For decades, the only type of mortgage available was a fixed-interest loan repaid over 30 years. It offers the stability of regular -- and relatively low -- monthly payments. In the 1980s came adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), loans with an even lower initial interest rate that adjusts or “resets” every year for the life of the mortgage. At the peak of the recent housing boom, when lenders were trying to squeeze even unqualified borrowers into a mortgage, they began offering “creative” ARMs with shorter reset periods, tantalizingly low “teaser” rates and no limits on rate increases.
One of the easiest ways to obtain a mortgage loan is to work with your existing bank. If you already have a relationship with a bank in the US, the process of applying for a mortgage is relatively painless. However, you may find that your bank can't provide you with the best possible deal. It can pay off to speak with underwriters at different financial institutions. In addition to mortgage rates, you should also ask them about their origination fees and various closing costs and fees.

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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.
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.
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.
If your loan was delinquent when you were approved for Unemployment Mortgage Assistance, Keep Your Home California may bring your loan current before making regular monthly payments. Payments are applied by the servicer in accordance with their policies and procedures. In all cases, the homeowner must have a remaining balance in their Unemployment Mortgage Assistance program reserve that is equal to or greater than six (6) first mortgage payments after their loan was reinstated and meet other program guidelines.
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.
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.
Lenders can initiate the foreclosure process after a single missed payment. Foreclosure is devastating and affects the entire community. Charities and non-profit organizations throughout the country help homeowners avoid foreclosure by offering financial assistance. The eligibility criteria to receive help varies among charities and locations. There are several national charitable organizations that can help you receive the necessary assistance to get back on track and keep your home.
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.
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.
Fixed-rate mortgages offer stability in your mortgage payments. However, many ARMs start with a lower interest rate than fixed mortgages and lock the rate in for a few years. That can mean significantly lower payments in the early years of your loan, so some borrowers opt for an ARM with the intention of selling or refinancing their home before the rate can adjust.
The NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund offers a Mortgage Payment Program to North Carolina homeowners who are struggling to make their home mortgage payments due to job loss or unemployment through no fault of their own or other temporary financial hardship such as a divorce, serious illness, death of a co-signor or natural disaster. Services are provided by HUD-approved counseling agencies statewide.
Amortization is what you are actually paying per year against your loan. You can get a mortgage with a term of 10, 15 or 30 years. You pay each month and the principal decreases until it’s paid off. The payments don’t change but at the beginning of the term, most of the payment is going toward interest. By the end of the term, that’s flipped and you’ll be paying down the mortgage principal.

Don’t let lenders dictate how much you should spend on a mortgage loan. Lenders determine pre-approval amounts based on your income and credit report, and they don’t factor in how much you spend on daycare, insurance, groceries, or fuel. Rather than purchase a more expensive house because the lender says you can, be smart and keep your housing expense within your means.


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.

Keep Your Home California defines “cash out” as monies disbursed to the borrower, or paid to a third party for the benefit of the borrower (e.g., debt consolidation, home improvement, tuition, etc.), when the combined amount of those disbursements exceeds 1% of the new loan amount. Reasonable and customary costs associated with refinancing (e.g., appraisal, processing feeds, title insurance, origination fees, etc.) may be financed in the loan and are not considered “cash out.”

Mortgage Payment Assistance (MPA) offers up to 24 months of assistance for eligible applicants who have had an unemployment or underemployment hardship in the last 36 months and need help paying mortgage monthly. Of the 24 months, up to 12 months may be used to reinstate first and some second mortgages. Mortgage payment assistance ends when the homeowner is able to sustain the mortgage payment, when reserved funds are exhausted, or when 24 monthly payments have been provided, whichever comes first. Under MPA, you may be required to make partial payments toward your mortgage during your participation in the program. If you are now employed and are able to make your currently monthly payments but are behind on your mortgage, MPA offers a onetime payment to your lender for up to 12 months of mortgage help to bring your mortgage current.


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.
When you're shopping around, don't just check the big national mortgage lenders. Some regional or local banks may offer unique lending programs, especially for first-time homebuyers. For example, the young couple who bought a house from me a few years ago used a 100% financing program from Regions Financial that required no mortgage insurance for first-time buyers with outstanding credit.
Start by requesting the free annual credit report you’re entitled to at AnnualCreditReport.com. “For each credit account you have, the report shows creditors’ names, the amount owed, the highest balance owed, available credit, whether the account is open or closed (and who closed it), the number of times a payment was past due, and whether the account is in default,” Freddie Huynh, a lead data scientist at FICO (Fair Isaac) for 18 years who is now Vice President of Credit Risk Analytics at Freedom Financial Network, explains.
If you plan on staying put until the mortgage is paid off, a fixed-rate loan will give you stability. The interest rate is a little higher than an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). But it won’t go up like an ARM can. The only things that will change your house payment over time are property taxes and insurance rates, but those will change regardless of which type of loan you get.

Refinancing your mortgage simply means you’ll be replacing your current mortgage with a new home loan. You’ll get a new rate, new terms and conditions, new closing costs, and the possibility to choose a new lender. Refinancing can be a good idea when mortgage rates are low (as we saw at times in the past year) or when and if your home has seen a big jump in its market value.**
Why would anyone get a loan with a prepayment penalty? Some lenders offer very low (and therefore tempting) interest rates in exchange. Also, some borrowers agree to loans with penalties if they have bad credit and it’s the only way they can get the loan. Mostly, a prepayment penalty is a financial decision. There are situations where accepting a prepayment penalty on a loan can save you thousands of dollars in interest.
The internet is filled with “discount” mortgage financing options with great rates, but often they are not able to quickly close your mortgage or offer you the level of service you need. On the other end of the spectrum you have the large, national mortgage companies that purport to offer both great service and value but in reality are not able to give you a competitive rate, and the service is not on the level you might receive from a local company.

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Include PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) in your budget. Mortgage calculators will show you how much you'll pay toward principal and interest every month. Remember that you'll also have to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance. Some financial institutions will require you to contribute these funds monthly along with your principal and interest payment. Be sure to talk to your lender to understand what will be included in your monthly payment.
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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