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Mortgages: The basics
Part I -- Starting out

Buying a house is probably the single, biggest purchase you will make in your life. Most likely you will have to borrow the money from a bank or other financial institution by getting  a mortgage --  a long-term loan secured by the property you purchase.

Shopping for a house is taking the first step toward fulfilling the American dream of owning your own home. Homeownership is so American you can even deduct the mortgage interest on your federal income tax. But remember: Until the mortgage is paid off -- up to 30 years -- the bank owns the house, not you, so look before you leap into that dream home.

The process of buying a home can be manageable and successful if you know what to look for at each stage. Here’s what to look for in the first stage, before starting out on the house hunt. We'll begin with: How mortgages work.

Mortgages: The basics
Part I: Starting out
How mortgages work
Types of mortgages: Fixed rate
Types of mortgages: Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM)
Adjustable vs. fixed
Other types of mortgages
How much house can you afford?
The down payment
Special and first-time buyer programs
Private mortgage insurance (PMI)
Other house-buying costs
Buying vs. renting
Mortgages: The Basics, Part II: Securing your loan
Mortgages: The Basics, Part III: Closing the deal

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