So, you’ve decided you want a home loan. Now begins the intimidating task of finding a mortgage lender to work with you.
There are thousands of options – from your local banks and credit unions to national online mortgage lenders that handle your loan processing by phone and email. You also have the option of working with an independent mortgage broker who may connect you with a lender you’ve never heard of. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it may just be that mortgage lender only works through brokers, not the general public).
Additionally, there are online mortgage lender comparison tools that will pre-qualify you and then match you with lenders with the best rates for the mortgage you need. In my opinion, this is often the easiest way to get started:
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a list of three, or five or even a dozen online mortgage lenders that will be sure bets for every reader. Many lenders only work in specific states and most are more competitive for certain loans or certain borrowers than others. The best mortgage lender for a family buying a single-family home with 20 percent down in California won’t be the best mortgage lender for an investor buying a multi-family townhome in Florida with 5 percent down.
How do you choose the best mortgage lenders to work with you?
Good news: It is possible to narrow your search for the best mortgage lender. It comes down to asking a few simple questions, which we’ll cover below.
Is the lender convenient to work with?
Mortgage lenders work differently. If you go with a bank, credit union or local mortgage broker, you’ll likely have multiple face-to-face meetings in their offices or your home. This can be reassuring if it’s your first time getting a mortgage or you have a lot of questions. On the contrary, if you prefer to work online or are experienced with the mortgage process, you may prefer a more streamlined experience.
This is where online mortgage lenders come in. For the most part, these national lenders don’t have local offices. You’ll complete your pre-approval application online and submit documentation via email, fax or mail. The best online mortgage lenders have top-notch phone customer service reps to walk you through the application process.
Is the lender reputable?
Most mortgage lenders are straight-shooting companies. Any bank will have its share of unhappy customers that didn’t get approved or had something go wrong in the closing process, but below-average companies will throw up red flags. These might include poor ratings from the Better Business Bureau or negative write-ups in newspapers.
Last but not least: Does the lender have the best rates?
When you’re borrowing $100,000, $250,000 or potentially much more, even a small difference in your interest rate can add up to tens of thousands in additional interest over the life of a mortgage. Consequently, it’s no surprise that most people buying or refinancing a home choose their mortgage lender based on interest rate alone.
What this means is that you may have to go through a pre-qualification or pre-approval process with several lenders to compare rates apples-to-apples.
You can browse todays’ best mortgage rates here. Although these estimates are accurate, they make certain assumptions about the kind of home you’re buying and your qualifications. The bottom line is you can’t be assured of your mortgage rate until you get it in writing from your lender.
When rate shopping, online mortgage lender comparison sites can be helpful. This article describes how to get started with your pre-qualification process and get competing lender quotes from four or five mortgage lenders with one simple application.
Won’t applying at too many lenders hurt my credit score?
Yes and no. When a lender pulls your credit, their inquiry is recorded on your credit report. More than two or three inquiries in a year can lower your credit score. Generally, however, if you make multiple inquiries of the same type (for example – a mortgage) in a short period of time, those additional inquires do not count against you in the same way it would if you applied for a mortgage, three credit cards and two car loans over several months.
Where to go from here
Or, our table of the best mortgage rates in your area can connect you with some potential mortgage lenders.
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