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Making Sense of Mortgage Speak

Applying for a home loan can be overwhelming. You will need to contend with mountains of papers, contracts, documents; and do lots of planning and coordination. Add to that a whole language unique to the mortgage loan process and you have the makings of an experience unlike any other.

Agreeing to the terms of your home loan is no small matter. It is important to understand every word of the contract and terms to which you are agreeing. Although it may be easy to ignore terms you don't understand now, you may be haunted by what you did not know when you are ready to sell or refinance.

Eliminate the mystery by taking the time to familiarize yourself with the terms that are common among lenders. Following are explanations of some of the most common terms used in the home loan process. Also, don't be afraid to call on the expertise of your credit union representative. They are happy to answer any questions that you have.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage: The amount of interest the lender charges on your principal varies. ARM's generally carry provisions for minimum and maximum interest rates. If you choose an adjustable rate mortgage, you can expect to make higher payments when interest rates move closer to the maximum and lower payments when rates hover nearer the minimum.

Annual Percentage Rate: The extension of credit is a privilege, but it is not free. The annual percentage rate of your loan gives you a picture of the annual cost of the credit that had been extended to you. You will find your annual percentage rate outlined in your initial contract, and on your monthly statements.

Appraisal: A trained professional will evaluate your home to determine its value. The estimated figure is derived from a combination of factors including market conditions and the property itself.

Closing Costs: These are costs, such as points, taxes and title insurance that must be paid at closing. These costs are not included in the cost of the home and are paid separately. Depending on your situation, there are a few lenders that may be able to extend you a loan that includes the amount of purchase and the closing costs.

Default: Failure to repay your mortgage loan according to the terms set forth in the loan contract.

Equity: This term is used in reference to the value in your home above the total amount of liens against your home.

Escrow: Your lender may hold money from each payment. This money is collected to satisfy expenses of home ownership such as taxes and insurance. If you have an escrow account your mortgage company will pay tax and insurance payments as they come due.

Fixed Rate Mortgage: Unlike an adjustable rate mortgage, a fixed rate mortgage maintains constant interest rates throughout the life of the loan.

Good Faith Estimate: Potential lenders may provide written documentation of anticipated costs and fees for your mortgage. This document is called a good faith estimate. It will give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend to secure a mortgage.

Mortgage: Your mortgage is the amount of the loan you secured to purchase your home, minus the down payment. Your home serves as collateral and is considered a guarantee for the loan.

Points: Each point represents one percent of the amount of your mortgage loan. Two points on a $100,000.00 mortgage loan equals $2,000.00.

Of course, there are a number of other terms that you will encounter during the loan process. Make sure you fully understand every word of your contract before you sign on the dotted line.

Nicole Soltau
President and Founder
The Leading Online Credit Union Directory

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