CalculatorsThere are many financial decisions involved in purchasing or refinancing a home. The calculators we provide here can help you decide some of those decisions.
Your PropertyWhen you buy or refinance a home, the property is used as collateral for the loan. Here's what the lender is looking for and why.
What is an appraisal and who completes it?
To determine the value of the property you are purchasing or refinancing, an appraisal will be required. An appraisal report is a written description and estimate of the value of the property. National standards govern not only the format for the appraisal; they also specify the appraiser's qualifications and credentials. In addition, most states now have licensing requirements for appraisers evaluating properties located within their states.
The appraiser will create a written report for us and we will promptly give you a copy, even if your loan does not close. If you'd like to review it earlier, we would be happy to provide it to you.
Will I get a copy of the appraisal?
As soon as we receive your appraisal, we'll update your loan with the estimated value of the home. We will promptly give you a copy of any appraisal, even if your loan does not close.
Are there any special requirements for condominiums?
One of the most important factors is determining if the project that the condominium is located in is complete. In many cases, it will be necessary for the project, or at least the phase that your unit is located in, to be complete before we can provide financing. The main reason for this is, until the project is complete, we can't be certain that the remaining units will be of the same quality as the existing units. This could affect the marketability of your home.
I'm purchasing a home, do I need a home inspection AND an appraisal?
Both a home inspection and an appraisal are designed to protect you against potential issues with your new home. Although they have totally different purposes, it makes the most sense to rely on each to help confirm that you've found the perfect home.
The appraiser will make note of obvious construction problems such as termite damage, dry rot or leaking roofs or basements. Other obvious interior or exterior damage that could affect the salability of the property will also be reported.
However, appraisers are not construction experts and won't find or report items that are not obvious. They won't turn on every light switch, run every faucet or inspect the attic or mechanicals. That's where the home inspector comes in. They generally perform a detailed inspection and can educate you about possible concerns or defects with the home.
Accompany the inspector during the home inspection. This is your opportunity to gain knowledge of major systems, appliances and fixtures, learn maintenance schedules and tips, and to ask questions about the condition of the home.
I've heard that some lenders require flood insurance on properties. Will you?
Federal Law requires all lenders to investigate whether or not each home they finance is in a special flood hazard area as defined by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The law can't stop floods. Floods happen anytime, anywhere. But the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 help to ensure that you will be protected from financial losses caused by flooding.
We use a third party company who specializes in the reviewing of flood maps prepared by FEMA to determine if your home is located in a flood area. If it is, then flood insurance coverage will be required, since standard homeowner's insurance doesn't protect you against damages from flooding.
How long does it take for the property appraisal to be completed?
Licensed appraisers who are familiar with home values in your area perform appraisals. We order the appraisal as soon as the application deposit is paid. Generally, it takes 10-14 days before the written report is sent to us. We follow up with the appraiser to insure that it is completed as soon as possible. If you are refinancing, and an interior inspection of the home is necessary, the appraiser should contact you to schedule a viewing appointment. If you don't hear from the appraiser within seven days of the order date, please inform your Mortgage Specialist. If you are purchasing a new home, the appraiser will contact the real estate agent, if you are using one, or the seller to schedule an appointment to view the home. We will promptly give you a copy of any appraisal, even if your loan does not close.
Loans, Rates & FeesWhen it comes to home financing, there are many different options to choose from. How do you find the loan that's best for you? Here is some information to help you.
How are interest rates determined?
Interest rates fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including inflation, the pace of economic growth, and Federal Reserve policy.
What is an adjustable rate mortgage?
An adjustable rate mortgage, or an "ARM" as they are commonly called, is a loan type that offers a lower initial interest rate than most fixed rate loans. The trade off is that the interest rate can change periodically, usually in relation to an index, and the monthly payment will go up or down accordingly.
Against the advantage of the lower payment at the beginning of the loan, you should weigh the risk that an increase in interest rates would lead to higher monthly payments in the future. It's a trade-off. You get a lower rate with an ARM in exchange for assuming more risk.
For many people in a variety of situations, an ARM is the right mortgage choice, particularly if your income is likely to increase in the future or if you only plan on being in the home for three to five years.
Here's some detailed information explaining how ARM's work.
With most ARMs, the interest rate and monthly payment are fixed for an initial time period such as one year, three years, five years, or seven years. After the initial fixed period, the interest rate can change every year. For example, one of our most popular adjustable rate mortgages is a five-year ARM. The interest rate will not change for the first five years (the initial adjustment period) but can change every year after the first five years.
Our ARM interest rate changes are tied to changes in an index rate. Using an index to determine future rate adjustments provides you with assurance that rate adjustments will be based on actual market conditions at the time of the adjustment. The current value of most indices is published weekly in the Wall Street Journal. If the index rate moves up so does your mortgage interest rate, and you will probably have to make a higher monthly payment. On the other hand, if the index rate goes down your monthly payment may decrease.
To determine the interest rate on an ARM, we'll add a pre-disclosed amount to the index called the "margin." If you're still shopping, comparing one lender's margin to another's can be more important than comparing the initial interest rate, since it will be used to calculate the interest rate you will pay in the future.
An interest-rate cap places a limit on the amount your interest rate can increase or decrease. There are two types of caps:
1. Periodic or adjustment caps, which limit the interest rate increase or decrease from one adjustment period to the next.
2. Overall or lifetime caps, which limit the interest rate increase over the life of the loan.
As you can imagine, interest rate caps are very important since no one knows what can happen in the future. All of the ARMs we offer have both adjustment and lifetime caps. Please see each product description for full details.
"Negative Amortization" occurs when your monthly payment changes to an amount less than the amount required to pay interest due. If a loan has negative amortization, you might end up owing more than you originally borrowed. None of the ARMs we offer allow for negative amortization.
Some lenders may require you to pay special fees or penalties if you pay off the ARM early. We never charge a penalty for prepayment.
Contact a Mortgage Specialist
Selecting a mortgage may be the most important financial decision you will make and you are entitled to all the information you need to make the right decision. Don't hesitate to contact a Mortgage Specialist if you have questions about the features of our adjustable rate mortgages.
Should I pay discount points in exchange for a lower interest rate?
Discount points are considered a form of interest. Each point is equal to one percent of the loan amount. You pay them, up front, at your loan closing in exchange for a lower interest rate over the life of your loan. This means more money will be required at closing, however, you will have lower monthly payments over the term of your loan.
If you'd prefer not to make this calculation the "old-fashioned way," we have a discount points calculator!
Is comparing APRs the best way to decide which lender has the lowest rates and fees?
The Federal Truth in Lending law requires that all financial institutions disclose the APR when they advertise a rate. The APR is designed to present the actual cost of obtaining financing, by requiring that some, but not all, closing fees are included in the APR calculation. These fees in addition to the interest rate determine the estimated cost of financing over the full term of the loan.
You can use the APR as a guideline to shop for loans but you should not depend solely on the APR in choosing the loan program that's best for you. Look at total fees, possible rate adjustments in the future if you're comparing adjustable rate mortgages, and consider the length of time that you plan on having the mortgage.
How do I know if it's best to lock in my interest rate or to let it float?
Mortgage interest rate movements are as hard to predict as the stock market and no one can really know for certain whether they'll go up or down.
If you have a hunch that rates are on an upward trend then you'll want to consider locking the rate as soon as you are able. Before you decide to lock, make sure that your loan can close within the lock-in period. It won't do any good to lock your rate if you can't close during the rate lock period. If you're purchasing a home, review your contract for the estimated closing date to help you choose the right rate lock period. If you are refinancing, in most cases, your loan could close within 30 - 45 days. However, if you have any secondary financing on the home that won't be paid off, allow some extra time since we'll need to contact that lender to get their permission.
If you think rates might drop while your loan is being processed, take a risk and let your rate "float" instead of locking. After you apply, you can lock in by contacting your Mortgage Specialist by telephone.
How much money will I save by choosing a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year loan?
A 15-year fixed rate mortgage gives you the ability to own your home free and clear in 15 years. And, while the monthly payments are somewhat higher than a 30-year loan, the interest rate on the 15-year mortgage is usually a little lower, and more important - you'll pay less than half the total interest cost of the traditional 30-year mortgage.
However, if you can't afford the higher monthly payment of a 15-year mortgage don't feel alone. Many borrowers find the higher payment out of reach and choose a 30-year mortgage. It still makes sense to use a 30-year mortgage for most people.
Compare Them Yourself
Use the "How much can I save with a 15 year mortgage?" calculator in our Resource Center to help decide which loan term is best for you.
Are there any prepayment penalties charged for these loan programs?
None of the loan programs we offer have penalties for prepayment. You can pay off your mortgage any time with no additional charges.
What is your Rate Lock Policy?
The interest rate market is subject to movements without advance notice. Locking in a rate protects you from the time that your lock is confirmed to the day that your lock period expires.
A lock is an agreement by the borrower and the lender and specifies the number of days for which a loan’s interest rate and discount points are guaranteed. Should interest rates rise during that period, we are obligated to honor the committed rate. Should interest rates fall during that period, the borrower must honor the lock.
When Can I Lock?
You will be invited back to lock after we have reviewed your documentation and credit package. We will notify you via either telephone or email when you are able to request the lock.
We currently offer a 45 day lock-in period. This means your loan must close and disburse within this number of days from the day your lock is confirmed by us.
A confirmation is sent to the email address you provided to your Mortgage Specialist.
Once we accept your lock, your loan is committed into a secondary market transaction. Therefore, we are not able to renegotiate lock commitments.
Tell me more about closing fees and how they are determined.
A home loan often involves many fees, such as the appraisal fee, title charges, closing fees, and state or local taxes. These fees vary from state to state and also from lender to lender. Fees vary based on selected loan product. We take quotes very seriously. We've completed the research necessary to make sure that our fee quotes are accurate.
What is title insurance and why do I need it?
If you've ever purchased a home before, you may already be familiar with the benefits and terms of title insurance. But if this is your first home loan or you are refinancing, you may be wondering why you need another insurance policy.
The answer is simple: The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You, and especially your mortgage lender, want to make sure the property is indeed yours: That no individual or government entity has any right, lien, claim, or encumbrance on your property.
The function of a title insurance company is to make sure your rights and interests to the property are clear, that transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly, and that your interests as a homebuyer are fully protected.
Buying a home is a big step emotionally and financially. With title insurance you are assured that any valid claim against your property will be borne by the title company, and that the odds of a claim being filed are slim indeed.
What is mortgage insurance and when is it required?
First of all, let's make sure that we mean the same thing when we discuss "mortgage insurance." Mortgage insurance should not be confused with mortgage life insurance, which is designed to pay off a mortgage in the event of a borrower's death. Mortgage insurance makes it possible for you to buy a home with less than a 20% down payment by protecting the lender against the additional risk associated with low down payment lending. Low down payment mortgages are becoming more and more popular, and by purchasing mortgage insurance, lenders are comfortable with down payments as low as 3 - 5% of the home's value. It also provides you with the ability to buy a more expensive home than might be possible if a 20% down payment were required.
The mortgage insurance premium is based on loan to value ratio, type of loan, and amount of coverage required by the lender. Usually, the premium is included in your monthly payment and one to two months of the premium is collected as a required advance at closing.
It may be possible to cancel private mortgage insurance at some point, such as when your loan balance is reduced to a certain amount - below 75% to 80% of the property value. Federal Legislation requires automatic termination of mortgage insurance for many borrowers when their loan balance has been amortized down to 78% of the original property value. If you have any questions about when your mortgage insurance could be cancelled, please contact your Mortgage and Home Equity Specialist.
What is the maximum percentage of my home's value that I can borrow?
The maximum percentage of your home's value depends on the purpose of your loan, how you use the property, and the loan type you choose, so the best way to determine what loan amount we can offer is to complete our online application!
Your ApplicationApplying for a mortgage can be very intimidating. You're asked specific details about your income, assets, and debts. Here we will give you information that will let you know how that information is used when applying for a mortgage.
What is a credit score and how will my credit score affect my application?
A credit score is one of the pieces of information that we'll use to evaluate your application.
Credit scores are based on information collected by credit bureaus and information reported each month by your creditors about the balances you owe and the timing of your payments. A credit score is a compilation of all this information converted into a number that helps a lender to determine the likelihood that you will repay the loan on schedule. The credit score is calculated by the credit bureau, not by the lender. Credit scores are calculated by comparing your credit history with millions of other consumers. They have proven to be a very effective way of determining credit worthiness.
Some of the things that affect your credit score include your payment history, your outstanding obligations, the length of time you have had outstanding credit, the types of credit you use, and the number of inquiries that have been made about your credit history in the recent past.
Credit scores used for mortgage loan decisions range from approximately 300 to 900. Generally, the higher your credit score, the lower the risk that your payments won't be paid as agreed.
Using credit scores to evaluate your credit history allows us to quickly and objectively evaluate your credit history when reviewing your loan application. However, there are many other factors when making a loan decision and we never evaluate an application without looking at the total financial picture of a customer.
Will the inquiry about my credit affect my credit score?
An abundance of credit inquiries can sometimes affect your credit scores since it may indicate that your use of credit is increasing.
But don't overreact! The data used to calculate your credit score doesn't include any mortgage or auto loan credit inquiries that are made within the 30 days prior to the score being calculated. In addition, all mortgage inquiries made in any 14-day period are always considered one inquiry. Don't limit your mortgage shopping for fear of the effect on your credit score.
Will I be charged any fees if I authorize my credit information to be accessed?
There is no charge to you for the credit information we'll access with your permission to evaluate your application online. You will only be charged for a credit report if you decide to complete the application process after your loan is approved.
I'm self-employed. How will you verify my income?
Generally, the income of self-employed borrowers is verified by obtaining copies of personal (and business, if applicable) federal tax returns for the most recent two-year period. However, based on your entire financial situation, we may not need full copies of your tax returns.
Will my overtime, commission, or bonus income be considered when evaluating my application?
In order for bonus, overtime, or commission income to be considered, you must have a history of receiving it and it must be likely to continue.
I am retired and my income is from pension or social security. What will I need to provide?
We will ask for copies of your recent pension check stubs, or bank statement if your pension or retirement income is deposited directly in your bank account. Sometimes it will also be necessary to verify that this income will continue for at least three years since some pension or retirement plans do not provide income for life. This can usually be verified with a copy of your award letter. If you don't have an award letter, we can contact the source of this income directly for verification.
If you're receiving tax-free income, such as social security earnings in some cases, we'll consider the fact that taxes will not be deducted from this income when reviewing your request.
Can I apply for a loan before I find a property to purchase?
Yes, applying for a mortgage loan before you find a home may be the best thing you could do! If you apply for your mortgage now, we'll issue an approval subject to you finding the perfect home. We'll issue a pre-approval letter online instantly. You can use the pre-approval letter to assure real estate brokers and sellers that you are a qualified buyer. Having a pre-approval for a mortgage may give more weight to any offer to purchase that you make.
When you find the perfect home, you'll simply call your Mortgage Specialist to complete your application. You'll have an opportunity to lock in our great rates and fees then and we'll complete the processing of your request.
If I have income that's not reported on my tax return, can it be considered?
Generally, only income that is reported on your tax return can be considered when applying for a mortgage. Unless, of course, the income is legally tax-free and isn't required to be reported.
Are we right for you?
Whether you're purchasing or refinancing, we're certain you'll find our service amazing!
If you'll be purchasing but haven't found the perfect home yet, complete our application and we'll issue an approval for a mortgage loan now with no obligation!
How will rental income be verified?
If you own rental properties, we'll generally ask for the most recent year's federal tax return to verify your rental income. We'll review the Schedule E of the tax return to verify your rental income, after all expenses except depreciation. Since depreciation is only a paper loss, it won't be counted against your rental income.
I have income from dividends and/or interest. What documents will I need to provide?
Generally, two years personal tax returns are required to verify the amount of your dividend and/or interest income so that an average of the amounts you receive can be calculated. In addition, we will need to verify your ownership of the assets that generate the income using copies of statements from your financial institution, brokerage statements, stock certificates or Promissory Notes.
Typically, income from dividends and/or interest must be expected to continue for at least three years to be considered for repayment.
Do I have to provide information about my child support, alimony or separate maintenance income?
Information about child support, alimony, or separate maintenance income does not need to be provided unless you wish to have it considered for repaying this mortgage loan.
Will my second job income be considered?
Typically, income from a second job will be considered if a one-year history of secondary employment can be verified.
I've had a few employers in the last few years. Will that affect my ability to get a new mortgage?
Having changed employers frequently is typically not a hindrance to obtaining a new mortgage loan.
I was in school before obtaining my current job. How do I complete the application?
If you were in school before your current job, enter the name of the school you attended and the length of time you were in school in the "length of employment" fields. You can enter a position of "student" and income of "0."
If my property's appraised value is more than the purchase price can I use the difference towards my down payment?
Unfortunately, if you are purchasing a home, we'll have to use the lower of the appraised value or the sales price to determine your down payment requirement.
I'm getting a gift from someone else. Is this an acceptable source of my down payment?
Gifts are an acceptable source of down payment, if the gift giver is related to you or your co-borrower.
I am selling my current home to purchase this home. What type of documentation will be required?
If you're selling your current home to purchase your new home, we'll ask you to provide a copy of the settlement or closing statement you'll receive at the closing to verify that your current mortgage has been paid in full and that you'll have sufficient funds for our closing. Often the closing of your current home is scheduled for the same day as the closing of your new home. If that's the case, we'll just ask you to bring your settlement statement with you to your new mortgage closing.
I am relocating because I have accepted a new job that I haven't started yet. How should I complete the application?
Congratulations on your new job! If you will be working for the same employer, complete the application as such but enter the income you anticipate you'll be receiving at your new location.
If your employment is with a new employer, complete the application as if this were your current employer and indicate that you have been there for one month. The information about the employment you'll be leaving should be entered as a previous employer. We'll sort out the details after you submit your loan for approval.
I've co-signed a loan for another person. Should I include that debt here?
Generally, a co-signed debt is considered when determining your qualifications for a mortgage.
How will a past bankruptcy or foreclosure affect my ability to obtain a new mortgage?
If you've had a bankruptcy or foreclosure in the past, it may affect your ability to get a new mortgage. Unless the bankruptcy or foreclosure was caused by situations beyond your control, we will generally require that two to four years have passed since the bankruptcy or foreclosure. It is also important that you've re-established an acceptable credit history with new loans or credit cards.
I have student loans that aren't in repayment yet. Should I show them as installment debts?
Any student loan that will go into repayment within the next six months should be included in the application. If you are not sure exactly what the monthly payment will be at this time, enter an estimated amount.
Closing & BeyondHurray! Your loan has been approved and your loan closing date has been set! This section will give you some idea of what to expect at closing and what happens after closing.
What happens at the loan closing?
The closing will take place at the office of a title company or attorney in your area who will act as our agent. If you are purchasing a new home, the seller may also be at the closing to transfer ownership to you, but in some states, these two events actually happen separately.
During the closing you will be reviewing and signing several loan papers. The closing agent or attorney conducting the closing should be able to answer any questions you have or you can feel free to contact your Mortgage Specialist if you prefer.
Just to make sure there are no surprises at closing, your Mortgage Specialist will contact you a few days before closing to review your final fees, loan amount, first payment date, etc.
The most important documents you will be signing at the closing include:
HUD-1 Settlement Statement
This document provides an itemized listing of the final fees charged in connection with your loan. If your loan is a purchase, the settlement statement will also include a listing of any fees related to the transaction between you and the seller. If this loan will be a refinance, the settlement statement will show the pay off amounts of any mortgages that will be paid in full with your new loan. Most items on the statement are numbered according to a standardized system used by all lenders. These numbers will correspond to the numbers listed on the Good Faith Estimate that will be provided in your application package. This document is also commonly known as the closing statement and both the buyer and seller must sign this document.
Truth-in-Lending Statement (TIL)
This document provides full written disclosure of the terms and conditions of a mortgage, including the annual percentage rate (APR) and other fees. It is exactly the same as the TIL that you received immediately after your initial application, except it has been updated to reflect the final rate and fee information. Federal law requires that all lenders provide you with this document at closing.
This is the document you sign to agree to repay your mortgage. The note will provide you with all of the details of your loan including the interest rate and length of time to repay the loan. It also explains the penalties that you may incur if you fall behind in making your payments.
Mortgage / Deed of Trust
This document pledges a property to the lender as security for repayment of a debt. Essentially this means that you will give your property up to the lender in the event that you cannot make the mortgage payments. The Mortgage restates the basic information contained in the note, as well as details the responsibilities of the borrower. In some states, the document is called a Deed of Trust instead of a Mortgage.
If your loan is a refinance, Federal Law requires that you have three days to decide positively that you want a new mortgage after you sign the documents. This means that the loan funds won't be disbursed until three business days have passed. The closing agent will provide more details at the closing.
Will I need to have an attorney represent me at closing?
In some areas of the country it is very customary, and sometimes required by law, to have an attorney represent you at the closing. In other areas, attorneys are not as common at a real estate closing. Please contact the closing agent if you have questions about attorney representation. By all means, we recommend that you have an attorney at the closing if it would make you more comfortable. If your attorney has any questions about your new mortgage, please refer them to your Mortgage Specialist. We'd be happy to provide any information necessary.
Can I get advanced copies of the documents I will be signing at closing?
The most important documents you will sign at closing are the note and mortgage, sometimes called the deed of trust. Unless there are special circumstances, these documents are usually prepared one to two days before your closing. Other documents are prepared by the closing agent the day before or the day of your closing. If you would like copies of the completed documents to be sent to you after they are prepared, please contact your Mortgage Specialist.
Who will be at the closing?
The closing agent acts as our agent and will represent us at the closing. However, your personal Mortgage Specialist will contact you prior to closing to talk about your final documents and to provide a final breakdown of your closing fees. If you have any questions that the closing agent can't answer during the closing, ask them to contact your Mortgage Specialist by phone and we'll get you the answers you need - before the closing is over!
I won't be able to attend the closing. What other options are there?
If you won't be able to attend the loan closing, contact your Mortgage Specialist to discuss other options. If someone you trust is able to attend on your behalf, you can execute a Power of Attorney so that this person can sign documents on your behalf. In other cases, we're able to mail you the documents in advance so that you can sign them and forward them to the closing agent. We're sure to have a solution that will work in your circumstances.
If I apply, where will the closing take place?
We use a nationwide network of closing agents and attorneys to conduct our loan closings. We'll schedule your closing to take place in a location that is located near your home for your convenience.
We'll deliver our loan documents and wire transfer your loan funds to the closing agent or attorney prior to closing so that they'll have plenty of time to prepare for your closing.
Can I make my monthly payments with an automated debit from my account?
Automated monthly payments are available. Prior to the loan closing your Mortgage Specialist will go over the details if you should choose this option.