It's important to understand down payment and mortgage options before you apply for mortgage financing. Buying your first home is a huge stone. Before you take this big step, consider the following.
The bigger your down payment, the better
The first rule about applying for a mortgage is simple: the larger your down payment is, the lower your monthly payments will be, and the less interest you will pay during the life of your mortgage. Also, if you make a down payment of 20 percent or more, you'll avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), a premium added to protect the lender in the case of mortgages that are considered higher risk.
There are low down payment options
If you do not have a lot of money to put down on a house, do not despair. Some lenders offer 100-percent mortgages, which require no down payment at all, although they carry higher interest rates. And if you can come up with a 10 percent down payment, you may still be able to avoid paying PMI if you use a second "piggyback" loan to borrow the other 10 percent you need to make a 20 percent down payment.
The key is balance
Your mortgage is likely to be your single largest expense, so it's important to balance the size of your monthly payments with other aspects of your financial life. There's no set rule for how much you should spend on a home. Some experts say you should not spend more than two-and-a-half times your yearly income. Others will say that no more than 35 percent of your monthly income should go to living expenses, including your mortgage and utilities. Just make sure you create a budget that will enable you to meet all of your financial responsibilities.
Before you go house hunting, have a lender pre-approve you for a mortgage . The lender will ask you questions about your income and expenses and help you determine a borrowing level that is comfortable for you. This will enable you to save time by only looking at homes within your price range. You will also be in a position to make an offer on a home that will not have to be conditional upon obtaining financing.
Do your homework
One of the most important things you can do is learn about the different kinds of mortgages available so you can choose the best one for your needs. You have several options:
- Fixed-rate mortgages let you borrow money at an interest rate that keeps the same for the life of the loan.
- Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), have rates that fluctuate according to the market.
- Hybrid mortgages have fixed rates for a certain period and then switch to adjustable rates. For instance, a 5/1 ARM lets you pay a fixed rate for five years and then adjustments your rate once after that.
- Option ARMs give you multiple payment choices each month, from a low interest-only option to a fully amortized payment.