Financing Basics

Determine What You Can Afford

Each buyer is unique - and we'll help you find out just what you can afford. Your income and your debts will typically play the biggest roles in determining your price range. It's simple to make an estimate, just run the numbers for yourself using our affordability calculator.

Figure Out Your Funding

A range of mortgage options are available, and we'll help you determine which can work for you - some loans require little money down. You'll also need to consider closing costs and the escrow account for taxes and insurance. But don't get overwhelmed: it's a snap to figure out how much money you'll need using the affordability calculator.

Less-Than-Perfect Credit Report?

Don't worry, there are options that are ideal for those who have a few "dings" on their credit report. Work with your lender to develop an individual mortgage program based on your unique credit worthiness.

Tax Benefits

You may be able to deduct the interest you pay on the mortgage loan and some of the financing costs of the home, such as points. And your property taxes could be deductible. You should consult your tax advisor for more information.

Loan Programs

Finding the best loan program for your needs depends on a number of factors, including:

  • How long you'll stay in the home
  • How much money you'll put down
  • How you'll finance the closing costs

Fixed-Rate Mortgages

A fixed-rate mortgage means the interest rate and principal payments remain the same for the entire life of the loan. (Taxes, of course, may change.)

Advantages include consistent principal and interest payments make this loan stable your rate won't change, so you don't need to worry about market fluctuations. A good choice if you're likely to stay in this house for a long time.

Disadvantages include a possibly higher cost - these loans are usually priced higher than an adjustable-rate mortgage. Keep in mind that, on average, most people move or refinance within seven years. If rates in the current market are high, you're likely to get a better price with an adjustable-rate loan.

30 Year Fixed - Rate Mortgages offer consistent monthly payments for the entire 30 years you have the mortgage. So if the market is good, you can benefit from locking in a lower rate for the full term of the loan. The best choice if you're looking for a long-term, stable loan - for instance, if you're planning on staying in your house for some time.

20 Year Fixed - Rate Mortgages allow you to make a consistent monthly payment throughout the 20 years you have the mortgage. The shorter term means you pay the loan off more quickly, and therefore pay less interest. And you'll build equity faster than you would with a 30 year loan. (But remember the shorter term means higher payments, when compared to the 30 year fixed-rate mortgage.)

15 Year Fixed - Rate Mortgages mean consistent monthly payments for all 15 years you have the mortgage. By building equity even more quickly than with a 30 year or 20 year loan, and paying less interest, you'll save money in the long run. It's an ideal option if you can handle the higher payments and if you'd like to have the loan paid off in a shorter period of time - for instance, if you plan to retire.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) means that the interest rate changes over the life of the loan - according to the terms specified in advance. With ARMs:

  • The initial interest rate is usually lower than with a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • The monthly repayment would also be lower.
  • The interest rate may be adjusted (up or down) at predetermined times.
  • The monthly payment will then increase or decrease.

Most ARM programs do offer "rate cap" protection, which limits the amount the rate can be increased, both each year and over the life of the loan. All ARMs are amortized over 30 years.

Advantages include lower costs - ARMs are usually priced lower than fixed-rate mortgages so you can increase your buying power and lower your initial monthly payments. If interest rates go down, you'll enjoy lower payments. Usually an ARM is the best choice for homeowners who plan to relocate (for example, with their company or the military), or for those who are purchasing their first home and plan to be in the property only for three to five years. Remember that, on average, most people move or refinance within seven years.

Disadvantages include the possibility of increasing monthly payments if interest rates go up. Keep in mind that ARMs are best for homeowners who aren't planning on staying with a property for a long period. If you're on a fixed income, an ARM (especially a short-term ARM) may not be your best choice.

10/1 Adjustable - Rate Mortgages provide a fixed initial rate of the loan for the first ten years of repayment. After 10 years, the rate adjusts every year thereafter for the remaining life of the loan. The loan is amortized over 30 years, so you'll enjoy the stability of a 30 year mortgage at a lower price than a fixed-rate mortgage of the same term. But an ARM is likely not the best choice if you're planning on owning the same property for more than 10 years.

5/1 Adjustable - Rate Mortgages mean the initial rate remains fixed for the first five years of repayment, and then adjusts every year thereafter. Remember that your rate and monthly payments may go up after only five years, so this choice is best if you're expecting to sell or refinance the property within that period.

3/1 Adjustable - Rate Mortgages provide three years at the initial fixed-rate, then the rate adjusts every year for the remaining life of the loan. A good choice if you expect to move or refinance in a relatively short period of time. But a much shorter fixed-rate period means your interest rate (and therefore monthly payments) may begin to fluctuate after three years.