What to Consider When Choosing a Loan Officer
When you’re ready to look for a new home, which should come first: finding the right real estate agent, loan officer or lender? Some people look for a house first, either online or in an area where they would like to live, and then they call the agent who listed the house. There’s no wrong way to do it, but the chances are good that you could save both time and money by finding a loan officer first, who could also help you find a realtor with listings that match your financial limits.
Choosing a loan officer is one of the most important decisions you make when buying a home. Most people know they want to find a realtor they are comfortable working with. Some of the same considerations should go into your choice of a loan officer, because the process of getting a loan can take a month – sometimes longer. Your loan officer will be working closely with you and examining a lot of your personal information, so you want to find someone who you feel is knowledgeable about loan options, trustworthy and responsive to you and your needs.
Reasons to choose a loan officer before you choose a realtor:
- It will help you know how much you can spend, even before you start looking for a home.
- A loan officer will know the best realtors in the area where you want to live.
- Because they aren’t trying to sell you a particular home, you will get “honest” information about the differences between various parts of town.
Make sure the loan officer is working with a well-known, reputable lender.
A good loan officer will be working for a lender who is proficient in all types of loans and has competitive mortgage rates and closing costs. A lender could assign a loan officer to you, but your loan officer also can lead you to a lender who meets your needs. (See the Loan Officer listings on the Citywide website.)
The first step in finding your loan officer is determining what type of mortgage you need.
Look for someone who is cooperative and willing to listen and work with you to understand your needs and financial situation. There are many loan programs available and a good loan officer will offer you a choice of ways to finance your home purchase. Are you a first-time homebuyer? Do you need a mortgage with a low down payment? Are you looking for a jumbo mortgage? Do you have a low credit score? Get recommendations for loan officers who are experienced in handling your type of situation.
Consider the answers you get to these important questions:
- What are your fees? Ask about document preparation fees, paying points up front, detailed closing costs, appraisal costs, adjustment schedule (if you are considering an ARM – adjustable rate mortgage) and prepayment penalties. The loan officer should be patient and willing to explain all potential fees and their relationship to available interest rates.
- Do you deal with more than one lender? A mortgage broker typically works for a single brokerage company, while a loan officer could work with several lenders, giving you more options.
- How long have you been in the mortgage industry? How long have you worked as a licensed mortgage loan officer? Ask for their NMLS number. Look them up on the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and see what their record shows or if they have any complaints listed.
- What are your areas of expertise? Look for a loan officer with experience and contacts with the type of loan you are looking for. Self-employed borrowers may face more difficulties in verifying their income, so a loan officer with experience in this area could help if you are in this situation.
- What is the current processing time for your type mortgage? How many of these type mortgages have you done?
- What is your experience with evaluating tax returns? It can make or break the approval of your mortgage, if a loan officer is not very knowledgeable in using tax forms to determine qualifying income, or makes other mistakes.
- What is your technical background? Much of originating a mortgage requires using complex software programs. If one is not skilled in this area, their time will be spent trying to navigate this process, and they will have less time to meet your other needs.
The most crucial questions are the ones you ask yourself after talking to loan officers: Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do I trust them to answer my calls promptly and act in my best interest? Are they trying to put pressure on me for a fast decision?
Ask ALL Your Questions
A good loan officer will get you good rates and get you to the closing in a timely manner. They will communicate with you throughout the process. Mortgages are complex financial agreements, and your loan officer should be willing and able to answer any question at any time. They will anticipate your questions and volunteer information. Don’t stop asking questions until you find a loan officer you trust and who will help you every step of the way.