Understanding Mortgage Jargon

A Guide to Common Terms for First-Time Home Buyers

4 minutes

Embarking on the journey of homeownership is both thrilling and complex, especially for first-time buyers. The world of mortgages often comes with its own set of jargon that can be confusing. To empower you with knowledge, let's explain some common mortgage terms that many first-time home buyers may not fully grasp.


Amortization: Amortization is a repayment feature of loans with equal monthly payments and a fixed end date. The amortization period is the length of time it takes to pay off a mortgage in full. Monthly mortgage payments are equal, but the amounts going to principal and interest change every month.


Escrow is an account held by a third party (often the lender) to manage funds for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and other related expenses. It ensures that these payments are made on time.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI):

PMI is typically required when a homebuyer makes a down payment of less than 20%. It protects the lender in case the borrower defaults on the loan. Once the loan-to-value ratio improves, PMI can often be removed.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage:

A fixed-rate mortgage has a constant interest rate for the entire loan term. This means that your monthly payments remain the same, providing predictability and stability.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM):

The term adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) refers to a home loan with a variable interest rate. With an ARM, the initial interest rate is fixed for a period of time. After that, the interest rate applied on the outstanding balance resets periodically, at yearly or even monthly intervals.

Closing Costs:

Closing costs are the fees and expenses associated with finalizing a real estate transaction. These can include appraisal fees, title insurance, attorney fees, and more. Buyers are usually responsible for covering these costs.


Pre-approval is a process where a lender assesses your financial information and determines the maximum loan amount you can borrow. It strengthens your position as a buyer and provides a clear budget for house hunting.


An appraisal is an evaluation of a property's value conducted by a licensed appraiser. Lenders use appraisals to ensure that the property is worth the amount being financed.


The principal is the original amount of money borrowed for the mortgage, excluding interest. Monthly mortgage payments go towards repaying both principal and interest.


Underwriting is the process where a lender evaluates a borrower's creditworthiness and the risk associated with providing a mortgage. It involves a thorough review of financial documents.

Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio:

LTV is calculated by dividing the loan amount by either the purchase price or appraised value of the property (whichever is lower). A lower LTV ratio often indicates a lower risk for the lender.

Understanding these terms can empower first-time home buyers to make informed decisions throughout the mortgage process. If you ever encounter unfamiliar terms, don't hesitate to ask your lender or a real estate professional for clarification. By understanding mortgage jargon, you're better equipped to navigate the exciting path to homeownership with confidence.

Happy house hunting!