If you are looking to purchase a home or refinance your
current home, chances are you've got some questions.
To help you navigate more quickly through some frequently
asked questions, we've broken them down into the following categories:
Rates & Fees
What is an origination fee?
The amount charged for services performed by the company handling
the initial application and processing of the loan.
What is a discount point?
A discount point is paid to the lender to permanently buy down or
lower an interest rate. It is usually a percentage of the loan amount.
May I pay additional discount points to reduce my interest
Yes, most lenders will allow you to pay additional discount points
to lower your interest rate.
What are lender fees?
Lender's fees are fees that offset the cost of producing the loan.
Different companies may refer to them by different names, such as,
processing fees or underwriting fees.
How are rates determined?
Rates are determined by the stock market and other financial indicators.
These rates can change daily or even more than once within the same
day. The changes are based on many different economic indicators
in the financial markets. To obtain current interest rates, contact
your mortgage lender.
How can I compare rates and fees when shopping for a mortgage?
When comparison shopping, look at points, fees and the Annual Percentage
Rate (APR). The APR includes the fees that are charged on your loan.
Although one lender may have a slightly lower rate, they may charge
more fees, and hence have the same APR as a lender with the slightly
What is the difference between APR and interest rate?
The APR (annual percentage rate) reflects the cost of your mortgage
loan as a yearly rate. It also incorporates the cost to obtain the
loan, such as discount fees and loan origination fee. The interest
rate is the actual note rate.
Why is the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on the Truth-in-Lending
disclosure higher than the rate shown on my mortgage note?
The rate reflected on the APR shows the cost of the credit as a yearly
rate. This rate is generally higher than the rate stated on your
mortgage note because, in addition to the interest rate, APR includes
other costs such as origination fee, loan discount points, pre-paid
interest, and mortgage insurance. The APR allows you to compare,
in addition to the interest rate, the total cost of financing your
loan, among various lenders.
What is prepaid interest?
This is the interim interest that accrues on the mortgage loan from
the date of the loan closing to the beginning of the period covered
by the first monthly payment. For example, if your closing date is
scheduled for June 15, the first mortgage payment is due August 1.
The lender will calculate a per-day interest amount that is collected
at the time of closing. This amount covers the interest accrued from
June 15 to July 1. Some lenders prohibit the collection of pre-paid
What is the difference between 'locking' and 'floating'?
A lock gives you a specified period of time - usually 60 days - of
protection from financial market fluctuations in interest rates by
setting the range of pricing available to you. If you choose to "float" or
defer "locking," your rate will fluctuate with the market
and will be subject to both upward and downward movements in the market.
The benefit to floating is if interest rates were to decrease, you
would have the option of locking in at a lower level of rates.
When can I lock and how much does it cost?
Most lenders will allow you to lock once you have found a property
and as late as up to five business days before closing. Some lenders
may allow you to lock prior to finding a property. Rate locks and fees
vary by lender.
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How can I determine what mortgage amount I will qualify for?
Based on your income, your current debts and estimated down-payment,
your lender can usually help you determine the maximum mortgage amount
for which you could qualify within minutes. Many lenders have a toll-free
800 number where you may speak with a mortgage professional or you
may also reference the lender's mortgage calculator located on its
mortgage Internet site. This process is frequently referred to as
a "prequalification analysis".
What is the difference between a prequalification analysis
and a pre-approval application?
A prequalification analysis is typically the result of information
shared between a mortgage lender and a potential mortgage borrower
and usually does not incorporate information obtained from a credit
report. The end product for a prequalification analysis will be a "ballpark" estimate
of the maximum mortgage amount for which you may qualify. Typically
there is no cost or commitment on behalf of either party for a prequalification
A mortgage loan pre-approval application typically results in a written
loan decision following a complete mortgage application. Many lenders
will require an application fee. You can typically apply for a pre-approved
mortgage prior to signing a purchase agreement for a home. Many lenders
will also allow you to lock an interest rate at the time you apply
for a pre-approved mortgage. A pre-approval can also add to your
negotiating strength when you are ready to make an offer on a home.
How do I apply for a mortgage?
Most lenders will take your application by phone or in person. The
application interview typically takes 30-60 minutes.
How do I determine which mortgage product will meet my needs?
Everyone's situation is different. Most people will benefit from
either consulting by phone or in person with a mortgage professional
who is committed to discovering your needs, and helping you match
those needs with a suitable mortgage product.
Do most mortgage lenders provide construction loans?
Many mortgage lenders have construction-to-permanent financing loan
programs. Programs will vary with each individual lender. Typically,
a construction loan is an interim loan secured by the property on
which a dwelling is being constructed. The funds are usually disbursed
throughout the construction period and replaced with permanent financing
once the construction is completed. You may also choose to utilize
separate lenders for the construction financing and the permanent
Do mobile homes need to be permanently affixed to receive
Some lenders specialize in financing mobile homes which are not permanently
affixed to a foundation. Most lenders will finance double-wide homes
that have been permanently affixed to a foundation.
Will there be a fee charged at the time of application?
Application fees vary according to each lender. This fee is generally
used to cover the cost of the appraisal and credit report and other
items required to process the loan.
Do I need to fill out an application?
Yes, but some lenders will allow you to complete the application
verbally right over the phone. A copy of your application will be
provided at the closing, which you will need to review and sign at
What documents will typically be requested when I make application
for a first mortgage loan?
Frequently lenders will request: W2's, paystubs, bank statements,
and the purchase contract on the home you are buying. Documentation
requests vary by loan type and lender.
Do most lenders require a homeowner's inspection?
No, a homeowner's inspection is generally requested by the buyer
as a condition to the purchase of the home. Many homebuyers, however,
will make the purchase of their home contingent upon a homeowner's
inspection. A homeowner's inspection should not be confused with
an appraisal, which is required by most mortgage lenders in order
to support the valuation of the mortgage security.
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Approval & Closing
How long does it take to obtain loan approval?
Depending on your credit history and down payment and the loan program
selected, some lenders may be able to approve your mortgage in as
little as 24 hours. The average number of days from application to
approval will vary from lender to lender. However, 7-10 business
days is typical.
How long will it take to close if I applied for my mortgage
through a "pre-approval" program?
If you applied through a "pre-approval" program and were
approved, some lenders can close within 3 weeks after a purchase
contract has been signed. In most cases, 45-60 days from application
to closing is typical. Each lender's timeframe will vary and the
transaction itself may cause the timeframes to vary.
If I refinance my loan with my existing lender, will I have
to pay all the closing costs again?
Typically, yes, as there is a cost to process any new loan application.
This cost may include fees paid to third parties, such as the appraisal
provider and the title and closing providers.
Will the lender agree to include my closing costs in the
On a purchase transaction, you typically cannot finance your closing
costs into the loan amount. Some lenders do, however, have special
programs under which you may be able to finance some, or all, of
the costs by agreeing to a slightly higher interest rate. Also, if
you are refinancing, you may be able to refinance some, or all, of
your closing costs.
How quickly can a lender close on my home loan?
Many lenders can facilitate closing 2 to 3 weeks after you have agreed
on a purchase contract for a home. If you need more time, you can
take as long as you need, while still closing prior to any rate lock
expiration dates. Many lenders require 30-60 days from purchase contract
and application to closing.
Can I close on a home without having to be at the closing
Many lenders are willing to accommodate what is termed a "mail
away" closing. You may also appoint someone to act for you by
using a Power of Attorney. In this scenario, you would actually assign
someone to sign on your behalf. Each state has its own specific requirements,
so please check with your closing agent for state specific requirements.
If you select a "mail away," the lender will coordinate
overnight delivery of the documents to ensure a timely closing. Please
note this process may require some additional coordination time.
How much money will be required at closing?
You should consult with your individual lender and closing agent;
however, the amount of money needed for cash to close is comprised
of your down payment, closing costs, as well as the prepaid items
for your initial taxes and insurance escrow accounts. A lender is
required to provide you with a good faith estimate of settlement
costs at the time of application. Also, typically within 24 hours
prior to your closing, the closing agent will provide you with the
final sum of money required for the closing.
Does the lender require title insurance for purchase transactions?
Yes, a Mortgagee's Title Insurance Policy will be required on purchase
What homeowner's insurance requirements will I need to meet
Most lenders require a one-year paid receipt for homeowner's insurance
policy for at least the amount of the mortgage at the loan closing.
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What is title insurance?
Title insurance provides the lender and the buyer (if you purchase
owner's coverage) with coverage for losses resulting from specific
title defects listed in the policy. In cases where land and property
have changed hands over time, there is always the possibility an
error has occurred. If an error has occurred, it may be that someone
else may be in title to or have an interest in the property, that
improvements encroach on property lines or that other similar problems
may exist. In these scenarios, if you do not have title insurance
you could lose your investment in your home. Lenders require "lender's
coverage" to protect their investment and it only protects the
lender. Owner's coverage is optional and provides separate coverage
for the borrower.
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What is PMI and why is it required?
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is insurance written by a private
company that protects the lender from losses in the event the borrower
defaults on the mortgage. Borrowers are required to pay the premium
for private mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance limits
a lender's exposure to financial loss resulting from loan default.
If you make a down payment of less than 20%, even if you have a good
credit profile, lenders generally require private mortgage insurance.
What is the minimum down payment required by a lender in
order to eliminate PMI?
Typically, on a primary residence, the minimum that you need to put
down to eliminate PMI is 20%. If you are putting less than this down,
but wish to avoid PMI, your lender may have alternative products
and pricing options they may offer in lieu of PMI.
How long will I be required to have PMI on my loan?
The Homeowner's Protection Act of 1998 allows borrowers whose loans
originated after July 29, 1999, to request cancellation of PMI at
80% loan to value (LTV) based on amortization or actual payments
if the borrower has a good payment history, if the borrower provides
evidence the property value has not decreased, and certifies there
are no subordinate liens on the property. Lenders are required to
terminate borrower paid PMI at 78% LTV based on the amortization
schedule if the loan is current. If none of the above is done, PMI
will terminate automatically at the midpoint of the loan term.
For loans originated prior to July 29,1999, PMI guidelines will vary
from lender to lender and can change at any time. Some investors
will not allow the cancellation of PMI. Typically, PMI is required
on your loan for a minimum of 24 consecutive payments absent any
law to the contrary. After that time, if you have 20% or more equity
in your property and meet certain other conditions, you may request
to have it removed. Typically, there is no guarantee that your PMI
will be removed, and most loan investors will require a new appraisal
at your expense prior to removing PMI.
How much does mortgage insurance cost?
The cost of PMI is divided into two parts. The first part is a payment
made at the time of closing. The second is an ongoing payment made
each month with your principal and interest payment.
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What is an escrow account?
An escrow account is typically established at the time you close
your mortgage loan. This account is held by the lender for the future
payments of recurring items relating to the mortgaged property, such
as real estate taxes and insurance premiums, as they become due.
Lenders usually require you to pay an initial amount for each of
those items to start the reserve account at the time of closing.
Are there any limitations on how much lenders can collect
from a borrower for the borrower's escrow account?
Lenders and servicers are required to follow the standards set forth
in the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and applicable
state law. RESPA and some states set limits on the amount which can
be collected by the lender or servicer to pay for escrow items, such
as property taxes and insurance, and place a cap on the amount of
the reserve. Reserves are funds that a servicer may require a borrower
to pay into an escrow account to cover unanticipated disbursements
which will need to be made before the borrower's payment is available
in the escrow account. There are limits on the additional amounts
that can be collected as reserves.
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Can I have my mortgage payment deducted automatically from
my checking or savings account each month?
Typically, after closing your mortgage loan, you will have the option
of enrolling in an automatic mortgage payment program. You may be
asked to provide an authorization form with a voided check or savings
account slip attached to set up the draft. The payment is typically
debited on a preset day each month.
Will a lender allow me to pay my mortgage payment with a
Most lenders do not allow mortgage payments to be charged to a credit
card. However, some lenders can set up an automatic mortgage payment
in which your payment will be taken from your checking account each
month. This means that you would not need to remember to send a check
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vs. Home Equity Financing
Using your home's equity to get tax-deductible* borrowing power for
big-ticket expenses such as college tuition or home improvements
is an option many homeowners choose. Both cash-out refinance and
home equity loans are usually tax deductible, but the similarity
ends there. Comparing the features of each loan will help you make
the best decision.
One loan and one loan payment.
You can choose between a lump sum loan
or a revolving line of credit.
Your existing mortgage is refinanced for
a higher overall amount using some of the accumulated equity
in your home.
You can borrow all or just part of your
home's equity – the difference between your mortgage
balance and your home's estimated market value.
Get cash and spread the payments out over
a longer term.
A home equity loan can offer the flexibility
of a shorter term to help to build equity faster because you
can pay the loan off sooner OR reduced monthly payments by
spreading the cost over a longer term.
Lower interest rate than home equity financing.
You can borrow more money - sometimes up
to 100% of the value of your home. With a line of credit, interest
is paid only on the money you actually use, and you can access
it whenever you want without having to reapply.