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Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Guide to Mortgage Terminology

Whether applying for your first loan, second or refinancing, the mortgage application process can be overwhelming. Understanding the language of mortgages is a first step to understanding it.

The first thing to understand about the mortgage application process is the subject of origination. This is the filling out of the application, rounding up and supplying of documentation, verification of employment and checking of credit history.

If you are cash rich at the closing, you might want to investigate paying a discount point. It is the equivalent of one percent of the loan amount. By paying it, you can pay down the interest rate on the loan and save money over time.

When is the best time to start the loan process? This is a common question and leads us to the term pre-approval. You want to get pre-approved for a loan and lock in an interest rate. This allows you to shop for a home knowing exactly what you can spend.

Refinancing is one of those terms that sound fairly basic. It is. One refinances to pull cash out of equity or just to get a better interest rate or monthly payment. Be aware, however, that your original loan may have a pre-payment penalty.

Perhaps the simplest term to understand is equity. Equity is simply the amount you own free and clear of any debt obligations on your home. Equity grows as you pay down the mortgage balance. It also grows as the home appreciates. Over time, it can become a large amount.

The mortgage industry is full of terms that sound rather drastic such as underwriting. This simply refers to the evaluation process by an underwriter at the lender. These days, it is often a piece of software. It takes all your information, crunches the number and approves or rejects the loan.

Lenders evaluate potential borrowers in many different ways. The loan-to-value ratio is one of them. It is the requested loan amount divided by the appraised value of the property.

Timing is a big issue in the world of mortgages. Specifically, rates change on a daily basis. To avoid this problem, you want to “lock in” your interest rate when a lender approves you. The cost is usually a few hundred dollars.

The concept of truth-in-lending is designed to protect you, the consumer. Finance is a complex subject, so this law requires the lender to provide you with written disclosure of all fees, conditions and terms associated with your loan.

Applying for a mortgage can be a hectic and stressful process. This is particularly true for first time borrowers. Before you go through the process, take the time to learn the language. Not only will you understand what is being said, but also you’ll be able to respond!

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