A few excerpts from the toolkit (Full Home Loan Toolkit referenced below) follow:
Choosing the best mortgage for you:
1. Define what affordable means to you
Only you can decide how much you are comfortable paying for your housing each month. In most cases, your lender can consider only if you are able to repay your mortgage, not whether you will be comfortable repaying your loan. Based on your whole financial picture, think about whether you want to take on the mortgage payment plus the other costs of homeownership such as appliances, repairs, and maintenance.
2. Understand your credit
Your credit, your credit scores, and how wisely you shop for a loan that best fits your needs have a significant impact on your mortgage interest rate and the fees you pay. To improve your credit and your chances of getting a better mortgage, get current on your payments and stay current. About 35% of your credit scores are based on whether or not you pay your bills on time. About 30% of your credit scores are based on how much debt you owe. That's why you may want to consider paying down some of your debts.
3. Pick the mortgage type—fixed or adjustable—that works for you
With a fixed-rate mortgage, your principal and interest payment stays the same for as long as you have your loan.
- Consider a fixed-rate mortgage if you want a predictable payment.
- You may be able to refinance later if interest rates fall or your credit or financial situation improves.
With an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), your payment often starts out lower than with a fixed-rate loan, but your rate and payment could increase quickly. It is important to understand the trade-offs if you decide on an ARM.
- Your payment could increase a lot, often by hundreds of dollars a month.
- Make sure you are confident you know what your maximum payment could be and that you can afford it.
Planning to sell your home within a short period of time? That’s one reason some people consider an ARM. But, you probably shouldn’t count on being able to sell or refinance. Your financial situation could change. Home values may go down or interest rates may go up.
4. Choose the right down payment for you
A down payment is the amount you pay toward the home yourself. You put a percentage of the home’s value down and borrow the rest through your mortgage loan.
5. Understand the trade-off between points and interest rate
Points are a percentage of a loan amount. For example, when a loan officer talks about one point on a $100,000 loan, the loan officer is talking about one percent of the loan, which equals $1,000. Lenders offer different interest rates on loans with different points. There are three main choices you can make about points. You can decide you don’t want to pay or receive points at all. This is called a zero point loan. You can pay points at closing to receive a lower interest rate. Or you can choose to have points paid to you (also called lender credits) and use them to cover some of your closing costs. The example below shows the trade-off between points as part of your closing costs and interest rates. In the example, you borrow $180,000 and qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate loan at an interest rate of 5.0% with zero points. Rates currently available may be different than what is shown in this example.
6. Shop with several lenders
You’ve figured out what affordable means for you. You’ve reviewed your credit and the kind of mortgage and down payment that best fits your situation. Now is the time to start shopping seriously for a loan. The work you do here could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage.
Reference: The CFPB Home Loan Toolkit