Beware the Online Tool

No, not a troll, a tool. You can find these tools at most mortgage and financial websites and they calculate things such as monthly payments, how much prepaying a mortgage will help and amortization periods. Another shared tool is the prequalification calculator, the one that tells you how much you can borrow. How do they work?

Prequalification calculators take standard underwriting guidelines such as credit, down payment and loan amount and comparing those numbers with debt to income ratios. These calculators will ask for the loan term youd like, say a 15 year or 30 year loan and your monthly income. The consequence will be the approximate amount you can borrow should you apply for a mortgage.

Say you found one of these calculators and you wanted a 15 year mortgage and you entered $5,000 as your monthly income. If current rates for a 15 year loan are 3.00 percent, the math works to an approximate $166,000 loan amount. Thats what the calculator indicates what youre likely to qualify for.

But what if youve been looking at $250,000 homes and you cant come up with the nearly $100,000 it would take in order to qualify for a mortgage? Do you just pack up and leave, only to rent forever? No.

Thats a problem with many of these calculators, sometimes theres not enough information to properly complete the fields. For example, lenders use gross monthly income when qualifying a borrower. If the $5,000 represented take-home pay, youll get a bad consequence. In this example, the gross monthly income would be closer to $6,500 and by extending a loan term from 15 years to 30 years the qualifying loan amount is closer to, ta-da… $340,000!

Online help should just be a starting point and not replace the advice of an experienced loan officer. By prequalifying (and turning down) yourself, you could lose out big-time.

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