Over the years, I’ve worked with clients whose ease with numbers would make your head spin - from accountants to engineers. But, in my experience, such “mathletes” are far outnumbered by those of us who face financial calculations with apprehension.
Thank heaven for mortgage specialists. Whether you opt to go through a broker or your financial institution, a good specialist will guide you through the intricacies of choosing a mortgage with patience and know-how.
Remember that mortgage pre-approval is the way to go. This means visiting your specialist before shopping for a home, and obtaining a realistic budget to work from. Pre-approval also speeds up the purchasing process once you’ve found your perfect home.
In comparison with the early 80s, when mortgage rates surpassed 20%, today’s rates – which tend to hover below 4% – seem astonishingly low. But substantial savings can still be found by choosing certain mortgage features over others. Here are some of the most basic options you’ll encounter:
Term Length: A term is a set length of time, typically ranging from one to ten years, in which a certain mortgage rate applies. At the term’s end, you’ll renew your mortgage for another term. The shorter the term, the lower the interest rate; however, by choosing a longer term, you’re insuring yourself against the possibility of skyrocketing mortgage rates in the future.
Fixed rates, variable rates and capped rates: A fixed interest rate remains the same throughout the term, while a variable rate rises and falls along with prime rate. While the second option means accepting some unpredictability, it may yield greater savings than a fixed rate. A capped rate is a type of variable rate that cannot exceed a set upper limit. If interest rates are low but you’re facing a longer closing date, you may choose to be locked into a capped rate, which will apply once your mortgage payments begin.
Frequency of payments: Most lenders offer weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly payments. While, at first glance, the difference between bi-weekly payments (every other week) and semi-monthly (twice a month) may seem unimportant, it works out to two more payments per year. Ultimately, those extra installments could take a couple of years off the life of your mortgage.
Of course, there are many more mortgage features that your specialist can introduce to you. Trust me: by the end of the process, you’ll feel like a specialist yourself.
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Marnie Bennett is a broker and the marketing director for Bennett Property Shop Realty, a full premium service real estate brokerage specializing in marketing and selling new and resale homes, condominiums and investment real estate. Marnie is the host of the weekly radio show the Real Estate Hour, a millionaire real estate investor and a wealth management coach. bennettpros.com