The Difference Between Pre-Qualified and Rep-Approved

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, odds are you’ve thrown the words “prequalified” and “preapproved” interchangeably. However, when it comes to home loans, there are some very important differences between the two.

For buyers hoping to purchase a home with a few missteps and misunderstandings as possible, it’s vital to understand the procedures involved in acquiring financing for a home.

Today, we’ll break down these two real estate jargon terms so that you can go into the mortgage approval process armed with the knowledge to help you succeed in securing a home loan.

Mortgage prequalification

Let’s start with the easy part–mortgage prequalification. Getting prequalified helps borrowers find out what kind and what size mortgage they can likely secure financing for. It also helps lenders establish a relationship with potential customers, which is why you will often see so many ads for mortgage prequalification around the web.

Prequalification is a relatively simple process. You’ll be asked to provide an overview of your finances, which your lender will plug into a formula and then report back to you whether or not you’re likely to get approved based on your current circumstances.

The lender will ask you for general information about your income, assets, debt, and credit. You won’t need to provide exact documents for these things at this phase in the process, since you have not yet technically applied for a mortgage.

Prequalification exists to give you a broad picture of what you can expect. You can use this information to plan for the future, or you can seek out other lenders for a second opinion. But, before you start shopping for homes, you’ll want to make sure you’re preapproved, not prequalified.

Mortgage preapproval

After you’ve prequalified, you can start thinking about preapproval. If you’re serious about buying a home in the near future, getting preapproved will simplify your buying process. It will also make sellers more likely to take you seriously, since you already have your financing partially secured.

Mortgage preapproval requires you to provide the lender with income documentation. They will also perform a credit inquiry to receive your FICO score.

Mortgage applications and credit scores

Before we talk about the rest of the preapproval process, we need to address one common issue that buyers face when applying for a mortgage. There are two types of credit inquiries that lenders can perform to view your credit history–hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

A soft inquiry won’t affect your credit score. But a hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points for a period of 1 to 2 months. So, when getting preapproved, you should expect your credit score to drop temporarily.

After preapproval

Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can safely begin looking at homes. If you decide to make an offer on a home and your offer is accepted, your preapproval will make it easier to move forward in closing on the home.

Once the lender checks off on the house you’re making an offer on, they will send you a loan commitment letter, enabling you to move forward with closing on the home.

3 Benefits of a Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) offers one of many financing options for homebuyers. It enables homebuyers to lock in an interest rate on a home loan and pay a set amount each month for the life of a mortgage. As such, an FRM remains a popular option for homebuyers across the United States.

Ultimately, there are many benefits to choosing an FRM, including:

1. Easy Budgeting

With an FRM, your mortgage payments will always stay the same. Thus, after you get approved for an FRM, you can budget accordingly.

An FRM often serves as a great option for homeowners who struggle to maintain a budget. It ensures your mortgage payments will never rise or fall for the life of your loan, which may make it easier for you to map out a weekly, monthly or annual budget.

In addition, an FRM will stay intact regardless of market conditions. This means you won’t have to worry about your mortgage costs rising even if interest rates increase nationally.

2. No Price Fluctuations

An FRM minimizes headaches for homebuyers, and for good reason. After you agree to FRM terms with your lender, you will know precisely what you’ll be paying for your home.

Comparatively, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) may be difficult for homebuyers to understand. This type of mortgage may fluctuate over time, which means the amount you pay in the first few years of your loan could escalate.

For example, a 5/1 ARM ensures that your interest rate will remain intact for the first five years of your loan. After the initial period, the interest rate may change annually. As a result, your monthly mortgage payments may fluctuate over the life of your loan.

3. Simple to Understand

Your lender will be able to outline the terms of an FRM with ease, as this type of mortgage ensures an interest rate is set in stone until your loan is paid in full. Plus, after you receive an FRM, you can focus on what’s important – acquiring your dream home and enjoying this residence for years to come.

With an ARM, the interest rate for your loan may move up and down over the years. The factors that cause the interest rate to fluctuate are based on numerous market factors as well. Therefore, it can be tough to plan ahead for your monthly mortgage payments due to the fact that various factors may impact your loan’s interest rate.

Determining whether an FRM is right for you can be challenging. Thankfully, banks and credit unions can define all of your home financing options and respond to any concerns and questions.

Furthermore, your real estate agent may be able to put you in touch with lenders in your area. This real estate professional also is happy to offer tips and recommendations to ensure you can get the financing you need to secure your dream house.

Examine all of your home financing options closely, and you should have no trouble obtaining a home loan that matches your budget.

A Guide to VA Loans for Veterans and Servicemembers

Securing a mortgage can take years of planning and saving. Depending on credit score and financial history, it can be difficult for some people to secure a mortgage with a reasonable interest rate and down payment.

As a result, the U.S. government–at both the federal and state level–has created several programs to make the goal of homeownership more achievable for more Americans. 

These programs are designed to help a number of people, including first-time homebuyers, low-income families, people living in rural areas, Native Americans, and veterans and servicemembers of the United States military.

In today’s article, we’re going to be talking about “VA loans,” or loans guaranteed by the United States Department f Veterans Affairs.

What is a VA Loan?

When a bank chooses to approve someone for a mortgage, they have weighed the risks of that person’s ability to pay back the loan. The less certain a bank is that they will see a return on their investment with a borrower, the higher the down payment and interest rate they will require.

One incentive that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers its service members and veterans is the ability to receive a loan that is, in part, guaranteed by U.S. Government. That means that lenders can safely approve you for lower interest rates and down payments knowing that the money they are lending you is insured.

Who is eligible for a loan?

Loans guaranteed by Veterans Affairs aren’t strictly for veterans. Active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve Members may also be eligible. In addition to service members, people who are or were spouses of veterans or service members might also be eligible for a VA loan.

Specific eligibility requirements can be somewhat complicated, so it’s a good idea to visit the eligibility page or contact your local Veterans Affairs office.

What are the perks of a VA Loan?

If you’ve spent a significant portion of your time serving in the military, there’s a good chance that saving for a home has been placed on the back burner. Shopping around for a loan with an affordable down payment can be daunting or impossible for many.

Fortunately, with a VA loan eligible recipients are able to receive a loan with a low down payment or even no down payment.

In a time when down payments can average 20% of the mortgage, that can mean a lot of money you won’t have to spend up from. For example, a home that costs $275,000 would have a 20% down payment of $55,000.

What are the fees?

This great deal does come with one catch. As with many loan assistance programs, there is a fee charged for the services. On top of the funding fee charged by the VA, there are other costs associated with buying a home.

These may include appraisals, inspections, credit reports, and more. Additionally, lenders may charge a 1% flat fee for those using a VA loan.

How to Build Your Credit Before Buying a Home

What do buying a house, opening a credit card, and getting approved for an auto loan have in common? They all depend on your credit score.

Building credit is a multifaceted undertaking. In a way, this is a good thing–you wouldn’t want lenders to base their opinions solely on one aspect of your financial history. The downside is that understanding just what makes up your credit score can be difficult.

To complicate matters further, there isn’t one standard method for scoring your credit, and different credit bureaus each use their own criteria.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the factors the major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit, and give you some ways you can boost your credit.

But first, let’s talk about some of the implications of having a good credit score.

Why credit matters

Typical credit scores range anywhere from 250 to 850. The three main reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Most lenders use a combination of those scores that is reported by FICO.

Most credit reports will rank your category from “bad” to “excellent.” Here’s an example of what a credit ranking might look like:

  • Excellent: 750+

  • Good: 700 – 749

  • Fair: 650 – 659

  • Poor: 550 – 649

  • Bad: -550

U.S. legislation makes it possible for Americans to receive a free report of their credit score and to challenge and correct the score if it contains inaccuracies.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, opening a new line of credit, or taking out a loan of some kind, then the provider will likely run your credit score. Those providers are going to want to see a return on their investment, so they’ll charge interest.

If you have a high credit score, it tells the lenders that you are a low-risk investment, and therefore they can offer you a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.

Components of a credit score

There are five main factors that credit bureaus take into consideration when formulating your credit score. Not all of the factors are treated equally. Your ability to pay your bills on time, for example, is considered to be more important than the types of bills you have. Here’s a breakdown of the five components that make up a credit score:

  • 35% – Bill and loan payments

  • 30% – Current total amount of debt

  • 15% – Amount of time you’ve had credit (since you took out your first loan or opened your first credit card)

  • 10% – Types of credit (cards, loans, etc.)

  • 10 % – New credit inquiries

Quick tips for building credit

It takes time to build credit and improve your score. So, if you’re hoping to buy a home within the next few years, now is the time to start working on your credit. Here are some best practices for building credit:

  • Set up autopay for your bills to avoid late payments. Even if the service doesn’t offer autopay, you can likely set up recurring payments through your bank.

  • Settle outstanding debt. Avoiding debt that you can’t pay off will only hurt you more in the long run. Call your creditor and see if they offer debt relief programs. More likely than not they’d rather work with you to ensure they receive some repayment rather than none at all.

  • Start budgeting the right way. New budgeting software like Mint and “You Need a Budget” are easy to use and link up with your accounts. They’ll help you monitor your spending and start paying off debt.

  • Don’t open new lines of credit close to when you want to take out a loan. New credit inquiries can briefly lower your credit, especially if you make more than one. Viewing your free credit reports doesn’t count as an inquiry, so feel free to do that as often as needed to check your progress.

  • Get credit for bills you’re already paying. You can report your monthly rent payments, switch bills into your name that you contribute to, or take out a credit builder loan. All three will help you build rent without changing your spending habits.