Finding A Home Loan

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.


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?

Carefully! Look for financial stability and a reputation for customer satisfaction. Select a company that gives helpful advice and that makes you feel comfortable. It is best to select a lender that has the authority to approve and process your loan locally, so you can more easily monitor the status of your application and ask questions. Plus, it helps when the lender knows about local home values and conditions. Do research -- ask your agent, family and friends for recommendations.


What is the best way to compare loan terms between lenders?

Speak with companies by phone, in person, or search the Internet. In addition to your research, I can provide a variety of proven lender and mortgage options. While competitive rates are important, remember that most lenders get their money from the same sources and therefore essentially have the same rates. As a result, the decision often comes down to other factors.

The Interest Rate

Interest Rates are most important when you lock a loan. What is important is that you have a loan program that fits your particular financial situation and needs at the time you purchase your home. Remember that each 1/4 point (0.25%) may not have as much impact as you think.

Typical Mortgage Providers

Commercial banks

The largest and most diverse of all finance institutions, commercial banks offer a wide variety of services including savings accounts, investments, charge cards, as well as commercial, personal, residential and business loans, among others.


Mortgage bankers

Mortgage bankers typically use their own money to fund mortgages; however, they ultimately sell the loans to another entity such as a bank, a savings and loan, pension or retirement funds, private investors or government agencies such as FNMA ("Fannie Mae") or GNMA ("Ginnie Mae"), which purchase residential mortgages. When mortgage bankers sell a block of mortgages, they often will continue to service the loan and will be responsible for the collection of your payments. The mortgage banker is paid a small percentage of the interest (usually 1/4 % to 1/2 %) for this servicing agreement.


Mortgage brokers

Unlike mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers do not loan their own money. Mortgage brokers will arrange financing for a borrower from a lender, which could be a bank, savings and loan, a private individual or a credit union or pension fund. As the liaison between borrowers and lenders, they are paid a commission or a fee, which is paid by the borrower, the seller or even the lender.

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

Fixed-rate mortgages are the most popular type of mortgage. With this mortgage, the interest rate will remain the same for the entire term of the loan. Typically, the longer the term of the mortgage, the more interest is paid over the life of the loan.


Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Adjustable rate mortgages all have certain similar features. They have an adjustment period, an index, a margin, and a rate cap. The adjustment period is simply how often the rate changes. Some change monthly, some change every six months, and some only adjust once a year. An Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a mortgage in which the interest changes periodically according to corresponding fluctuations in an index. All ARMs are tied to indexes. Indexes are simply an easily monitored interest rate that moves up and down over time. Adjustable rate mortgages vary and are tied to different indexes.



This is a "traditional" mortgage, not directly insured by the Federal Government. Most conventional loans under $300,700 are administered through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (private corporations but regulated by the government). Loans greater than this amount are called "jumbo loans" and are funded by the private investment market.



These loans are insured by (but not funded by) the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) a division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and designed for, in general, low- to middle-income borrowers and many first time buyers. There are, however, limits to the maximum loan amount which will vary from county to county. FHA loans have somewhat more relaxed qualifying standards and ratios than conventional loans and have the availability of both 15 and 30 year fixed as well as 1 year adjustable mortgages.


For those qualified by military service, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) insures (but does not fund) 15 and 30 year fixed as well as 1 year adjustable mortgages with lower down payment requirements and somewhat more lenient qualifying ratios.


No/Low Down Payment Mortgages

Sometimes having enough funds for the down payment and closing costs as required by a basic fixed-rate mortgage is not achievable. There is an array of no and low down payment mortgages. These types of loans are designed for homebuyers' varying needs and take into account the many other factors that qualify the financial condition of the borrower. Some loans are designed for buyers with good credit histories, some offer more flexible qualifying requirements and may be helpful for limited incomes, and others balance a low down payment with a higher interest rate.


Negative Amortization

Some adjustable rate mortgages allow the interest rate to fluctuate independently of a required minimum payment. If a borrower makes the minimum payment it may not cover all of the interest that would normally be due at the current interest rate. In essence, the borrower is deferring the interest payment, which is why this plan is called "deferred interest." The deferred interest is added to the balance of the loan and the loan balance grows larger instead of smaller, which is called negative amortization.

Hybrid Mortgage

Mortgage hybrids are a cross between a fixed rate and an adjustable-rate mortgage. They generally have fixed rates for the first three, five, seven or ten years and then they convert to adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) for the remainder of the loan term. With hybrid loans the fixed rate is established up front. Once the fixed-rate portion of the loan ends, the mortgage then behaves like an ARM with rate changes and monthly payments moving up and down each year as interest levels change. The attractiveness of these types of loans is that a borrower can sometimes find a 5/1 ARM rate at up to a full percentage point below a comparable fixed rate loan, and for several years the homeowner can benefit from a lower rate. Generally, the shorter the fixed-rate period, the better the up-front discount, the longer the fixed-rate period, the smaller the discount when compared to 30-year financing.


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.


The original balance of money loaned, excluding interest. Also, the remaining balance of a loan, excluding interest. Interest is calculated based on the principal.


The charge, in dollars, for the use (loan) of the money.


The county assessor determines the property tax based on the value of your home. There are two tax installments due each year. The first installment is due November 1st and is delinquent after December 10th. The second installment is due February 1st and is delinquent after April 10th.

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.)

Hazard Insurance

An insurance policy pays for the loss of a home from certain hazards, including fire. You obtain homeowner’s insurance from your own insurance agent. The standard policy pays replacement costs, minus depreciation based on actual cash value. Talk to your insurance agent about the different types of insurance available. Hazard insurance expense may also be impounded in the trust account with taxes.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Depending on the amount of your down payment, you may be required to have PMI. A down payment of less than 20% usually requires PMI. Because loans with small down payments involve substantially more risk for the lender, they need protection in case the loan goes into foreclosure. Mortgage insurance helps cover the lender’s loss in the event of a foreclosure. Because of this insurance, lenders are able to offer loans with lower down payments.


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 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

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also provides protection via the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. One business day before closing, you have the right to inspect this statement, which itemizes the services provided to you and the accompanying fees charged. Be sure to call the settlement agent if you wish to inspect this form. The form generally must be delivered or mailed to you at or before the settlement.


Escrow Account Operation and Disclosures

Your lender may require you to establish an escrow or impound account to insure that your taxes and insurance premiums are paid on time. You probably will have to pay an initial amount at the settlement to start the account and an additional amount with each month’s regular payment. Your payments may include a "cushion" or extra amount to ensure that the lender has enough money to make the payments when due. RESPA limits the amount of the cushion to a maximum of 2 months of escrow payments.


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

Visit the web page at or call (800) 217-6970 for a local counseling referral.


There are several Federal laws, which provide you with protection during the processing of

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