Important Mortgage Terms for New Home Buyers

Brush up on your mortgage knowledge by learning the definitions of these common home-buying terms.

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) — A mortgage that does not have a fixed interest rate. The rate changes during the life of the loan based on movements in an index rate, such as the rate for Treasury securities or the Cost of Funds Index. ARMs usually offer a lower initial interest rate than fixed-rate loans. The interest rate fluctuates over the life of the loan based on market conditions, but the loan agreement generally sets maximum and minimum rates. When interest rates increase, generally your loan payments increase; when interest rates decrease, your monthly payments may decrease.

Appraisal - The appraiser determines the market value of the house you have chosen, based on its condition and selling prices of comparable homes in the area. This helps the lender decide a reasonable loan amount for the mortgage. An appraiser does not uncover a home's defects - this is the inspector's job.

Annual percentage rate (APR) - The cost of credit expressed as a yearly rate. For closed-end credit, such as car loans or mortgages, the APR includes the interest rate, points, broker fees, and certain other credit charges that the borrower is required to pay. An APR, or an equivalent rate, is not used in leasing agreements.

Closing costs — Fees paid at a loan closing. May include application fees; title examination, abstract of title, title insurance, and property survey fees; fees for preparing deeds, mortgages, and settlement documents; attorneys’ fees; recording fees; estimated costs of taxes and insurance; and notary, appraisal, and credit report fees. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the borrower receives a “good faith” estimate of closing costs within three days of application. The good faith estimate lists each expected cost either as an amount or a range.

Conventional loans — Mortgage loans other than those insured or guaranteed by a government agency such as the FHA (Federal Housing Administration), the VA (Veterans Administration), or the Rural Development Services (formerly known as the Farmers Home Administration or FmHA).

Escrow — The holding of money or documents by a neutral third party before closing on a property. It can also be an account held by the lender (or servicer) into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.

Fixed-rate loans — Loans that generally have repayment terms of 15, 20, or 30 years. Both the interest rate and the monthly payments (for principal and interest) stay the same during the life of the loan.

We’re here to help! Use our online home loan calculators and visit our Home Loan Center for additional resources, including links to get pre-qualified and apply for a loan! 

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