African-American couple walking down front steps of home in residential neighborhood
African-American couple walking down front steps of home in residential neighborhood

your guide to picking the best home mortgage from first financial bank

Mortgages come in all shapes and sizes

When looking to buy a home, there is an array of cities and neighborhoods to choose from, with a variety of home prices, and mortgage rates to match. Once you settle on a neighborhood and home, it’s time to start shopping for mortgages.

Applying for a mortgage 

Getting a mortgage can feel intimidating the first time around. However, the process can actually be smooth and straightforward if you are prepared with just the basic requirements of what you need to obtain a mortgage loan. Before you start shopping for a home, you’ll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Preapproval means that a lender has said they’d be willing to offer you a mortgage up to a certain amount. Once you get preapproved, you’ll have a better idea of what you can afford to spend on a house. 

Getting preapproved means you may choose to fill out an application online or consult a mortgage loan officer. You’ll need to provide a number of documents, including things like employment verification, asset verification, and tax documents. You’ll also agree to a credit check. If the lender preapproves you, they’ll give you a letter stating what they’d be willing to offer you—including both the amount and terms of the loan.

Being preapproved doesn’t mean you’re committed to taking out a mortgage or even using the lender who preapproves you. The process lets you shop around to find the right fit for you, both financially and personally.

In the tri-state, you have plenty of options. from local and regional lenders and financial institutions to credit unions to large national banks and lending companies. National lenders may have plenty of name recognition, but smaller, regional banks and credit unions may be more flexible. They may also be able to offer you personalized service and loan terms. 

Before you agree to any mortgage offer, make sure you understand the pros and cons of different mortgage types. You should feel comfortable asking your lender to explain each kind of mortgage and the differences between them. Here are some of the basics:

Loan terms

Mortgages generally come in 10, 15, and 30-year terms. While 30-year mortgages are the most common, shorter mortgages allow you to pay less interest over the life of the loan. With a shorter mortgage, you’ll build up equity faster, but the shorter loan term also translates to higher monthly payments. 

Fixed-rate vs. adjustable-rate

When it comes to interest, there are fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages. A fixed-rate mortgage is what it sounds like: Your lender sets an interest rate, which remains the same for the entire duration of the loan. So, if you start out paying 3.5%, that’s the same rate you’ll be paying 30 years from now. 

By comparison, adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) offer an introductory interest rate that changes after a specific period and continues to change at regular intervals as defined by the loan’s terms. For example, an ARM may start out with an interest rate of 2.5% for the first five years, but from there it might adjust on an annual basis. 

Generally, ARMs make sense if you don’t plan to stay in a home beyond the first rate adjustment interval. So, if you’re thinking of buying in the city but know you’ll make the jump to the suburbs in a few years, an ARM might be something to consider.  

Special mortgage options

There are a variety of mortgage programs that are available to borrowers based on their status as first-time homebuyers, their professions, or where they’re buying. The benefits can include lower down payment options and lower interest rates. Your lender can help you figure out if you qualify for options such as FHA loans, VA loans, or CHAMP loans.

As you’re planning your home purchase, make sure you do your homework and shop around for your mortgage. Consider how much you can afford to pay each month, and how long you plan to stay in the home. Then choose a lender that’s accessible, flexible, and ready to partner with you.

Not sure how much house you can afford? Our affordability calculator can help.

The information on this page is accurate as of January 2021 and is subject to change. First Financial Bank is not affiliated with any third-parties or third-party websites mentioned above. Any reference to any person, organization, activity, product, and/or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement. By clicking on a third-party link, you acknowledge you are leaving First Financial Bank is not responsible for the content or security of any linked web page. Member FDIC / Equal Housing Lender.

Loans subject to credit review and approval.


You are about to go to a different website or app. The privacy and security policies of this site may be different than ours. We do not control and are not responsible for the content, products or services.

Just launched: the new online banking experience

Sign in now to access your account, or download the new app by searching "Your First Financial."