Va loans and other Types of mortgage

Picking out a mortgage suited to your needs can be confusing, especially if you qualify for more than one kind. Compare these three loan types before you go mortgage shopping.

Types of mortgages

  1. Conventional loans
  2. VA loans
  3. FHA loans

Conventional loans

How they work: "The dominant number of loans made in the conventional market use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines for conforming loans," says John Councilman, federal housing chairman for The National Association of Mortgage Brokers in McLean, Va. The U.S. government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may affect both entities' underwriting guidelines going forward, but no changes have been made yet.

Conventional loans are "conforming" if they are generally $417,000 or less for a single-family home. Conforming loan limits can be higher in pricier regions of the country. For example, in such states as Alaska and Hawaii, it's $625,500.

There are also established guidelines for borrower credit scores, income requirements and minimum down payments. For example, most conventional loans require somewhere between 5 percent and 20 percent down.

"Right now those guidelines are changing frequently but they should have at least a 620 credit score," Councilman says. "Anything below a 740 credit score and they (lenders) are going to start adding fees which can be quite sizable, in the several-percent range, as borrowers' credit scores drop compared to loan-to-value "(LTV)."

Conventional loans can be conforming or nonconforming. Loans above the lending limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are called nonconforming loans.

Most conventional mortgages have either fixed or adjustable interest rates. Typical fixed interest rate loans have a term of 15 or 30 years. A shorter-term loan usually results in a lower interest rate. Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, fluctuate in relation to the rate of a standard financial index, such as the LIBOR. Monthly payments can go up or down accordingly.

Cost: Origination fees, down payments, mortgage insurance, points and appraisal fees can mean the borrower has to show up at closing with a sizable sum of money out-of-pocket, or be prepared to roll over some of these costs into their mortgage amount, which may result in a higher loan rate.