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With rates sitting at or below record levels all year long, 2012 continues to be a fascinating year for mortgages. If you're thinking about diving into the real estate market -- and also you need to make sure you get the best mortgage possible -- follow these 5 tips:

1. Understand your personal worth

I am not talking about value -- but, instead, your worth as a customer! If you are the kind of person a lender would consider a "quality customer" -- meaning you've got great credit, little to no debt, and a hefty checking account -- there is no reason for you to be paying an arm along with a leg in rates or fees.

Actually, you ought to be capable of getting away with paying far less than 4% interest, which is a major contrast from even a year ago!

2. Be ready

You don't have to be considered a Boy Scout to reside as much as this motto. The easiest method to obtain a good mortgage would be to avoid surprises along the way.

Dee Pili

Start by getting a copy of the credit history well before are applying for any mortgage, and scan it for mistakes. Then, use a mortgage calculator to determine what you can REALLY afford. This way, you can avoid getting a mortgage that's too big.

When it comes time to meet having a lender, have all of your bank statements and tax documents all set to go (bonus points for making extra copies of these ahead of time!). For those who have any potential red flags, be prepared to discuss them. Be honest, and do not try to hide anything.

In a nutshell -- think ahead and try everything you are able to to appease lenders which are coping with tight standards!

3. Choose a shorter-term

Even though 30-year rates are in insanely-low levels, 15-year rates are even lower. Sure, you will need to spend more in payments each month having a 15-year mortgage, but you'll be able to save thousands of dollars in interest when all is said and done!

4. See how long the quotes are great for

Lenders can't offer the same rate indefinitely. Which means you will need to do some comparison shopping making a decision relatively quickly.

But before you panic, ask your lender how long the quote will work for. You may not have to rush around you thought!

5. Get the lowdown on fees

If you feel interest rates are the only extra charge you're going to have to deal with, think again! You might spend a few $ 100 just with an application fee (that's the money you have to pay your lender to process the application and check your credit). You may even have to pay to have an appraiser to come out and see the worth of your house.

And, if you cannot afford a 20% down payment, count on spending at least $50 per month for private mortgage insurance. Luckily, though, this really is one fee you can skip, simply by saving up a little longer before you buy a home. As an additional advantage, the greater money you place down, the more equity you will have in your new home right from the start!

Bottom line -- don't skip over the small print. Every mortgage offers are going to be filled with it, so you will need to make sure you understand everything. If you do not, you can get a major (expensive!) surprise later!