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Glossary of Terms

APR (Annual Percentage Rate): This is the interest rate on the loan plus any points and closing costs, calculated over the term of the loan. This should be used as a guide for shopping for a mortgage, since it may show hidden fees. It is not the same as the interest rate on which your mortgage payments are calculated.

ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage): This is a mortgage with a rate that is fixed for a specific initial period, but which adjusts at a specific frequency based on the given index. ARMs are usually expressed as the following examples:

  • 1/1 ARM - A mortgage with a fixed rate for one year that adjusts annually thereafter
  • 3/1 ARM - A mortgage with a fixed rate for three years that adjust annually thereafter
  • 3/3 ARM - A mortgage with a fixed rate for three years that adjusts every three years
  • 5/1 ARM - A mortgage with a fixed rate for five years that adjusts annually thereafter
  • 7/1 ARM - A mortgage with a fixed rate for seven years that adjusts annually thereafter
  • 10/1 ARM - A mortgage with a fixed rate for ten years that adjusts annually thereafter

Appraisal: An opinion of the market value of a property, made by a qualified appraiser.

Balloon Mortgage: Usually a short-term fixed-rate loan, which involves small payments for a certain period of time and one large payment for the remaining amount of the principal at a time specified in a contract.

Cap: A provision of an ARM limiting the interest rate or mortgage payment's increase.

Construction loan: A short-term interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The lender advances funds to the builder at periodic intervals as the work progresses.

Debt-to-Income Ratio: The ratio expressed as a percentage, which results when the borrower's monthly payment obligation on long-term debts is divided by his or her gross monthly income.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): Federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without the discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance programs.

Fixed Rate Mortgage: A mortgage in which the interest rate is set for the term of the loan.

Hazard Insurance: A form of insurance in which the insurance company protects the insured from specified losses, such as fire, windstorm, etc.

Homeowner's Insurance: A policy that combines liability coverage and hazard insurance.

Homeowner's Warranty: A type of insurance that covers repairs to specified parts of the house for a specified period of time.

Housing Expenses-to-Income Ratio: The ratio expressed as a percentage, which results when a borrower's housing expenses are divided by his or her gross monthly income.

Impound/Escrow: The portion of a borrower's monthly payments held by the lender or service to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments, and other items as they become due.

Index: A published interest rate against which a lender measures the difference between the current interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage and that earned on other investments, which is then used to adjust the interest rate.

Jumbo Loan: A loan with an amount over conventional guidelines. Visit our Mortgages rate page for the current Jumbo Loan requirement.

Loan-to-Value Ratio: The relationship between the amt. of the mortgage loan and the appraised value of the property, expressed as a percentage.

Mortgage Insurance (Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI): Money paid to insure the mortgage when the down payment is less than 20 percent. It protects a lender against a loss if the borrower defaults.

Origination Fee: A fee or charge for work involved in evaluating, preparing, and submitting a proposed mortgage loan.

Pre-payment: A privilege in a mortgage permitting the borrower to make payments in advance of their due date.

Pre-payment Penalty: Money charged for an early repayment of debt.

Points: One point equals 1 percent of the mortgage amount. This is a closing cost and may be tax deductible (consult tax advisor). Typically, the more points paid at the time of the closing, the lower the interest rate on the mortgage.

Title Insurance: A policy, usually issued by a title insurance company, which insures a homebuyer against errors in the title search. The cost of the policy is usually a function of the value of the property, and is generally paid by the purchaser.

Truth-in-Lending: A federal law that requires lenders that they fully disclose, in writing, the terms and conditions of a mortgage, including the APR and other charges.

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