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Understanding your mortgage

Buying a home can be a game of numbers. How many bedrooms and baths? Three-car garage? Investing in a duplex? A commonly asked question is, "What interest rate did you get on your house?" It's an easy figure to toss around, but it doesn't tell the full story – and every home buyer's story is different.

While it's important to understand interest rates, it's vital to consider the other aspects of your story as well. How long you might live in the house, how much money you have saved for a down payment? What your intentions are for remodeling? Do you intend to rent this property in the future? May be just a few factors in your decision. Find a mortgage lender who will not only ask these types of questions but will use your answers to find the loan that is right for you.

Costs add up

Some lenders appeal to buyers with ads promising no closing costs on a home loan, but they aren't revealing the full picture. Costs associated with the loan transaction will be collected, whether in a lump sum at closing or over the life of the loan in the form of a higher interest rate.

Just what are those costs? There are three basic categories:

  • Origination fees charged by the lender.
  • Third-party fees for things such as appraisals, property title and credit report.
  • Government fees for taxes, recording charges and more, which vary by state.

Your lender will provide and review a Loan Estimate that includes every potential fee you may expect to pay.

When to lock in the rate

A rate lock is a lender's guarantee to a prospective borrower on a certain interest rate and price for a specific period of time, usually 30, 45 or 60 days. Once you lock in an interest rate, it will not change, no matter what fluctuations occur in the marketplace.

Interest rates fluctuate everyday based on market conditions. The shorter the duration of the rate lock guarantee, the better pricing you will receive. However, it is important to lock in your interest rate to coincide with your scheduled closing time frame. Your interest rate is also influenced by the type of mortgage you choose, your credit score, the down payment, and several other factors.

Just when is the right time to lock in the rate? There are several considerations, but perhaps the most important thing is that you work with a mortgage loan officer who will help you decide based on your own unique situation. When choosing a lender, be sure to find one who shares your values and will help you see behind the curtain. Rates and costs are important, but guidance with your best interest in mind is the most critical aspect to your long-term home loan financing success.