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9 questions to ask mortgage lenders

Knowing what to ask could save you money in the long run

Read, 3 minutes

1

How much can I borrow to buy a home?

When determining how much you can borrow, lenders will consider your income level compared with debt, your employment status and your credit history. Talk to a lender about getting prequalified for a mortgage before you start shopping for your new home.1 This can make the whole experience go more smoothly.

2

How much money do I need to put down?

20 percent donut

To get the best rate and terms for your loan, try to put down at least 20 percent of the purchase price.

Although a lower down payment won’t necessarily disqualify you, there is a chance that a monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) payment will be added if your down payment is less than 20 percent. Your down payment will affect other variables as well, such as your interest rate, terms and monthly payments. Ask your lender for more information about the minimum down payment required for your loan and if you might be eligible for any down payment or cost-saving assistance programs, and decide what’s right for you.

3

Are down payment assistance programs available?

Military veterans and first-time homebuyers may be eligible for special government-sponsored mortgage programs. Veterans and active service members can apply for a VA loan, which generally has a lower interest rate and doesn’t require a down payment. And if you have a lower credit score and limited savings, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan could be an option. Ask your lender what you might qualify for.

4

What’s the interest rate?

Ask your lender for a direct interest rate quote, as well as the corresponding annual percentage rate (APR) for the loan. Since the APR accounts for fees and other loan-related charges, it gives you an apples-to-apples comparison among lenders. Don’t be afraid to shop around until you find one you’re comfortable with. Your lender may accept a fee at closing called a “discount point” in exchange for a reduced interest rate.

5

What’s the difference between a fixed-rate and an adjustable-rate mortgage?

It’s important to compare these two types of mortgages to find what’s best for your situation. Here are some general differences to consider:

Fixed-rate mortgage

Set interest rate for the life of the loan

Your monthly payments of principal and interest remain the same for the life of the loan

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs)

Interest rate may change periodically during the loan term

Your monthly payment may increase or decrease based on interest rate changes

6

When can I lock in the interest rate?

Interest rates always fluctuate. Sometimes, locking in a low rate can really pay off. Ask your lender when you can lock a particular rate and for how long. Keep in mind, lenders will usually offer lower interest rates for shorter-term locks and higher interest rates for longer-term locks.

7

What are my estimated closing costs?

Remember to factor in the various fees associated with buying a home—particularly closing costs. Closing costs include loan origination fees, appraisal fees and attorney fees (if any), to name a few. Your lender will provide you with a Loan Estimate showing the approximate costs of your loan so you can budget accordingly.

8

Are there any other costs or fees I should know about?

As you approach the closing date for your purchase your lender will calculate the total amount of money you will need to complete your transaction and provide that to you in the form of a Closing Disclosure. This will include the closing costs shown on your Loan Estimate plus any prepaid items like mortgage interest, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance. It’s a good idea to compare the Closing Disclosure to the Loan Estimate you received.

9

Can you estimate when the closing will be?

A lot of factors help determine when your exact closing date will be—many of which are completely out of your control. While delays can happen, the best way to avoid them is to stay in touch with your lender and provide the most up-to-date documentation as quickly as you can. Ask your lender for an estimate of when you might expect to close. That way you’ll at least have a rough idea of the timetable you’re working with.

  1. Pre-qualification is neither pre-approval nor a commitment to lend; you must submit additional information for review and approval.
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The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.

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