Top 7 Mortgage Tips for First-Time Home Buyers
The mortgage lending process can be somewhat intimidating, especially for first-time home buyers who've never been through it before. There's so much money on the line, and so many steps along the way.
Below, we have assembled a "top-seven" list of mortgage tips for home buyers. Once you finish reading this list, you'll have a much better understanding of how it all works.
1. Study the mortgage types.
Each type of mortgage loan comes with its own set of pros and cons. Some products are ideal for certain types of buyers, but disadvantageous for others. To decide which type of loan is right for you, you'll need to know the pluses and minuses of each type. Start by learning the pros and cons of (A) conventional versus government-backed loans, and (B) adjustable-rate versus fixed-rate loans. These are your two biggest choices.
2. Consider your staying time.
How long do you plan to stay in the home? This will often determine which type of home loan is best for you. For instance, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) could lower your interest rate up front, when compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. But if you stay in the home beyond the ARM loan's introductory period, you'll face the uncertainty of interest rate adjustments. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most popular type of loan these days.
3. Consider all types of lenders.
Many first-time home buyers don't realize they can find mortgage financing locally, at local banks and credit unions. It's true. So when shopping around for a lender and a loan program, be sure to look beyond the "big banks." Don't limit yourself. Keep your options open. If you have an existing relationship with a bank or credit union, ask them if they offer home loans.
4. Shop for the best rate.
Mortgage lenders will offer interest rates based on your credit history and credit score. When your credit is good, lenders might offer you a lower rate. When your credit is bad, the opposite can be true. Each lender defines their comfort level differently, so interest rates may vary from one company to the next. This is why it’s so important to get offers from multiple lenders.
5. Consider paying points.
One "point" is equal to one percent of the loan amount. (On a mortgage loan for $200,000, a single point would equal $2,000.) Some home buyers pay points at closing in order to lower their interest rate over the life of the loan. It's a tradeoff. You can pay more upfront, and out of pocket, to lower your total interests costs over time. This can be a wise strategy over the long term, but it might not work out well for a shorter stay. Ask your lender to show you pricing strategies both with and without points being paid.
6. Don't go it alone.
Most of us have friends or family members who own homes. These are good sources of information. Somebody who has been through the process and seen mortgage loans from "all sides" can often provide great information. You should also enlist the support of your real estate agent. A real estate agent is not a mortgage advisor, but most are well-informed about the mortgage process.
7. Factor in PMI.
PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. If your down payment on a house is less than 20%, your lender might require that you pay PMI. This will increase the size of your monthly payments. If you can afford to put 20% down, you'll avoid having to pay PMI. It’s possible to get a mortgage loan with a down payment below 20%, but you’ll probably end up paying mortgage insurance of some kind — either private or government. When you get mortgage estimates from lenders, any required mortgage insurance should be included in the quote. But ask about it anyway, just to be sure.
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