Mortgage brokers are engaged in the business of finding you the best home loan. Their true clients are the lenders, and their real "job" is to deliver good, creditworthy borrowers like you.
Mortgage brokers have encountered a formidable competitor in the past decade or so, called the Internet. Borrowers can compare loans through sites like Trulia Mortgage, eloan.com and LendingTree.com. Fill out a credit application and receive several offers. When banks compete, as the slogan says, you win.
That's a good way not only to pit lender against lender (a subject for another chapter), it's also useful keep your broker honest as well. Your job is to monitor the market. Why? Because loan rates change daily. A broker acting in sheer self-interest could bait you with one rate (possibly lower than reality), knowing you can't "lock" that rate until you complete the full application process. It's always a good practice to be skeptical and do you homework.
Ask this question only after having done some homework. A similar scenario would be a broker who advertises rates below market to get you in the door, and then lists all the fees necessary to make that rate possible â€” even including lofty origination fees.
(Above-the-board brokers welcome questions like this.)
Fees take many forms. There are charges for your credit report, appraisal, title insurance, deed-recording, overnight deliveries, etc. For a rate quote to meaningful, it should be accompanied by a list of all related fees and costs.
Your broker must supply a Good Faith Estimate of all charges before the closing. The estimated figures aren't set in stone because "third party" costs such as title insurance premiums can change. But it's possible to know the total tab, or a figure pretty close to it, several days in advance.
Ads and other promises aside, you don't really know what you'll be paying until your rate is "locked". Brokers have been known to game this process. For example, a broker might say your rate is locked when it's not, and if rates go down before closing, he could sell you the higher rate you agreed to and pocket the difference. A broker who plays this game and loses (because rates go up) could tell you that your rate wasn't really locked â€” it was a misunderstanding.
If your rate truly is locked, your broker will have proof of it. Hence this line of inquiry:
Many states have started licensing brokers. This is a positive development, with potential to weed out the few bad apples remaining in the business. In the past, going into business took nothing more than a web site and a shingle. Licensing requirements will prevent scams. Still, one very basic question is always in order:
Longevity is important--time and nature have a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. With the array of available mortgage products more complex than ever, experience is important too. Look for at least five years in the business. With that as a minimum, your broker will have seen good times as well as bad.