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10 Common Mortgage Myths Debunked

By: American Heritage06.06.24
Couple standing in front of new home holding keys

Buying a home is a big step, both emotionally and financially. Naturally, you want the most accurate information to guide you through this process. However, a surprising amount of misinformation is out there, sometimes unintentionally passed along.

Let’s clear up some common misconceptions to help you navigate the complexities of buying a home.


Myth #1: You Need a 20% Down Payment

One of the most persistent myths surrounding mortgages is the belief that a 20% down payment is an absolute necessity. While a larger down payment can help you avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), it’s not mandatory. Many conventional loans offer down payment options as low as 3%. Government-backed loans, such as those offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), may require even less. Be sure to explore your options. A smaller down payment might mean a higher monthly payment, but it can also accelerate your path to homeownership.


Myth #2: Renting Is Always Cheaper Than Owning

The age-old debate of renting versus owning often hinges on the misconception that renting is inherently cheaper. The true cost of homeownership extends beyond the mortgage payment. While renting may offer short-term affordability and flexibility, homeownership presents long-term benefits, such as equity building and potential tax advantages.

Additionally, rental costs can fluctuate, while owning offers more stability over time. The decision hinges on several factors:

  • Location: Property values and rental rates can vary significantly depending on your desired area.
  • Inflation: Long-term mortgage payments could potentially be lower than long-term rental costs due to inflation in rental markets.
  • Property values: In appreciating markets, building equity can outweigh renting costs.
  • Lifestyle: If you want stability and the ability to personalize your space, ownership might be more appealing.


Myth #3: Spring Is the Ideal Time to Buy

The notion that spring is the best time to buy a home is a common misconception perpetuated by seasonal trends in the real estate market. There is often an influx of new listings in spring, but it’s not the only ideal time. Market conditions can differ greatly by location. In some areas, winter might offer a buyer’s market with more motivated sellers and potentially lower prices. 

The best time to buy boils down to finding the right house at the right price, regardless of the season.


Myth #4: You Need a Perfect Credit Score to Get a Mortgage

While having a stellar credit score can undoubtedly improve your chances of securing a favorable mortgage rate, it’s not the sole determining factor. Many lenders offer options for borrowers with less-than-perfect credit. Factors such as income, employment history, and debt-to-income ratio also play crucial roles in the mortgage approval process. By working with a knowledgeable lender, you can explore your options and find a mortgage solution that suits your financial circumstances.


Myth #5: Fixer-Uppers Save Money

The allure of a fixer-upper can be tempting, promising the opportunity to customize your dream home while saving money in the process. However, proceed with caution. While some home renovation projects can increase a home’s value, extensive renovations can sometimes become a significant financial drain and eat away at any perceived savings. Factor in realistic repair costs before assuming a fixer-upper is a bargain. Consider the time commitment required for renovations and potential delays in moving in.


Myth #6: Always Choose the Mortgage With the Lowest Interest Rate

While obtaining a low-interest rate can be beneficial, it’s not the only factor to consider. Closing costs, origination fees, and loan terms like the fixed-rate period (for adjustable-rate mortgages) all play a role in the overall cost of your mortgage. A mortgage with a slightly higher interest rate may offer lower closing costs or more favorable terms, ultimately saving you money in the long run. Additionally, be wary of teaser rates that may increase significantly after an initial period. Always read the fine print and understand all terms and conditions before making a decision.


Myth #7: All Mortgage Lenders Are the Same

It’s easy to assume that all mortgage lenders offer identical products and services, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Different lenders offer varying interest rates, terms, and fees. Don’t settle for the first offer you receive. Shopping around and getting quotes from multiple lenders can help you compare options and find the best fit for your needs.

Consider factors like responsiveness, transparency, and the lender’s track record when deciding. Remember, the mortgage process is a significant financial commitment, so it’s essential to choose a lender you trust.

Some partners offer special benefits and discounts for using their services. Find local programs and check your eligibility to potentially save thousands.


Myth #8: 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Is the Only Option

While a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most popular choice among homebuyers, it’s not the only option available. For those seeking a balance between affordability and a faster payoff, 10-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages offer shorter terms and typically lower interest rates than a 30-year loan. This translates to a higher monthly payment, but you’ll build equity in your home much more quickly and save significantly on total interest paid over the life of the loan.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer an alternative for those who plan to sell or refinance before the rate adjusts significantly. ARMs typically start with a lower interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages, making them appealing to buyers seeking short-term savings or planning to relocate within a few years. However, the rate can adjust periodically, potentially leading to higher payments in the future. Consult a knowledgeable mortgage advisor to explore your options and determine the best fit for your unique circumstances.


Myth #9: You Should Find a Home Before Applying for a Loan

Knowing your budget before looking at homes helps to prevent making emotional decisions. Without a clear understanding of your budget and financing options, you may fall in love with a home that’s out of your financial reach or miss out on better opportunities.

Instead, getting pre-approved for a mortgage before house hunting can provide you with a realistic budget, streamline the buying process, and demonstrate to sellers that you’re a serious buyer. By securing financing early on, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions and negotiate confidently when you find the right property.


Myth #10: Once Your Offer Is Accepted, the Deal Is Done

Getting your offer accepted is a cause for celebration, but remember that you’re not quite a homeowner yet. Several crucial steps remain before you can officially move in. These include scheduling a home inspection to identify potential problems, ensuring the property value aligns with the offer price through an appraisal, finalizing loan approval with the lender, and attending the closing to sign the necessary paperwork and finalize the purchase.

Be diligent and proactive throughout the escrow period, address any issues that arise promptly, and work closely with your real estate agent and lender to ensure a smooth closing process. Until all documents are signed, funds are transferred, and keys are exchanged, the deal is not officially done.


Ready to Explore Your Mortgage Options?

Navigating the mortgage landscape can be challenging, but with the right information and guidance, you can approach this process with confidence. At American Heritage Credit Union, we’re committed to helping you achieve your dream of homeownership. We offer a variety of mortgage options, competitive rates, and personalized support to ensure a smooth and successful journey. Reach out to us to get started on the path to your new home.



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