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I get it. Mortgages can be a lot at first! Let's start with the key points/or better yet, keywords that come with mortgages. Having an understanding of the terminology around mortgages will make your process so much easier to understand and I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Let's dive in!


A loan from a financial institution, such as a bank, credit union, or mortgage company, enables you to buy real estate. The real estate secures the loan.



An expert estimate of the value of the home, condo, or land. An appraisal is completed by a certified professional called an appraiser.


Closing Costs

Fees that are paid by buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction. Though typically between 2% and 7%, they vary from state to state and transaction to transaction. For instance, a cash transaction will have fewer closing costs than one in which you are obtaining financing to purchase the real estate.


Conventional Loan

A mortgage that is not insured by any government agency, such as FHA or VA. A conventional loan usually has a fixed rate and terms. Historically, this is the loan that required 20% down; however, there are now many programs that do not have that requirement and are not the low or no down payment loans of FHA or VA.


Debt-to-Income Ratio

A number that measures your monthly debt versus your monthly income. To calculate DTI, divide your monthly debt payments (rent, utilities, credit cards, etc) by your gross monthly income. The number affects the kind of loan you can get as well as your credit score.


Down Payment

A payment that is made in cash during the purchase of a home. Also called “escrow”, the down payment is typically refundable within a certain time period if certain criteria are met. Initial down payments are usually between 1% and 5%.



In simplest terms, equity is ownership. When asked, “Who owns this house?”, some people answer, “Me. And the bank.” Equity is the difference between what the house is worth and how much is still owed on the mortgage.


FHA Loan

A loan guaranteed, or insured, by the Federal Housing Administration. Buyers who qualify for FHA loans typically can use smaller down payments and have some of the closing costs paid by the seller. This loan is designed to help low- to moderate-income borrowers become homeowners.


Loan Commitment

A lender promises to lend a business or individual a specific amount of money.


Loan Originator

Broadly speaking, your lender. A loan originator is the salesperson or mortgage broker you first speak with. This is the person who takes your information, prequalifies or preapproves you for a loan, and is generally your first point of contact for all mortgage things throughout the buying process. A loan originator works with a team of other mortgage professionals, such as underwriters, loan processors, and coordinators.


Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance is insurance that protects the lender if you default on your loan. It is often required on loans in which you put down less than 20%. When issued for a conventional loan, MI will drop off once you pay in 20% on the principle. With an FHA loan, however, MI remains for the life of the loan. An upfront fee of 1.75% of the loan is due upfront (or rolled into your monthly payment) while a monthly premium of 0.4% to 1.05% is rolled into your monthly payment


Origination Fee

A fee that is charged by your lender to cover the costs of processing your loan application. This fee can be anywhere from 0.5% to 2%. Some lenders waive the origination fee, though look for other names such as processing fee, underwriting fee, and application fee.



An acronym which stands for Principle, Interest, Taxes, Insurance. These are the items that make up your monthly mortgage payment.



Mortgage points or discount points. These are fees you can pay to your lender to “buy down” your interest rate. A lower interest rate usually results in a lower monthly mortgage payment. One point generally costs 1% of your mortgage amount. The amount it buys down your interest rate depends on your lender.



The pre-qualification for a loan. A pre-approval is a lender’s offer to loan you a specific amount of money based on specific criteria. The preapproval usually expires after a certain period of time, such as 90 days. When a lender preapproves you, they have substantiated some or all of the information needed from you, such as income and debts.




A step below a pre-approval. A pre-qualification is a lender’s offer to loan you a specific amount of money to buy a house. Unlike a pre-approval, a pre-qualification is based solely on what you tell the lender. A pre-qualification can be done in a matter of minutes and does not include any verification of the information you give them.



The amount of your loan; the amount of money you borrowed and have to pay back.



Interest rate. The rate varies from person to person and is affected by things such as your credit score.


Rate Lock

An agreement between you and your lender to lock in your interest rate for a specific amount of time. You want to lock your rate when interest rates are on the rise, but not if they are trending downwards.



This is a part of the origination process. In underwriting, the lender determines whether the risk you pose is acceptable enough to loan money to you. In other words, the underwriter looks at your income, debts, payment history, the value of the home you wish to purchase, etc, and makes a determination about whether or not they think you will default or not on your mortgage.


There are five basic steps to the underwriting process:

1) Pre-qualification

2) Income verification and documents

3) Appraisal of the home

4) Title search and insurance

5) Approved, approved with conditions, denied, or suspended


VA Loan

A loan is available through a program established by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans help service members and their surviving spouses purchase a home. The VA determines the terms of the loans and guarantees a portion of the loan.

Contact me with any questions!

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