Homeownership is a huge financial step to take at any age. Applying for your first mortgage can be an overwhelming process, whether you are doing it alone or with a co-signer. Before you ever meet with potential lenders, you should have a sense of what they do and what you want from them. Here’s what you should make sure to ask before beginning any application process.

What is the best mortgage rate I can hope to get?
Everyone’s financial situation is different. This is precisely why mortgage lenders are such a valuable asset—they understand and empathize with individual circumstances, and will help to find you the best rate possible for your specific needs. A variety of different financial factors will come into play to help lenders figure out the rate they can offer you.

Should I get a variable or fixed mortgage rate?
A typical mortgage is fixed with a term of five years—this is the term the majority of Canadians agree to. The benefit of a fixed rate is the guarantee that the rate will be fixed for the duration of the term. However, with a variable rate, the rate will fluctuate depending on market value. Not everyone meets the criteria for a fixed rate, but your lender will let you know what you do qualify for.

Will I be able to make additional payments?
If you expect to be able to make extra payments over the course of your term, you should discuss this with your lender upfront. Many will discourage this, allowing you to increase your monthly payment only by a very small percentage. If you want more freedom, be upfront about this with your lender. If they are not willing to compromise, you can always find another.

How long do I have to put in an offer after pre-approval?
Pre-approval is a weight off any serious homebuyers’ shoulders. Knowing that you have been pre-approved for your mortgage can enable you to focus all your attention on searching for your dream home. Having a pre-approval in your back pocket is an excellent way of narrowing down your budget. However, your pre-approval window will expire after a certain period, usually between 90 and 120 days.