Frequently Asked Mortgage Questions

Do you have questions? We can help! You will find the answers to several frequently asked mortgage questions below.

What is the difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification?

The pre-approval process is much more complete than pre-qualification. For pre-qualification, the loan officer asks you a few questions and provides you with a pre-qual letter. Pre-approval includes all the steps of a full approval, except for the appraisal and title search. Pre-approval can put you in a better negotiating position, much like a cash buyer.

In Texas, we can only offer a pre-qualification letter if we have not yet received an approval commitment from the ultimate lender. If we have an underwriting approval, we can issue a pre-approval letter.

At Mortgage Associates, we always fully qualify you before issuing you a pre-qualification letter, to give you a competitive advantage when you are making an offer on your dream home.

When does it make sense to refinance?

Usually people refinance to save money, either by obtaining a lower interest rate or by reducing the term of the loan. Refinancing is also a way to convert an adjustable loan to a fixed loan or to consolidate debts. The decision to refinance can be difficult, since there are several reasons to refinance. However, if you are looking to save money, try this calculation:

Calculate the total cost of the refinance
Calculate the monthly savings
Divide the total cost of the refinance (#1) by the monthly savings (#2). This is the "break even" time. If you own the house longer than this, you will save money by refinancing.
Since refinancing is a complex topic, consult a mortgage professional.

What is a rate lock?

A rate lock is a contractual agreement between the lender and buyer. There are four components to a rate lock: loan program, interest rate, points, and the length of the lock.

What is the difference between a mortgage broker and a lender?

A mortgage broker counsels you on the loans available from different wholesalers, takes your application, and usually processes the loan which involves putting together the complete file of information about your transaction including the credit report, appraisal, verification of your employment and assets, and so on. When the file is complete, but sometimes sooner, the lender "underwrites" the loan, which means deciding whether or not you are an acceptable risk.

A lender actually makes the loan and supplies the money necessary for the closing.

Will I save money going directly to a mortgage lender?

Not necessarily. In fact, if you are a reasonably astute shopper, you will probably do better dealing with a mortgage broker. Mortgage brokers do not add any net cost to the lending process, because they perform functions that would otherwise have to be done by employees of the lender. Furthermore, because mortgage brokers deal with multiple lenders -- in a typical case, 25 to 30, sometimes more -- they can shop for the best terms available on any given day. In addition, they can find the lenders who specialize in various market niches that many other lenders avoid, such as loans to applicants with poor credit ratings, loans to borrowers who do not intend to occupy the property, loans with minimal or no down payment, and so on.

What is a full documented loan?

Both income and assets are disclosed and verified, and income is used in determining the applicant's ability to repay the mortgage. Formal verification requires the borrower's employer to verify employment and the borrower's bank to verify deposits. Alternative documentation, designed to save time, accepts copies of the borrower's original bank statements, W-2s and paycheck stubs.

What are the other types of loans?

Stated income/verified assets: Income is disclosed and the source of the income is verified, but the amount is not verified. Assets are verified, and must meet an adequacy standard such as, for example, 6 months of stated income and 2 months of expected monthly housing expense.

Stated income/stated assets: Both income and assets are disclosed but not verified. However, the source of the borrower's income is verified.

No ratio: Income is disclosed and verified but not used in qualifying the borrower. The standard rule that the borrower's housing expense cannot exceed some specified percent of income, is ignored. Assets are disclosed and verified.

No income: Income is not disclosed, but assets are disclosed and verified, and must meet an adequacy standard.

Stated Assets or No asset verification: Assets are disclosed but not verified, income is disclosed, verified and used to qualify the applicant.

No asset: Assets are not disclosed, but income is disclosed, verified and used to qualify the applicant.
No income/no assets: Neither income nor assets are disclosed.

What is a good faith estimate?

It is the list of settlement charges that the lender is obliged to provide the borrower within three business days of receiving the loan application if the loan application is for a specific property address.

The list of settlement charges must be correct within a narrow margin of error as to lender's fees and charges, and must be reasonable and accurate for the locality for which it is published as to non-lender costs.

The line numbers of the Good Faith Estimate match the line numbers of the HUD-1 settlement statement you receive at closing; you should be able to directly compare the Good Faith Estimate and the HUD-1 to see the accuracy.

Good Faith Estimates are frequently updated and revised, and as long as any material changes are disclosed within three days of them becoming known to the issuer, the lender is doing its job.

What is a conforming loan?

A loan eligible for purchase by the two major Federal agencies that buy mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The basic requirements are:

* $417,000 loan amount or lower
* 20% down or acceptable mortgage insurance
* 640 minimum credit score
* Debt to income ratio (total) not exceeding 34% of monthly income
* Debt to housing payment ratio not exceeding 28% of monthly income

What is a jumbo mortgage?

A mortgage larger than the maximum eligible for conforming purchase by the two Federal agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What are points?

It is an upfront cash payment required by the lender as part of the charge for the loan, expressed as a percent of the loan amount; e.g., "2 points" means a charge equal to 2% of the loan balance.

In Texas, only the lender can charge discount points, and the discount points MUST reduce the rate.

Frequently, the large bank and retail lenders are charging "no closing costs," but hiding their usual fees in a substantial discount point charge. Federal law doesn't consider discount points to be a closing cost, and so you should always ask for a Good Faith Estimate to allow you to accurately compare financing offers.

What is a pre-qualification?

This is the process of determining whether a customer has enough cash and sufficient income to meet the qualification requirements set by the lender on a requested loan. A pre-qualification is subject to verification of the information provided by the applicant. A pre-qualification is short of approval because it does not take account of the credit history of the borrower.