5/13/2011

Common (and Costly) Mistakes Borrowers Make

Getting a mortgage can be daunting, especially when there’s a lot of your hard-earned money at stake. It’s critical to spend a few hours researching how a mortgage works (or at least as much time as you’d spend researching a vacation or a car purchase) before you begin the process. Unfortunately, nearly half of prospective home buyers don’t understand essential mortgage information, according to a recent mortgage survey conducted by Zillow Mortgage Marketplace. This lack of basic knowledge is likely leading borrowers to make costly mistakes. Here are some of the most common mortgage misunderstandings, and how to avoid them. My comments are in italics--Julia.

Buying Mortgage Discount Points – Nearly half ( 45 percent) of those surveyed in the Zillow poll believe they should always buy discount points when obtaining a mortgage. However, because mortgage discount points have an upfront cost that can be recouped through a lower interest rate over the life of the loan, the decision should depend on how long you intend to own the home. In some cases, you may not plan to remain in the house for long enough to break-even after buying points. A discount points calculator can help you do the math.

Not Monitoring Rates - Mortgage rates can change multiple times throughout the day, similar to how stock prices fluctuate. But more than half (55 percent) of the people polled thought rates were set one time each day. To get the optimum rate, it’s important to monitor rates and talk to different lenders. When you compare various rates make sure you are comparing the exact same loan. I find prospective buyers with loan quotes or pre-approvals obtained 6 months or one year ago, thinking the terms will still apply! No, they probably won't.

Contacting Just One Lender – Many buyers believe lenders are required by law to charge the same fees for credit reports and appraisals. One-third (34 percent) of survey respondents do not understand that lender fees are negotiable and can vary by lender. Borrowers can save money by reaching out to several lenders and comparing rates and fees. Online services which allow for comparisons to various lenders can be a helpful start, but your story may not quite fit the online scenario which are generalized estimates. And trying to change lenders in the middle of your escrow may not be possible, so you should do your homework up front.

Not Considering Various Loan Options - Many people may automatically avoid certain loan products, like Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs) because they don’t understand how they work. For example, when asked if interest rates on 5/1 ARMs always reset to a higher rate after five years, the majority of those polled (57 percent) said yes. In actuality, after five years, the rate could increase or decrease, meaning that there’s a possibility for a borrower’s monthly payments to go down. Whether an ARM makes sense for you depends on your personal situation such as your appetite for risk and how long you plan to live in the home. As you consider different loan products, ask your lender to go through the worst-case scenarios to avoid any surprises during the life of the loan. This can be a very helpful step, along with being open-minded to hear and consider ALL possible options for you.

Not Knowing Basic Terms – As you begin to think about securing home financing, you may hear terms like "FHA loans" and "pre-qualification" get bandied around. According to Zillow research, many people don’t know what those terms mean. Forty-two percent of prospective home buyers thought only first-time buyers could qualify for FHA loans, and 37 percent believed if they pre-qualify for a loan it means they’ve secured financing. Familiarize yourself with basic mortgage terms before reaching out to a lender. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask your lender, or even your real estate agent, lots of questions about the loan throughout the process.  To"pre-qualify" for a loan does not mean you've secured financing, and neither does "pre-approval" (the preferred step to take), because loan approval is still ultimately contingent upon all the necessary lending steps being taken to fund the loan at close of escrow, including appraisal.

See article at Real Estate Insider News:  Common (and Costly) Mistakes Borrowers Make

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