Note: This blog was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated.

Though there are several factors that impact how much you’ll pay for your mortgage, one of the most important is your mortgage interest rate. When you’re preparing to purchase a home, the interest rate you are quoted on the day of your initial inquiry with a mortgage company will be subject to daily or weekly fluctuations, meaning that rate can and will change over time. This is because mortgage interest rates are partially determined by the Federal Reserve and the bond market, which may rise or fall. If you’re ready to buy a home, learn why you should lock in a mortgage rate and when might be the right time to lock.

A mortgage rate lock does what it says it does: it freezes the current rate so it won’t increase or decrease during the lock period. This is a great way to save money in the long run if you see a rate you like. Bryan Harrison, Branch Manager at NFM Lending, commented, “If you have a rate that you are comfortable with and you can afford the monthly payment, you should talk to your Loan Originator and get the lock in writing”.

Lock periods are commonly offered for 30 or 60 days, but you can ask your lender for shorter or longer options. The rate you choose to keep will be honored until the lock period expires. Agreeing to a longer lock period often comes at a higher cost; ask your lender for an estimate on how long closing can take so you can decide on the best lock period.

While the rate lock will be valid during the timeframe, be aware that your rate may change if your credit score drops, you decide to take another loan type, or if there is an issue during the loan’s underwriting. Additionally, because a rate lock prevents you from being affected by rate hikes, it also prevents you from being able to cash in should rates fall. Some rate locks may have a float-down option, which means you can take advantage of lower rates during the lock period; speak with your lender to see if they offer this.

Once you’ve locked your rate, be aware that the rate could be the same for the duration of the loan (a fixed rate loan), or it could change periodically (a variable rate loan). Speak with your Loan Originator about the difference and the benefits of both types.

A rate lock that establishes a monthly mortgage payment you are comfortable with and gives you peace of mind is probably the right one for you. When you encounter a great interest rate, don’t hesitate – lock it down.

If you have any questions or want more information about locking in a mortgage rate, contact one of our Licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the homebuying process, click here to get started!

*Other terms and conditions apply. A 1 point up-front fee may be collected from the borrower at time of lock, which will be applied to the borrower’s closing cost at settlement. Program not available in all areas. Offers may vary and are subject to change at any time without notice.

If you’re ready to sell or buy a home, you will need a competent real estate agent to guide you through the process. With so many agents out there, how do you know which one will be the best for you? Much like dating, you may have to try out different people to find an agent who “clicks” with you. Read on to learn how you can find a good match.

Most real estate agents will have an online presence in some way, whether they have a profile on their realty page or are active on social media. Read the ratings of several agents who pique your interest. If the reviews are generally positive, that’s a strong indication that they have the skillset of a strong salesperson. Searching for agents on real estate sites is a quick and easy way to pinpoint local representatives and to request more information on their services. Some reputable sites to begin your search include and Zillow.

Your friends and family members may be the best source for getting recommendations on which agent to choose. There is nothing more valuable than a word-of-mouth appraisal, and a real-life referral will give you more detail than any online review can. Other agents are also a rich source for referrals. If you’re interested in a niche market or are moving to an unfamiliar area, contact your previous agent and see what connections they have.

As a client, you have every right to interview potential agents to find out more about what they have to offer. It’s wise to interview at least three to build a pool of candidates. Being able to meet face-to-face will allow you to ask detailed questions about their experience and get a feel for their personality. Make sure you discuss how they usually communicate with clients; an agent that primarily emails might not work for you if you prefer to text. Additionally, feel free to ask for and follow up with their references. During the buying and selling process, you will be frequently interacting with your agent, so your compatibility with them should not be overlooked.

Another good way to meet real estate agents is to attend open houses. Going to open house events will allow you to assess how the agent interacts with potential buyers and how knowledgeable they are about the house they’re showing. You’ll be able to see them in action and decide whether you would want to work with that person. Many people find their next agent at an open house, so give it a try!

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed or lost when trying to find a real estate agent. There are several ways to weed out those who might not be a good fit for you, though you will need to do some research to discover whose personality and expertise will fit your needs. A reliable agent is indispensable regardless of whether you are buying or selling; you’ll be glad to have a consultant by your side.

If you have any questions or want more information about finding the right real estate agent, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying or selling process, click here to get started!

When applying for a loan, one of the most important factors that will come into play is your credit score. Before you start the loan application process, you should have a clear understanding of how your credit score affects your mortgage rate so you can assess your financial situation.

Most lenders use the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) model for credit scores. This model provides consumers a numerical value on a scale between 300-850. Typically, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate the lender will offer to you. Lenders use your credit score to determine how reliable you’ll be as a borrower and the likelihood that you’ll repay the loan as agreed upon. Essentially, they want to make sure you’ll make your mortgage payments on time each month. A lower score might indicate that a borrower could make late payments or even miss some. This is all part of your credit history, which they will also take into consideration.

So, can a bad credit score ruin your chances at obtaining a mortgage?

Not necessarily. It mostly impacts which type of loan you’ll qualify for and the interest rate you’ll receive. A conventional loan usually requires a minimum of a 620 credit score, whereas an FHA loan has a minimum of 580. However, it’s important to note that while some loan programs accept lower credit scores, they might require a larger down payment or some other way to mitigate the lender’s risk in taking on the loan. In addition, even though someone with a 580 credit score COULD qualify for an FHA loan, it does not mean that they will; it is at the discretion of the lender within the guidelines of the loan programs.

Let’s look at an example of how a 100-point difference in credit score can impact a borrower’s mortgage payment.*

A borrower has obtained a conventional fixed-rate 30-year loan of $200,000 with 10% down, meaning the amount borrowed is $180,000. She has a 750 credit score and received a 4% interest rate. Her monthly mortgage payment is $859 (not factoring in other fees, such as private mortgage insurance (PMI) or real estate taxes that may be included in the payment). Now, say that borrower dropped to a 650 credit score. She instead received a 5% interest rate. That increases her monthly mortgage payment to $966. That 100 point difference between credit scores ultimately means an extra $107 added to her mortgage payment each month. While that might not seem like a big deal, keep in mind the duration of the loan is 30 years. Having a higher interest rate means a yearly difference of $1,284; over 30 years that totals $38,520.

If you’re interested in comparing interest rates and monthly mortgage payments, use our mortgage calculator.

If your credit standing isn’t ideal, there are ways to build your credit score.**

Don’t worry if your credit isn’t the best right now. Raising your credit score can take a lot of time, patience, and discipline. However, if you follow these simple guidelines you will soon notice a positive change in your credit and ultimately your financial future. You’ll be able to qualify for better rates when it’s finally time to buy a home.

To learn more about credit scores and interest rates, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

*The figures used in this example are hypothetical and the results are intended for illustrative and educational purposes only. **NFM Lending is not a credit repair company. Please contact a credit repair company for more information on how to improve your credit score.

If you’re ready to buy a home, you should prepare to have an earnest money deposit. This can be an extremely important part of the homebuying process as it essentially lets a home seller know how serious you are as a buyer. So, what is earnest money?

An earnest money deposit, otherwise known as a good faith deposit, is a sum of money that you pay to the seller to let them know you are ‘earnest’ and will follow through on the contract. It is the closest thing to being able to ‘put your money where your mouth is.’ The money doesn’t go directly to the seller but will be held in escrow or a trust by a third-party who holds all finances during the transaction until the sale is finalized and complete. Once the sale is complete, the deposit will go towards your down payment or closing costs, so no additional money is necessary.

The amount of earnest money is not a set amount and will vary based on the market. Typically, it is about 1-3% of the purchase price of the home, but it ultimately depends on the seller. In a buyer’s market you can expect to put down a smaller deposit, however,  in a seller’s market you could be going up against multiple bids so a larger deposit will likely be required. If desired, you can try to negotiate the amount down.

You can receive your earnest money back if the sale doesn’t go through, but it depends on why it didn’t. If you have the right contingencies, or conditions, in the contract and the seller doesn’t meet them, you can get your money back. For example, if the seller agreed that the home appraisal will match the sale price, but it comes back lower, you can back out of the deal. If you decide that you no longer are interested in the house or if you fail to meet the timeline specified in the contract, the seller has the right to keep your money. That’s why it is so important you’re completely serious and ready to purchase the home when you submit the deposit.

To learn more about earnest money, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

Make 2019 the year you become a home owner! Here are some new year resolutions for homebuyers to get you started. 

New Year Resolutions for Home Buyers

If you have any questions or want more information about the home buying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

While buying a home might seem straightforward, there’s a lot more to the process than picking out a home and obtaining a mortgage. One of the things most buyers don’t prepare for is all the hidden costs of buying a home, both during the homebuying process and after.

Some of these costs occur during the homebuying process, otherwise known as closing costs:

Down Payment/Earnest Money: Your down payment is a certain percentage of the home’s purchase price, ranging from 0-20%. Earnest money is essentially a security deposit that shows your intent to buy the home. This money is later applied to your down payment when you purchase the home. For example: if the home you want to buy is listed at $250,000, you can expect to have a down payment between $8,750 (3.5%) and $50,000 (20%).

Appraisal Fee: An appraisal is a written analysis of a property’s estimated value, prepared by a qualified appraiser. On average, the fee for an appraisal ranges from $250 to $400. This price is dependent on the size of the home you are looking to buy and where you live, so it could be more or less than average.

Title Services: When you buy a home, the seller must transfer their legal ownership or “title”, over to you in the form of a deed. Your lender requires you to have a complete title search and insurance to protect you in the instance that the seller or previous owners didn’t have complete ownership of the home. This fee is a bit higher than other closing costs, averaging around $1,000, but it is a vital aspect to protecting yourself from potential issues in the future.

Lender’s Origination Fee: When working with a mortgage lender, they charge an upfront fee to process your loan application. This fee is usually a percentage of the total loan you obtain, also known as “points”. One point is equal to 1% of the loan amount. For example, on a $250,000 loan, a 1% origination fee or one point is equal to $2,500.

Home Inspection: It is crucial to have a home inspected before you proceed to purchase. Professional home inspectors are trained to see things that normal eyes might overlook. You don’t want to buy a home with foundation problems, bad roofing, or pests. The cost for a professional home inspection is between $300 and $500, depending on the size of the home.

Property Taxes: As a homeowner, you typically pay property tax twice a year. In most cases, the sale of a home will fall within one of the tax periods. This means that at closing, the buyer will reimburse the seller for the property taxes they’ve already paid for the tax period. Since you are only paying a portion of the taxes, the total cost depends on both the value of the home and how far into the pay period you are buying the home.

After you purchase your new home, you should plan to pay for these expenses:

Moving: There are a lot of aspects of moving to consider when trying to estimate what it will cost. Are you moving down the street, across the state, or across the country? Obviously, the further the distance, the more you will pay for movers or to rent a moving van/truck. Moving yourself is a cheap alternative to hiring professionals. The size of the home and the weight of items also impact the cost. You’ll need to purchase packing supplies, including boxes, containers, tape, and bubble wrap. The time of your move also comes into play, as moving in the summer is busy season and usually has the highest rates. Expect to spend anywhere between $1,200 and $5,000 to move.

Utilities: If you’ve owned a home before then you’ve experienced paying for your own utilities. For first-time homebuyers, some of these costs were probably covered if you were renting. Utilities you’ll have to pay include: water, sewer, gas, cable, internet, electric, trash/recycling, and phone. A few of these costs are dependent on the seasons (electric), while others can be impacted by the number of people living in your home (water). Plan to pay about $300 to $600 a month in utilities when setting a budget. You can easily adjust this amount once you’ve had a couple months to find your own average.

Maintenance/Renovations: While your new home might have been in great condition when you purchased it, it’s your responsibility to keep up with maintaining the home and yard. If you’ve never had to maintain a yard, you might need to purchase some tools, such as a lawn mower, rake, shovels, shears, or leaf/snow blower. If you prefer to hire professionals to maintain your landscape, be sure to add that into your budget. Set aside some money for a renovation budget as well, as you might choose to repaint the living room or redo the kitchen a year or two down the line.

Homeowner’s Association (HOA): If the home you purchased is part of a HOA, you’re going to have an additional monthly cost of, on average, $200 to $400. The more upscale the community/amenities, the higher the fee. Every HOA has different requirements and standards, so do your research before choosing to join.

Becoming a homeowner is a milestone achievement, so make sure you are fully prepared for the financial commitment. Now that you know what hidden costs to expect when buying a home, you should feel confident about your budget and moving forward in the homebuying process.

If you have any questions or want more information about the homebuying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the process, click here to get started!

Congratulations! You’re married! If you are like many married couples, the next big step on your To-Do List is to buy a home. More and more couples are choosing to wait until after the wedding to buy a home because they don’t want the additional stress on top of wedding planning and work. Whatever your reasons are for waiting, you know that buying a home is a major milestone. We want to make sure you are prepared, so we’ve come up with a list of important things to know about buying a home after marriage.

Finances: Now that you are married and applying for a loan, you need to understand that your finances have also tied the knot. While you’ve probably discussed your spouse’s income or savings, there is much more you need to know. Make sure you thoroughly investigate all your finances before you begin the homebuying process to ensure you are aware of all potential issues that may come up. A lender will take both of your credit scores into consideration when reviewing your application, so it is vital you know where your partner stands financially. Bad credit scores and student debt can severely impact the loan value and interest rate a lender is able to offer you. If one of you has a poor score or a large sum of debt, it could influence how you choose to proceed with the loan. You may need to proceed with only one person on the loan and decide who should be on the title of the property. Once you are ready and have your finances straightened out, meet with a lender to get prequalified.

Compromises: Whether you’ve been living separately prior to the wedding or if you have been living together for a while, there are some compromises to make when purchasing a home. Any couple buying a home together will face the typical issues: where do you want to live, what kind of house do you like, what size home, etc. If you were living separately, you could also face the discussion of whose furniture you’ll keep or whose appliances or electronics are better. It is likely you won’t be able to use everything both of you have. Get ready to spend time compromising on everything the two of you own, on top of the compromises involving the home you choose.

Name Change: Waiting to purchase a home until after the wedding is great, but do not wait to change your name after you’ve begun the homebuying process. There is a significant amount of paperwork that is done by your lenders. If you decide to change your name in the middle of it, the process will be completely thrown off and even delayed. You should either change your name completely before you start the process, or wait until after you have closed on your home to avoid any conflict.

It’s More than Just a Financial Purchase: Buying a home with your spouse is not just a financial investment, it is also an emotional one. The homebuying process is stressful and mentally draining; you are going to need to support one another. You are also going to have to discuss all possible future outcomes, such as divorce and separation—especially if your loan or title is going under one person. If your relationship turns to that direction, you don’t want to be caught off guard or have the obligation of a mortgage payment to fall on one of you. There needs to be an honest conversation between spouses to discuss every aspect of the homebuying process to ensure you are on the same page and completely ready.

Waiting to purchase a home until after marriage can be beneficial, but there are some challenges that can arise. Have a complete picture of your spouse’s finances before you choose to move forward with this investment. Buying a home together should be an exciting milestone, so don’t let compromises or finances get in the way.

If you have any questions about the homebuying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators.

Buying a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you will make in your life. Each step in the process is important to ensure a smooth transaction. Over the next several weeks, we will explore each step of the home buying process in detail. Experienced NFM Lending Mortgage Loan Originators will share advice and insight about each step, so you can be prepared when the time comes to buy a new home. In this blog, we will discuss the first step in the buying process: getting pre-qualified.

What is pre-qualification?
A pre-qualification is when a lender evaluates a loan applicant’s eligibility for a home loan. The Loan Originator collects information and documentation from the loan applicant, such as their employer information, gross income, asset information, and current expenses. The lender then gives the applicant an idea of whether they could qualify for a home loan, and the approximate amount of the loan they could qualify for.

Why get pre-qualified?
Pre-qualification allows you to enter the home buying process prepared. It makes your home search more efficient, and ensures that when it comes time to make an offer on a home, you are ready.

“It is important to get pre-qualified so that you will know what you can afford, what you will qualify for, and what types of homes you should be looking at,” says Bruce Dorsey, Mortgage Loan Originator with NFM Lending. “You want to know how much your payments will be, and have confidence that when you find your perfect house you can make an offer on the house and qualify for the loan. If you are not pre-qualified first, then when you do find your perfect house, you can make a credible offer on the house. Without this, you run the risk of losing the home you want because other potential buyers that are already pre-qualified may be making offers on the home.”

In addition to being prepared and helping you know your price range, getting pre-qualified will make it easier for you to hire a real estate agent. Real estate agents typically prefer to work with pre-qualified buyers, in order for them to be able to show you houses in your price range, and so they know you are prepared to make a credible offer on a home when the time comes.

Helpful tips for getting pre-qualified
You may be considering a home purchase later this year, or at some point in the near future. Below are some tips from Bruce Dorsey on preparing for the pre-qualification and home buying processes.

It is important to be as prepared as possible when you start the home buying process. Once you are pre-qualified, the next step is to choose your loan type. Stay tuned for our next blog on how to choose the loan type that is right for you.

If you have any questions about pre-qualification or the home buying process, contact us. If you are ready to get pre-qualified, click here!


*Please note that the pre-qualification does not constitute a commitment or a loan approval, but is instead a preliminary assessment of your current credit worthiness.

Like any major purchase, a home purchase will require you to put down a certain percentage of the total price as a down payment. The bigger the down payment, the less you will borrow from the mortgage company or bank, and the less your payments will be. With every day expenses and current bills, it can be difficult to find money to begin saving for a down payment. By planning ahead and getting creative, you can begin to save up for a down payment for the mortgage loan that best suits your needs. Here are three ways to save for a down payment and help come up with the savings you need to land the house of your dreams.


Planning Ahead
Saving money for a down payment may take a while, so it helps to have a plan. Start by researching what kind of home you are looking to buy, and the average price of those homes in the area. Then, use an online mortgage calculator to find out what kind of down payment options are best for you, based on your price range. For example, if the homes in the neighborhood you are looking to buy average at $200,000, the standard 20% down payment will be $40,000. Remember, there are loans available with lower down payment options, such as 10% and as low as 3.5%. Talk to your Loan Originator to find out which loan option is right for you.

Once you determine your down payment goals, open a separate savings account. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you can open an investment retirement account (IRA). An IRA will accumulate interest, and first-time home buyers can withdraw up to $10,000.00 from their IRA without a penalty fee. Consult a CPA for more information. Having a separate account for your down payment savings prevents you from accidentally confusing the money with your regular spending money, and it is a good way to track your progress.

Saving money will be easier if you have goals in mind. Set realistic weekly, biweekly, or monthly savings goals, and stick to them. If your workplace offers this option, set up your direct deposit so that a portion of each paycheck automatically goes into the savings account you have set aside for your down payment.

Hold Yourself Accountable
Saving money will probably require a lifestyle change, and some habits are difficult to break. For instance, if you are used to going out to eat for lunch five days a week, it will be hard to start trying to pack a lunch every day. Set up a time a few times a month, or even once a week, to sit down and go over your expenditures from the week(s) before. Seeing when and how often you make unnecessary purchases can motivate you to make the changes you need to make. Have a close friend or significant other help hold you accountable, (if you’re buying a home together, you can do this for one another).

Providing incentives for yourself can also be a helpful tactic. Set monthly savings goals, and reward yourself at the end of the month if you meet your goals. If your goal is to save $500.00 in a month, and you reach that goal, reward yourself with a small splurge—go out to dinner with friends, or buy yourself something new. This will encourage you to meet your savings goals, and the splurge will be guilt-free, because you have already met your goal for the month.

Get Creative
Although the process of saving for a down payment may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be a chore. There are lots of fun, creative ways to save money. One idea is to earn extra money on the side. Offer to do some odd jobs, such as babysitting, dog walking, home repairs, or housework for your friends or neighbors. If you’re crafty, open an Etsy store and sell your items online. You might be surprised by how much your woodworking, knitting, graphic design, or other skills are in demand. You can also sell clothes or household goods that you’re not using anymore on sites like Craigslis and eBay, or at your local consignment store.

Another way to get creative about saving is to turn it into a game. Have a competition with a friend or family member who is also trying to save money, and see who can save the most by a particular deadline. If you’re buying a home with your significant other, compete with one another, and see how much you can save together!

The decision to buy a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make. It is important to plan and prepare carefully. Saving money for a down payment can be difficult, but it is well worth the challenge. If you’re thinking about buying a home soon, get started by talking to one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators today.

Purchasing and investing in real estate is a big deal. For most Americans, the purchase of a home is the most expensive purchase they will ever make. But choosing to fly solo in such a major transaction could end up being more costly than a real estate agent’s commission. So how do you choose a real estate agent?

Not All Agents Are Created Equal

When you’re looking for a real estate professional to help you, know that above all else, a good agent will put their clients first. The agent you choose is going to be your advocate to help you make your dream of home ownership come true.

Real estate agents are often chosen solely on the recommendation of a friend or family member. It is best if you do your own research: check how long they have been in business; talk to recent clients or request recommendations; look up their licensing information; and finally, choose someone that is right for you.

A Great Agent Will Help:

Remember, a home is an investment. Choosing a good agent and consulting with them will ensure that you are making an informed decision.

If you are ready to purchase a home, contact one of our Licensed Mortgage Loan Originators today to get started!