Aurel Garban - Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty


Are you planning to buy a home? There is a chance that you will need a mortgage to finance the purchase. You can get mortgages from credit unions, banks, or other financial institutions. The fact is that you must meet some basic qualifying criteria before you qualify for a mortgage. 

Depending on the lender, there are different requirements that you have to meet to qualify for a mortgage. Apart from that, the type of mortgage that you get depends mainly on the lender you use. Here are five key mortgage factors that you must know:

Your Credit Score 

Your borrowing behavior and past payment history determine your credit score. Therefore, your lender checks your credit history when you apply for a mortgage. The first thing a lender will do is to check your credit score. When you have a higher credit score, getting a mortgage with a reasonable interest rate will not be difficult.

Your Debt-to-income Ratio 

The Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is the amount of debt you have compared with your income. This ratio includes your mortgage payment. For you to qualify for a conventional mortgage, your DTI must not be more than 35 percent. Some lenders may allow you to borrow a little more while some may have stricter rules. If you have a massive debt, what you can do is go for a cheaper home with a smaller mortgage or you clear your debt before you consider borrowing for a house.

Your Down Payment

Typically, the lender wants you to have some equity in the home by putting money down. Your investment is to ensure that the lender recovers all the money they have loaned you should you default. Therefore, you are required to put down 20 % of the value of your home and borrow the remaining 80% when buying a house. In some cases, a mortgage requires a 5% down payment, while other mortgage types may permit a 3% down payment for a highly qualified lender.

Your Work History

All lenders, irrespective of the type, will demand to see your proof of employment. They check to make sure that you have a stable income and have been working for at least two years.

The Value and Condition of the Home 

Lenders will be interested to know the value and the condition of the home you are buying to determine if the house is actually worth the amount. A home inspection and home appraisal are needed to make sure the home you are buying is in excellent condition and of good value.

Speak to your real estate agent and financial consultant to get prepared for your home buying process.


In your quest to buy a home, you might check out properties online or looking up houses around your neighborhood up for sale. These are all steps you must first make to attain your desire of becoming a homeowner. Before you go into your search proper, there is something you need to do; it’s called getting pre-approved for a mortgage. 

A mortgage pre-approval involves lenders going through your financial records to determine how creditworthy you are. It’s a process that allows the lender to go through your financial records to determine if you are loan qualified and how much you are eligible to borrow. Being qualified for a mortgage differs from being pre-approved – the latter holds more value to a lender. 

The purpose of getting pre-approved is to convince the lender that if granted the loan, you would be able to payback. Another reason lender asks for pre-approval is to be clear on all your financial situations. The pre-approval process involves lenders going through your financial records either on your request or at their discretion.  The following are things and documents you would be pre-approved about before applying for a mortgage loan.

Proof of Income

The documents showing your income statement is required to validate how much you earn on the average annually. It’s an essential document for pre-approval and underwriting. It involves you presenting your W-2 statements for the past two years, your most recent pay stubs (at least two) and any other additional source of income or bonuses. 

Proof of Employment

Aside from going through your pay stubs, a lender will also want to confirm your employment status from your employer and verify how much you earn. If the job you are working in is a new one, a lender might contact your previous employer. All these are procedures the lender undertakes to ensure they are borrowing to a financially stable individual. Self-employed people would need to provide more critical paperwork about their business. 

Credit Information

A lender would want to measure your debt-to-income ratio before granting you a loan. This procedure involves ascertaining if you are currently repaying any debt like a car loan, student loan or any other loan form. Providing documents relating to this information is vital.

Social Security Number

Lenders need your social security number to verify your identity, to attain your credit reports and also to request your tax returns from IRS. The information is made available through your social security cards, tax documents and all other documents showing your SSN.

Bank Statements

Your bank statement is required to determine if you have enough cash or investments needed to make a down payment, conclude closing cost and still maintain a cash reserve. Your bank statement is one of the essential documents nearly all lenders will request to see to ensure you have enough funds. 

The pre-approval process is the first place a serious homebuyer begins the home application process. Speak to a financial consultant or your real estate agent to help you secure one.


Your 401K is a great resource of investing for retirement. Many people use their 401k’s as a part of their overall investment strategies, pulling money out of it when it’s needed. When you’re ready to buy a house, you may think that pulling money out of your 401k for a down payment is a good idea. But think again. 


Although you should always speak with a financial professional about your money matters, the bottom line is that is probably not the best idea to use your 401k to supply money for a downpayment on a home. 


First, your 401k funds are pre-tax dollars. That means that you haven’t paid any taxes on these funds. Your employer will often match the amount of money that you put into your 401k, as an incentive to help you save money for your future. You need to keep your 401k for a certain amount of time before any funds in the 401k become available to you without having to pay any kind of penalty. If you decide to take on the penalty, you can often face a cut to your employer’s match programs as well. This is why you must make this decision wisely. 


The Penalties


Anyone under the age of 59.5 pays a penalty of 10 percent to take the money out of the fund. In addition, you’ll now need to pay taxes on this money, because it becomes a part of your adjusted gross income. 


Alternative Actions


If you are looking to invest in a property, there may be other options for you rather than pulling money out of your 401k. While some plans allow you to borrow money from it. However, if your only option to get money to invest in a property is to pull money from your retirement account, it may not be the best time to invest in property for you. 


Keep It Separate


If you’re younger (say in your 30’s or 40’s) your best option is to have a completely separate account that is used to save for a downpayment and other expenses that you’ll incur when you buy a home. In this sense you aren’t spreading yourself too thin as far as investments go. You should compartmentalize your money. Buying a home is a large investment in itself. Home equity can also be a good source of a nest egg in later years when you need it. However, even if a property will be an income property, it’s never smart to take from one investment account to provide for another unless you’re shifting your focus. You don’t want to reach retirement, only to see that your funds have been depleted and you can’t retire as expected.


You’ve been paying off your mortgage for 10 years, building equity while making careful financial decisions to ensure that you’re on track to pay off your mortgage. So, all of those payments are essentially money in the bank for you, right?

Not quite. The equity you’ve built toward is home isn’t really accessible until you either fully pay off the home, sell your home and use your equity toward a down payment, or use it to take out a second mortgage.

In today’s article, we’re going to be talking about second mortgages--what they are, when to use them, and when you should seek out other options. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

What is a second mortgage?

A second mortgage is somewhat deceptively named. The process of taking out a second mortgage revolves around using your equity as collateral toward a second loan. That loan amount doesn’t have to be used toward a home, however. It can be spent pretty much at the discretion of the homeowner, as long as you stay within the spending limits of the loan terms.

Why take out a second mortgage?

Homeowners typically take out a second mortgage when an expense is tossed their way, whether foreseen or unforeseen. It could be a costly house or vehicle repair, a child’s education, or any other large expense that you might not have been aptly prepared for.

Types of second mortgages

There are two main types of second mortgages that homeowners qualify for. First is a standard home equity loan. You receive a fixed-rate loan that usually paid off over a loan term of 15 or 30 years.

The other type of second mortgage is a home equity line of credit (HELOC, for short). A HELOC is similar to a credit card in that you are approved for a certain amount but don’t need to spend the full amount.

Risks of home equity lines of credit

This type of loan is ideal for expenses that you maybe don’t know the full cost of. However, there is an inherent risk in taking on an expense that might go over the credit limit of your HELOC.

Just like with credit cards, interest rates vary. However, the interest rate is linked to something called a “benchmark rate.” When interest rates for the benchmark increase, so do your HELOC rates.

Aside from the variable interest rates, HELOCs can also prove to be difficult to manage for people who are already in credit card debt. So, it’s only recommended that you take out a HELOC if you are sure that you can stay on top of your monthly payments and are in good standing with other credit lenders.

Risks of home equity loans

Standard home equity loans aren’t without their own risks. For one, you’re putting your house on the line when you take out a second mortgage. So, before taking out a home equity loan on a new expense, be sure that you can manage that expense or you could risk losing your home.

Having a second mortgage can also make it difficult to refinance your home loan, which could cost you in the long run if it would otherwise pay off to refinance.

Benefits of second mortgages

Second mortgages do have their time and place. Home equity loans, for example, can help you achieve a lower interest rate than a typical loan if you have a great deal of equity built in your home. This could make the most financial sense over the long term.

Similarly, a HELOC might be a better option than a credit card for homeowners who don’t have a credit score high enough to land them a good interest rate.




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