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Looking to buy your first home? Unless you have a couple hundred thousand in the bank, a rich family member or a winning lottery ticket, you’re going to have to borrow money. TV ads suggest it’s as easy as clicking your phone, and in some cases it might be, but you should know what kind of financing is available and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Conventional Mortgage

In this option you go to a bank or other mortgage lender, they give you money and you buy your house. It’s straightforward and offers the lowest interest rates. It’s also the hardest to qualify for. That’s because there’s no government agency guaranteeing to step in if you default. If you don’t pay, the bank is on their own in repossessing the property and recovering what they can.

Do I qualify for a conventional mortgage?

Whether you qualify, and what rate you’re eligible for, depend largely on three factors.

  • Your FICO credit score.

  • Your Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). A measure of your ability to pay: monthly income divided by the mortgage costs.

  • The Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV). The loan amount divided by the cost of the house. For the most favorable terms this can be no more than 80 percent, which means a 20 percent down payment. If you don’t put 20 percent down, there are other options.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Some lenders write conventional mortgages with as little as 5 percent down, but you’ll have to buy PMI. This covers part of the bank’s loss if you default. The premium depends on the three factors mentioned above. It can add up to hundreds to your monthly payment. You’ll never see that money again, but you get your foot in the housing door and enjoy any appreciation that takes place. As your principle goes down and LTV drops under 80 percent, you stop paying those premiums.

Second Mortgage

Sometimes you can use a second mortgage for some of the down payment. A common variation is the 80-10-10, where you put 10 percent down and borrow 80 and 10 percent on the first and second mortgage, respectively. The rate for the second mortgage will be higher but the overall monthly payment might be lower than with PMI.

Guaranteed Mortgages

FHA and VA mortgages. With these a government agency guarantees the loan. FHA’s can have a down payment as low as 3.5 percent, and VA’s (available to veterans) might have no down payment at all. Interest rates are higher than conventional mortgages.

Floating Rate Mortgages

Most mortgages have an interest rate fixed for the life of the loan. With floating rates, there is an introductory period of a few years with a rate lower than a fixed rate mortgage. After that, the rate varies at a predetermined percentage above the prime rate. This can get you into a home with a low initial monthly payment, and is designed for people who expect their income to increase significantly before the higher rate sets in.

Down Payment Assistance

A federal program, the Freddie Mac Home Possible Advantage, offers 97 percent loan and down payment assistance to low and moderate income buyers. Also, you can contact your state’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to see what assistance is available at the state and local level.


A pre-constructed condominium is an excellent way of getting a new space at a decent price. One of the advantages of getting a pre-constructed condominium is that it can be customized to match your style. Here are the things you be aware of when buying a pre-constructed condo:

1. Many pre-construction condominiums get delayed. Understand that many condo projects are not always ready at the expected time provided by the developers. Therefore, you should plan to move in six months later than the proposed move-in date. 

2. Expect to put up to 20 percent down. You may buy a resale condo with as little as 5 percent down payment. But, such is not the case for pre-construction condominiums. The standard is about 15 to 20% down payment except in a few instances.

3. You will have to pay HST. Newly built condos are subject to HST, unlike resale condos. It is worth noting that your purchase may qualify for the New Housing Rebate Program of the GST/HST

4. New-build condo may attract additional closing cost. Your purchase price can be increased by 1 to 3 percent through expenses like utility connection fee, HST on new appliances, as well as builder/developer adjustment charges. 

5. You may be a tenant sooner than you planned. You should also be aware that your condominium may be ready for moving in before the building project completes. In that case, the building cannot be set up as a condo corporation. Instead, you can rent the unit from a developer instead of owning it.

6. Your condo fee may rise. Condo developers attract prospective buyers with reduced monthly maintenance fees. The fees will increase after two or three years of staying in your home. These condo fees can increase significantly, so you must keep that in mind during your budget planning. 

7. Lock in your mortgage rate beforehand. Developers usually work with their preferred mortgage providers. If you are in this circumstance, you will have the opportunity to lock in at current low-interest rates. This low-interest rate will come into play as soon as you close on your condominium. 

8. The building may not look exactly like what you saw in the video or showroom. Developers have the right to adjust their plans. The indoor-outdoor may not be what you saw in the video as some features may be optional or at additional costs.

Speak to your real estate agent today about your condo deal to know what to expect before starting.


Preparing to buy a home is a long and stressful process for many. You’ve spent months, or even years, saving for a down payment, planning your future, and building your credit to ensure you get the best possible interest rate on your loan.

Then you find out, when getting preapproved for a mortgage, that your credit score dropped by a few points. So, what gives?

There’s a lot to understand about how credit scores affect mortgages and vice versa. In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to know about how applying for a mortgage can affect your credit score so you’ll be prepared when it comes time to buy a home.

Prequalification, preapproval, and credit checks

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be preapproved or prequalified for a loan. Some of it is due to the jargon that is used in real estate transactions, and some of it is just a marketing technique on the part of lenders.

So, what does it mean to be prequalified and preapproved?

The short version is that getting prequalified is a quick and easy process to determine whether you’re eligible to lend to and how much you’re likely to receive. It involves a quick review of your finances, and often includes either a self-reported or soft credit inquiry.

A “soft inquiry” is the type of credit check that employers typically use for a background check. It doesn’t affect your credit score, as you are not applying to open a new line of credit. In fact, many lenders’ process for prequalification is a simple online form that doesn’t even require a credit check. We’ll talk more about the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries later.

The simplicity of prequalification makes it a simple and easy way to get started. But, it isn’t always accurate in how well it predicts the type of mortgage and loan amount you can receive. That’s where preapproval comes in.

When you get preapproved for a loan you fill out an official application (you often have to pay for these). This will request documentation for your finances and assets, and will ask your approval to run a detailed credit report.


These credit reports are considered “hard inquiries” and are a vital step in getting approved or preapproved for a mortgage. However, they also, at least temporarily, lower your credit score.

Why hard inquiries lower your credit score

When any creditor, be it a bank or credit card company, is determining whether to lend to you, they want to know that you are a safe investment. To determine this, they want to know how frequently you pay your bills on time, how much you owe to other creditors, and how financially stable you are right now.

When you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, it’s a red flag to lenders that you might be in trouble financially. Thus, hard inquiries will lower your credit score for 1 to 2 months.

Applying to multiple lenders: the silver lining

When borrowers apply for a mortgage, they often shop around and apply to multiple lenders. While it may seem that all of these hard inquiries will add up and drastically lower their credit score, this isn’t the case.

Credit bureaus take into account the source of the inquiries. If they realize that you are applying for mortgages, they will typically recognize this as rate shopping and group these applications together on your credit report, counting them only as a single inquiry. This means your score shouldn’t drop multiple times for multiple mortgage preapprovals that were made within a small time frame.

Now that you know more about how mortgage applications affect your credit score, you can confidently shop around for the best mortgage for you and your family.


Buying a home will likely be one of the largest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. While this may seem scary at first, it’s worth noting that buying a home can also be a valuable financial investment.

When it comes to preparing to buy a home, many people just wait until they run out of room in their apartment before deciding that they need to upgrade to a home. A better approach, however, would be to start planning for your first home a year or more in advance.

Saving for a down payment is a vital step to making the best long-term financial decision. A larger down payment can help you pay off your home sooner, pay thousands or tens of thousands less in interest, and start using your home equity as an asset.

But, saving for a down payment is easier said than done. So, in this post, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can aggressively save for a down payment so that, when the time comes, you can achieve long-term financial security from your investment.

Setting your savings goals

The first thing you should be thinking about when saving for a down payment is what your goals are in a home. Setting realistic goals in this phase will make saving for your down payment more feasible and less discouraging.

Think about what you really need from a home at this point in your life and compromise where you can.

Remember that on top of your monthly mortgage payments, you’ll likely also be paying for taxes, insurance, utilities, homeowners association fees, and more.

Save on a timeline

When setting your savings goal, make sure you’re aware of the timeframe you’re working with. If you want to buy a home next year, you’ll need to focus on short-term savings options. However, if you’re okay with renting for the next 5 years, investing your money could be a better option.

Lock away your savings

Treat your down payment savings like an emergency fund. Open a separate account, automatically deposit a portion of your pay into the account, and never withdraw from it. To do this, you will, of course, need to already have an emergency fund with a month’s expenses in it.

However, once you’ve established your emergency fund, start immediately depositing into your savings account.

Pay off credit cards

It may seem like saving for a down payment is more pressing than paying off old debt. However, the numbers will show that making interest payments on your credit cards is essentially throwing away money that could have been used toward your down payment savings.

Adjust your spending habits

While it isn’t easy to start spending less once you’ve built a standard of living, there are ways to spend less money and still lead a fulfilling life. Think about where your money goes each month, including bills and services you might pay for.

Now could be the best time to cut the cord and start using a service like Hulu to save $50 or more each month.

Time for a raise?

If it’s been some time since your last pay raise, now could be an ideal time to speak with your employer. To improve your chances of success, don’t discuss reasons outside of work that might be influencing your decision to ask for a raise (such as saving for a down payment). Rather, back up your request with evidence of your accomplishments at work.


Filling out a mortgage application may prove to be a long, arduous process, particularly for those who are buying a house for the first time. Lucky for you, we're here to help you dot the I's and cross the T's on your mortgage application to ensure you can quickly and effortlessly acquire your dream house.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you prepare your mortgage application.

1. Be Diligent

A mortgage application may appear daunting at first. The application may include several pages of questions, and you may have only a limited amount of time to finalize your submission.

When it comes to completing a mortgage application, it generally pays to be diligent. If you answer each mortgage application question to the best of your ability, you likely will have no trouble moving forward with your home purchase.

2. Avoid Guessing

If you're uncertain about how to respond to certain mortgage application questions, there is no need to guess. Instead, search for the information that you need to provide a comprehensive response. This will help reduce the risk of encountering potential problems down the line that otherwise could slow down your home acquisition.

Remember, guessing on a mortgage application probably won't do you or your lender any favors. But if you allocate the necessary time and resources to understand mortgage application questions and provide thoughtful responses, you can minimize the risk of application errors.

3. Ask Questions

Completing a mortgage application sometimes can be tricky. Fortunately, a lender employs mortgage specialists who are happy to respond to your application concerns or questions at any time.

If you're unsure about information that is requested on a mortgage application, don't hesitate to reach out to a lender's mortgage specialists for help. These specialists possess extensive mortgage expertise and can help you complete a mortgage application.

Furthermore, mortgage specialists can offer insights into a wide array of mortgage options. These specialists can explain the differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages and enable you to select the right mortgage option based on your financial situation.

As you prepare to buy a house, you may want to consult with a real estate agent as well. In fact, with a real estate agent at your side, you can seamlessly navigate the homebuying process.

A real estate agent understands exactly what it takes to acquire a house, regardless of the finances at your disposal. This housing market professional can set up home showings, help you submit offers on houses and ensure you can purchase a residence that matches or exceeds your expectations. And if you need help getting a mortgage, a real estate agent may even be able to connect you with the top lenders in your city or town.

Ready to move forward in the homebuying journey? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can finalize a mortgage application and secure the financing that you need to acquire your ideal residence.




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