5 Crucial Questions to Ask Your Mortgage Lender Before Committing

Buying a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you’ll ever make. It’s not just about finding your dream house; it’s also about securing the right mortgage to finance it.

Choosing the right mortgage lender can make a world of difference in your financial future. To ensure you make an informed decision, here are five crucial questions to ask your mortgage lender before signing on the dotted line.

Question 1: What Types of Mortgages Do You Offer?

Understanding the types of mortgages a lender offers is the first step in finding the right fit for your financial situation. Different lenders may specialize in various types of mortgages. Here are some common options:

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage: With a fixed-rate mortgage, your rate will be predetermined at a specific amount for a set period (usually five years). This allows you to budget for the longer term without worrying about your repayments changing monthly. When you reach the end date (i.e., fixed time frame), the lender will revert your mortgage to a variable rate, or you can negotiate a new fixed term with the bank. Fixed-rate mortgages offer peace of mind but can be more expensive than variable-rate deals.
  • Variable rate mortgages: Variable-rate mortgages are the most common type of home loan in South Africa. The cost of variable-rate loans changes depending on rates set by the SARB. In simple terms, the SARB sets a rate it lends to banks (the repurchase rate or ‘repo’). This then determines the prime interest rate, which banks use to set consumer mortgage rates. The prime rate is always higher than the repo rate, enabling banks to profit from their loans.

As the types of mortgages, lending criteria, and rates differ between financial institutions, it is best to shop around for the best mortgage to suit your situation and budget. Your choice of mortgage should align with your long-term financial goals and risk tolerance. Ensure your lender has the type of mortgage you’re looking for and that they explain the pros and cons of each option thoroughly.

Question 2: What Are the Interest Rates and Terms?

Interest rates and loan terms have a significant impact on your monthly mortgage payments and the overall cost of your loan. Make sure to get clarity on:

  • Interest Rates: Compare interest rates from multiple lenders to find the best deal. Understand whether the rate is fixed or variable.
  • Loan Terms: How long will your mortgage last? Common terms are 15, 20, or 30 years. Shorter terms often have higher monthly payments but lower overall interest costs.

A lower interest rate can save you hundreds of thousands over the life of your loan. Be sure to ask about any potential rate adjustments if you’re considering a variable-rate mortgage.

Question 3: What Are the Bond Registration and Transfer Costs?

These are the biggest costs that home buyers must be aware of and budget for. They are also unavoidable.

  • Bond registration fees are paid to the attorney who registers the bond in the buyer’s name. This attorney is appointed by the bank.
  • Transfer costs are paid to the conveyancing attorney who transfers the bond from the seller to the buyer. The conveyancing attorney is appointed by the seller.
  • Transfer duty is a tax on the transfer of property. Properties worth under R1 100 000 are exempt from transfer duty.

All these costs are dependent on the value of the property. The higher the value, the higher the fee. Ask your lender for a Loan Estimate, a document that breaks down all expected costs. This allows you to compare these costs among lenders to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Question 4: Can You Explain the Preapproval Process?

Before you start house hunting, it’s highly recommended to get preapproved for a mortgage. Preapproval provides several advantages, including:

  • Knowing your budget: It helps you narrow down your house search to properties you can afford.
  • Negotiating power: Sellers are more likely to consider your offer seriously if you’re preapproved.
  • Faster closing: Preapproval can expedite the loan application process.

Your lender should guide you through the preapproval process, which typically involves a credit check and providing financial documentation. Once approved, you’ll receive a preapproval letter stating the maximum amount you can borrow.

Question 5: What Happens if I Face Financial Hardship?

Life is unpredictable, and financial challenges can arise. It’s essential to know how your lender will support you if you face difficulties in repaying your mortgage. Ask about:

  • Forbearance: Will the lender allow you to temporarily pause or reduce your payments in times of hardship, such as job loss or illness?
  • Loan Modification: Can the terms of your loan be adjusted to make it more manageable if you’re struggling financially?
  • Refinancing: Is refinancing an option to lower your monthly payments or interest rate?

Clear communication with your lender is key in such situations. Knowing your options in advance can provide peace of mind and help you make informed decisions during challenging times.


Choosing the right mortgage lender is as important as finding the perfect home. By asking these five crucial questions, you can ensure that you’re making an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and circumstances.

Remember, a mortgage is a long-term commitment, so take your time, do your research, and choose a lender who will work with you to achieve your homeownership dreams while safeguarding your financial future.

Now that you’re armed with these essential questions, you’re ready to embark on your journey to homeownership with confidence. Happy house hunting!

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