When you've made the decision to start shopping for a home loan, it is important to make sure you find a lender who will be your partner in the home buying process. It is encouraged to shop around; you won't be penalized because the credit bureaus expect it. This is a lot of money you're about to invest! The most frequently asked question from home loan shoppers is, "What is your interest rate?" but it is absolutely essential to understand that there is so much more to a home loan than just a rate.
Dealmakers and breakers beyond the stated interest rate:
1. Are there fees or points baked into the loan?
You want to make an apples-to-apples comparison, and that goes far beyond rate. Take a look in "Section A" of the lender estimate to look out for things such as origination fees, processing fees, underwriting fees, and points. All of these fees impact your bottom line, and even if the interest rate is better, it could still be the worse deal for you. Mortgage math can be complicated; you want a lender that will not charge these fees and break down your estimate line by line. Your lender should empower you to make an informed decision, rather than boxing you in a loan product that wasn't necessarily the "right choice" for you.
2. Is your lender accessible?
When you're out shopping for a home on your evening and weekend time, you want someone who is available to answer financing questions on the particular property. A good lender will work real-time with your Realtor to send over updated approval letters specific to the home, to include accurate property tax information (which is important because I've seen many cases where a lower-priced house costs more monthly because of taxes or HOA). You want a lender who will answer your frantic calls on the weekend when you have a burning question that just can't wait. You want a lender who will answer a text when you have something pop up. You want a partner in the process that values you as a person, not just another file.
3. Can you close on time?
Look at your lender's track record of closing turn time. Some lenders will advertise interest rates with a lock period of 45+ days. That is an indicator of how long it is going to take them to get the job done. Most mortgages need to close within 30 days or less, and the last thing you want is to jeopardize the contract on your home or the sweet rate you've locked in.
4. Does your lender educate you?
You want a trusted guide that takes the time to answer all of the questions you ask, and the ones you didn't. A mortgage loan is full of information you don't know that you don't know. You want someone who takes the time to explain #allofthethings and makes you feel well informed and empowered throughout the entire process, start to finish.
Bottom line is you want to feel like you're working with a lender that is your advocate and partner throughout the entire home purchase experience. It is important to have a relationship you can trust with the most important of all investments – your home.
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