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Frequently asked questions

What is an APR?

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is an interest rate that reflects the total cost of a mortgage over a year. This rate is usually higher than the advertised mortgage rate because it includes points and other credit costs. The APR helps homebuyers compare different mortgages based on their annual cost. It aims to measure the “true cost of a loan” and create a level playing field for lenders. By doing so, it prevents lenders from advertising a low rate and hiding fees.

It’s important to note that the APR does not affect your monthly payments. Your monthly payments depend solely on the interest rate and the loan term.

However, since the APR calculation is influenced by various lender fees, a lower APR does not always indicate a better rate. To accurately compare loans, you should ask lenders to provide you with a Loan Estimate (LE) of the costs for the same type of program and interest rate. You can then exclude fees such as homeowners insurance, title fees, and attorney fees, among others, and add up all the loan fees. By doing this, you can determine which lender has the lower loan fees, and hence, a more affordable loan.

What documents do I need to prepare for my loan application?

Every scenario is unique, but the documents we’ll likely need to review include:

Income / Assets:

  • W2’s – from the last two years
  • 1040 federal tax returns – from the last two years
  • Two recent pay stubs
  • Two recent bank statements – all pages
  • Self-Employed: K1 / 1099 / Profit and Loss YTD


  • Current and previous addresses for the previous 2 years
  • Leasing: name and phone number of landlord(s)
  • Investor: copy of lease agreements on rental properties


  • Copy of your driver’s license or state-issued ID for all borrowers

There may also be required documents we may need to review depending on your specific scenario.

What does it mean to lock the interest rate?

Mortgage rates are subject to change and can fluctuate between the time of loan application and the closing of the transaction. This can result in unexpected increases in monthly mortgage payments if interest rates rise significantly during the application process. To prevent this from happening, lenders offer borrowers the option to “lock-in” the loan’s interest rate for a specified period, usually ranging from 30 to 60 days. This lock-in period ensures that the borrower will receive the same interest rate that was agreed upon at the time of the lock-in, regardless of any subsequent rate changes.

What are points?

Points are expenses that must be paid to a lender to obtain mortgage financing according to specific terms. One point is equivalent to 1% of the loan amount. That means for a $100,000 loan; one point would cost $1,000.

Should I pay points to lower my interest rate?

If you intend to remain in the property for a few years, paying discount points to lower the interest rate on your loan is typically a wise decision. Doing so can lower your monthly mortgage payment and potentially increase the amount of money you can borrow. Nevertheless, if you plan on living in the property for only a year, the monthly savings may not be sufficient to recover the upfront cost of the discount points you paid. Therefore, it’s important to consider your long-term goals before deciding to pay discount points to reduce your loan’s interest rate.

Reach out and we can review your specific scenario to see if paying points to lower your interest rate makes sense.

What is an appraisal?

A critical component of buying a home is the appraisal. An appraisal is a third-party professional evaluation of the value of a property that is used to help determine the amount of a loan.

In compliance with government regulation, appraisers hired for a mortgage transaction on a conforming loan are chosen from a pool of qualified appraisers at random. Neither the borrower nor the lender has the flexibility of deciding which appraiser will inspect your home.

A few key components of an appraisal:

  • The Site: Location, view, topography, lot size, utilities, zoning, external factors, highest and best use, landscaping features…
  • Design: Quality of construction, finish work, fixed appliances, and any defining features…
  • Condition: Age, deterioration, renovations, upgrades, added features…
  • Health and Safety: Structural integrity, code compliance…
  • Size: Above grade and below grade improvements…
  • Neighborhood: Is the property comparable to others in the neighborhood?
  • Functional Utility: Is the property functional as built – style and use?
  • Parking: Garages, carports, shops, etc…

Other factors in determining value could be the home’s curb appeal, lot size, and conforming to the neighborhood are obvious to the appraiser when they drive down into the neighborhood and pull up in front of your home.

What happens during underwriting?

During the underwriting stage of the mortgage process, the underwriters will evaluate the property, title, and the information and documents you provided once your final loan package has been submitted. This can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to determine final approval and a conditions list, which could include a final letter of explanation for findings on a credit report, official verification of employment, and an updated hazard insurance policy provided by your home insurance agent.

Items typically obtained during the underwriting stage:

  • Appraisal
  • Updated Title
  • Escrow Amounts
  • Loan Payoffs
  • Additional Property Liens
  • Taxes
  • HOA Paperwork
  • Additional Loan Paperwork

What is a conditional approval?

The “Conditional Approval” milestone is an important step in the purchase loan process because it means that an underwriter has reviewed your complete file and is giving a list of final documentation to submit prior to closing.

What does "clear to close" mean?

“Clear to close” is the final step in funding your loan or “closing” on your purchase is where all final documents are signed, last-minute underwriting conditions are met, and money is exchanged.

At this point in the mortgage process, all inspections and appraisals have been completed, initial contracts and documents have been reviewed through underwriting, and it is time to sign your final documents.

What happens at closing?

Closing (also known as funding) is the official transfer of property ownership from the seller to the buyer. The process involves several parties, typically including the seller, buyer, real estate agents, attorneys, title or escrow firm representatives, clerks, secretaries, and other staff. The duration of the closing process varies from about one hour to several, depending on the purchase offer’s contingency clauses and the need to set up escrow accounts.

The closing paperwork is primarily handled by attorneys and real estate professionals. It is recommended that you conduct a final inspection or walk-through before closing to ensure that the agreed-upon repairs have been completed and that items such as drapes and lighting fixtures that were supposed to remain with the house are still there.

Once everything is finalized, the check (or wire transfer) will be given to the seller, and the buyer will be given the keys to the property.