Brush up on these mortgage basics to help you determine the loan that will best suit your needs.
Mortgage terms. Mortgages are generally available at 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms. In general, the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. However, you pay more interest overall if you borrow for a longer term.
Fixed or adjustable interest rates. A fixed rate allows you to lock in a low rate as long as you hold the mortgage and, in general, is usually a good choice if interest rates are low. An adjustable-rate mortgage is designed so that your loan’s interest rate will rise as market interest rates increase. ARMs usually offer a lower rate in the first years of the mortgage. ARMs also usually have a limit as to how much the interest rate can be increased and how frequently they can be raised. These types of mortgages are a good choice when fixed interest rates are high or when you expect your income to grow significantly in the coming years.
Balloon mortgages. These mortgages offer very low interest rates for a short period of time — often three to seven years. Payments usually cover only the interest so the principal owed is not reduced. However, this type of loan may be a good choice if you think you will sell your home in a few years.
Government-backed loans. These loans are sponsored by agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs and offer special terms, including lower down payments or reduced interest rates to qualified buyers.
Slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. For help in determining how much your monthly payment will be for various loan amounts, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators.
Credit scores range between 300 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:
Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.
How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.
The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.
How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.
The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.
For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.
Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.
Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.
Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can’t participate.
Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.
Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.
Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you’re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.
Not only does owning a home give you a haven for yourself and your family, it also makes great financial sense because of the tax benefits — which you can’t take advantage of when paying rent.
The following calculation assumes a 28 percent income tax bracket. If your bracket is higher, your savings will be, too. Based on your current rent, use this calculation to figure out how much mortgage you can afford.
Multiplier: x 1.32
Mortgage payment: _________________________
Because of tax deductions, you can make a mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — that is approximately one-third larger than your current rent payment and end up with the same amount of income.
Source: National Association of REALTORS®
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