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For many, shopping can be a somewhat traumatic experience. I know when I personally go car shopping I feel like I’m being smothered as I open the doors to the dealer. Dramatic, but completely true. Mortgage lender shopping though? It can all be done in your PJs at home on the computer – and, it’s pretty easy!

When you have made the decision to purchase a home there’s a few steps you’ll want to take first before you start touring those dream houses. Picking a lender and getting your preapproval letter in hand is definitely step one! This will prevent you from looking at homes outside of your price range or having your closing take more time than it needs to. But how do you find that perfect mortgage lender?

Know the law

Did you know that fair lending is like a thing? Unfortunately, due to some shady lending practices in the past, laws had to be passed to ensure everyone is treated equally and has the same opportunities. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act ensures that everyone has the equal opportunity to credit. It prohibits discrimination in all forms and there’s some new requirements in there to protect those seeking loans from predatory practices, thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act. The Fair Housing Act does a lot of the same thing too.

Basically – make sure you know you are protected under the law and ensure that you are aware of your rights.

Deciding on the type of loan

There are multiple avenues you can take when getting a mortgage for a home loan. Do research on each of them before you make your decision. Some are more appropriate for investment properties versus the home you intend to live in full time. It is advisable that you seek financial counseling to understand the costs and risks associated with each option. Check out Military One Source for financial counseling! It’s free – use your resources to make smart decisions.

What’s the bottom line

As you shop for a mortgage lender, you’ll want to calculate the total cost information. These are the things you’ll want to be adding to your list:

  • The interest rate they are offering and ask what their annual percentage rate (APR) is. This is the total yearly rate that includes any fees you are required to be paying yearly. When you get their rate information, make sure you ask if it is a fixed rate or adjustable – this is important and can greatly impact your monthly payment.
  • Note what the lender charges in fees. These can include broker, attorney, recording, and underwriting fees. There will also be fees associated with your application, appraisal, and settlement costs. Each lender should be able to give you an estimate so you have a reference to compare them to others. Get it in writing!
  • Down payment requirements. If you are NOT putting down 20% or utilizing a VA Loan, you’ll most likely have to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Figuring this part out will narrow down your mortgage lender search even more.

Seek out the best deal

Once you have your bottom line costs of each lender, haggle a little. Yes, you read that right! If one lender has a better rate or less closing costs associated with their loan – share that. See if the other lenders can match the deal you are seeking. You have the right to ask if they can waive or reduce certain fees. In the mortgage world this is expected and negotiations are welcome. Believe me, they want your business. Make them earn it!

Good customer service matters

Okay – you’ve narrowed down your search and found the best deals. The deal breaker for me is always how they treat their customers. Do some research on the company and read the reviews.

Two quick tips:

  • Do lean towards lenders who take the time to answer your questions patiently and who readily give you the information you ask for.
  • Don’t choose a lender who is pushy and not respectful of your home buying process. If they make you feel smothered like when purchasing a car, run away.

Word of mouth is incredibly powerful, people talk! Take the time to reach out to other military families and see how their experiences were. Google and social media will be your friend. People will share the good, bad, and the ugly. Use this to help you finalize your decision!

In the end, buying a home should be an incredibly exciting and fun experience! Do your research and pick the mortgage lender that’s right for you. Here’s a shameless plug: check out Caliber Home Loans and all that they offer when considering your next home loan! They’ve been given the Military Friendly® brand four years in a row. The end.