Look Beyond Rates: The Keys to Picking the Right Mortgage Lender

Look Beyond Rates: The Keys to Picking the Right Mortgage Lender

In an environment where mortgage rates are rising, many homebuyers decide that getting the lowest interest rate is the most important factor when choosing a mortgage lender. And while a competitive rate is important and should be considered when shopping for a home loan, focusing solely on rate and ignoring other important parts of the mortgage process can be detrimental to your homebuying experience.

For you to be successful in choosing a mortgage and building wealth through homeownership, it’s important to understand that the best interest rate with the wrong mortgage strategy is much more expensive than a competitive rate from a certified mortgage advisor.

The Danger of Rate Shopping

We get it – everyone wants to get a good deal and we all hate paying full price for anything.

Now there’s nothing wrong with doing your homework, asking around, and getting quotes from different lenders. Unfortunately, many homebuyers who do this and are focused only on interest rate lose out on getting the best value on their home loan – especially in an environment like today when rates are rising for everyone.

Sometimes this works out, but most often the rate you are shopping for is not even close to the rate you will actually see on your mortgage statement.

This is because rates advertised online are typically associated with the best-case financing scenarios, meaning they are only available to borrowers with high credit scores, low debt-to-income ratios, and enough cash for a significant down payment.

Additionally, low rates advertised usually come with points. This is a fee that YOU must pay to the lender to trim the interest rate from where the market currently is. The posted rate may even be for a 2 or 5-Year Adjustable Rate mortgage rather than a 30-Year Fixed Rate option.

Rates that lenders advertise are also only for specific borrowers with specific financing needs at a specific time. Interest rates also change multiple times a day due to economic conditions and buyer demand. To get the exact interest rate you are quoted, your application will have to be submitted and processed quickly so your loan officer can lock in the rate. This process can take several days and involves many variables you do not have control of as a buyer.

How to Choose the Right Mortgage Lender

Now, we are not saying interest rate is not an important factor to consider when choosing a mortgage lender, but what good is a low rate when the lender cannot follow through on closing your loan?

In today’s market, just a few hours wasted by lack of communication from your mortgage advisor (like missing documentation you didn’t know you needed or processing delays) means the rate you were so excited to get is now gone.

It happens way too often, and we hate hearing about these situations because they are easily avoidable by considering more than just rates when shopping for a lender.

Here are a few things to look for in a mortgage lender other than rate.

 1. Choose a lender who offers a pre-approval that is fully underwritten

Even though competition for homes has decreased in the wake of rising interest rates, there is still a very low supply of homes on the market. Those who are looking to purchase a home are still often finding themselves competing with multiple other offers.

As a buyer today, you want to be the MOST prepared and proactive if you want to succeed in getting your offer accepted. To do this, you need to go beyond pre-approval and choose a lender who offers a fully underwritten credit-and income-approval.

Yes, this may be more work on your part as you will need to supply all the necessary documentation and have your mortgage credit report run. However, once an underwriter has reviewed your loan package, you will have the ability to close much faster because you have been underwritten and approved.

That way, as long as you can find a home and submit an offer while the pre-approval is valid (usually 60 days), your financing does not have to be reviewed again before your loan is submitted for processing. This means your loan processing can move faster and you are more likely to be able to secure the interest rate that your lender locked for you.

 2. Choose a lender who can show you the total cost of all your mortgage options

Investing in real estate is a great way to build wealth, but there are many different ways to do it. Mortgage planning is not one size fits all. If your goal in buying a home is to find financial security in the long term, you should consider the impact your mortgage will have on your entire financial picture.

Maybe it’s better to put less money down, take a higher interest rate, and use the extra cash to pay off high-interest debts.

Or, if you know you’ll be staying in your home long-term, it might be better to take a higher rate now and then refinance in the future when rates drop.

It may even be better for you to pay extra money to buy down your interest rate permanently, or use seller concessions to save even more money in the short term with a 2/1 buydown.

The choice you make depends on your specific financial situation and goals for building wealth. A mortgage advisor who will take the time to learn about your goals for saving, investing, and retirement will be able to provide you with mortgage options that allow you to meet those goals in the timeframe you want with the lowest possible cost.

At NEO Home Loans, we use a tool called a Total Cost Analysis to make this possible. It is an interactive, digital report that clearly compares the overall cost of the best loan options available to you, advising you on ways to pay off your mortgage and consumer debts faster and with much lower cost – all while maximizing your real estate wealth. The goal is to focus on your long-term wealth strategy rather than the short-term mortgage transaction.

3. Choose a lender who can help you get your home offer accepted

We can talk about interest rates and mortgage strategy all day, but what good is any of that if you can’t even get your home offer accepted?

Your mortgage lender can help you get a great rate and choose a loan that will help you achieve your financial goals, but there is nothing they can do about the low supply of homes and the overwhelming demand. What they CAN do is give you the tools necessary to increase your chances of getting your offer accepted.

At NEO Home Loans, we do this through our Bulletproof Buyer program. This is a four-step process our mortgage advisors use to solve the challenges homebuyers are facing today and help you get your home offer accepted even when faced with stiff competition.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Execute an upfront market analysis.

Increasing home prices and heavy competition can be intimidating and disheartening. This can lead to you to abandoning or postponing your home search, losing out on appreciation, and finding yourself paying even more down the road.

During our initial consultation, we carefully guide you through current data and trends to help you understand why the market is moving the way it is. After this discussion, you will have a much better understanding of where the housing market is heading so you can be confident in your home purchase.

Step 2: Prepare an Appraisal Gap strategy.

Appraisal gaps (when a home appraisal comes back lower than the price listed by the seller) are becoming more common as home appreciation continues to rise and competition for housing intensifies.

We create a solid Appraisal Gap strategy at the beginning of the loan process so if an appraisal does come in low, you are prepared to pivot, restructure your offer, and continue the purchase without any delays.

Step 3: Obtain a fully underwritten pre-approval.

Before any offers are submitted, we have an experienced mortgage underwriter review your full loan package and approve your credit and income. This gives you the ability to close much faster and be comfortable negotiating on financing deadlines.

Step 4: Use a bridge loan to eliminate financing delays.

A well thought out and fully prepared bridge loan strategy is crucial today because it allows you to remove another contingency from your offer.

If bridge financing (using your home’s existing equity to finance your new home purchase before) is discussed and put in place early in the process, the sales deadline can be negotiated and help your offer stand out even more.

The Bottom Line

Interest rates are set by the market and do not vary widely from lender to lender. If you find a lender who is advertising a drastically lower interest rate than the competition, be wary and look at the fine print – it is highly likely they are asking for points to be paid and near-perfect credit and income qualifications.

Instead of shopping for rates alone, choose a lender who can create a flawless mortgage experience for you and will help you reach your financial goals and get your home offer accepted.

A qualified mortgage advisor who cares about your overall financial health and long-term goals will ALWAYS beat a low-rate lender who helps you get buried under a pile of debt but doesn’t help you dig yourself out.