Buyers can easily get overwhelmed by the options they are confronted with when it is time to apply for a loan. Conventional? Government-backed? Fixed rate? Adjustable rate? Even within these categories there can be several options.
Before you can determine which loan is right for you, you need to have an understanding of how each works and the costs and benefits of each. Let’s start with definitions:
Fixed Rate Mortgage: Fixed rate mortgages are exactly that – the mortgage rate remains fixed for the life of the loan. Monthly payments are fixed (for the principal and interest – if property taxes and homeowners insurance are paid as part of your payment, these are paid through an “escrow” account which can fluctuate from year to year).
Adjustable Rate Mortgage: These are also called ARMs. This type of loan has the potential to have monthly payments that change since the interest rate can change. There is usually an initial period of time where the interest rate does not adjust. This might be a 1-year ARM, 3-year, 5-year, or 7-year. How often the interest rate adjusts will also depend on the loan. Since interest rates do change over time, the payment can either be higher or lower depending on the difference in the interest rate. For example, if someone took out a loan when interest rates were at record-low levels, it is unlikely that interest rates will continue to be this low when the interest rate adjusts. Furthermore, ARMs generally start out with a lower interest rate than a fixed rate loan.
It is important to know your future plans when determining the type of loan which is ideal for you. For example, if you are planning on staying in your home for only seven years, it might save you money to use an adjustable rate mortgage with the expectation that you will be moving and taking out a new loan before the interest rate is adjusted. However, what happens if there is a health issue or something else which prohibits you from moving in seven years? What if you cannot move into a fixed-rate mortgage? These things must be taken into consideration when determining whether you can afford your monthly payment – now and later.
How much of a down payment do I need?
It depends on what you are buying! Some properties in our area may qualify for a USDA Rural Development home loan which allows for 0% down. Of course, there are income qualifications and other things to consider. There are other loan programs that also allow for zero down or a very low down payment. A lender will be able to outline the different options available to you.
Ready to apply? Here is how to get started!
- Do a credit check before applying – This will give you an opportunity to clean any errors up before meeting with a lender. Even if your credit is good, mistakes are made all the time by retailers and institutions who make errors on names or social security numbers. These are errors you can clean up on your own before applying.
- Provide the paperwork – The lender will need a number of documents from you including:
- Asset and investment statements
- Bank account statements
- Credit card statements
- Auto loan statements
- Pay stubs for the last two months
- Verification of other income sources
- Tax returns and W-2s for the past two years
- Form of ID
- And, of course, the mortgage application!
The lender may ask for additional documents, but this will get you started. Reach out with questions!