What Is A Mortgage?
|Unless you’re planning to make an all-cash purchase (in which case you’ll be a very popular buyer!), you’re going to have to secure a mortgage. Though the process can be complex and daunting, it helps to understand what to expect and to take the time up front to really sit down and know what you want and need from your lender. This section is devoted to helping you reach both those aims.
In exchange for your mortgage, you will pledge your home as security for repayment of your loan. The lender agrees to hold the title to your property until you have paid back your loan plus interest. A mortgage loan is composed of two major components: principal and interest.
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Principal is the actual amount of money you borrow. If you borrow $150,000, your mortgage principal is $150,000.
Interest is what you pay for the use of the money you borrow. How much you pay depends on a number of factors, including the interest rate, the type of loan and other factors, which are outlined in this guide. Interest can be deducted from your taxes, making it one of the most attractive practical benefits of home ownership. Your tax advisor will be able to provide more details about the tax savings benefits.
Amortization refers to the way in which the balance of principal versus interest changes over time. During the first few years of your mortgage (typically for the first 2 to 3 years of a 30-year loan) most of your payments will be applied toward interest. During the final years of your loan, your payments will be applied almost exclusively to the remaining principal. This process is called amortization.
How should I choose a lender?
What is the best way to compare loan terms between lenders?
The Interest Rate
Typical Mortgage Providers
|There are four main sources from which you can obtain a home loan:
Savings and loan associations (S & Ls)
Choosing A Mortgage
|While there seem to be hundreds of different mortgages available, they all fall into a few basic categories. Some may fit your needs well, while other programs may be unwise or unattainable. It’s important to realize that the best product depends on where you are in your life. The best choice is the loan program that best fits your needs at the time you purchase a home.
In recent years, lenders have developed a greater variety of loan programs, mainly because they have found that homebuyers have a variety of different needs. First Time buyers, families “moving up” into larger homes as they need more space, or moving into smaller homes after children have gone on to start their own families; all have different needs. There are so many different individual loan programs available that to compare them all would be impossible. The following provides brief descriptions of the most common categories of mortgage loans.
Fixed Rate Mortgages
No/Low Down Payment Mortgages
Loan Terms: 15, 20 or 30 Years
If you cannot qualify for a shorter term loan, try to add at least the amount of 1 additional payment per year—this will take nearly 10 years off a 30 year loan.
Points or No Points
Rates go up as points go down. Here are some examples of monthly payments (principal and interest only):
Fixed Rate Mortgages
|Thirty-year fixed rate loans are what most people think of when they hear the word “mortgage.” Fixed rate loans are also referred to as “fully-amortized” loans. One of the aspects that buyers like about fixed rate loans is that the payments stay the same for the life of the loan. Generally, these loans are offered in a 15- or 30-year duration.
A 30-year loan will provide larger tax deductions, as you will be paying more interest than principal during the first 23 years of the loan. A 15-year loan, on the other hand, is paid off twice as quickly and usually has a lower interest rate. You build more equity because your payments pay more principal. As mentioned earlier, you (or the seller) also can “buy down” your loan by paying more tax-deductible points up front, to lower your fixed interest rate.
Balloon Loan A fixed loan that is amortized over a 30-year period but becomes due and payable at the end of a shorter term (i.e., 5, 6, 7 or 10 years). Some of these loans have an option to be extended with a new rate or rolled into another type of loan. Usually, the rates of these loans are lower than those for a regular 30-year fixed rate loan, but they are not recommended if you plan to stay in the home for a longer period of time.
Graduated Payment Mortgage (GPM) A fixed-rate loan that has payments starting lower than the payments on a standard fixed rate loan, which increase by a predetermined amount each year for a specific number of years, usually five years.
Adjustable Rate Mortgages
|Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) are attractive to many homebuyers for one reason: lower payments in the first years of the loan. Typically, an ARM will have a low introductory rate, sometimes called a “teaser” rate. This rate is usually much lower than the fixed rates available at that time.
Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) have payments that increase or decrease on a regular schedule, and are linked to specific economic indexes or margins. These indexes measure borrowing and lending costs throughout the United States and are independent of the lender and can be independently verified at any time. (Many ARMs are indexed to Treasury bills or securities, Certificates of Deposit and other rates.)
How and When do ARMs Adjust?
An ARM will have a low Initial Interest Rate, sometimes called “teaser” rate. The loan will begin to adjust at a certain interval, usually every six months or annually. When the loan adjusts, the lender will use three things to determine the new interest rate: the index, the margin and the cap(s).
Is an ARM for You?
However, with an ARM, there is the likelihood that your rate and payment will increase during the life of the loan. Adjustable Rate Mortgages all have an adjustment period, an index, a margin and a rate cap. The “adjustment period” simply indicates how often the rate changes. Some rates change monthly, some change every six month, and some only adjust once a year. Indexes are monitored interest rates over time. ARMS have different indexes. The margin does not change during the life of the loan.
|How do I choose the best loan program for me?
Your personal situation will determine the best kind of loan for you.
Your lender can help you use your answers to questions such as these to decide which loan best fits your needs. The remainder of this article will outline for you why these questions – and the answers you provide to them – are a crucial part of your loan search.
How large of a down payment do I need?
Nevertheless, PMI is a fact of life for many homeowners. Even if you begin your mortgage with PMI, with time and appreciation, you often can reach 20 percent equity – at which time you can have the PMI removed. Often, removing PMI is just a matter of asking the lender, paying for an appraisal, paying a fee to the lender (approximately $300 – $500) and providing the necessary paperwork.
What does the interest rate really mean to me?
Remember that a lender must disclose to you the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which shows the cost of a mortgage in terms of an annual interest rate. Because it includes the cost of points, mortgage insurance and other fees, the APR generally will be higher. It will provide you with a good estimate of the actual cost of the loan.
What happens if interest rates drop after I finalize my fixed-rate loan?
What are discount points?
When you shop for a loan, ask lenders for an interest rate with no points. Then, ask them how much the rate decreases with each point paid. Discount points are smart if you plan to stay in a home for some time since they can lower your monthly loan payment. Points are tax deductible when you purchase a home and you may be able to negotiate for the seller to pay some of them.
What’s considered a reasonable loan fee?
|Once you have selected the type of loan you prefer and qualify for, the lender will ask you to complete a loan application, which will require a great deal of personal and financial information, including the following:
1) Your residence history
• Your previous addresses for the past two years
• The length of time you’ve lived at each address
• If you currently rent, your landlord’s name and addresses (for past 12 months)
2) Your employment history
3) All outstanding loans and credit cards
4) Savings, checking or investment accounts
5) Real estate you currently own
6) Personal property you own
7) Tax records
Loan Application Checklist
|Being prepared with the necessary documentation will expedite the mortgage loan process. Here’s a checklist, so you don’t forget what you’ll need to efficiently move the loan process along:
Real Estate Contracts
____ Purchase Agreement (for the purchase of your new home).
____ Sales contract (if you are selling a home).
Current Real Estate
Applying for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan
|When your loan is submitted for underwriting, it goes directly into the hands of an underwriter whose job is to determine your “creditworthiness” or your ability to repay the loan. An underwriter takes into consideration the following aspects when deciding whether or not to approve your loan:
Your work history
In looking at your ability to repay the loan, your job stability and gross income (in relation to your expenses) are critical. Most income must be verified as having been received for at least two years to be used for qualifying purposes.
Your credit history
What Will Be Included In My Mortgage Payments?
|Your monthly mortgage payment is made up of several components. This housing expense is commonly referred to as “PITI” or principal, interest, taxes and insurance. PMI (see below) and homeowner’s association dues may also make up a portion of your total payment.
Principal The original balance of money loaned, excluding interest. Also, the remaining balance of a loan, excluding interest. Interest is calculated based on the principal.
Taxes may be impounded, depending on the amount of your down payment. (A down payment of less than 20% usually requires an impound account).
An impound account, set up by the lender, is a trust account to which a portion of the monthly payment is credited so that funds will be available for the payment of taxes and insurance when they’re due. This way, the lender actually pays your tax bill for you. (Supplemental taxes usually are still the responsibility of the homeowner.)
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
PMI premiums are collected monthly as a part of your mortgage payment. The cost of PMI varies with the amount of your down payment. Can you pay off your loan ahead of schedule? Yes. By sending in extra money each month or making an extra payment at the end of the year, you can accelerate the process of paying off the loan. When you send extra money, be sure to indicate that the excess payment is to be applied to the principal. Most lenders allow loan prepayment, though you may have to pay a prepayment penalty to do so. Ask your lender for details.Your monthly mortgage payment is made up of several components. This housing expense is commonly referred to as “PITI” or principal, interest, taxes and insurance. PMI (see below) and homeowner’s association dues may also make up a portion of your total payment.
Your Rights As A Consumer
|In addition to the right to view your credit report and know your FICO score, you also are protected by RESPA, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act passed by Congress. RESPA requires your lender to provide you with a “Good Faith Estimate of Settlement Costs” early in the loan process. Be aware, however, that the amounts contained are only estimates. Keep your Good Faith Estimate so you can compare it with the final settlement costs, and ask the lender questions about any changes.
Through a Servicing Disclosure Statement, which will be given to you by your lender, RESPA also requires your lender to tell you if it expects someone else to be servicing your loan. Your lender will have three days from the time you apply for the loan to let you know about this.
RESPA regulations also require all parties involved in your transaction to disclose affiliated business arrangements. If anyone involved in your transaction (your lender, agent or title officer, for example), refers you to another service provider (including lenders, title officers, inspectors, etc.), the “Servicing Disclosure Statement” indicates that you generally are not required to use these providers, and are free to shop for other affiliates.
HUD-1 Settlement Statement
Escrow Account Operation and Disclosures
At closing or within the next 45 days, the person servicing your loan must give you an initial escrow account statement. That form will show all of the payments which will be expected to be deposited into the escrow account, and all of the disbursements that are expected to be made from the escrow account during the year ahead. Your lender or servicer will review the escrow account annually and send you a disclosure each year, which shows the prior year’s activity and any adjustments necessary in the escrow payments that you will make in the forthcoming year.
For more information on RESPA
There are several Federal laws, which provide you with protection during the processing of your loan. T he Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) prohibit discrimination.
ECOA prohibits lenders from discriminating against you on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, if any or all of your income comes from any public assistance program or if you have exercised any right under any Federal consumer credit protection law.
The Fair Housing Act also prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. Frequently, there are differences in the amounts of settlement costs charged to you – they may be based on your credit worthiness or they may be unlawfully discriminatory. It is important that you examine your settlement documents closely, especially lines 808-811 on the HUD-1 settlement statement. If you feel you have been discriminated against by a lender or anyone else in the homebuying process, you may file a private legal action or complain to a state, local or Federal administrative agency.