mortgage

5 tips to get a first mortgage

Buying your first home can be a thrill. But applying for your first mortgage might not be so much fun. Here are five ways you can make the process easier:

1. Figure out how much you can afford to borrow. The monthly payment on your first mortgage will be only part of your monthly housing expense. You'll also have to pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and repair and maintenance costs. Make a budget and stick to a mortgage payment that you can afford. Bankrate's new house calculator and mortgage payment calculator can help you estimate the payment and come up with a maximum loan amount for your first mortgage.

2. Track mortgage rates. A lower mortgage rate can mean big savings on any home loan. Discuss with your loan officer whether it would make sense to pay points, equal to 1 percent of the loan amount, to get a lower interest rate. If you're concerned that rates might rise before your loan closes, ask the loan officer about an interest rate lock, which can ensure you'll be able to get the rate you were offered.

3. Choose a lender or mortgage broker. A well-qualified loan officer can help you learn more about how to get your first mortgage and what types of mortgage products might fit your needs. The lender that offers the lowest interest rate might not offer the most hand-holding or best service -- two benefits you'll probably want when getting a first mortgage.

4. Save up a down payment. You'll need to make a down payment to get a first mortgage. If your down payment is less than 20 percent of the purchase price of the home, you'll also need to pay for mortgage insurance, which protects the lender in case you default on your loan. Some loan programs allow you to use a gift from a family member or other source as part of your down payment.

5. Gather your documents. When you're ready to apply for a first mortgage, you'll need to give the loan officer copies of your recent paycheck stubs, tax returns and bank account statements. Having these documents prepared in advance will make the process easier.

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