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A home is one of the biggest purchases of your life. That makes choosing the right mortgage loan a critical step in the homebuying process. Our goal at Mortgage Citizen is to help you find the right home loan with the right mortgage lender.

Do you already have a home loan? We can also help you refinance your mortgage and save money.

You can get up to five free mortgage offers in minutes. There are no hidden fees or obligations. Comparing quotes is a great first step to buying your dream home.

WHAT IS A MORTGAGE?

A mortgage is a legal agreement between a borrower and a mortgage lender. The lender provides money to the borrower to purchase real estate and, in exchange, the borrower agrees to repay the loan, plus interest. The mortgage loan is secured by a home, so if the borrower fails to repay the loan, the lender can repossess the home through foreclosure and sell it to pay off the loan.

What you need to know about a mortgage loan

HOME AFFORDABILITY

Just because you qualify for a certain mortgage loan amount doesn’t mean you should buy a home in that price range. Pick a purchase price and monthly mortgage payment that leaves enough room in your budget for other financial goals like retirement and emergency savings.

CREDIT SCORE

Although you may qualify for some home loan programs with a credit score as low as 500, a 620 score will get you lower mortgage rates with a smaller down payment. Get your free credit score to see where you stand, then take steps to boost your score as much as possible before applying for a mortgage.

INTEREST RATE

Aside from your credit score, there are several factors that determine your interest rate, including your down payment amount, loan amount, loan type and the location of your home. Your rate will also depend on the type of home you’re buying , and whether you plan to live in the home or rent it out.

DOWN PAYMENT

You can put as little as 3% down with some mortgage programs, and some borrowers can even put zero down to buy a home. If you haven’t saved your own money, you may be able to apply for down payment assistance or get a gift from a relative or friend.

MORTGAGE PROGRAM

If you have a credit score less than 620, an FHA loan may be right for you. If you’re an eligible military borrower with no down payment funds, consider applying for a VA loan.

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10 steps to getting a mortgage

Choose the type of home loan that’s right for you

Conventional Loans

Mortgages that aren’t insured by the government but conform to guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You can get a conventional mortgage loan with as little as 3% down, but you’ll need at least a 620 credit score to qualify.

FHA Loans

Home loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration and provided by FHA-approved lenders. You can put as little as 3.5% down with an FHA loan if your credit score is 580 or higher. If you have a score of 500 to 579, you’ll need to put 10% down. FHA loans come with upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums, usually for the life of the loan.

VA Loans

Mortgages backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) available to eligible military borrowers. VA loans require no down payment or mortgage insurance, but you must provide a VA certificate of eligibility to qualify.

How to shop for a mortgage

Once you’ve chosen a loan program, it’s time to start shopping around with some lenders. Compare mortgage interest rates from local lenders, banks, credit unions and online lenders. Ask family or friends for referrals, as well as your real estate agent. Try a rate comparison website, and lenders will contact you with competing offers, saving you the hassle of doing all the work yourself. You can also work with a mortgage broker who can shop on your behalf. Once you’ve gathered the contact information for three to five lenders, follow these four shopping steps:

How to qualify for a home loan

Credit scores. You’ll need at least a 620 credit score for a conventional loan and a 580 score for an FHA loan (with a 3.5% down payment). VA and USDA lenders might require a minimum 620 and 640 credit score, respectively.

Down payment. Conventional loans are available with a 3% down payment (income limits may apply). You’ll need at least 3.5% down for an FHA loan. There may be no down payment required if you’re eligible for a USDA or VA loan.

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your DTI ratio is a measure of your total monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Lenders recommend a DTI ratio at or below 43%. You may be able to qualify for a mortgage with a DTI ratio as high as 50%, but you’d need a good credit score and/or a larger down payment

Employment history. Lenders look for proof of steady employment and income for the past two years. Have your pay stubs, W-2s and federal tax returns ready for your lender.

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