At a glance, buying a home seems like a daunting and complicated process. If it's your first time buying a home you're probably hearing a lot of terms that don't mean much to you like "rate commitment," "prequalify," and an array of acronyms that no one has ever really explained like APR and ARM.
What many first time homebuyers don't realize is that the mortgage application process is relatively straightforward. It's a way for lenders to determine if they will lend money to the homebuyer.
The lender will require some documentation on your part and you'll want to do your homework when it comes to choosing the right mortgage for you, but if you're confused about where to begin, here's everything you need to know about the home mortgage application process.
Gather your documents
Each lender will be slightly different when it comes to what records and documents they require from you. In general, lenders will require two years of work history, proof of income, and tax papers. They will also ask for your permission to run a credit check. Some things you should bring when applying for a mortgage include:
- Your most recent pay stubs (at least two)
- Your most recent W-2 forms
- Completed tax returns
- Bank statements
- Gift letters
- Debt - credit cards, student loans, etc.
Filling out the application
The actual application for the mortgage is pretty simple. Be expected to provide your personal and marital information, as well as your social security number.
When you apply for a loan you'll also be determining if you're applying singly or with another person, such as a spouse. Some people apply jointly to seek a higher loan amount. However, you should be aware that if this is your plan of action the lender will require income and credit information from both of you. Keep in mind that it isn't easy to remove one person from a home loan once the contract is signed, so you should make certain of this decision before applying jointly.
Locked-in interest rates
It won't come as a surprise to you that, like in other industries, interest rates on mortgages fluctuate. For this reason, many home buyers attempt to "lock-in" their interest rate, meaning the lender is no longer allowed to change the interest rate after signing. The benefit of locking in your interest is that it can avoid having your interest rate raised before you sign on the home. The disadvantage is that since rates fluctuate, you could miss out on a lower one.
This is also the difference between APR (annual percentage rating) and ARM (adjustable rate mortgage). With an APR, the cost of borrowing money (interest) is fixed. For an ARM, the interest rate can increase, decrease, or stay the same at different points in the repayment process.
Your financial situation is bound to fluctuate throughout your life, hopefully for the better. At some point down the road, it might make sense to refinance on your mortgage. Essentially this means you are agreeing to change the details of the mortgage to either accept a different interest rate or to alter the length of the loan term. Refinancing usually involves fees, however, so you don't want to rely on it too heavily as a fallback.