Catherine Wilson | Wilmington Real Estate, Tewksbury Real Estate, Billerica Real Estate


If buying a home is something you’re considering, you might be curious about the different types of mortgages that are available to you. After all, the interest rate on your loan could have a huge impact on your finances over time, saving you thousands of dollars.

In today’s post, I’m going to demystify the home loan by explaining the most common types of mortgages. That way, you’ll be able to approach a lender with a bit of context and knowledge to help make the best mortgage decision for you and your family.

Fixed-rate mortgages

The most common types of home loans in the United States today are fixed-rate mortgages. A fixed-rate mortgage has the benefit of stability in terms of its interest rate--year after year, or the lifetime of your loan, you know exactly what percent of interest you’re going to pay.

Fixed-rate mortgages most frequently come with repayment terms of 15 or 30 years. However, some lenders offer different repayment periods.

As with any debt, paying off a mortgage in a shorter term typically amounts to paying less interest over the lifespan of the loan. For this reason, buyers who can afford higher monthly mortgage payments often opt for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.

If you can’t afford higher monthly payments, a 30-year loan will typically have lower mortgage payments, but at the expense of paying more interest over the life of the loan.

The 30-year option is the most often in the United States, where first-time buyers typically have too many other monthly bills to afford a high mortgage payment.

Adjustable-rate mortgages

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were once an ideal option for first-time buyers who could purchase a home at a very low interest rate and then refinancing once that rate was set to rise. However, after the housing crisis of 2007, trust in the housing market drastically declined.

In recent years, ARMs have begun to make a comeback. However, they currently still only account for around 5% of home loans.

Adjustable-rate mortgages come with one important advantage and one huge disadvantage over fixed-rate mortgages. The upside is the ability to borrow money for a home at a lower interest rate than other mortgage types. The down side? Your interest rate isn’t locked in for the length of the loan, meaning your rate could, in theory, rise dramatically before you sell or pay off the home. This is exactly what happened to borrowers during the subprime mortgage crisis.

Guaranteed loans

There are a number of special loan programs that have been sponsored by the government over the years. Among them are USDA rural development loans, VA loans for veterans and their spouses, and FHA loans offered by the Federal Housing Authority.

All of these loans make it easier to buy a home with little or no down payment or a credit score that’s less than perfect. That makes these options great for first-time homeowners.


There are so many factors that go into finding and securing the financing to buy a home.   While lenders require quite a bit of information for you to get a loan, you still need to be aware of your own financial picture. Even if you’re pre-approved for a certain amount of money to buy a home, you still need to dig into your finances a bit deeper than a lender would. The bottom line is that you can't rely solely on a lender to tell you how much you can afford for a monthly payment on a home. Even if you’re approved to borrow the maximum amount of money for your finances to buy a home, it doesn’t mean that you actually should use that amount. There are so many other real world things that you need to consider outside of the basic numbers that are plugged into a mortgage formula.   


Run Your Own Numbers


It’s important to sit down and do your own budget when you’re getting ready to buy a home. You have plenty of monthly expenses including student loan debt, car payments, utility bills, and more. Don’t forget that you need to eat too! Think about what your lifestyle is like. How much do you spend on food? Do you go out to the movies often or spend a regular amount of cash on clothing? Even if you plan to make adjustments to these habits when buying a home, you’ll want to think honestly about all of your needs and spending habits before signing on to buy a home. 


Now, you’ll know what your true monthly costs are. Be sure to include things like home insurance, property taxes, monthly utilities, and any other personal monthly expenses in this budget. If you plan to put down a lower amount on the home, you’ll also need to include additional insurance costs like private mortgage insurance (PMI).


The magic number that you should remember when it comes to housing costs is 30%. This is the percentage of your monthly income that you should plan to spend on housing. Realistically, this could make your budget tight so this is often thought of as a maximum percentage. By law, a lender can’t approve a mortgage that would take up more than 35% of your monthly income. Some lenders have even stricter requirements such as not allowing a borrower to have a mortgage that would be more than 28% of monthly income. This is where the debt-to-income ratio comes into play.


As you can see, it’s important to take an earnest look at your finances to avoid larger money issues when you buy a home.  



Getting a mortgage is one of those things that everyone seems to have quite a bit of advice about. While people surely have good intentions, it’s not always best to take the buying advice of everyone you meet. Below, you’ll find the wrong kind of mortgage advice and why you should think twice about it. 


Pre-Approvals Are Pointless


Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can give you an upper hand when it comes to putting in offers on a home. Even though a pre-approval isn’t a guarantee, it’s a good step. It shows that you’re a serious buyer and locks you in with a lender so they can process your paperwork a bit more quickly when you do want to put an offer in on a home. 


Use Your Own Bank


While your own bank may be a good place to start when it comes to buying a home, you don’t need to get your mortgage from the place where you already have an account. You need to compare rates at different banks to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal on a mortgage. You’ll also want to check on the mortgage requirements for each bank. Different banks have different standards based on down payment, credit scores and more. You’ll want to get your mortgage from the bank that’s right for you and your own situation. 


The Lowest Interest Rate Is Best


While this could be true, it’s not set in stone. A bank with a slightly higher interest rate could offer you some benefits that you otherwise might not have. If you have a lower credit score, or less downpayment money, a bank offering a higher interest rate could be a better option for you. Low interest rates can have some fine print that might end up costing you a lot more in the long term. Do your research before you sign on with any kind of bank for your mortgage. 


Borrow The Maximum


Just because you’re approved for a certain amount of mortgage doesn’t mean that you need to max out your budget. It’s always best to have a bit of a financial cushion for yourself to keep your budget from being extremely tight. When life throws you a curveball like unexpected medical bills or a job loss, you’ll be glad that you didn’t strain your budget to the end of your means. Even though the bigger, nicer house always looks more attractive, you’re better off financially if you’re sensible about the amount of money you borrow to buy a home.


If you’re in the market to buy a home, you’re probably learning many new vocabulary words. Pre-approved and pre-qualified are some buzz words that you’ll need to know. There’s a big difference in the two and how each can help you in the home buying process, so you’ll want to educate yourself. With the proper preparation and knowledge, the home buying process will be much easier for you.  


Pre-Qualification


This is actually the initial step that you should take in the home buying process. Being pre-qualified allows your lender to get some key information from you. Make no mistake that getting pre-qualified is not the same thing as getting pre-approved.


The qualification process allows you to understand how much house you’ll be able to afford. Your lender will look at your income, assets, and general financial picture. There’s not a whole lot of information that your lender actually needs to get you pre-qualified. Many buyers make the mistake of interchanging the words qualified and approval. They think that once they have been pre-qualified, they have been approved for a certain amount as well. Since the pre-qualification process isn’t as in-depth, you could be “qualified” to buy a home that you actually can’t afford once you dig a bit deeper into your financial situation. 


Being Pre-Approved


Getting pre-approved requires a bit more work on your part. You’ll need to provide your lender with a host of information including income statements, bank account statements, assets, and more. Your lender will take a look at your credit history and credit score. All of these numbers will go into a formula and help your lender determine a safe amount of money that you’ll be able to borrow for a house. Things like your credit score and credit history will have an impact on the type of interest rate that you’ll get for the home. The better your credit score, the better the interest rate will be that you’re offered. Being pre-approved will also be a big help to you when you decide to put an offer in on a home since you’ll be seen as a buyer who is serious and dependable.  


Things To Think About


Although getting pre-qualified is fairly simple, it’s a good step to take to understand your finances and the home buying process. Don’t take the pre-qualification numbers as set in stone, just simply use them as a guide. 


Do some investigating on your own before you reach the pre-approval stage. Look at your income, debts, and expenses. See if there is anything that can be paid down before you take the leap to the next step. Check your credit report and be sure that there aren’t any errors on the report that need to be remedied. Finally, look at your credit score and see if there’s anything that you can do better such as make more consistent on-time payments or pay down debt for a more desirable debt-to-income ratio.


Securing a mortgage can take years of planning and saving. Depending on credit score and financial history, it can be difficult for some people to secure a mortgage with a reasonable interest rate and down payment.

As a result, the U.S. government--at both the federal and state level--has created several programs to make the goal of homeownership more achievable for more Americans. 

These programs are designed to help a number of people, including first-time homebuyers, low-income families, people living in rural areas, Native Americans, and veterans and servicemembers of the United States military.

In today’s article, we’re going to be talking about “VA loans,” or loans guaranteed by the United States Department f Veterans Affairs.

What is a VA Loan?

When a bank chooses to approve someone for a mortgage, they have weighed the risks of that person’s ability to pay back the loan. The less certain a bank is that they will see a return on their investment with a borrower, the higher the down payment and interest rate they will require.

One incentive that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers its service members and veterans is the ability to receive a loan that is, in part, guaranteed by U.S. Government. That means that lenders can safely approve you for lower interest rates and down payments knowing that the money they are lending you is insured.

Who is eligible for a loan?

Loans guaranteed by Veterans Affairs aren’t strictly for veterans. Active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve Members may also be eligible. In addition to service members, people who are or were spouses of veterans or service members might also be eligible for a VA loan.

Specific eligibility requirements can be somewhat complicated, so it’s a good idea to visit the eligibility page or contact your local Veterans Affairs office.

What are the perks of a VA Loan?

If you’ve spent a significant portion of your time serving in the military, there’s a good chance that saving for a home has been placed on the back burner. Shopping around for a loan with an affordable down payment can be daunting or impossible for many.

Fortunately, with a VA loan eligible recipients are able to receive a loan with a low down payment or even no down payment.

In a time when down payments can average 20% of the mortgage, that can mean a lot of money you won’t have to spend up from. For example, a home that costs $275,000 would have a 20% down payment of $55,000.

What are the fees?

This great deal does come with one catch. As with many loan assistance programs, there is a fee charged for the services. On top of the funding fee charged by the VA, there are other costs associated with buying a home.

These may include appraisals, inspections, credit reports, and more. Additionally, lenders may charge a 1% flat fee for those using a VA loan.




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