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.
To be clear, you don't need a pre-approval to start looking at houses. However, since a pre-approval is essentially the same as a full mortgage approval, just without a specific home in mind, it can be an extremely valuable shopping tool. Specifically, if you submit a pre-approval along with your offer, it tells the seller that you're a serious buyer who is not likely to run into trouble when obtaining financing. One caveat: A pre-approval and pre-qualification are two different things. A pre-qualification is based solely on information you provide and is not a commitment to lend money, therefore it doesn't carry nearly as much weight.
During dynamic economic periods, interest rate volatility can increase and move mortgage rates quickly. As a mortgage shopper or holder, these periods offer both risks and rewards. For example, you wouldn’t want to lock yourself into an interest rate that drops before the home closing, but you’d welcome a rate lock if rates were on the rise. Some mortgage lenders address this problem by offering rate locks that protect you from rising rates but allow you take advantage of a rate drop before closing.

When working out the terms of your mortgage loan, it is important to understand all aspects of the loan, including your interest rates, amortization schedule, and payment terms (such as, for example, whether you can prepay extra principal payments on your mortgage if your budget allows). Pay attention to detail, as what may seem like slight adjustments can actually have a big impact on the amount you end up paying.
For the majority of homebuyers, a fixed-rate loan is the best choice, especially in a low-interest environment like we're in now. However, if you don't plan on being in the home you buy for more than a few years, an adjustable-rate mortgage could save you thousands of dollars in interest. For example, if you're buying a home to live in during four years of graduate school, an adjustable-rate mortgage with a five-year initial rate period could be a smart idea.

Learn about a federal government program, Hope for Homeowners, that is offered through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). It will help hundreds of thousands of lower income homeowners pay or refinance their mortgages (including subprime). Some forms of help may even be available if the value of your home has significantly declined and if your loan is “underwater”. Continue with Hope for Homeowners.
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.
Second Lien Modification Program (2MP): If your first mortgage was permanently modified under HAMP SM and you have a second mortgage on the same property, you may be eligible for a modification or principal reduction on your second mortgage under 2MP. Likewise, If you have a home equity loan, HELOC, or some other second lien that is making it difficult for you to keep up with your mortgage payments, learn more about this MHA program.
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 there’s going to be a gap between the sale of your home and the purchase of your new property, some people apply for what’s known as a ‘bridging loan’ to bridge this gap. This type of loan means you can move into your new property before you’ve sold your home. However, these should only be considered a last resort as they usually very high interest rates and fees. Seek professional advice if you’re unsure, and if you’re considering this type of loan you must be comfortable with the risks involved as you’ll essentially own two properties for a period of time.
According to John Lyons, a broker and real estate agent in Chicago, getting a typical mortgage takes an average of 30 to 60 days. So if you’re itching to buy right away, you’ll want to start the pre-approval process soon so you’re ready to go when you find the right house. Lyons recommends getting pre-approved by a reputable company and having all of your financial documentation ready in order to increase your chances of securing a mortgage in a timely fashion.
Foreclosure mediation programs have been created by cities, counties, and state governments. A number of local court systems have also created mediation programs that will ensure lenders, banks and homeowners meet with an attorney or professional mediator to explore all solutions to a foreclosure. Learn more on foreclosure mediation programs and whether your state or local government offers one.
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