home buying

Top 9 Mortgage Questions Answered

10 Minute Read

The best way to buy a home is with cash. But if that’s not an option for you, you’ll need a mortgage.

Let’s face it. Mortgages are complicated. It’s easy to get in over your head when you buy a home—you may have no idea what you just got yourself into. A bad mortgage could easily turn your homeownership dream into a financial nightmare.

The good news is, knowing the answers to a few basic mortgage questions can empower you to make smart decisions with your money. Whether you’re working with a real estate agent to purchase your first home or you’re looking to avoid mistakes you’ve made before, you can choose a home mortgage loan that will benefit your family for years to come.

1. How do you qualify for a loan?

The idea of meeting with a lender can be intimidating. After all, this is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make!

Take a deep breath and relax—you don’t have to be stressed! Think of your first meeting with your lender as a get-to-know-you session. They’ll simply want to learn a few basics about you and your financial situation.

Then comes the paperwork! Once your loan process gets started, be prepared to provide proof of: 

  • Where you work
  • Your income
  • Any debt you have
  • Your assets
  • How much you plan to put down on your home

A good lender will clearly explain your mortgage options so you feel confident in your decision. If they don’t, or if they won’t fully answer your questions, find a new lender. A mortgage is a huge financial commitment, and you should never sign up for something you don’t understand.

It’s likely that your lender will approve you for more money than you want to spend. But keep this in mind: Just because you qualify for it doesn’t mean you can afford it.

2. Can you get a home mortgage loan without a credit score?

This is one of the most commonly asked mortgage questions, and the answer may surprise you.

If you’ve paid off all your debt—and we recommend you do before buying a home—it is possible you won’t have a credit score when you meet with a lender. That might make you nervous. But don’t worry, you can still get a mortgage.

color

Local experts you can trust.

Find an ELP

If you apply for a mortgage without a credit score, you’ll need to go through a process called manual underwriting. Manual underwriting simply means you’ll be asked to provide additional paperwork and the underwriter will review your documents personally. Your loan process may take a little longer, but buying a home with no extra debt weighing you down is worth it!  

Not every lender offers manual underwriting. A little research on the front-end can help you find the ones in your area that do.

3. What’s the difference between being prequalified and preapproved?

A quick conversation with your lender about your income, assets and down payment is all it takes to get prequalified. But if you want to get preapproved, your lender will need to verify your financial information and submit your loan for preliminary underwriting. A preapproval takes a little more time and documentation, but it also carries a lot more weight.

Which is better? Think of prequalification as a preliminary step and preapproval as the green light signaling that you’re ready to start your home search. When sellers review your offer, a preapproval means you’re a serious buyer and your lender has already started the loan process.

4. How much home can you afford?

Buying “too much house” can quickly turn your home into a liability instead of an asset. That’s why it’s important to know what you can afford before you ever start looking at homes with your real estate agent.

We recommend keeping your monthly mortgage payment to 25% or less of your monthly take-home pay. For example, if you bring home $5,000 a month, your monthly mortgage payment should be no more than $1,250. Using our easy mortgage calculator, that means you can afford a $211,000 home on a 15-year fixed-rate loan with a 20% down payment.

With a conservative monthly mortgage payment, you’ll have room in your budget to cover additional costs of homeownership, such as repairs and maintenance, while saving for other financial goals, like retirement.

5. How much should you save for a down payment?

We recommend putting at least 10% down on a home, but 20% is even better because you won’t have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is an extra cost added to your monthly payment that doesn’t go toward paying off your mortgage.

Saving a big down payment takes hard work and patience, but it’s worth it. Here’s why:

  • You’ll have built-in equity when you move into your home.
  • You can finance less, which means you’ll have a lower monthly payment.

On the flip side, if you buy a home with little to no down payment and the market dips, you could be stuck until home values recover.

If the goal is to pay off your home quickly, why not get a head start with a big down payment? Now that’s a good game plan!

6. How do you know which home mortgage option is right for you?

With so many mortgage options out there, it can be hard to know all the right answers to your home-buying questions and how mortgage differences will impact you in the long run. Here are the most common mortgage loan types:

  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan
  • Fixed-Rate Conventional Loan
  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan
  • Fixed-Rate Conventional Loan

The Pros and Cons of Home Mortgage Product Loan types, including Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan, and Fixed-Rate Conventional Loans


We recommend choosing a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan. Why not a 30-year mortgage? Because you’ll pay thousands more in interest if you go with a 30-year mortgage. For a $250,000 loan, that could mean a difference of more than $100,000:


A 15-year term does come with a higher monthly payment, so you may need to adjust your home-buying budget to get your mortgage payment down to 25% or less of your monthly income.

But the good news is, a 15-year mortgage actually pays off in 15 years. Why be in debt for 30 years when you can knock out your mortgage in half the time and save six figures in interest? We call that a win-win!

7. How do mortgage rate trends affect your home loan?

High mortgage rates bring higher monthly payments and increase the overall interest you’ll pay over the life of your loan. A low interest rate saves you money in both the short and long term.

Of course, just like you can’t time the stock market, it’s nearly impossible to time your home purchase with the best mortgage rates.

The past five years have held some of the most affordable interest rates ever, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and their recent forecast predicts the trend will continue for 2018.(1,2) If you’re a prospective home buyer, you have a rare window of opportunity to secure a low mortgage rate that could save you thousands of dollars.

8. What does your mortgage payment include?

So what happens when you send in that mortgage payment every month? It’s nice to think the whole amount just reduces your principal, but your monthly payment actually goes toward a lot more.

Here’s what the typical monthly mortgage payment includes:

  • Principal
  • Interest
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI), if you put less than 20% down on your home

Want to pay more on your mortgage? Be sure to specify that you want any extra money to go toward the principal only, not an advance payment that prepays interest.

9. What happens after you get preapproved for a home mortgage loan?

Getting preapproved for a mortgage is just the beginning. Once the financial pieces are in place, it’s time to find your perfect home! While it’s one of the most exciting stages of the process, it can also be the most stressful. That’s why it’s important to partner with a buyer’s agent.

A buyer’s agent can guide you through the process of finding a home, negotiating the contract, and closing on your new place. The best part? Working with a buyer’s agent doesn’t cost you a thing! That’s because, in most cases, the seller pays the agent’s commission.

Why not partner with a real estate pro who can save you time, stress and money on your home purchase? We can connect you with a high-octane real estate agent in your area who’s earned Dave’s seal of trust. You can find a pro near you today!

You’ve Got This!

Imagine looking back 10 years from now, knowing you made a smart home purchase that kept your financial goals on track! Wouldn’t that be a relief?

Now that you’ve got the answers to your mortgage questions, nothing’s standing in your way. Time to turn your home-buying dream into reality!

More from the Blog

Pay Cash For Christmas? You Can!

Start Today!

Find a Local Expert

See More
ELP Logo

Start with a Local Expert

Get trustworthy guidance to help you save money on life's most complicated financial decisions.

Find an ELP Back to Article Learn More

Thank You!

A confirmation email is on its way to !

Next: Find a Local Expert