You may have heard that you should put 20 percent down when you purchase a home. It’s true that having a large down payment makes it easier to get a mortgage and may even lower your interest rate. But many people have a hard time scraping together a down payment that large. Fortunately, there are many options for homebuyers with little money for a down payment. FHA loans offer down payments as low as 3.5 percent. VA and USDA loans may require no down payment at all.
If you’re interested in refinancing to take advantage of lower mortgage rates, but are afraid you won’t qualify because your home value has decreased, you may want to ask if you qualify for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) or the HOPE for Homeowners (H4H) program. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Insurance: This will be paid to a homeowner’s insurance company of your choice; this is required when you have a mortgage. Lenders require that your insurance cover the cost of rebuilding the home if it is ruined by fire or other disaster. This “replacement cost” is determined by your insurer, and must be agreed to by your lender. Insurance will typically cost $700 to $1,200 per year for a single family home.

The amount you put down also affects your monthly mortgage payment and interest rate. If you want the smallest mortgage payment possible, opt for a 30-year fixed mortgage. But if you can afford larger monthly payments, you can get a lower interest rate with a 20-year or 15-year fixed loan. Use our calculator to determine whether a 15-year or 30-year fixed mortgage is a better fit for you. Or you may prefer an adjustable-rate mortgage, which is riskier but guarantees a low interest rate for the first few years of your mortgage.


If you put less than 20% down on your mortgage, you'll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, so be sure to budget for this when shopping. Mortgage insurance rates can vary significantly, depending on your credit, the length of your mortgage, how much your down payment is, and other factors. However, it can add a significant amount to your payment, so be sure to take it into consideration.
Lenders generally use two different debt ratios to determine how much you can borrow. The short version is that your monthly housing payment (including taxes and insurance) should be no more than 28% of your pre-tax income, and your total debt (including your mortgage payment) should be no more than 36%. The ratio that produces the lower payment is what the lender will use. Many lenders have more generous qualification ratios, but these are traditionally the most common.
As an example, when I was buying my first home, my lender called me three days before closing to let me know that my credit score had fallen to one point below the threshold for my interest rate, so I would either have to take an action that would improve my credit score immediately or accept a significantly higher interest rate. The solution required me to pay off one of my credit cards and fax proof of it to the lender -- not an impossible situation, but certainly a hassle when I was told it had to be done right away and I was at work.
On the whole, the lowest interest rates are available to borrowers who have large deposits, or in the case of those remortgaging, significant equity in their property. Typically, you’ll need at a deposit of at least 40% to be eligible for one of the best rates. If you have only 10%, there are mortgages available but you’ll probably pay a higher rate.
In addition to a down payment, you will also have to pay closing costs to finalize your loan. This can be a substantial amount of money, so it’s important to plan ahead and be aware of the amount you will likely have to bring to the table. Make sure you have budgeted and saved up enough for these fees in advance, so they don’t catch you by surprise.
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.
Whether it is purchasing your first home, buying a vacation home or downsizing to something more appropriate to fit your life style, a new beginning can be a wonderful experience. It can also be a bit overwhelming. There are open houses to attend, homes to compare and a sea of information to sort through.  During these times, having a team around you is extremely important. One of the most important members of that team is your loan officer (and mortgage company)

Freddie Mac has also opened Borrower Help Centers in several cities around the country. The centers will provide people with direct access to a housing specialist. Meet with a counselor to explore options for mortgage assistance, including loan modifications, overall debt counseling, and other resources to deal with a delinquent mortgage and other financial problems. Find a Borrower Help Center to learn more.


Simply put, every month you pay back a portion of the principal (the amount you’ve borrowed) plus the interest accrued for the month. Your lender will use an amortization formula to create a payment schedule that breaks down each payment into paying off principal and interest. The length or life of your loan also determines how much you’ll pay each month. 

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.
"I don't know what I would have done without the help of Iowa Mortgage Help. After a long and expensive battle with medical bills, I faced foreclosure of a home that has been in my family for over 100 years. I was finally able to get a successful loan modification and a payment I can afford in order to take care of my home. I'd have lost everything if it wasn't for their assistance."
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.

If you have lost your job, had a reduction in work hours or income, or are unemployed, then you may qualify for assistance. Homeowners can receive mortgage help from the federal government Home Affordable Unemployment Program. This program can reduce someone’s monthly mortgage payments for up to 6 months, which will provide an individual time to find a new job. Read more on the unemployment mortgage program.


The lease/buy back: Homeowners are deceived into signing over the deed to their home to a scam artist who tells them they will be able to remain in the house as a renter and eventually buy it back. Usually, the terms of this scheme are so demanding that the buy-back becomes impossible, the homeowner gets evicted, and the “rescuer” walks off with most or all of the equity.


There are several steps that homeowners can take on their own to deal with a delinquent mortgage payment or an impending foreclosure. People do not always need to rely on the government, solutions offered by their lender or a housing counselor. There are things you can do own your own. However, please always keep in mind that mortgage counselors can often help you, and they offer free or no cost mortgage advice.

Save the Dream Tour: The NACA also has a venue to facilitate mortgage modifications, and it operates from dozens of major cities. The Save the Dream Tour has tens of thousands of homeowners participating at each event, and thousands of people who attend are able to have their mortgage restructured the same day. Attendees can meet directly with representatives from many banks and lenders. They can have their interest rates lowered to as low as 2%, or their principal reduced, or receive other forms of aid.
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