FAQs, Terminology & More

Mortgage 101

Looking For A Mortgage Calculator?

We have a tool for you to easily calculate what your mortgage payment might be to help with financing and budgeting for a new home.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to getting a new home mortgage, there is a lot of information to digest. Read on to find answers to some of the more common mortgage and home loan questions.

How Your Credit Score Affects Loan Approval

When you are ready to obtain a mortgage at the best possible interest rate, your credit score is one the most important factors in receiving a pre-qualification or approval. In addition, your credit score and history go a long way towards determining what interest rate you may receive from your lender. Your credit score is a number that is determined from the information in your credit report. Credit scores can range from 300 to 850, depending on the credit scoring agency. The higher the number, the better your credit rating. Your credit score helps a lender establish your willingness and ability to pay. Following excellent money-management practices over time will improve your credit and enhance your potential to secure an affordable home loan.

Components of a Credit Score

Payment History – 35 percent

Your payment history has one of the biggest impacts on your overall score. It is essential that you pay bills on time. Every late payment, collection, judgment, or bankruptcy significantly lowers your score.


Amounts Owed – 30 percent

Your available credit is compared to the total amount you owe. The amount of available credit you’re using on revolving accounts is heavily weighted. A good rule is to owe 40% or less of the total amount of credit extended.


Length of Credit History – 15 percent

How long have you been borrowing money? Overall, if your accounts have been open longer, the more positive the impact on your credit score. It may be best not to close a credit card you’ve held for several years, even if you maintain little activity on the account.


Types of Credit – 10 percent

Maintaining various types of credit (credit cards, installment loans, home loans) can be beneficial to your score. In general, closed loans (such as a car loan that has been paid off) combined with active credit, demonstrate that you have experience managing your money. However, too many open installment loans can negatively affect your credit.


New Credit – 10 percent

Have you applied for new credit? Be aware that your credit score can be negatively impacted when you apply for too much new credit in a short period of time.

Mortgage Terminology

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
A mortgage in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically according to a pre-selected index.

Amount Financed
The loan amount less “prepaid finance charges”, which are lender fees paid at closing.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
A term used in the Truth-in-Lending Act that represents the percentage relationship of the total finance charge to the amount of the loan. The APR reflects the cost of your mortgage loan as a yearly rate. It will be higher that the interest rate stated on the note because it includes, in addition to the interest rate, loan discount points and fees, and mortgage insurance.

A report made by a qualified person setting forth an opinion or estimate of property value. The term also refers to the process by which this estimate is obtained.

Balloon Payment
A loan which calls for periodic payments that are insufficient to fully amortize the face amount of the note prior to maturity, so that a principal sum, known as a “balloon”, is due at maturity.

Buy Down
Optional Discount Points
A payment to the lender from the seller, buyer, or a third party, in order to reduce the interest rate.

Closing Costs
Money paid by the borrower in connection with the closing of a mortgage loan. This generally involves an origination fee, discount points, appraisal, credit report, title insurance, attorney’s fees, survey and prepaid items such as taxes and insurance escrow payments.

Closing Disclosure (CD)
The Closing Disclosure, which replaced the HUD-1 Settlement Statement/Truth in Lending Disclosure, must be received by the borrower at least three days prior to Consummation. Most lenders will prepare and deliver this document to the borrower.

Consummation Date
Date the borrower signs the Note and is obligated to the debt. Closing documents must not be signed for three business days after the borrower receives the CD. This date does not necessarily coincide with the Funding and Closing Date. If the lender requires original signed documents to be received and reviewed before funding, the Consummation Date and Closing Date will not be on the same day.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)
A Federal law requiring lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex age, marital status, receipt of income from public assistance programs or past exercising of rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

In general, a procedure whereby a disinterested third party handles legal documents and/or funds on behalf of a seller or buyer. An escrow account can be created by an attorney to handle the buyer’s deposit on the property, by the lender to cover repairs that will not be completed before the closing or by the lender to pay the property taxes and insurance premiums.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
A Federal law which requires a lender who is rejecting a loan request because of adverse credit information to inform the borrower of the source of such information.

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation FHLMC (Freddie Mac)
A corporation authorized by Congress. It purchases residential mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by the Veterans Administration as well as conventional home mortgages. It sells participation certificates whose principal and interest are guaranteed by FHLMC.

Federal National Mortgage Association FNMA (Fannie Mae)
A tax-paying corporation created by Congress to support the secondary mortgage market. It purchases and sells residential mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by the Veterans Administration as well a conventional home mortgages.

Finance Charge
Any fee representing the cost of credit, or the cost of borrowing. It is interest accrued on, and fees charged for some forms of credit. It includes not only interest but other charges as well, such as financial transaction fees.

Flood Certification
The process of analyzing whether a property is located in a known flood zone.

A legal procedure in which property mortgaged as security for a loan is sold to pay the defaulting borrower’s debt.

Hazard Insurance
A contract whereby an insurer, for a premium, undertakes to compensate the insured for loss on a specific property.

Joint Tenancy
An undivided interest in property, taken by two or more joint tenants. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the interest passes to the surviving joint tenant(s), rather than to the heirs of the deceased.

Late Payment
A payment received after the grace period stipulated in the mortgage note. Most mortgage grace periods are 10 or 15 days.

Loan Estimate (LE)
The Loan Estimate (replaces the Good Faith Estimate/Truth in Lending Disclosure), provided within 3 days of application, is a binding disclosure preventing lenders from arbitrarily changing loan terms and costs to the borrower.

Lender Credits
Money credited to a borrower during the origination of a loan, often designed to lower fees and costs.

Lender Fees
Fees charged by bands and other financial institutions for processing and funding a loan. They can include application fees, processing fees, recording fees, underwriting fees and more. Lender fees are items payable in connection with a loan and contribute to the total amount of the borrower’s costs. These are the cost of doing business.

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV)
The ratio of the loan amount divided into the lesser number, sales price or appraised value.

The termination or due date on which final payment on a loan must be paid in full.

Monthly Payment
Usually, the amount of PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) paid each month on a mortgage loan.

The conveyance of an interest in real property given as security for the payment of a loan.

The lender in a mortgage transaction.

Mortgage Insurance
Insurance against loss provided to a mortgage lender in the event of borrower default. In most cases, the borrower pays the premiums.

Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)
The consideration paid by a mortgagor (borrower) for mortgage insurance—either to the FHA or to a private mortgage insurer.

Mortgage Note
A written promise to pay a sum of money at a stated interest rate during a specified term. The not contains a complete description of the conditions under which the loan is to be repaid and when it is due.

The borrower in a mortgage transaction who pledges property as security for a debt.

Origination Charges
An upfront fee charged by some lenders, usually expressed as a percent of the loan amount. It should be added to points in determining the total fees charged by the lender that are expressed as a percent of the loan amount. Unlike points, however, an origination charge does not vary with the interest rate.

Pest Inspection Fee
While VA loans are the only loan that always require a pest inspection, the vast majority of buyers opt to have a pest inspection completed. This is a service and fee the buyer can shop for.

PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance)
The most common components of a monthly mortgage payment.

Preliminary Title Report
The results of a title company prior to issuing a title binder or commitment to ensure clear title.

Prepaid Interest
The interest that a debtor pays before the first scheduled debt repayment. For taxation purposes, most kinds of prepaid interest are expensed over the life of the loan.

Prepayment Penalty
A charge imposed by the lender if the borrower pays off the loan early. The charge is usually expressed as a percent of the loan balance at the time of repayment, or a specified number of months interest. Pre-payment penalties are not commonly associated with traditional first mortgages.

Principal & Interest (P&I)
A periodic payment, usually paid monthly, that includes the interest charges for the period plus an amount applied to amortization of the principal balance; commonly used with amortizing loans.

Primary Residence
A residence which the borrower intends to occupy as the principal residence.

Private Mortgage Insurance
Insurance written by a private company protecting the mortgage lender against loss resulting from a mortgage default.

Property Taxes
A levy on property that the owner is required to pay. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located, it may be paid to a national government, a federated state, a county or geographical region or a municipality.

Purchase Contract (Agreement Offer)
An agreement between a buyer and seller of real property, setting forth the price and terms of the sale. Also known as a sales contract.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)
A Federal law requiring lenders to provide home mortgage borrowers with information on known or estimated settlement costs. It also established guidelines for escrow account balances and the disclosure of settlement costs.

The repayment of a debt from the proceeds of a new loan using the same property as security.

Annulling a contract and placing the parties to it in a position as if there had not been a contract.

Seller Credits
A credit to the borrower’s down payment or settlement costs made by a home seller, as an alternative to a price reduction.

Tax Service Fee
A fee charged by some lenders at closing to cover the cost of paying taxes on the borrower’s property when they come due, or (if the borrower is paying taxes), verifying that the payment has been made.

The Total Interest Percentage (TIP) is a new disclosure required by Congress in the Dodd-Frank Act. The TIP tells you how much interest you will pay over the life of your mortgage loan, compared to the amount you borrowed. The total interest percentage is calculated by adding up all of the scheduled interest payments, then dividing the total by the loan amount to get a percentage. The calculation assumes that you will make all your payments as scheduled. The calculation also assumes that you will keep the loan for the entire loan term.

For example, if you have a $100,000 loan and your TIP is 50 percent, that means that you will pay a total of $50,000 in interest over the life of the loan, in addition to repaying the $100,000 that you borrowed. If your TIP is 100 percent, that would mean that you will pay $100,000 in interest (100 percent of the $100,000 loan amount) over the life of the loan.

You can find the TIP for your loan on page 3 of your Loan Estimate or page 5 of your Closing Disclosure. The TIP is most useful as a comparison point between different Loan Estimates.

Title Insurance Policy
A contract in which an insurer, usually a title insurance company, agrees to pay the insured party a specific amount for any loss caused by defects of title on real estate in which the insured has an interest as purchaser, mortgagee or otherwise.

Title – Lender’s Policy
Most title insurance is lender’s title insurance, which is paid for by the borrower but protects only the lender.

Title – Owner’s Policy
Title insurance that protects the owner against loss if there is an adverse claim against the owner’s property and that provides legal counsel to defend against adverse claims. This is a separate policy and in some areas is paid for by the seller to protect the buyer’s equity in the property.

Title Search
An examination of public records to disclose the past and current facts regarding the ownership of a given piece of real estate.

TILA-RESPA-Integrated-Disclosure -The TILA-RESPA rule consolidates four existing disclosures required under TILA and RESPA for closed-end credit transactions secured by real property into two forms: a Loan Estimate that must be delivered or placed in the mail no later than the third business day after receiving the consumer’s application, and a Closing Disclosure that must be provided to the consumer at least three business days prior to consummation..

Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA)
A federal law requiring a disclosure of credit terms using a standard format. This is intended to facilitate comparisons between the lending terms of financial institutions.