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With interest rates at eye-watering highs, it might seem impossible to get a mortgage that suits your financial situation. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make the process as painless as possible.
Before you apply, review your credit report for inaccuracies and address any debt that may be too high to help improve your score. Then shop around for the best rate.
1. Get Pre-Approved
Getting preapproved for a mortgage is an important step in the home-buying process. It allows you to go through most of the steps involved in a full mortgage application, such as verifying your income, assets and credit, before you start shopping for homes. This is an excellent way to find out how much you can afford, and it can save you time by making the home-buying process move more quickly once you find your dream home.
To get preapproved, you’ll need to fill out a short mortgage application that typically includes basic information such as your name, address and financial profile. Your lender will then run your credit report and score to determine whether you qualify for the loan. Then, they’ll issue you a document called a Loan Estimate within three business days that notes if your mortgage has been preapproved, the amount you’re approved for and the estimated closing costs.
Once you’ve got a mortgage preapproval letter in hand, it makes the home-buying process more efficient and can help you negotiate with sellers. It also helps you shop with confidence because it shows you have the financing available to make a strong offer on a home.
When you’re ready to apply for a mortgage, you’ll need a valid ID, proof of income, and documentation of any assets you plan to use toward your down payment. Lenders generally require a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price, but you can work with lenders to come up with creative solutions for first-time buyers who don’t have that much cash saved.
Once you’re preapproved, you can begin shopping for a home and once you’ve found one that fits your budget, you can submit an offer. The lender will then review your application and conduct other due diligence, such as having the property appraised to ensure it’s worth what you’re paying for it. If your loan is approved, you’ll then be able to close on the house.
2. Shop Around
Mortgage rates are a major component of homebuying, and shopping for the best rate can save thousands in interest over the life of the loan. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all lenders are created equal. For example, some may offer a lower rate than others, but their closing costs and other fees may negate the advantage of a cheaper loan. Some people choose to go with their bank or credit union for their mortgage, while others opt for a mortgage broker who shops multiple lenders on their behalf.
It’s generally a good idea to avoid opening any new credit cards or other financial products while shopping for a mortgage. This is because a credit application will trigger a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can drop your scores by a few points. However, if you can hold off on shopping for mortgages until after you’ve obtained preapproval, you should be able to find a competitive offer without hurting your score.
3. Find the Right Lender
For most homebuyers, a mortgage is the largest financial purchase they will ever make. And it’s one they will have to pay off for years to come. So it makes sense that borrowers would want to do their homework to find the best lender and loan for them.
When shopping for a mortgage, you’ll have many lenders to choose from, both online and in your local neighborhood. It’s important to talk to several lenders and compare mortgage rates, fees, and terms before choosing a lender. You can also ask for mortgage preapproval from several lenders so you know how much buying power you have.
Aside from comparing mortgage rates and fees, you should also look at the types of loan programs each lender offers. Some lenders specialize in different kinds of loans, like conforming or jumbo mortgages, while others offer more specialized programs for buyers with certain credit profiles, such as a debt-to-income ratio below 36%.
You should also consider whether a lender’s reputation is important to you. You might not be able to tell from a website alone, but it’s worth looking at customer reviews and references before choosing a lender. Look for honest, transparent reviews and testimonials that help you understand what to expect during the mortgage process.
Finally, you should think about how the mortgage lender will service your loan after closing. This can be especially important if you plan to move in the future. Some lenders only service their own loans in the state where they’re headquartered, while others work with customers across the country. If you’re planning to move, you might want to find a lender that works nationwide or has an extensive network of branches.
4. Get the Best Rate
Besides the home price, the mortgage rate is one of the biggest factors that influence the monthly cost of a new home. That’s because borrowers pay interest on the borrowed amount and principal over time, so the lower the rate, the less it costs. To get the best rates, borrowers should try to increase their credit score as much as possible and save up enough for a large down payment.
Then, they should shop around for the best rates. The key is to look at more than just the interest rate; other fees and closing costs can add up. A good place to start is LendingTree’s loan estimator tool, which provides a comparison of lenders operating in your area with their rates, fees and other details. The lender with the lowest overall estimate is typically the best choice.
Another way to get the best mortgage rate is to make sure you have a steady income. That means trying to avoid changing jobs too close to the time you apply for a mortgage or looking for a higher salary. Also, if you can, it’s generally better to have two months of income in savings than just one.
Finally, borrowers should consider government incentives and loans that can help them afford the home they want at an affordable rate. For example, the Department of Agriculture offers low-income borrowers the opportunity to buy a home with no down payment. And, there are plenty of other programs designed to help first-time homebuyers.
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