Getting a mortgage these days isn't a speedy process. As a result of the economic downturn from nearly a decade ago, banks and other lending institutions are required to ask for more documents to ensure individuals and families looking for a mortgage qualify. While some may see this as a hassle, homebuyers are ultimately protected from purchasing properties they simply cannot afford.

As a potential homebuyer, you too should also be very careful with the mortgage you're about to sign. Don't just immediately sign anything that's given to you. Instead, look it over, and keep some of the following questions in mind before you agree to the terms.

What are the terms?

Mortgages are typically offered in two types: fixed rate and adjustable. Fixed rate mortgages remain the same for the duration of the agreement, which in most instances is 30 years. This helps you know exactly what your monthly payments will be.

Adjustable rate mortgages are as their name implies. With these, interest rates change after a certain number of years at regular intervals. Adjustable rates are ideal if you don't plan to live in the house for a long time, according to Trulia. For example, you'd live in the house for a set duration, fix up the house to increase its value and then move out before the adjustable rates kick in.

If you're going to agree to an ARM, be sure you understand every detail, such as when the rate will change and by how much. If you don't plan to sell the house and live there for the duration of the mortgage, take into account monthly recalculations to ensure you can still afford the mortgage.

What is the monthly payment?

Mortgages are essentially a form of debt, but it should not be viewed in a negative light. Owning a home adds many benefits, and in some real estate markets, you might actually save money buying a house instead of renting.

Even so, you always want to make sure you can afford the monthly payments. Be sure to include all financial commitments that include not only the mortgage itself, but taxes and insurances.

Your monthly payments, are calculated by taking a few factors into account. One, your credit score, has a big impact, so be sure to fix it if it's not ideal. Your payments also look at how much of a down payment you made. The more money you pay upfront, the lower your payments.

However, interest rates will play a huge factor. If you're offered a mortgage with a slightly higher rate than you'd like, work to increase your credit score.

Your monthly mortgage payments should not deter you from life's other goals. You still want to ensure you have enough money to afford bills, groceries, the occasional home inspection, and most importantly, retirement and savings.

Don't neglect your future by buying a house that will stretch current finances thin.

Are there any penalties?

Trying to pay off your mortgage as fast as possible sounds like a good plan. However, if you don't ask before you make those extra payments, you may end up having to pay prepayment penalties.

Be sure to ask about penalties and other fines to ensure you aren't caught off guard.

Is there a minimum down payment?

While there is no hard number, a 20 percent down payment is generally seen as the minimum amount you should have when buying a home.

Keep in mind that if you decide to put less up front, the mortgage will end up being more expensive due to extra costs.

When you're getting a mortgage, take time to carefully read through it and ask plenty of questions to ensure you are aren't signing anything that will lead to unexpected expenses.