Some people don’t know the first thing about getting a mortgage loan. They hear reports of dropping interest rates and lower home prices and hastily decide to jump into home ownership. But the process of getting a home loan differs from getting a car loan or renting an apartment, and applicants who don’t recognize these key differences are often disappointed when a lender denies their mortgage loan application.
Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Sixty Minute Money Workout (Waterbrook, 2010). For money savings links visit Ellie's blog.
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.
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It literally takes a few minutes to pull your credit report and order your credit score. But surprisingly, some future home buyers never review their scores and credit history before submitting a home loan application, assuming that their scores are high enough to qualify. And many never consider the possibility of identity theft. However, a low credit score and credit fraud can stop a mortgage application dead in its tracks.
A jumbo mortgage is usually for amounts over the conforming loan limit, currently $453,100 for all states except Hawaii and Alaska, where it is higher. Additionally, in certain federally designated high-priced housing markets, such as New York City, Los Angeles and the entire San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area, the conforming loan limit is $679,650.

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.


Many homeowners pay their mortgages on time, but are not able to refinance to take advantage of today’s lower mortgage rates, mainly due to a significant decrease in the value of their home. A Home Affordable Refinance will help borrowers refinance their first mortgage even if the balance owed is more than 100% of the home value. For example, let’s say the amount you owe on your first mortgage is $500,000. You may be able to refinance even if the home value is now only $400,000.
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.
Know your credit score. As soon as you decide to start looking for a home, check your credit report and credit score with any of the 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. If you find any mistakes that need to be corrected, addressing these issues early will put you in a better position when it’s time to buy a house. (Bank of America credit card clients can get a free FICO® score in Online and Mobile Banking.)

"In August 2006, my husband and I were notified by the mortgage company that our rate was going to adjust. I contacted them about locking in a rate, only to be told that they wouldn't be able to help. Our house payment went up $700/month. We struggled to put gas in our vehicles to get to work and to buy groceries. Then, a friend gave me the number to Iowa Mortgage Help. We are convinced that without the vast knowledge and assistance of Iowa Mortgage Help, we would have lost our home."
Grants are often given to assist home buyers with down payments, as well as help to lock in certain mortgage rates when they are first purchasing the property. These are awarded by the government based on need or other status. For instance, there are U.S. Veteran mortgage assistance grants, grants for low-income families, first-time homeowner grants, single mother grants, and grants for people who plan to do significant home improvement. These grants often cap the down payment at a certain low percentage of the total cost of the home.

Many mortgages allow you to ‘port’ them to a new property, so you may be able to move your existing mortgage across to your next home. However, you will effectively have to apply for your mortgage again, so you’ll need to satisfy your lender that monthly payments remain affordable. It’ll be down to them to decide whether they’re happy to allow you to transfer your current deal over to your new property. Bear in mind too that there may be fees to pay for moving your mortgage.
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.

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.

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.


HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program, is the latest federal program designed to help struggling homeowners with their mortgages. Designed to help people who are "underwater" with their mortgages due to lowered home values, it allows people who owe more on their home than it's worth to refinance their mortgages and get lower interest rates. In this sense it is a sort of emergency mortgage assistance program, but it only works for people who don't have any late or delinquent payments. If you are rejected while trying to refinance your home or go through a loan modification program, HARP may benefit. This only applies if your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and you need to owe 125% or less of your home's value in order to qualify.
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.
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.
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)
Loan modification: You and your loan servicer agree to permanently change one or more of the terms of the mortgage contract to make your payments more manageable for you. Modifications may include reducing the interest rate, extending the term of the loan, or adding missed payments to the loan balance. A modification also may involve reducing the amount of money you owe on your primary residence by forgiving, or cancelling, a portion of the mortgage debt. Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, the forgiven debt may be excluded from income when calculating the federal taxes you owe, but it still must be reported on your federal tax return. For more information, see www.irs.gov. A loan modification may be necessary if you are facing a long-term reduction in your income or increased payments on an ARM.
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.
HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program, is the latest federal program designed to help struggling homeowners with their mortgages. Designed to help people who are "underwater" with their mortgages due to lowered home values, it allows people who owe more on their home than it's worth to refinance their mortgages and get lower interest rates. In this sense it is a sort of emergency mortgage assistance program, but it only works for people who don't have any late or delinquent payments. If you are rejected while trying to refinance your home or go through a loan modification program, HARP may benefit. This only applies if your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and you need to owe 125% or less of your home's value in order to qualify.
Perhaps the most intimidating part of buying a home is applying for a mortgage. You may know exactly what “APR,” “points” and “fixed-rate” mean — but if this is your first home, or you just need a refresher, there are a lot of great resources to get you up to speed so you can be a well-prepared mortgage shopper. And because this is such a crucial part of owning a home, we’re going to break it all down.
Example – A $200,000 five-to-one-year adjustable-rate mortgage for 30 years (360 monthly payments) starts with an annual interest rate of 4% for five years, and then the rate is allowed to change by .25% every year. This ARM has an interest cap of 12%. Payment amount for months one through 60 is $955 each. Payment for 61 through 72 is $980. Payment for 73 through 84 is $1,005. (Taxes, insurance and escrow are additional and not included in these figures.) You can calculate your costs online for an ARM.
Many homeowners pay their mortgages on time, but are not able to refinance to take advantage of today’s lower mortgage rates, mainly due to a significant decrease in the value of their home. A Home Affordable Refinance will help borrowers refinance their first mortgage even if the balance owed is more than 100% of the home value. For example, let’s say the amount you owe on your first mortgage is $500,000. You may be able to refinance even if the home value is now only $400,000.
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Because the interest rate is not locked in, the monthly payment for this type of loan will change over the life of the loan. Most ARMs have a limit or cap on how much the interest rate may fluctuate, as well as how often it can be changed. When the rate goes up or down, the lender recalculates your monthly payment so that you’ll make equal payments until the next rate adjustment occurs.
The good news for today’s FHA borrowers is that roughly 3,000 zip codes got a 7-percent hike in FHA loan limits this year. Now homebuyers can borrow up to $314,827, an increase from last year’s $294,515. In more costly areas, loan limits rose to $726,525 from $679,650. These higher limits offer buyers access to a bigger piece of the market, especially as home prices continue to climb upwards.
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.

Real estate agents are often a terrific resource for getting suggestions regarding a number of home buying issues. They will know which mortgage lenders are trustworthy and who does the best job of completing the process in a timely fashion. After all, they work with lenders on a weekly (even daily) basis. Plus, you can trust there are no hidden agendas because it is against the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act RESPA to receive a commission for referring a client to a mortgage lender.
The United Way's 2-1-1 hotline connects people with local assistance programs. By dialing 2-1-1, you can receive referrals to organizations that help with food, housing, employment, health care, prescriptions and more. If you are a struggling homeowner, the United Way can help you find a foreclosure prevention counselor and refer you to available mortgage assistance programs. Trained specialists take calls day or night. The United Way may also provide emergency financial assistance to households in danger of losing their homes. Programs vary among locations.
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Also, JP Morgan Chase has opened dozens of Homeownership Centers across the country to provide face to face contact for troubled borrowers. Anyone can stop by a center in their region for free consultations and information. The face to face contact from a homeownership center will ensure the borrower receives the attention and service they deserve.
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