There are so many things to keep track of when you're shopping for mortgages and buying a home. For many of us, though, our homes are our biggest investment, so it pays to do the research.

That's why I sat down for a Q & A with Tim Welch, a KeyBank mortgage loan officer, or MLO. His job is to help applicants move through the application process for home loans, serving as their primary contact for the lender.

Whether or not it's your first-time meeting with an MLO, what’s a good first question to ask?

I would say start with, "Which mortgages are best for my situation?" An MLO knows all of the mortgage options that their lender provides. After discussing your financial situation, they can recommend the mortgage that will best fit your needs. Make sure to identify your key financial goals, such as "low monthly payments" or "paying the mortgage off quickly."

What about interest rates? What’s a good question to ask there?

Mortgage interest rate types come in several different varieties: adjustable, fixed, or both. Ask your mortgage loan officer if you have any questions about these rate options, as this is their specialty. They are there to guide you every step of the way and to present all the options available that best suit your needs. For example, an annual percentage rate, or APR, combines multiple fees for a general look at mortgage costs. The APR includes interest costs and additional fees so it gives you the overall “price” of a loan, expressed as an annual rate.

How about down payments and options people have?

That's an important thing to ask about. The down payment is the cash you must pay upfront for your home when taking out your mortgage. It's typically 5-20 percent of the loan amount. Certain programs, like FHA loans or Key Community Mortgage, are specifically designed for those who could benefit from a lower down payment.

That is extremely helpful information, and of course, this is just the beginning of the conversation you'd have with an MLO. If you are considering purchasing a home or refinancing your mortgage, talk with a KeyBank MLO today about which type of mortgage might be best for you. Learn more at or by calling 1-800-KEY2YOU® (539-2968).

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