Deborah Anastas | Needham Real Estate, Wellesley Real Estate, Newton Real Estate


Purchasing a home is a sign of new financial responsibility for many people. The leap into homeownership is a big and important step. Finding a home and securing a mortgage isn’t easy. Getting ready to take on a mortgage can require a lot of research and education on your part. Before you get too confused, you’ll need to learn the basics of a mortgage and what you should know before you apply. 


Be Prepared


This is probably the best advice for any first time homebuyer. Find some good lenders in your area. You can sit down with a lender and talk about your goals. The bank will be able to explain all of the costs and fees associated with buying a home ahead of time. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect when you head into a purchase contract without any surprises. 


What’s Involved In A Loan? 


Each mortgage is a different situation. This is why meeting with a lender ahead of time is a good idea. Your real estate agent can suggest a mortgage lender if you don’t have one in mind. No one will be happier for you than your real estate agent if you have a smooth real estate transaction. You’ll be able to walk through the mortgage process step by step with a loan officer and understand the specifics of your own scenario.


What You’ll Need For A Mortgage


There’s a few things that you’ll need to have ready before you can even begin searching for a home. 


Cash For A Down Payment


You’ll need to save up a bit of cash before you know that you’re ready to buy a home. It’s recommended that you have at least 20 percent of the purchase price of a home to put down towards your loan initially.   



A Good Working Knowledge Of Personal Finances


You should have an understanding of your own finances in order to buy a home. Not only will this help you save, but it will help you to ensure that you’re not going to overextend yourself financially after you secure the mortgage. To get your finances in order, honestly record all of your monthly expenses and spending habits, so you know exactly what you can afford.   


The Price Range Of Homes You’re Interested In 


If you have an idea of what kind of home you’d like, it will make your entire house shopping experience a lot easier. You’ll be able to see exactly what you can afford and how much you need to save. When your wish list equates to half-million dollar homes, and you find that you can only afford around $300,000, you don’t need to go into shock! It’s good to have an idea of how much house you can afford and what it will get you. When you do a little homework, you’ll discover that buying a home isn’t such a hard process when you’re prepared!


If you’re a first-time homebuyer, odds are you’ve thrown the words “prequalified” and “preapproved” interchangeably. However, when it comes to home loans, there are some very important differences between the two.

For buyers hoping to purchase a home with a few missteps and misunderstandings as possible, it’s vital to understand the procedures involved in acquiring financing for a home.

Today, we’ll break down these two real estate jargon terms so that you can go into the mortgage approval process armed with the knowledge to help you succeed in securing a home loan.

Mortgage prequalification

Let’s start with the easy part--mortgage prequalification. Getting prequalified helps borrowers find out what kind and what size mortgage they can likely secure financing for. It also helps lenders establish a relationship with potential customers, which is why you will often see so many ads for mortgage prequalification around the web.

Prequalification is a relatively simple process. You’ll be asked to provide an overview of your finances, which your lender will plug into a formula and then report back to you whether or not you’re likely to get approved based on your current circumstances.

The lender will ask you for general information about your income, assets, debt, and credit. You won’t need to provide exact documents for these things at this phase in the process, since you have not yet technically applied for a mortgage.

Prequalification exists to give you a broad picture of what you can expect. You can use this information to plan for the future, or you can seek out other lenders for a second opinion. But, before you start shopping for homes, you’ll want to make sure you’re preapproved, not prequalified.

Mortgage preapproval

After you’ve prequalified, you can start thinking about preapproval. If you’re serious about buying a home in the near future, getting preapproved will simplify your buying process. It will also make sellers more likely to take you seriously, since you already have your financing partially secured.

Mortgage preapproval requires you to provide the lender with income documentation. They will also perform a credit inquiry to receive your FICO score.

Mortgage applications and credit scores

Before we talk about the rest of the preapproval process, we need to address one common issue that buyers face when applying for a mortgage. There are two types of credit inquiries that lenders can perform to view your credit history--hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

A soft inquiry won’t affect your credit score. But a hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points for a period of 1 to 2 months. So, when getting preapproved, you should expect your credit score to drop temporarily.

After preapproval

Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can safely begin looking at homes. If you decide to make an offer on a home and your offer is accepted, your preapproval will make it easier to move forward in closing on the home.

Once the lender checks off on the house you’re making an offer on, they will send you a loan commitment letter, enabling you to move forward with closing on the home.


Credit is tied to most big financial decisions you will make in your life. From things as little as opening up a store card at the mall to buying your first home, your credit score is going to play a factor. When it comes to mortgages, lenders take your credit score, particularly your FICO score, into consideration in determining the interest rate that you will likely be stuck with for years. How is your credit score determined and what can you do to use it to get a better rate on your mortgage? We'll cover all of that and more in this article.

Deciphering credit scores

Most major lenders assign your credit score based on the information provided by three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These companies report your credit history to FICO, who give you a score from 300 to 850 (850 being the best your score can get). When applying for a mortgage (or attempting to be pre-approved for a home loan), the lender you choose will weight several aspects to determine if they will lend money to you and under what terms they will lend you the money. Among these are your employment status, current salary, your savings and assets, and your credit score. Lenders use this data to attempt to determine how likely you are to pay off your debt. To be considered a "safe" person to lend money to it will require a combination of things, including good credit. What is good credit? Credit scores are based on five components:
  • 35%: your payment history
  • 30%: your debt amount
  • 15%: length of your credit history
  • 10%: types of credit you have used
  • 10%: recent credit inquiries (such as taking out new loans or opening new credit cards)
As you can see, paying your bills and loans on time each month is the key factor in determining your credit score. Also important, however, is keeping your total amount of debt low. Most aspects of your credit score are in your control. Only 10% of your score is determined by the length of your credit history (i.e., when you opened your first card or took out your first loan). To build your credit score, you'll need to focus on lowering your balances, making on-time payments, and giving yourself time to diversify your credit.

What does this mean for taking out mortgages?

A higher credit score will get you a lower interest rate. By the time you pay off your mortgage, just a hundred points on your credit score could save you thousands on your mortgage, and that's not including the money you might save by getting lower interest rates on other loans as well. If you would like to buy a home within the next few years, take this time to focus on building your credit score:
  • If you have high balances, do your best to lower them
  • If you have a tendency to miss payments, set recurring reminders in your phone to make sure you pay on time
  • If you don't have diverse credit, it could be a good time to take out a loan or open your first credit card
When it comes time to apply for a mortgage, you'll thank yourself for focusing more on your credit score.

Ready to buy a home? You'll likely need a mortgage to ensure you can afford your dream residence. Lucky for you, many banks and credit unions are happy to help you discover a mortgage that suits you perfectly.

Ultimately, meeting with a mortgage lender may seem stressful at first. But this meeting can serve as a valuable learning opportunity, one that allows you to select a mortgage that is easy to understand and matches your budget.

When you meet with a mortgage lender, here are three of the questions to ask so you can gain the insights you need to make an informed decision:

1. What mortgage options are available?

Most lenders offer a broad range of mortgage options. By doing so, these lenders can help you choose a mortgage that meets or exceeds your expectations.

Fixed-rate mortgages represent some of the most popular options for homebuyers, and perhaps it is easy to understand why. These mortgages lock-in an interest rate for a set period of time and ensure your mortgage payments will stay the same throughout the duration of your mortgage.

Meanwhile, adjustable-rate mortgages may prove to be great choices for many homebuyers as well. These mortgages may feature a lower initial interest rate that rises after several years. However, with an adjustable-rate mortgage, you'll know when your mortgage's interest rate will increase and can plan accordingly.

2. Do I need to get pre-approved for a mortgage?

Pre-approval for a mortgage usually is an excellent idea, and for good reason.

If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you may be able to enter the homebuying market with a budget in mind. That way, you can pursue houses that fall within a set price range and avoid the risk of overspending on a home.

On the other hand, you don't need to be pre-approved for a mortgage to submit an offer on a home. But with a mortgage in hand, you may be able to gain an advantage over the competition, one that might even lead a home seller to select your offer over others.

3. How long will a mortgage last?

Many mortgages last 15- or 30-years – it all depends on the type of mortgage that you select.

A lender can explain the length associated with various mortgage options and highlight the pros and cons associated with these mortgages.

Moreover, you should ask a lender if there are any prepayment penalties if you pay off your mortgage early. This may help you determine whether a particular mortgage is right for you.

When it comes to finding a lender, don't forget to meet with several banks and credit unions. This will allow you to discover a lender that offers a mortgage with a low interest rate. Plus, it enables you to find a lender that makes you feel comfortable.

If you need assistance in your search for the right lender, be sure to reach out to a real estate agent. This housing market professional can provide details about local lenders and ensure you can accelerate your push to acquire your dream residence.


Although challenging life situations like a job layoff, rising mortgage rates and divorce can damage your ability to continue to make your monthly mortgage payments, you don't have to be hit with an unexpected shift to strain to meet your mortgage obligations. As an example, simply taking on another financial responsibility like a car payment, college tuition or small business loan could put you at risk of defaulting on your home loan.

Lower mortgage choices that hurt

To keep from defaulting on your mortgage, you could work a second job, put in longer hours at your first job or cut back on other expenses. Instead of getting a degree, you could try to make your current educational background help you land work opportunities that you really want.

But, those choices hold you back. They keep you from doing what you really want to do. Taking on a second job and working longer hours at your first job put you under too much stress. Fortunately, there's another option that you could take to reduce your mortgage.

This option is often overlooked when homeowners get into financial hot spots. A reason for that may have to do with the fact that some people buy houses to avoid connecting with others more deeply. That's right. Some people use their house as a hiding place.

If your relationships are good, you may be a prime candidate for this mortgage reducer

There's fallout from this decision. The fallout limits your ability to create rewarding relationships. And you definitely need rewarding relationships to take advantage of the overlooked mortgage reducer. A great place to start trying out this shortcut to a smaller mortgage is with your parents.

Similar to how you may have moved back in with your parents after college when you were trying to pay off your student loans and before you landed your first full-time job, open to the idea of living with your parents again. The difference is that this time you'll ask your parents to move in with you.

Even if your parents are living on a fixed income, they could help pay a portion of the mortgage. Not only may you and your parents grow closer with this arrangement, you'll both have someone to communicate with. Siblings, adult children and friends are other people who could move in with you and split the mortgage.

Tenants reduce mortgages, letting you stay in a good house

Shortcut to a smaller mortgage can also open up for you if you rent out a portion of your house. If your house has three levels, you could rent out the first and second levels to tenants. You'd have to make sure that the rented space meets local housing codes.

But, unlike living with family, you'll have to develop legal leasing contracts with the tenants. Of course, you could enter into legal written agreements with family members too, detailing when rent is due and the types of maintenance that you are responsible for at the property.




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