Mortgage Basics

Mortgage Basics

If you’re new to buying a home and don’t have the time to read an encyclopedia on mortgages, this is the article for you. We’ll go over some basic mortgage terms and concepts to get you started.

The decision to purchase a home by taking out a mortgage is both serious and far reaching. You’ll be either increasing or entering into debt, which means you’ll be responsible to make significant monthly payments. There will also be upfront fees you must pay. Thus you should make sure that you understand the mortgage process and pick both your loan program and your lender wisely.

You’ll want to understand some basic terms so that you can better compare mortgage options: rate, APR, closing costs, Mortgage, monthly payment, fixed, and ARM.

What is a mortgage? A mortgage is a loan that uses your home as collateral. This means the mortgage owner can take possession of your house if you default on the terms of your loan. Mortgages are used to pay off existing mortgages (this is called a refinance) or to purchase homes.

The term “rate” refers to the percentage used in calculating the amount of interest you’ll pay for your loan. The interest is essentially your cost for borrowing money. If the interest rate remains the same throughout the loan term, then the mortgage is considered a “fixed-rate” loan. On the other hand, if the rate can change, then the mortgage is called an adjustable rate mortgage or an ARM.

While interest is the cost of borrowing money, there are additional costs associated with the mortgage application process. These costs are called “closing costs”. They include fees for checking your credit history and scores, applying for the mortgage, verifying that you qualify for a specific loan program (this is called underwriting), originating the loan, title search and insurance, and having the property’s value appraised.

Brokers and lenders can charge different amounts for these closing costs, which makes using the interest rate by itself an ineffective method of deciding where to buy a loan. Instead of comparing interest rates, you should compare what is known as the Annual Percentage Rate or APR, since it is calculated by adding the closing costs to the loan amount. It provides a more standardized number for comparing loans among lenders.

When choosing a loan, pay special attention to the loan’s total monthly payment. This amount includes what you’ll pay on principal and interest, property taxes, hazard or homeowner’s insurance, HOA dues, and mortgage insurance. When mortgage insurance is factored into your monthly costs, some loans with a higher interest rate might actually have a lower monthly payment. You could end up paying less overall if you pick one of those loans.

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