Getting a mortgage can seem quite daunting. With us, it doesn’t have to be. We break it down and answer ten of the most common questions about mortgages.

What do I need to qualify for a home loan?

How do lenders determine if you qualify for a mortgage? Among other things, mortgage lenders will consider your employment history, credit score, and your assets. Lenders analyze your debt-to-income ratio and the size of your down payment as they evaluate your mortgage application. Most lenders want to see a stable employment history and a good credit score. Lenders also want to look at your total debt, such as student loans, car payments, or credit cards. Basically, your debts must be at a manageable percentage of your pre-tax income.

Should I get a fixed interest rate or adjustable-rate mortgage?

A fixed-rate is set when you take out the loan and doesn’t change, while an adjustable-rate may change. Often, an adjustable-rate will start lower than a fixed rate, but it may go up after the introductory period. It also varies based on current interest rates.

If you plan on moving within the next few years, you might want to consider an adjustable interest rate mortgage. Your adjustable interest rate mortgage might start out with lower monthly payments. It is a great way to save money each month on your mortgage payments. If you plan on staying in your home for many years, you might look at a fixed-rate mortgage for stability. Contact a mortgage professional and learn more about your loan options.

What is PMI?

PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. Your mortgage company will likely require you to pay for PMI if you make a down payment that is less than 20% of the total purchase price of the home. PMI protects the lender if you stop making payments on your loan.

How much mortgage can I afford?

Do you want to know how much of a mortgage you can afford? Follow the 28/36 rule. The 28/36 rule states that no more than 28% of your gross monthly income goes toward your mortgage, and no more than 36% of it goes toward your total debt loans. Your mortgage payment will consist of the principal and interest, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and PMI. Use a free mortgage calculator to determine how much you can afford.

Should I get a 15-year or a 30-year mortgage?

Generally, 15-year mortgages charge lower interest rates. The benefit of a 15-year mortgage is that you will pay off your mortgage in 15-years. That is 15-years faster than paying off a 30-year mortgage. With a 15-year mortgage, you will pay a lot less interest than you would pay on a 30-year mortgage. 15-year mortgages also offer lower interest rates. Consider your needs. A 30-year mortgage might allow you to afford more house, for example.

How much down payment?

It is smart to make a 20% or larger down payment when you buy a house. However, many people make a 10-15% down payment. Some loan programs, like VA, might offer a 0% down payment. If your goal is to pay off your house quickly and have a lower monthly payment, a more substantial down payment is the way to go.

Why is 20% Down Payment A Great Idea?

The world is teeming with rules and advice about how to search for a home, make an offer, and negotiate a good deal. If you want to buy a home and apply for a mortgage, one of the most tried and true rules is the 20% down payment. As a refresher, a down payment is the amount of money you are willing to contribute immediately toward the purchase of a home.

There are many moving parts when you are looking to purchase a house and apply for a mortgage. To come up with a 20% down payment can potentially help make the process easier for you. Here are five reasons why a 20% down payment is a great idea.

Improve Your Odds of Qualifying for a Mortgage

The most compelling reason to make a 20% down payment is that it increases the likelihood of qualifying for a mortgage. The larger the down payment, the smaller loan you need. If you are buying a house for $200,000, a 20% down payment – $40,000 – means that you only need to take out a $160,000 mortgage. Although the 20% down payment can improve your chances to qualify for a mortgage, to come up with a substantial down payment can be hard, especially for first-time homebuyers. But it’s worth it if you can do it.

You Could Side Step Private Mortgage Insurance

Another reason for making a 20% down payment is to avoid private mortgage insurance or PMI. PMI is insurance to protect the mortgage company. PMI pays the lender in case the borrower defaults on the mortgage.

If you can’t come up with a 20% down payment, the lender may tack on PMI, which results in higher monthly payments.

Cut Monthly Payment

If you can make the 20% down payment, your payments will be lower than if you made a smaller down payment. If you make a 20% down payment, you will have a smaller mortgage. Thus, you will have lower mortgage payments. The 20% down can make a home more affordable.

Try a free mortgage calculator to find out how a 20% down payment would affect your mortgage payment.

Greater Equity Means Less Interest Paid

Each mortgage payment is a combination of at least two things, the principal and interest. As the mortgage matures, the principal of your payment will increase, and the interest part will decrease. The reason for this is that the interest part of the payment is calculated based on the current outstanding balance of the mortgage.

When you make the 20% down payment, you start your mortgage with a lower balance than you would with a smaller down payment. The result is that you save money because less interest is charged over the lifetime of the home loan. If you can make a sizeable down payment right off the bat, you will be able to pay off your loan quicker, giving interest rates less time to add up.

You can use an amortization calculator to see how much of your mortgage payments are going toward the principle of the loan and how much is going toward interest.

Immediate Equity Infusion

If you can make the 20% down payment, you have just bought yourself instant equity into your new home. Home equity is the amount that you own outright of your home. Equity is often considered a person’s chief source of collateral, so being able to obtain a portion immediately can put you in an advantageous financial position if you ever wanted to refinance or buy a second home.

Another benefit of building home equity is that it can help protect you if the housing market makes a downturn. If you make less than a 20% down payment and the market turns, you could find yourself in a negative equity position.

The reasons outlined here should give you a better understanding of the benefits of making a 20% down payment. A sizable down payment is a smart strategy. Contact a lender to talk about any mortgage or refinance related questions.

What are mortgage points?

Discount points or mortgage points are an extra fee that you pay if you want to lock in a lower interest rate. Homeowners who plan on keeping their home for longer might want to buy points. The lower interest rate will save you money in the long run.

Will I have to pay closing fees?

It is best to check with your lender about closing costs. Closing costs include title insurance, attorney fees, appraisal fees, documentation fees, and pre-paid taxes and insurance. Keep in mind that the closing costs will add several thousand dollars to your loan amount. You might be able to shop around for some of the closing fees.

What’s the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval?

Pre-qualification can not only save you time, but it can also give you an idea about the size of the mortgage you can afford. Pre-qualification is a simple process, and it might be done over the phone or through email. The lender will ask you to provide a selection of financial information.

With mortgage pre-approval, you will fill out a mortgage application, and your lender will extensively check your financial history. From there, the lender will be able to give you a more specific number and interest rate. Although neither the pre-qualification nor the pre-approval is a loan guarantee, they can be beneficial during your mortgage journey.

What is refinancing, and when should I do it?

Refinancing is when you get a new mortgage to reduce interest rates, lower monthly payments, or get cash out. If you’ve had your current loan for a year or more and notice that refinance rates are lower than your current rate, you might consider refinancing your mortgage. Also, if you have substantial equity and need cash, you might think about a cash-out refinance. Talk to a mortgage professional and learn about your mortgage options.