In addition to finding the best real estate agent for the biggest purchase of your life, you’ll want to spend just as much time finding a good mortgage loan officer. Both will directly impact the outcome of your deal, and the work you put in at the top of the process will pay handsomely later when the deal is in progress and when it closes.
There’s no shortage of loan officers and institutions to work with. That’s part of the problem.
There are so many choices that figuring out which one is best means tossing out those that may be skilled and qualified but aren’t the best option for your particular circumstances.
Most lenders you contact will assign a loan officer to you. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them. Do the added work of checking them out thoroughly, and weigh other options if you don’t like what you find.
Assessing Your Needs
The first step in finding a good loan officer is determining what type of mortgage you need. Some loan officers are generalists and can guide you through many types of loans.
Others specialize in certain types of loans and will have deeper knowledge they can use to get you the best terms for your home financing.
As a consumer, you must assess your credit score and other loan factors and then do preliminary research on what loan works best for you. That could be an FHA mortgage with a low downpayment.
Or possibly finding programs targeted specifically for first-time homebuyers if that’s your case. You may need financing for a high-end property that would necessitate a jumbo mortgage.
Even if you’ve settled on a lender, still interview the loan officer. Ask tough questions now to avoid difficulties and bottlenecks later. That same approach applies when others have referred you.
Remember that what a good loan officer is for someone else may not be the best fit for you.
A mortgage officer who works with a broker makes getting a home loan easier by connecting you with the best lender. You can also make the process smoother by ensuring you’re financially prepared at the start of the process.
Start by pulling your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, or get a copy at AnnualCreditReport.com for free each year. Look for errors and dispute blemishes that are wrong. Stay current on your bills, and don’t make other major purchases that could drop your FICO score when you are in the process of applying.
Also, familiarize yourself with the types of loans you may qualify for so you won’t waste time pursuing financing deadends.
As with any important financial decision, thorough research is the first step to choosing wisely. Here’s how to get started:
Your initial vetting process should include asking friends and family members if they’ve used a mortgage broker and if they would recommend that person to you. Were they satisfied with the service, and was the broker knowledgeable and attentive?
Ask your real estate agent who they recommend. They’ll often have insights into who the best loan officers are. Remember that real estate agents make a commission after a home is sold, so they are vested in recommending a good broker to you.
Also, go online and read reviews. Try Google or Yelp as a starting point. Take these reviews with a degree of caution, though. Sometimes, disgruntled people post slanted reviews that don’t accurately portray who the loan officer is and what they can offer.
» MORE: See today’s refinance rates
Questions to Ask
Start with these questions when interviewing loan officers.
- How many years have they been a licensed mortgage loan officer?
- What is their NMLS number? Once you have it, look them up on the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and see what their record shows or if they have any complaints filed against them.
- How long have they been with their current company and previous companies?
- Based on the type of mortgage you’re seeking, ask them how many of these mortgages they have completed.
- What is their current processing time for your type of mortgage?
- Will you be working with their loan processor or them throughout the process? Do they have a dedicated processor or rotating processors? What kind of working relationship do they have with their processor? How long have they had this processor?
- How good are they at evaluating tax returns? Many loan officers aren’t skilled at this and it can derail approval if not done correctly.
- Are they tech-savvy? Much of originating a mortgage requires using complex software programs. If a loan officer isn’t skilled in this area, their time will be eaten up trying to navigate this aspect of the process, taking away attention from other, more important parts of the loan application.