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Home Loan Basics (Products and Terms)

Acronyms like ARM, DTI, FICO, PITI, and IO tend to turn up in every other sentence when it comes to home loan discussions. Conventional, nonconforming, equity, principal, and amortization are all terms that are often used. Nonconforming 5/1 ARMs and Conforming 30-year fixed ARMs are two types of products. To get a home loan, you don't need to be a specialist on mortgage terminology. Simply understanding a few main items, definitions, and words will give you a leg up when discussing your loan options.

Is a home loan the same thing as a mortgage?

A mortgage is the formal deal you make with the creditor for the debt, and a home loan is the money you borrow from the bank to buy your home. In fact, however, almost everyone within and outside the lending sector uses the words interchangeably.

What is the difference between a conventional and nonconventional loan?

Conventional loans are those that are not guaranteed by the state. Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) are two companies that sell traditional loans (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation). Despite the fact that all agencies are government-sponsored entities (GSEs), the government does not guarantee the loans they provide.

Nonconventional loans, on the other hand, are protected or secured by the government institution that makes them. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Agriculture all have loan services (USDA).

How do conforming and nonconforming loans differ?

Conventional loans, which aren't subsidized by the government, may be classified as conforming or nonconforming. Conforming loans adhere to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rules. Nonconforming loans are those that do not adhere to these rules. There are a variety of reasons that a loan may not satisfy Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac's requirements, but one of the most important is a large loan number.

What are some common loan products?

Conforming Loans

Conforming loans are one of the most common types of home loans. The maximum appropriate debt limit on a conforming loan in most parts of the United States is $484,350, but this amount can be higher in designated high-cost areas. Conforming loans are common because they typically have lower interest rates than other types of loans.

VA Loans

The VA home loan program assists qualifying service members and veterans in purchasing or refinancing their homes. Active duty employees, Veterans, Reservists, National Guard holders, and certain surviving spouses are qualified for VA loans. A VA loan does not entail a down payment or the buying of mortgage insurance since it is backed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) guarantees FHA loans, which are a kind of nontraditional loan. FHA loans are popular with borrowers because they require a lower down cost and a lower credit score than conventional mortgages.

Jumbo Loans

Nonconforming mortgages with debt sums greater than those approved by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are known as jumbo loans. Jumbo loans have higher interest rates and tighter underwriting conditions than conforming loans because they are deemed riskier.

Portfolio Loans

It's a loan that the investor who gave the borrower the money chooses to hold in their investment account, hence the term. The lender establishes its own guidelines and terms on the loan by holding it and taking on any liabilities involved with it.

What are some options I can get with my mortgage?

30 year, 20 year, 15 year, and 10 year loans are available. The loan word refers to how long you have to repay your mortgage. The most common loan term is 30 years, but other options include 20, 15, and 10 years. Shorter-term loans have higher mortgage installments, but they can have lower interest rates.

Fixed or Adjustable Rate Mortgages

A fixed rate mortgage has an interest rate that stays the same over the loan term, as the name suggests. An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), on the other hand, will see the interest rate change at any time during the loan's duration. The interest rate is usually fixed for a certain time frame, such as three, five, seven, or ten years. Following the end of the fixed-rate term, the interest rate may change annually depending on a financial market index.

Interest-Only Loan

For the introductory term of the loan, usually 5 to 10 years, an interest-free loan requires the borrower to pay only the interest on the loan. Following the conclusion of the interest-only contract, the borrower's expenses would escalate to cover interest as well as a portion of the principal balance for the remainder of the term.

What are some common mortgage terms?


Amortization is the method of repaying a debt for a certain period of years of monthly installments that are fixed. The interest portion of each bill is used to decrease the principal balance, while the remainder is used to reduce the principal balance. Initially, interest consumes a significant portion of each bill. However, as time passes, a larger portion of the payment is applied to the principal balance.

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

The proportion of a borrower's monthly gross income used to cover recurring monthly loans is known as the debt-to-income ratio. It is a mechanism used by lenders to assess a borrower's willingness to repay a loan. The overall DTI ratio that is suitable varies by loan program and lender.


The cumulative amount you will pay in principal, interest, fees, and premiums per month is referred to as PITI. In this equation, the "principal" and "interest" are represented by your mortgage payment. To reflect the “tax” number, the annual property tax is broken down into monthly amounts. The term "insurance" refers to the premium payment required for homeowner's insurance (and, if applicable, private mortgage insurance). The lender calculates DTI ratios using PITI.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is a form of insurance that covers the lender in the event that the borrower defaults on the loan. When a borrower uses a traditional loan to buy a house with a down payment of less than 20%, it's usually expected.

Escrow Account

Mortgage lenders also set up an escrow account to fund property-related costs. In addition to the principal and interest, the lender applies a sum to cover property taxes and insurance costs when determining your gross monthly mortgage payment. The additional funds are placed in an escrow account before the lender pays these expenses.

Tri-merge credit report

A tri-merge credit report combines credit reports from the three main consumer monitoring companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — into a consolidated report. Instead of being combined or averaged together, each agency's credit score is reported separately on the study. The report includes reports about your new and previous credit cards, a list of recent credit report pullers, and any bankruptcies or past-due accounts.


Underwriting is the mechanism by which the lender determines whether you meet any of the loan program's conditions and assesses your ability to repay the loan. The records you submitted, your credit history, income statistics, and debt-to-income (DTI) ratios, among other items, will be scrutinized by the mortgage underwriter. For something suspicious on your credit report, you might be asked to request extra documents or a letter of explanation. This will take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Is being pre-qualified for a loan the same as being pre-approved?

Despite the fact that they appear alike, they are two distinct phases in the mortgage process. The first move in the loan process is to get pre-qualified. It can be done over the internet, online, or in person. You give the lender details about your wages, savings, and loans, and you'll get a letter with a rough estimation of how much you can borrow.

This calculation is solely dependent on the data you have. Pre-approval is the second and more active phase in the loan process. Borrowers must fill out an approved mortgage application, offer proof of income and assets, and give the lender permission to conduct a credit check. A pre-approval letter bears greater weight than a pre-qualification letter since it is dependent on verifiable information.

What are some reasons to refinance an existing mortgage?

Refinancing a mortgage is beneficial for a variety of purposes. The most often cited explanation is to lower the interest rate. A lower interest rate also translates to a lower monthly bill. Borrowers with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) can benefit from a refinance to lock in a fixed rate. Refinancing is also a good way for creditors to pay down other high-interest loans. A mortgage refinance may also be used to change the number of creditors on the loan or title.

You'll be able to communicate in the unique language of lending if you learn these basic goods and words. Through this newfound vocabulary, you can confidently discuss your home loan opportunities with your lender.

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