What is a Mortgage?
A mortgage is an agreement between you and a lender that gives the lender a legal right to take your home if you don’t repay the money you borrow according to the terms of the loan. A mortgage is the largest and longest-term debt you will ever take on, and it’s a critical part of purchasing your home.
Typically, you’ll begin your mortgage process by applying for a loan with several lenders. The application will include information about your income, current debts, and credit history. A mortgage loan officer will review the application and may require additional information from you to verify your financial information before approving the loan. If the mortgage loan officer approves your loan, you can make an offer on a new home.
If you’re unsure whether you qualify for a mortgage, you can ask a mortgage broker to help. Mortgage brokers have access to multiple lenders, so they may be able to offer you a wider selection of loan products and rates than you could get on your own. However, remember that mortgage brokers are generally paid in the form of points, which you’ll pay at closing or as an add-on to your interest rate.
When you take out a mortgage, you sign a written agreement giving the lender the legal right to seize your property if you don’t meet your financial obligations. You will pay back the amount you borrowed, plus interest, over a set number of years known as the term of the mortgage. Each month, some portion of your monthly mortgage payment goes toward paying down principal and the rest pays interest on the amount you’ve borrowed. Over time, your payments will become increasingly devoted to principal and less to interest.
Other expenses associated with your mortgage include homeowner’s insurance, property taxes and homeowners association fees, if applicable. Your mortgage lender will usually collect these fees as part of your monthly payment and hold them in an escrow account until they are due, then pay the bills on your behalf.
There are different types of mortgage loans, including conventional, FHA, VA and jumbo mortgages. Each type of mortgage has its own rules, guidelines and rates. Some mortgage types require a higher down payment or have stricter credit requirements than others, and you’ll need to choose the type that best suits your needs and budget.
You can also purchase a vacation home or other type of investment property with a mortgage, but it comes with more stringent guidelines. Lenders will consider your credit history, down payment, cash reserves and other factors when determining whether you qualify for this type of mortgage. And if you’re buying a rental property, you’ll likely have to pay higher mortgage rates than you would for owner-occupied residences.