of a lower rate and shorter amortization period can save you.
DO THIS: UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR NUMBER IS BEFORE BUYING A HOUSE OR REFINANCING A MORTGAGE. A HIGHER CREDIT SCORE INDICATES BETTER CREDIT AND CAN HELP YOU GET A BETTER MORTGAGE INTEREST RATE. IF YOU’RE IN THE PROCESS OF IMPROVING YOUR CREDIT, ASK YOUR LOAN OFFICER ABOUT MORTGAGE PROGRAMS WITH FLEXIBLE CREDIT REQUIREMENTS, LIKE FHA AND VA LOANS THAT MAY ONLY REQUIRE A FICO OF 580.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now owned by the federal government, are providing mortgage help to hundreds of thousands of homeowners from a few different programs. Since they are responsible for and service the vast majority of mortgages that are issued by hundreds of banks, many people will qualify for help from them and may not even realize it. Find the various Fannie and Freddie Mac mortgage programs.
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