Keep in mind
There is more to a mortgage than shopping for the lowest interest rate. Don't be tempted to shop on interest rate alone. You may end up paying more money. Be sure to compare loan terms.
Shopping for a mortgage is not an easy job, but it is an inescapable part of the home buying process. By now, you may have done some preliminary research as to the current interest rates, and gone through the process of pre-qualifying for a loan before you start house hunting. If you also requested a credit report and resolved any problems in your credit record, or if you assembled documentation on your non-traditional credit history, you can now shop for a mortgage with confidence.
Your challenge, however, is to select a loan with terms that are most favorable to your situation. For example, if you anticipate that you will be living for 10 years in the house you are buying now, the interest rate may be your primary consideration. If you anticipate keeping the house for only 2 or 3 years, the closing costs and whether there is a pre-payment penalty (a charge for repaying the loan early) may be more important to you.
By the time you have signed a sales contract, you should have a clear idea of what kind of financing you will need. Shop around for the lender that offers the best terms. You may be surprised at the range of interest rates quoted, as well as the considerable variation in the fees charged by lenders for origination and processing a loan application. Even if you have already been pre-qualified by a lender, you should satisfy yourself that the rates and loan terms offered by that lender compare favorably with those of other lenders. It's definitely worth your time to shop around.
Mortgages are available from a number of sources including:
- Savings and loan associations
- Commercial banks
- Mortgage companies
- Federal credit unions
- Financial companies
Where to look
You might do well to start your search for a mortgage with the bank where you have your personal checking or savings accounts. Call them up and ask whether they offer home mortgages, and if so, whether they grant favorable terms to their own account holders. If you are a member of a federal credit union, you should investigate whether the credit union also makes home loans.
Your real estate professional may be quite knowledgeable about which lenders in your area offer the best terms. And if your friends and co-workers have bought homes recently, by all means find out where they got their mortgages.
Look also in the real estate section of your local paper. Many city papers run comparative mortgage rate charts each week, and there may even be a mortgage rate hotline in your area. For additional sources, look in the Yellow Pages under mortgages.
Shopping by telephone
To begin with, plan to contact six or more lenders of different types that offer home mortgages in your area.
Shopping via the internet
Many lenders have websites allowing borrowers to shop for mortgages online. In addition, mortgage brokers' sites may allow you to choose from a number of lenders.
It is important to remember that filling out a loan application online or otherwise is a serious step. We strongly recommend that you avoid making multiple applications to "test the market" until you know you are really ready to buy. Why? Unfortunately, some borrowers have made many applications for mortgages over an extended period of time (months) and have found that doing this has had a negative effect on their credit score, reducing the amount of money a lender would let them borrow when they actually needed it.