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Understanding Financing Options

Buying a home is thrilling and understanding how to pay for it is important--to say the least. Let's talk about mortgages, down payments, and other such financing things so you can make well-informed choices when looking at YOUR options.

1. Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages: Stability or Flexibility

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage: This mortgage type comes with a stable interest rate throughout the loan term. This means if you buy your home with a 5% interest rate, in 20 years, your interest rate will still be 5%. This provides predictability. This is ideal for those who prefer financial stability and plan to stay in their homes for an extended period. In fact, this is the type of rate I would recommend MOST people get, unless you are a seasoned investor or are savvy with finances.

  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM): An ARM has an interest rate that can fluctuate based on market conditions. This introduces an element of uncertainty. Why would anyone go for this? Well, generally there is an initially lower interest rate, which could provide potential savings. ARMs may suit those planning shorter-term stays or expecting changes in their financial situation. If you are unfamiliar with ARM's and your lender is recommending one for your, be sure to get a second opinion and study up on the topic!

2. Down Payment Structures: Traditional vs. Specialized Programs

  • Traditional 20% Down Payment: Historically, a 20% down payment has been the norm, offering benefits such as lower monthly payments and avoiding private mortgage insurance (PMI). However, this may poses a significant upfront financial challenge for many homebuyers. If you have enough saved up for a 20% down payment, this may be the way to go.

  • Specialized Programs: These programs are excellent and commonly used by first-time home buyers. There are a number of programs available these days that allow home buyers to purchase a home with 10%.. 5%... 3% or even 0% down! The goal for these programs is to make homeownership more accessible. If you don't have 20% saved up, oftentimes, one of these specialized programs is the best option.

  • If you are looking at these options and thinking "I'm going to save up 20% before I buy so I don't have to pay mortgage insurance", ask yourself, "How long is it going to take me to save up 20%?" and "How much will home prices increase in that time?". The other thing to be aware of here is if you buy a home and have to pay mortgage insurance, you can put extra money towards your mortgage principal and once your equity reaches 20% your you can usually have the mortgage insurance removed.

3. Get Pre-Qualified: It's A Great First Step

  • What is a Pre-Qualification? It is a preliminary assessment of your financial health, giving you an estimate of how much you can borrow. A lender can usually give you a quick pre-qualification after a 2-5 minute conversation or after you fill our a short form on their website. This does not require your credit to be pulled or any formal documentation... I like to call it a "ball park estimate".

Understanding different mortgages and down payments is crucial for planning how to buy a home that fits your goals. Whether you want a steady mortgage rate or a program with lower initial payments, each decision gets you closer to owning your dream home.

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