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What Is a Mortgage?

What Is a Mortgage?




The term mortgage refers to a loan used to purchase or maintain a home, land, or other types of real estate. The borrower agrees to pay the lender over time, typically in a series of regular payments that are divided into principal and interest. The property serves as collateral to secure the loan. A borrower must apply for a mortgage through their preferred lender and ensure they meet several requirements, including minimum credit scores and down payments. Mortgage applications go through a rigorous underwriting process before they reach the closing phase. Mortgage types vary based on the needs of the borrower, such as conventional and fixed-rate loans.


How Mortgages Work

Individuals and businesses use mortgages to buy real estate without paying the entire purchase price upfront. The borrower repays the loan plus interest over a specified number of years until they own the property free and clear. Mortgages are also known as liens against property or claims on property. If the borrower stops paying the mortgage, the lender can foreclose on the property.


The Mortgage Process

Would-be borrowers begin the process by applying to one or more mortgage lenders. The lender will ask for evidence that the borrower is capable of repaying the loan. This may include bank and investment statements, recent tax returns, and proof of current employment. The lender will generally run a credit check, as well.


If the application is approved, the lender will offer the borrower a loan of up to a certain amount and at a particular interest rate. Homebuyers can apply for a mortgage after they have chosen a property to buy or while they are still shopping for one, a process known as pre-approval. Being pre-approved for a mortgage can give buyers an edge in a tight housing market because sellers will know that they have the money to back up their offer.


Once a buyer and seller agree on the terms of their deal, they or their representatives will meet at what's called a closing. This is the time the borrower makes their down payment to the lender. The seller will transfer ownership of the property to the buyer and receive the agreed-upon sum of money, and the buyer will sign any remaining mortgage documents.

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