Buying a home requires plenty of homework (no pun intended). There are new concepts to grasp, unfamiliar terminology to learn, and plenty of decisions to make along the way.
The mortgage loan interest rate is one of the topics that confuse a lot of home buyers, especially the first-time buyers who are new to the process. So in this article, I’ll explain how an interest rate gets applied to a home loan, and how it affects you as the borrower.
5 Things a Buyer Should Know
1. The rates offered by a lender will vary from one person to the next. It’s largely based on a borrower’s credit score. The higher your score, the better the rates you’ll be offered when applying for a loan. This is why you see so much fine print on the advertisements of mortgage companies — there’s a lot of variance involved. So when they offer a “teaser rate” in their marketing materials, it may or may not apply to you.
2. The interest rate is one of four factors that will determine the size of your monthly mortgage payment. Collectively, these factors are referred to with the acronym PITI. The ‘P’ stands for the principal amount you borrow. The first ‘I’ stands for the interest you pay on the loan. The ‘T’ is for taxes on the home. Lastly, the final ‘I’ is for insurance (i.e., the homeowner’s policy you are required to have before closing.)
3. In order to qualify for the best rates on a mortgage loan, borrowers need a higher credit score today than they needed just a few years ago (a 750 or higher in many cases). If you’ve been watching the news lately, you can probably guess why. The subprime mortgage mess of 2007 – 2008 has led to tougher restrictions on lenders. In turn, the lending institutions have tightened up on their loan criteria for qualification, rate assignments, etc.
4. Every buyer should study the key differences (and pros and cons) between adjustable and fixed-rate home loans. With an adjustable mortgage, or ARM, the interest rate will typically start out low for an introductory period. This period commonly lasts for three to five years, after which the loan will adjust or “reset” to a higher rate. In many cases, this increase can be significant and will therefore lead to a bigger mortgage payment each month.
5. For buyers who plan to remain in a house longer than three to five years, the fixed-rate mortgage is usually the best option. As the name suggests, this type of loan will carry the same level of interest for the entire time you’re paying it (regardless of what the economy does). This offers a level of financial certainty, which for many borrowers is all the reason they need to choose this option over the ARM.
Clearly there is much more to learn about interest rates, as they apply to buying a house. But I hope the points I’ve made above give you a better understanding of this subject. I recommend you learn more about each of the items covered above, particularly the pros and cons of adjustable versus fixed mortgages. Being an educated consumer is the first step toward success in the real estate world.
Citation Note: The original version of this article was written by Brandon Cornett. Brandon is the publisher of the Home Buying Institute, which includes one of the largest libraries of mortgage advice for home buyers.