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You've started researching home loans, but some of these terms may seem like a foreign language. And what are all of these acronyms?? Well, here is your somewhat comprehensive list of common mortgage terms and their meanings.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage - An adjustable rate mortgage, commonly referred to as an ARM, is a loan type that allows the lender to adjust the interest rate during the term of the loan. Generally, these changes are determined by a margin and an index so that the interest rate changes, up or down, are based on market conditions at the time of the change. Most often these interest rate changes are limited by a rate change cap and a lifetime cap. If you apply for an adjustable rate mortgage, the lender is required to provide you with an ARM Program Disclosure which spells out the terms of the loan.

Amortization - A loan repayment plan, which enables the borrower to reduce his debt gradually through monthly payments of principal and interest.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) - To make it easier for consumers to compare mortgage loan interest rates, the federal government developed a standard format called an "Annual Percentage Rate" or APR to provide an effective interest rate for comparison shopping purposes. Some of the costs that you pay at closing are factored into the APR for ease of comparison. Your actual monthly payments are based on the periodic interest rate, not the APR.

Appraisal - An analysis performed by a qualified individual to determine the estimated value of a home.

Closing - A meeting of the parties involved in a real estate transaction to finalize the process. In the case of a purchase, a closing usually involves the seller, the buyer, the real estate broker and the lender. In the case of a refinance, the closing involves the borrower and the lender. Sometimes referred to as the settlement or the close of escrow.

Closing Costs - The total of all the items that must be paid at closing related to your new mortgage.

Closing Disclosure - This document helps you avoid costly surprises at the closing table. It is a statement of your final loan terms and closing costs. You should compare this document to your Loan Estimate. Lenders are required to provide your Closing Disclosure three business days before your scheduled closing.

Conventional Mortgage - A mortgage that is not insured or guaranteed by a government agency.

Debt to Income Ratio (DTI) – The relationship between a borrower’s monthly income and debt obligations. This is one of several metrics used by a lender to determine a buyer’s ability to repay their loan.

Earnest Money - A sum of cash paid to a seller by a buyer prior to the closing to show that the buyer is serious about buying the house. The earnest money is deducted from the purchase price at closing and is not an additional cost. Sometimes referred to as a binder deposit.

Equity - An owner's financial position in a property. Equity is the difference between the property's value and the amount that is owed on mortgages.

Escrow - Funds paid by one party to another to hold until a specific date when the funds are released to a designated individual. Generally, an escrow account refers to the funds a mortgagor pays to the lender along with their principal and interest payments for the payment of real estate taxes and hazard insurance. This is also referred to as impounds. The money is held by the lender to make payments when they are due.

Escrow Payment - The portion of a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment that is held by the loan servicing company to pay for property taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance and other items as they become due.

FHA Mortgage - A mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA loans are also known as government mortgages.

Fixed Rate Mortgage - A mortgage in which the monthly principal and interest payments remain the same throughout the life of the loan. The most common mortgage terms are 30 and 15 years. With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage your monthly payments are lower than they would be on a 15 year fixed rate, but the 15 year loan allows you to repay your loan twice as fast and save more than half the total interest costs.

Hazard Insurance - Insurance that protects a homeowner against the cost of damages to property caused by fire, windstorms, and other common hazards. Also referred to as homeowner's insurance.

Interest Rate - The cost of borrowing a lender's money. Interest takes into account the risk and cost to the lender for a loan. The interest rate on a fixed rate mortgage depends on the going market rate and how many discount points you pay up-front. An adjustable rate mortgage's interest is a variable rate made up of the index and the lender's margin.

Lender Fees - Fees that are kept by the lender to cover some of their expenses and to meet their profitability goals. Typically fees such as origination fees, points, processing/administration fees, underwriting fees and document preparation fees are lender fees. This is the area of fees that you should compare very closely from lender to lender before making a decision.

Loan Estimate - Provided within three days of an application, this piece makes it easy to shop around and compare loan offers from multiple lenders. It includes a loan’s annual percentage rate (APR) including points and other fees you pay, your projected payments, costs at closing, and cash required at closing. When you receive a Loan Estimate, it should reflect a particular loan you discussed with a lender. Check to see that everything matches your expectations. If something looks different from what you expected, ask why.

Loan to Value Ratio (LTV) - A ratio used by lenders to calculate the loan amount requested as a percentage of the value of a home. To determine the loan to value ratio, divide the loan amount by the home's value. The LTV ratio is used to determine what loan types the borrower qualifies for as well as the cost and fees associated with obtaining the loan.

Lock Period - The number of days that the lender will guarantee the interest rate offered for a loan. In order to hold the guaranteed interest rate for a loan, the loan closing must occur during the lock period.

Mortgage - The legal document used by a borrower to pledge their property as security in order to obtain a loan. In some areas of the country, the mortgage is called a "deed of trust".

Origination Fee - A fee charged by a lender as a way to cover processing expenses or to increase their profitability for originating a mortgage loan. Most commonly, the origination fee is expressed as a percent of the loan amount. For our comparison purposes, the origination fee is considered to be a lender fee.

PITI - (P)rincipal, (I)nterest, (T)axes, and (I)nsurance is a reference to the total monthly payment required to repay a mortgage in accordance with its term as well as monthly escrow payments for taxes and insurance.

Points - Fees that are collected by the lender in exchange for a lower interest rate. Commonly called discount points, each point is equal to 1% of the loan amount. For our comparison purposes, a discount point is considered to be a lender fee. To determine if it is wise to pay discount points to obtain a lower rate, you must compare the up front cost of the points to the monthly savings that result from obtaining the lower rate.

Private Mortgage Insurance - Insurance provided by a private company to protect the mortgage lender against losses that might be incurred if a loan defaults. The cost of the insurance is usually paid by the borrower and is most often required if the loan amount is more than 80% of the home's value. Sometimes referred to as mortgage insurance.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) - A consumer protection law that requires mortgage lenders and brokers to give borrowers advance notice of closing costs in the form of a Good Faith Estimate.

Settlement - A meeting of parties involved in a real estate transaction to finalize the process. In the case of a purchase, the settlement usually involves the seller, the buyer, the real estate broker and the lender. In the case of a refinance, the settlement involves the borrower and the lender. Sometimes referred to as the closing or the close of escrow.

Title - A legal written instrument evidencing a person's lawful possession of a property.

Title Insurance - An insurance policy that protects the lender (and sometimes the property owner as well) against loss due to disputes over the ownership of a property and defects in the title that were not found in the search of the public record. For our comparison purposes, the title insurance cost is considered to be a third party fee.

Truth in Lending Act - Also known as Regulation Z, this federal regulation requires a lender to provide borrowers with a disclosure estimating the costs of the loan including your total finance charge and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) within three business days of the application for a loan. This act is designed to provide consumers with a standard method of comparing the financing costs from lender to lender.

Underwriting - Detailed process of evaluating a borrower's loan application to determine the risk involved for the lender. Underwriting usually involves an in-depth analysis of the borrower's credit history, as well as an examination of the value and quality of the subject property.


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