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First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide: Part 8

Finding the perfect mortgage expert

Buying a new home is one of life’s biggest and most important decisions. Not only is it important that you find the right mortgage product to match your specific needs, you also want the right person to guide you through the process. As you shop for a home loan with a low rate and full transparency, you should also shop for a loan officer (LO) who demonstrates knowledge, friendliness and patience.
Below are the five qualities to look for during your preliminary research and conversation with a new LO:

Patience
If the LO wants to control the conversation, seeking to establish your income and debt off the bat instead of answering your questions, leave him or her talking to a dial tone. A good LO listens first—understanding your needs and forming a rapport—before getting into the loan details. Further, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as it takes for you to understand a concept. If there is any hint of disdain or annoyance, move on with your search. If your questions are answered thoroughly and with patience, you might have a keeper.

Knowledge
Do you trust your wedding-day hairdo to a manicurist? Do you let a buddy’s nephew remodel your kitchen or work on your car because he’s ‘good with his hands’? If the answer to these questions is a firm ‘No’, then apply the same logic to buying a home. You need to know how much the LO knows, because buying a home is a complex transaction. If you perceive pauses and stall tactics over the phone after you ask questions, it’s probably a quick Google search that’s providing you answers instead of the person you’re talking to. Each of your questions should be answered with confidence and clarity, and without hesitation.

Availability
The most frequent source of customer frustration during the home loan process can be summarized in two words: Going Dark. Unanswered emails and ignored phone calls can sour the relationship, making what can be a stressful process downright miserable. An LO who works with a proactive support system of trained professionals spends less time on administrative duties and more time helping customers, a luxury that independent LOs don’t have. Guaranteed Rate’s POD model was developed so that LOs can give customers the most important commodity of all: Time.

Track Record
In the mortgage industry, referrals are everything. If a close friend or family member makes a strong recommendation, you can probably feel good about that person being your home loan expert. If your referral comes from a stranger at a cocktail party who gives you unprompted advice on how to organize a covert militia in the hills of Appalachia, you may want to take it with a few healthy grains of salt. Further, if your first conversation with an LO goes well and you get a good feeling from the dialogue, follow up with an online search to see what other people have to say about performance and personality. If the internet is packed with negative comments, you should probably keep the search going.

Friendliness
A good LO is not just an industry expert who gives you knowledge and insight, but is also an advocate who will support, guide and encourage you every step of the way. For many people, the home loan process creates feelings of vulnerability: It requires the submission of personal financial information to strangers, who in turn have the power to affect your life based on that information. An LO who is friendly and positive makes a potentially stressful experience more bearable. During the first conversation with an LO, listen for reassuring language and a carefree, conversational tone. The bottom line: let your intuition tell you if you’re making a new friend or merely enhancing someone’s stat line.

In next week’s First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide…
Part 9: Finding the perfect real estate agent


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