Wanda Hall - Westford Real Estate


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When it comes to a mortgage, most of us think of the same standard product; the 15 or 30 year conventional mortgage offered by banks and lenders. This is not the only mortgage option you have, though. Depending on your personal history and circumstances you may qualify for an attractive mortgage with lower rates and a small down payment. Examining your options and determining if you qualify for a less common type of mortgage allows you to have the greatest amount of flexibility and more options when it comes to your new home. Learning more about the different types of mortgages ensures you get the best possible terms when it comes to this significant purchase.

FHA, VA and USDA Loans: Explore your Mortgage Options

FHA Loans

An FHA loan is one that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration; if the buyer was to default or fail to pay, the FHA would pay the lender instead. Because of this guarantee, lenders are able to offer mortgages with less rigid requirements and accept more potential risk. FHA loans benefit the borrower in several key ways; they offer low down payments, credit score requirements of just 620 and that FHA guarantee for lenders. There are income guidelines and limits for the amount that can be borrowed, so you should check to see if your potential loan qualifies. A fast and easy approval process makes this a good option for many borrowers, though you should note PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) is required and adds an additional amount to your monthly bill. 

USDA Loans

Often the most overlooked and misunderstood, a USDA loan is backed by the Department of Agriculture in the same way an FHA loan is backed by the Housing Administration. USDA loans are designed to help people in rural and suburban areas become homeowners and offer attractive rates and very low closing costs and down payments. If you are looking for a mortgage, it is worth checking your eligibility. Both your income and the home you are considering need to be eligible, but since an estimated 90% of the homes in the country qualify, USDA could be the right product for you.

VA Loans

A VA loan is backed by the Veteran's Administration and is available to active members and veterans of the US armed forces. This is the most attractive alternative to conventional loans of all, if you qualify. Designed to make it easy for service members to buy a home, this loan features little or no down payment, easy lending guidelines and appealing rates for veterans. If you qualify, the VA loan is an excellent option for your new home. 

Learning about your options makes it easy to find the right home mortgage for your situation. Chances are, you will qualify for one or more of the loan types above; you should compare the terms of the FHA, USDA or VA loan you are considering with a conventional mortgage to make the best possible choice for your new home purchase. 


If you’re a first time homebuyer and want to start weighing your mortgage options, you’ll have much to learn. With so much at stake, you’ll want to make sure you choose the best mortgage for you now, and one that will still suit your needs years into the future.

Sometimes, first time buyers are hesitant to ask questions they may consider too basic because they don’t want to seem inexperienced to lenders, agents, or anyone else they’ll be in contact with throughout the home buying process.

So, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked mortgage questions that first time buyers might want to ask before heading into the process of acquiring a home loan.

What is the first step to getting a mortgage?

This question may seem straightforward, however the first step can vary depending on your financial situation. For those who already have saved up for a down payment and built a solid credit score, the first step is probably contacting lenders and getting preapproved or prequalified.

However, if you aren’t sure about your credit score and haven’t saved up for a down payment (ideally, 20% of what you hope to spend on the house), then you should address those matters first.

To find a lender, you can do a simple Google search for the mortgage lenders in your area, or you can ask around to friends and family to find out their experience with their own mortgage lenders.

What does it mean to be pre-qualified and pre-approved?

If you think of the mortgage process in three steps, the first step would be getting pre-qualified. This means you’ve given the lender enough basic information for them to decide which type of mortgage you’re eligible to receive.

Pre-approval includes collecting and verifying further details. At this step, you’ll complete a mortgage application and the lender will run a credit check. Once you’re pre-approved, your file can be moved to the underwriting phase.

What are closing costs?

“Closing costs” is an umbrella term that covers all of the various fees and expenses related to buying or selling a home. As a buyer, you are responsible for paying numerous closing costs. These can include, but are not limited to, underwriting fees, title searches, title insurance,  origination fees, taxes, appraisal fees, surveys, and more.

That sounds like a lot to keep track of, however your lender will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the total closing costs when you apply for your loan. In fact, lenders are required to give you a list of these costs within three days of your loan application in the form of a “good faith estimate” of the closing costs.

What will my interest rate be?

The answer to this question is dependent upon numerous factors. The value of the home, your credit score, the amount you put down (down payment), the type of mortgage you have, and whether or not you’re paying private mortgage insurance all factor into the interest rate you’ll receive. Interest rates also will vary slightly between lenders.

You can receive a fixed-rate mortgage that does not fluctuate throughout the repayment term. However, you also typically have the option to refinance to acquire a lower interest rate, however refinancing comes with its own costs.


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A vast majority of homebuying  transactions rely on the buyer qualifying for a mortgage through a bank. After all, most people don't have enough cash lying around to buy a home outright. Nowadays, you have more options with different types of lenders and alternative financing companies where you can seek pre-approval online. But sometimes even these options don't work out, as pre-approval doesn't mean you're actually going to get the underwriter at the lender to approve you.

This could make you consider other alternative options like seller-financed mortgages.

What is a Seller-Financed Mortgage and How Does It Work?

As the name implies, you are financing your purchase with the person or company selling the home instead of taking out a mortgage with a lender. It's a private transaction where you, the buyer, make an arrangement with the seller to buy the property.

The seller draws up a promissory note that details the terms of the mortgage: interest rate, payment schedule, and the consequences if you default on the mortgage. In most cases, the seller then finances the sale for a short term, usually five years, with a balloon payment at the end of the period. However, the promissory note can be sold at any time to another financing company: sellers don't necessarily need to wait for the buyer to refinance with a more traditional lender.

Why Would I Consider a Seller-Financed Mortgage?

There are situations that make it difficult to work with a traditional lender, such as:

  • Self-employment / entrepreneurship
  • Foreign employment
  • Frequent job changes, or you haven't held the same job long enough
  • Poor or no credit
  • Tax-related issues
  • Debt-income ratio is too high

Sometimes, these situations can be incredibly frustrating when you know you'd be able to afford the mortgage payment or it's even far less than market rent where you want to buy! Alternative lenders may have options but sometimes even they don't want to lend to the self-employed or borrowers with high student loan or credit card debt.

This makes seller financing a more viable option when you can demonstrate your ability to make payments but are having trouble with the traditional channels.

What are the Key Pros and Cons of Seller-Financed Mortgages?

The down payment, interest rate, and other terms are more flexible although they may not necessarily be better than what you would get with a bank. There are also no points, PMI, or origination fees which can save money upfront and over the life of the loan.

Closing is also much faster, easier, and cheaper because there's no loan officer or underwriter involved. 

However, the seller may not always confirm they're able to finance the sale. If the seller has a mortgage, most of them have a due on sale clause that forbids them from selling the home without paying off their mortgage balance first. If the seller still does this without paying off the mortgage first, your new home could get foreclosed on.

The homebuying process can be a difficult undertaking, but we're here to help you find the best options so you can buy your dream home as quickly as possible. Reach out today to learn more!


If the nerd in you comes out as soon as someone starts talking numbers, you might find yourself wondering how hard it is to create a mortgage calculator. Technically called an amortization calculator, the numbers you put into the calculation tell you what your payment each month breaks down to in terms of what goes to the principal (the amount to pay down your loan) and interest (the money the lender makes for loaning you the money).

Getting set up

You can download a spreadsheet to fill in for Excel or Numbers. If you don’t use Excel or Numbers, you can create one in Google sheets (a free online spreadsheet program with a Google account). You will also need a few numbers to set up your amortization schedule.

  • The loan amount. This is the amount you intend to borrow. So, in general, it will be the amount of the sales price of the home minus the down payment. It might include some of the closing costs or points, or other amounts so bear that in mind and adjust your calculator once you get the final numbers at closing.
  • The annual interest rate. For a fixed-interest mortgage, this amount will remain the same throughout the life of the loan. For a variable interest or adjustable loan, each time the rate changes, you should set up a new table going forward.
  • The loan period. Usually, you calculate this in years, so even if your loan is for a partial year, express it in decimals. So, fifteen years and six months would be 15.5.
  • The number of payments per year. Usually, this number is 12 since you make payments every month. In rare cases or for particular types of loans, it could be 4 for quarterly payments or even one if you only pay one time each year.
  • You also need the start date of the loan. Typically, loan calculators assume that the first payment is due at the beginning of the next month after the start date.
  • Optional extra payments. Some calculators also have a formula for voluntary additional payments. For example, if you want to pay off your mortgage to coincide with your retirement, you could try various additional payments until the loan zeros out on that date. That way, you would know exactly how much extra to pay each month to achieve your goals.

These calculators do not account for taxes and insurance since those numbers are subject to change even though you pay them with your monthly payment. If you have questions about how to use a mortgage calculator or how to figure out what your payments might be, speak with your lender for a detailed explanation.


Few people can save up the cash required to buy a house. If you're contemplating buying your first house, your first stop will probably be your local bank to inquire about a mortgage. When you talk to the mortgage officer, they will ask you to provide several documents. 

Various documents will be required at different stages of the application process, from pre-qualification to the final closing of the real estate deal.

What you need for mortgage pre-qualification

Getting pre-qualified for a home loan allows you to gauge how much you are eligible to borrow based on your income. It will help you be more realistic when shopping for a home and frees your real estate agent to scan through listings with confidence. Homeowners or listing agents will give your offer priority if backed by a pre-qualification letter. It is comparable to the bank vouching for you, saying you have the power to make the purchase. In order to become pre-qualified, your bank will ask for:

- Your full names and the names any co-buyer

- Your current address

- Your net worth

- Sources of income

- The estimated annual income of your household

- The estimated yearly household debt expenses

What you need for mortgage pre-approval

Pre-qualification is optional, though it comes with several advantages and literally costs you nothing to do. Once you're through with that step, you can move on to the actual mortgage application. The first step of that is to apply for pre-approval by filling the full mortgage application form. Below are some of the critical bits of information you will need to supply for this:

- All of your checking and savings bank account statements for the past few months

- Asset statements for items you will use as security for the loan

- Your current residential address

- Address history over the past two years

- Addresses and names of your landlords over the past two years

- Paycheck stubs over the past few months

- W-2 or I-9 forms for each of the past two years from your employer

- Two years of tax returns if you're self-employed

After submitting this information, there will be a waiting period at the end of which your application will be approved or rejected. If their response is positive, you can begin the process of closing the deal.

Contact your local bank and find out what you need to do to get a loan.




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