Five Tips to Follow When Applying for a Mortgage

The housing market during the coronavirus pandemic has certainly been notable. Historically low interest rates resulted in record homebuying, even as housing prices escalated.1

Man and woman looking over mortgage papers.

Fortunately, the mortgage industry has been able to keep up with the pace of the real estate market by utilizing already existing technology. Homebuyers can search for lenders, compare interest rates, and apply for mortgages online. In addition, mortgage lenders are able to do alternative appraisals, perform safe home inspections, and conduct closings electronically.

Even though applying for a mortgage is much easier these days, navigating the world of mortgages — especially for first-time homebuyers — can be complicated. As a result, you'll want to keep the following tips in mind.

Check and maintain your credit. A high credit score not only may make it easier to obtain a mortgage loan but could potentially result in a lower interest rate. Be sure to review your credit report for inaccuracies. You may have to take steps to improve your credit history, such as paying your monthly bills on time and limiting credit inquiries on your credit report (which are made every time you apply for new credit).

Shop around. Be sure to shop around among various lenders and compare the types of loans offered, along with the costs and rates associated with those loans. Consider each lender's customer service reputation as well.

Get pre-approved for a loan. In today's hot housing market, it's essential to have a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand before making an offer. Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval letter lets you know how large a loan you can get. However, this isn't necessarily how much you can afford. Be sure to examine your budget and lifestyle to make sure that your mortgage payment — principal and interest as well as property taxes and homeowners insurance — is within your means.

Review your down-payment options. Though lenders prefer a down payment of 20% or more, some types of home loans allow down payments as low as 3%. A larger down payment can help you obtain a lower interest rate, potentially avoid paying for private mortgage insurance, and have smaller monthly payments.

Read the fine print. Before you sign any paperwork, make sure that you fully understand the terms of your mortgage loan and the costs associated with it. For example, if you are applying for an adjustable-rate mortgage, it's important to be aware of how and when the interest rate for the loan will adjust.

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