Buying a house should be a collaboration throughout every part of the process. It’s one of the few major purchases and commitments you’ll ever make in a lifetime. That’s why it’s crucial to find the right professional who can meet any challenge that arises on the road to your next home.
After all, you’ve done the leg work. You’ve talked with your bank. You’ve met with some mortgage brokers and you’ve decided to go with a mortgage lender. It makes sense since mortgage lenders operate like banks. The main difference being they only offer home loans.
Be sure to do your research before choosing the right mortgage lender for you. Unfortunately, experience doesn’t always automatically translate into knowledge. Here are four tips to keep in mind when finding your mortgage lender guru.
Know and own your credit score
Your credit score is yours and yours alone, so own it. Know what it is before finding a mortgage lender since your interest rates will depend on it. If it’s high, great, you’ve already won half the battle. If it could be better, do everything you can to improve it. Otherwise you’ll be facing higher interest rates or worse—possible loan rejection. If you’re not sure how to increase your credit score, ask the mortgage lender you decide to work with. Generally, they’ll have a sophisticated understanding of how to do so.
What if you want your credit score but don’t know where or how to find it? Try Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They’re all major credit bureaus that are obligated to offer free reports annually. It’s a worthwhile perk to take advantage of. For more in-depth information on getting your credit score, click here.
Ask for and use referrals
What better way is there to find a mortgage lender than by asking around? Friends and family will probably be the most reliable in terms of honesty, though it’s worth asking other housing industry professionals as well, such as your real estate agent.
According to Mortgage Broker Mark Greene, on Forbes.com, “Ask a financial adviser, an accountant, your attorney or your realtor to help you with a short list of lender referrals. These people deal with mortgage lenders regularly and can help you filter that continuum with the greatly disparate expertise and wherewithal and add real confidence to your decision.”
Once you have your list, get your PI hat on and google them. Do they have an online presence? See if you can find some testimonials and reviews written by previous clients. A good place to check is Zillow, an online real estate database.
Just ask Brian Johnson, president of Valley Mortgage about online reviews. “It’s not every day that someone calls me a ‘guru.’” Though that’s exactly how a former client of his described him in a Zillow review. “Brian helped me in my purchase of my home in Fargo. I had been in contact with Brian prior to my purchasing and I couldn’t have been happier with the closing process. I would highly recommend him to anyone looking for a lender. My realtor calls him the “guru,” which I agree with.”
Vet the options
Once you have your credit score and your list of referrals, call them. Call them all. Ask them questions to get a sense for how they’d treat you as a client. Do they answer your questions clearly and graciously? Or better yet, do they ask you questions about your long term homeownership and financial goals? If so, you’re talking to the right people. Since mortgage lenders are also salespeople, it’s important to get the sense that they care about what you want and want to help you attain it.
There is a myriad of other questions to ask the mortgage lender while you’ve got them on the phone. Here’s the shortlist:
- What types of mortgage loans do they offer? Do they offer ND Housing Finance Agency, Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA), Rural Housing and Conventional loans?
- What is their turnaround time on mortgage loans?
- Who will service your loan if they sell it?
- How available are they to answer questions once the loan is completed?
Brick and mortar vs. online lenders
Besides a mortgage lender’s reputation and personability, there are other things to keep in mind before choosing. Are they a brick and mortar company or do they operate primarily online? Online mortgage lenders claim to be able to operate for less, but there’s little evidence to support this. Also, please remember – beware of lenders that offer deals that make Hawaii pale in comparison.