How to choose a mortgage
Understand mortgage rates and find the right loan for you
When you are buying or refinancing a home, you want the right mortgage for you. The interest rate, loan type, fees and closing costs, and terms are important to your decision. Read our practical advice on how to choose a mortgage!
1. Look at interest rate and annual percentage rate (APR)
Interest rate is the cost you pay to borrow money shown as a percentage. When you are choosing a mortgage, be sure to look at the mortgage rate versus the APR or "annual percentage rate". APR includes interest charges as well as points and other fees you might have to pay. APR helps you understand the cost of a mortgage. Looking at APR is a good way to compare different mortgage offers.
2. Choose your mortgage type
You may be able to choose from different mortgage types when you buy or refinance a home. Look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Conventional loans. You can use conventional mortgages to finance a home, a vacation home, or an investment property. When you are buying a home with a conventional loan, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance by making a 20% down payment. Refinancing a conventional loan requires you to complete a new full application.
- VA loans. An excellent choice for veterans and active duty military personnel who qualify. VA loans have competitive rates and terms. When you are buying a home, you may be able to make a 0% down payment. VA IRRRL refinancing allows qualified homeowners with VA loans to reduce their rate with less paperwork and faster closings. You can use VA loans to finance only primary residences.
- FHA loans. FHA loans make homeownership more affordable with flexible credit scores and competitive rates and terms. FHA loans can have low down payment requirements when you buy a home. FHA loans have a streamline refinancing option for homeowners who qualify as well. You can use FHA loans to finance only primary residences.
3. Pick your mortgage term
Your term is the number of years you have to pay the loan back. Mortgages often have terms of 15, 20 or 30 years. Home loans with shorter terms can have lower interest rates but higher monthly payments. Check out our mortgage payment calculator to estimate how term length might affect your payments. If you are a Freedom Mortgage customer, you can keep your current loan term when you refinance with us!
4. Compare fixed rate versus adjustable rate
Fixed-rate mortgages have the same interest rate for the life of the loan. With an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), the interest rate can vary during the life of the loan. ARMs usually have an introductory rate that stays the same for a period of time. After this period, the rate may adjust and your monthly payments can go up or down. For more information, read our article on fixed-rate and adjustable-rate home loans.
5. Look at all the borrowing costs
Interest payments are not the only cost of financing a home. You may be required to pay points. (One point is equal to 1% of the loan amount.) You can also choose to pay discount points to lower your rate. Lender fees can vary from mortgage to mortgage. Make sure you look at the cost of private mortgage insurance or mortgage insurance premiums you may have to pay. And ask about title search and other fees you might have to pay at closing.
6. Check your credit score before applying
Lenders look at your credit score to help determine if your qualify for a mortgage to buy or refinance a home. Your credit score also can affect the interest rate you get. So check your credit score and credit report before you apply for a home loan. Correct any errors you find. And look for ways to boost your score. It can help save you money.
Last reviewed and updated April 2023 by Freedom Mortgage Corporation.