Trudi Schuurhof


Home Buyer's Guide

Exploring Your Mortgage Options

The Three Elements of a Mortgage

Mortgages have three elements: a loan type, a rate type and a term. Knowing how these pieces work together can help you pick the best mortgage for you.

Loan Type

A mortgage’s type depends on if a government agency or private investors are involved, as well as the amount of the loan. FHA loans are the easiest to qualify for. They require a low down payment and FICO® score, but they can cost more over time because they require you to pay a fee called mortgage insurance. You can get an FHA loan from any FHA-approved lender. These loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which just means that the FHA protects lenders against loss from homeowners who default on their loans. Conventional loans are a bit harder to qualify for, but they typically cost less over time than an FHA loan. You can avoid paying private mortgage insurance if your down payment is 20% or more. This can save you hundreds of dollars on your monthly mortgage payment. VA loans are exclusively for veterans, eligible surviving spouses and active-duty service members. VA loans offer the opportunity to buy a home with no down payment or private mortgage insurance. Jumbo loans are mortgages that exceed the conventional loan limit. This simply means that you’ll need a jumbo mortgage if your loan amount is between $484,351 and $3 million.

Rate Type

There are two kinds of mortgage rates – fixed and adjustable – and you can pick the type of rate that matches your goals. You can see our current interest rates here. A fixed-rate mortgage will stay the same for the life of your loan. This option keeps your month-to-month mortgage payment consistent and predictable. This is a great option for homeowners who plan to stay in their new home for a long time and want a regular payment to budget around. An adjustable-rate mortgage will stay the same for the first 5, 7 or 10 years of the loan. Then, your rates will adjust up or down once per year depending on market conditions. An adjustable-rate mortgage offers the opportunity to get the lowest rate possible and is a good choice for homeowners who plan on moving or refinancing before the initial fixed-rate period ends.

Amortization Calculator

Use our amortization calculator to see how your monthly payment breaks down and how additional payments can save you money on interest.

The Many Parts of a Monthly Mortgage Payment

Monthly payments are usually composed of three portions: the principal, the interest, and the taxes and insurance (typically grouped together).

  • The principal goes toward paying down the balance of the loan. Any money paid toward your principal increases the amount of equity you have in the property.
  • The interest goes to your lender as a fee for borrowing money.
  • The taxes and insurance cover your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance premiums. This portion is only included in your payment if you have an escrow account, which is a special account that your lender uses to hold the money that’s used to pay your property taxes and insurance premiums. With an escrow account, you never have to worry about paying your tax or insurance bills since your lender takes care of that for you.


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