Kenneth Maston | Princeton Real Estate, Westminster Real Estate, Fitchburg Real Estate


Perhaps one of the most challenging things about buying a home is saving for the downpayment. Collecting such a large sum of money can be difficult. The truth is that most buyers actually think that they need more than they actually do to buy a home. The downpayment doesn’t need to be a barrier to your path to homeownership. There are so many programs that offer low and even no down payment home loans. Read on to learn more about down payments and programs that can help you. 


First, let’s look at what a down payment is and how it can help you. If you put 10% down on a $200,000 home that’s $20,000. The downpayment minus the purchase price of the home is $180,000, and that's how much your home loan will be. The more money you can put down on the house, the lower your home loan will be and the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be. A large down payment can indeed save you in the long term. If you’re looking to move into a home sooner rather than later, saving a considerable sum isn’t always possible.  


Low Downpayment Mortgages


You need to decide what type of home loan you need by the amount of downpayment you’re willing and able to put down. Some benefits go along with making a down payment, but there are some negatives. 


By making a substantial down payment you may despite your savings, leaving little money for emergencies. Your mortgage rate may not be affected by a large downpayment either. It can be hard to decide what type of loan to get and just how much you really can afford.  


FHA Loans


FHA loans are among the most popular type of home loans. The downpayment that’s required is just 3.5%. The requirements are simple, and you don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer to qualify. 


The drawback to an FHA loan is that you cannot cancel the monthly mortgage insurance that comes along with it unless you refinance the home. Traditional mortgage insurance is canceled when you have built up 20% equity in the house, but this isn’t the case with FHA loans. 


Another positive about FHA loans is that your credit score doesn’t have to be stellar in order for you to qualify. Some lenders approve FHA loans with credit scores as low as 580. 


VA Home Loans


Buyers who have current or former military service status can qualify for this zero down mortgage. These loans are benefits to veterans and current members of the Armed Forces. While no downpayment is required, buyers may put down any amount they wish. The only requirements are that buyers be members of the military either currently serving for 90 days or two years of active duty service if not an active member.   


The above options are great for those who can’t afford or don’t wish to put down large down payments but still hope to be homeowners. 



Refinancing your home can have many benefits. First, you’ll be able to take out money to address immediate needs in your home like improvement projects. These things can only benefit your home’s value in the long term. Before you take the leap to refinance your home, you should be sure that you’re actually ready to take this step. Knowing what you’re in for allows the entire process to go more smoothly. Read on for tip to understand more about the refinancing process and what you’ll need.


Know Your Finances


Just like when you initially purchase a home, refinancing your home will require you to have your finances in order. Take a look at your budget and needs and determine if it makes sense for you to refinance your home. For example, your employment status or distance from life goals like retirement could have a factor on the term of the loan you’re willing to take out. A 15-year mortgage may make more sense than a 30-year mortgage, but your monthly payments will also be a bit higher. You need to take all of this into consideration before you refinance. 


Your credit score will also be a factor in refinancing your home just as it was when you initially bought your house. Check your score and see if any red flags pop up. Getting these corrected earlier rather than later can help you to get a better rate on the loan. There are plenty of free services that exist online that allow you to check your credit score.   


Know The Value Of Your Home


If you know the value of your home and understand how much equity you’ve built up in the house, it will give you a better idea of your refinancing options. You can’t get more than 70% of what your home is currently worth as a cash-out refinance. If you owe more than your home is worth, you might be in a tighter financial situation than you realize. You can do plenty of things to increase the value of your home; it will just take some time. You may even consider selling your house, making a move, and starting from scratch. Financially, this could be the best option, and you could also end up with a better interest rate.


Getting your finances in order and the simple act of preparing for a home refinance could give you some insight into your financial picture after being a homeowner for some time.


Stay out of debt. Don’t open new accounts. Pay down any debt you may have. That is the standard advice for people who are trying to get in good financial standing before buying a home or refinancing a home. 


Do some research and find the best home loan refinance rates around. Then, look into your own finances and decide what’s best for you regarding refinancing your home loan.      



If you’re a first time homebuyer and want to start weighing your mortgage options, you’ll have much to learn. With so much at stake, you’ll want to make sure you choose the best mortgage for you now, and one that will still suit your needs years into the future.

Sometimes, first time buyers are hesitant to ask questions they may consider too basic because they don’t want to seem inexperienced to lenders, agents, or anyone else they’ll be in contact with throughout the home buying process.

So, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked mortgage questions that first time buyers might want to ask before heading into the process of acquiring a home loan.

What is the first step to getting a mortgage?

This question may seem straightforward, however the first step can vary depending on your financial situation. For those who already have saved up for a down payment and built a solid credit score, the first step is probably contacting lenders and getting preapproved or prequalified.

However, if you aren’t sure about your credit score and haven’t saved up for a down payment (ideally, 20% of what you hope to spend on the house), then you should address those matters first.

To find a lender, you can do a simple Google search for the mortgage lenders in your area, or you can ask around to friends and family to find out their experience with their own mortgage lenders.

What does it mean to be pre-qualified and pre-approved?

If you think of the mortgage process in three steps, the first step would be getting pre-qualified. This means you’ve given the lender enough basic information for them to decide which type of mortgage you’re eligible to receive.

Pre-approval includes collecting and verifying further details. At this step, you’ll complete a mortgage application and the lender will run a credit check. Once you’re pre-approved, your file can be moved to the underwriting phase.

What are closing costs?

“Closing costs” is an umbrella term that covers all of the various fees and expenses related to buying or selling a home. As a buyer, you are responsible for paying numerous closing costs. These can include, but are not limited to, underwriting fees, title searches, title insurance,  origination fees, taxes, appraisal fees, surveys, and more.

That sounds like a lot to keep track of, however your lender will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the total closing costs when you apply for your loan. In fact, lenders are required to give you a list of these costs within three days of your loan application in the form of a “good faith estimate” of the closing costs.

What will my interest rate be?

The answer to this question is dependent upon numerous factors. The value of the home, your credit score, the amount you put down (down payment), the type of mortgage you have, and whether or not you’re paying private mortgage insurance all factor into the interest rate you’ll receive. Interest rates also will vary slightly between lenders.

You can receive a fixed-rate mortgage that does not fluctuate throughout the repayment term. However, you also typically have the option to refinance to acquire a lower interest rate, however refinancing comes with its own costs.


Most homeowners would love to be able to pay off their mortgage early. However, few see it as a possibility when they take into account their earnings and other bills.

 There are, however, a few ways to pay down your mortgage earlier than planned. But first, let’s talk about when it makes sense to try and pay off your mortgage.

 When to consider paying off your mortgage early

If you recently got a promotion, have someone move in with you who contributes to paying the bills, or recently got a secondary form of income, you might want to consider making extra payments on your mortgage.

However, having extra money doesn’t always mean you should spend it immediately on your home loan.

First, consider if you have a large enough emergency savings fund. It might be tempting to try and throw any extra money at your mortgage as soon as possible, but there are other financial commitments you should plan for as well.

If you have kids who will be applying to college soon, remember that student aid takes into account their parents’ finances. If your children plan on applying to institutions with high tuition, then your equity will be counted against you.

Refinancing to pay your mortgage early

Refinancing your home loan is one option if you’re considering increasing the payments on your mortgage. If you can refinance a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan with a lower interest rate, you’ll save money in two ways--your lower interest rate and the fact that you’ll be accruing interest for less time.

There is a downside to refinancing. Once you refinance, you’re locked into your new payment amount. So, if your higher income isn’t dependable, it might not make sense to commit to a higher monthly payment that you aren’t sure you’re going to be able to keep paying.

There’s also the matter of refinancing costs. Just like the costs associated with signing on your mortgage, you’ll have to pay closing costs on refinancing. You’ll need to weigh the cost of refinancing against the amount you’ll save on interest over the term of your mortgage to see if it truly makes sense to go through the refinancing process.

Paying more on your current loan

Even if you aren’t sure that refinancing is the best option, there are other ways you can make payments on your mortgage to pay it off years sooner than your term length.

One of the common methods is to simply make thirteen payments each year instead of twelve. To do this, homeowners often use their tax returns or savings to make the thirteenth payment. Over a thirty year mortgage, this could save you over full two years of added interest.

A second option is to make two bi-weekly payments rather than one monthly payment. By making biweekly payments you have the ability to make 26 payments in a year. If you were to just make two payments per month then you would make 24 total payments. Over time, those two extra payments per year add up.


What do buying a house, opening a credit card, and getting approved for an auto loan have in common? They all depend on your credit score.

Building credit is a multifaceted undertaking. In a way, this is a good thing--you wouldn’t want lenders to base their opinions solely on one aspect of your financial history. The downside is that understanding just what makes up your credit score can be difficult.

To complicate matters further, there isn’t one standard method for scoring your credit, and different credit bureaus each use their own criteria.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the factors the major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit, and give you some ways you can boost your credit.

But first, let’s talk about some of the implications of having a good credit score.

Why credit matters

Typical credit scores range anywhere from 250 to 850. The three main reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Most lenders use a combination of those scores that is reported by FICO.

Most credit reports will rank your category from “bad” to “excellent.” Here’s an example of what a credit ranking might look like:

  • Excellent: 750+

  • Good: 700 - 749

  • Fair: 650 - 659

  • Poor: 550 - 649

  • Bad: -550

U.S. legislation makes it possible for Americans to receive a free report of their credit score and to challenge and correct the score if it contains inaccuracies.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, opening a new line of credit, or taking out a loan of some kind, then the provider will likely run your credit score. Those providers are going to want to see a return on their investment, so they’ll charge interest.

If you have a high credit score, it tells the lenders that you are a low-risk investment, and therefore they can offer you a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.

Components of a credit score

There are five main factors that credit bureaus take into consideration when formulating your credit score. Not all of the factors are treated equally. Your ability to pay your bills on time, for example, is considered to be more important than the types of bills you have. Here’s a breakdown of the five components that make up a credit score:

  • 35% - Bill and loan payments

  • 30% - Current total amount of debt

  • 15% - Amount of time you’ve had credit (since you took out your first loan or opened your first credit card)

  • 10% - Types of credit (cards, loans, etc.)

  • 10 % - New credit inquiries

Quick tips for building credit

It takes time to build credit and improve your score. So, if you’re hoping to buy a home within the next few years, now is the time to start working on your credit. Here are some best practices for building credit:

  • Set up autopay for your bills to avoid late payments. Even if the service doesn’t offer autopay, you can likely set up recurring payments through your bank.

  • Settle outstanding debt. Avoiding debt that you can’t pay off will only hurt you more in the long run. Call your creditor and see if they offer debt relief programs. More likely than not they’d rather work with you to ensure they receive some repayment rather than none at all.

  • Start budgeting the right way. New budgeting software like Mint and “You Need a Budget” are easy to use and link up with your accounts. They’ll help you monitor your spending and start paying off debt.

  • Don’t open new lines of credit close to when you want to take out a loan. New credit inquiries can briefly lower your credit, especially if you make more than one. Viewing your free credit reports doesn’t count as an inquiry, so feel free to do that as often as needed to check your progress.

  • Get credit for bills you’re already paying. You can report your monthly rent payments, switch bills into your name that you contribute to, or take out a credit builder loan. All three will help you build rent without changing your spending habits.