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Congratulations! You're ready to buy a home...

A home is one of the biggest purchases of your life. That makes choosing the right mortgage loan a critical step in the homebuying process. Our goal at LendingTree is to help you find the right home loan with the right mortgage lender.

Do you already have a home loan? We can also help you refinance your mortgage and save money.

You can get up to five free mortgage offers in minutes. There are no hidden fees or obligations. Comparing quotes is a great first step to buying your dream home.

What is a mortgage?

A mortgage is a legal agreement between a borrower and a mortgage lender. The lender provides money to the borrower to purchase real estate and, in exchange, the borrower agrees to repay the loan, plus interest. The mortgage loan is secured by a home, so if the borrower fails to repay the loan, the lender can repossess the home through foreclosure and sell it to pay off the loan.

What you need to know about a mortgage loan

  • Home affordability

    Just because you qualify for a certain mortgage loan amount doesn’t mean you should buy a home in that price range. Pick a purchase price and monthly mortgage payment that leaves enough room in your budget for other financial goals like retirement and emergency savings.

  • Credit score

    Although you may qualify for some home loan programs with a credit score as low as 500, a 620 score will get you lower mortgage rates with a smaller down payment. Get your free credit score to see where you stand, then take steps to boost your score as much as possible before applying for a mortgage.

  • Interest rate

    Aside from your credit score, there are several factors that determine your interest rate, including your down payment amount, loan amount, loan type and the location of your home. Your rate will also depend on the type of home you’re buying (a single-family home versus a manufactured home), and whether you plan to live in the home or rent it out.

  • Down payment

    You can put as little as 3% down with some mortgage programs, and some borrowers can even put zero down to buy a home. If you haven’t saved your own money, you may be able to apply for down payment assistance or get a gift from a relative or friend.

  • Mortgage program

    If you have a credit score less than 620, an FHA loan may be right for you. If you’re an eligible military borrower with no down payment funds, consider applying for a VA loan.

Home Loan Calculator

See how much your monthly payments will be

10 steps to getting a mortgage

  1. Check your finances. Request a credit report with scores from all three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Use a home affordability calculator to understand how much you might qualify for.
  2. Choose the right type of mortgage. Do you need to focus on a low down payment mortgage program? Do you want to put 20% down to avoid mortgage insurance? Knowing your real estate and financial goals can help you choose the best mortgage for your needs.
  3. Decide on your mortgage term. A 30-year, fixed-rate loan is the most popular choice for the lowest monthly payment. However, a shorter, 15-year fixed loan may save you thousands of dollars in interest charges, as long as your budget can handle the higher monthly payments.
  4. Save, save, save. Besides saving for a down payment, you’ll need cash to cover your closing costs, which could range from 2% to 6%, depending on your loan amount. Boost your emergency savings to cover unexpected repair costs and maintenance expenses. Lenders may require you to have cash reserves that could allow you to continue paying your mortgage in case you lose your job or have a medical emergency.
  5. Shop, shop, shop. LendingTree studies show that borrowers save money when they compare rates from at least three to five mortgage lenders. Give the same information to each lender so you’re comparing apples to apples when reviewing rate and fee quotes.
  6. Get a mortgage preapproval before you house hunt. A preapproval letter confirms you can get a mortgage loan to shop for homes within a set price range. Home sellers are more likely to take you seriously as a buyer if you’ve been preapproved.
  7. Make an offer on your dream home. Once you’ve found the perfect place, submit your best offer along with a copy of your preapproval letter. If your offer is accepted, you’ll also pay the required earnest money deposit to show your commitment to the transaction.
  8. Get a home inspection. Once your offer is accepted, schedule a home inspection to identify any needed repairs or major issues. Once you negotiate repairs with the seller, your lender will typically order a home appraisal to verify the home’s market value.
  9. Cooperate with the underwriter. Your lender’s underwriting team will ask for paperwork to verify all the information on your loan application. Be prompt in your responses to prevent delays. Once you receive final loan approval, a closing disclosure (CD) will be given to you at least three business days before your closing date. It will reflect the final costs of the transaction, including how much money you need to bring to the closing table.
  10. Complete your final walk-through and closing. Before you head to the mortgage closing, walk through the property to double-check that all necessary repairs were completed and that the home is ready for you. At the closing, you’ll cut a check for your down payment and closing costs, sign the closing paperwork and receive the keys to your new home.

Choose the type of home loan that’s right for you

Conventional Loans

Mortgages that aren’t insured by the government but conform to guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You can get a conventional mortgage loan with as little as 3% down, but you’ll need at least a 620 credit score to qualify.

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FHA Loans

Home loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration and provided by FHA-approved lenders. You can put as little as 3.5% down with an FHA loan if your credit score is 580 or higher. If you have a score of 500 to 579, you’ll need to put 10% down. FHA loans come with upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums, usually for the life of the loan.

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VA Loans

Mortgages backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) available to eligible military borrowers. VA loans require no down payment or mortgage insurance, but you must provide a VA certificate of eligibility to qualify.

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How to shop for a mortgage

Once you’ve chosen a loan program, it’s time to start shopping around with some lenders. Compare mortgage interest rates from local lenders, banks, credit unions and online lenders. Ask family or friends for referrals, as well as your real estate agent. Try a rate comparison website, and lenders will contact you with competing offers, saving you the hassle of doing all the work yourself. You can also work with a mortgage broker who can shop on your behalf. Once you’ve gathered the contact information for three to five lenders, follow these four shopping steps:
  1. Request price quotes on the same day.
  2. Ask the same questions of each lender, including: How long is the rate quote good for? What fees are charged upfront? Is the rate fixed or adjustable? What is the annual percentage rate (APR)?
  3. Expect loan estimates from each lender within three business days of submitting your mortgage application.
  4. Keep the estimates to compare rates and fees as you make your final choice.

How to qualify for a home loan

  • Credit scores. You’ll need at least a 620 credit score for a conventional loan and a 580 score for an FHA loan (with a 3.5% down payment). VA and USDA lenders might require a minimum 620 and 640 credit score, respectively.
  • Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your DTI ratio is a measure of your total monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Lenders recommend a DTI ratio at or below 43%. You may be able to qualify for a mortgage with a DTI ratio as high as 50%, but you’d need a good credit score and/or a larger down payment
  • Down payment. Conventional loans are available with a 3% down payment (income limits may apply). You’ll need at least 3.5% down for an FHA loan. There may be no down payment required if you’re eligible for a USDA or VA loan.
  • Employment history. Lenders look for proof of steady employment and income for the past two years. Have your pay stubs, W-2s and federal tax returns ready for your lender.

Additional mortgage loan FAQs

With just three pieces of information — your income, other debt and loan type — you can use LendingTree’s home affordability calculator to figure out how much home you can afford. Experiment with different down payment amounts and loan terms to see how homebuying might affect your budget.

LendingTree updates mortgage rates daily so you can make the most informed decision. Rates are constantly changing, so make sure you lock in your interest rate once you’ve found the best quote.

A credit score of 740 or higher will typically get you the lowest rate offers. Lenders also tend to offer lower rates if you make a higher down payment on a single-family home compared to a two- to four-unit or manufactured home.