Your Guide to Mortgage Banking Terms: From APR to Underwriting

Applying for a mortgage can feel like diving into a sea of financial jargon. For the uninitiated, mortgage banking terms can appear convoluted and intimidating. But fear not: understanding these terms is key to navigating the home-buying process with confidence.

To help demystify the language of mortgage banking and mortgage banking institutions, here’s a comprehensive guide to some of the most commonly used terms, from APR to Underwriting.

APR (Annual Percentage Rate)

APR is a critical term to understand as it gives you the real cost of borrowing. Unlike the interest rate, which only accounts for the interest you’ll pay on the loan, the APR includes additional costs like lender fees, mortgage insurance, and closing costs. Always compare APRs when shopping for a mortgage, as it gives you a more complete picture of how much the loan will cost you.


Amortization refers to the process of paying off your mortgage in fixed installments over a predetermined period. Each payment goes towards both principal and interest. In the early years of the mortgage, a larger portion of your payment goes toward interest, and as time goes on, a larger portion goes toward reducing the principal balance.


Before a lender issues a mortgage, they require an appraisal to determine the market value of the property you wish to purchase. The appraisal protects both you and the lender by ensuring the loan amount is appropriate for the home’s value.

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Closing Costs

Closing costs are the various fees you’ll need to pay at the time of closing the mortgage deal. These could include lender fees, title insurance, and property taxes, among other things. Typically, closing costs range from 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price.

Credit Score

Your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness, and it significantly influences the interest rate you’ll receive for a mortgage. Lenders use this score to evaluate the risk of lending to you. A higher score can result in better loan terms and a lower interest rate.

Down Payment

The down payment is the initial lump-sum you pay upfront to secure a mortgage. While you can find mortgages that require as little as 3% down, putting down 20% or more can help you avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).


In the context of a mortgage, an escrow account is a separate account used to hold funds that are designated for paying property taxes and insurance. Lenders often require escrow accounts to protect their investment in your property.

Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Fixed-rate mortgages have a constant interest rate and monthly payments that never change. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have an interest rate that may change periodically depending on changes in a corresponding financial index.

Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV)

This ratio is calculated by dividing the loan amount by the property’s appraised value or sale price, whichever is lower. A higher LTV often results in less favorable loan terms and may require you to purchase mortgage insurance.


In mortgage banking, a point is equal to 1% of the loan amount. You can pay points upfront to lower your interest rate, a practice known as “buying down the rate.”

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Before house hunting, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approval means that the lender has evaluated your financial situation and determined how much you can borrow. It gives you an advantage in a competitive real estate market and helps you stay within your budget.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

If your down payment is less than 20% of the home’s value, you’ll likely be required to pay PMI. This insurance protects the lender in case you default on the loan.


Refinancing involves replacing your existing mortgage with a new one, typically to take advantage of lower interest rates or to change the term of the loan.


The underwriting process is the lender’s method of determining your eligibility for a mortgage. It involves evaluating your credit history, employment history, assets, and other factors. Once underwriting is complete, the lender will issue a final approval or denial for the loan.

By familiarizing yourself with these essential mortgage banking terms, you arm yourself with the knowledge needed to navigate the complexities of the home-buying process. Understanding these terms will not only help you make informed decisions but also empower you to secure the best possible mortgage deal.

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