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Selecting a mortgage, a key part of the homebuying process, is a lot like getting into a long-term relationship: It takes time and energy, and you might have to weed out a few bad apples first. But the end result can be so rewarding.
Since you could be tied down to your mortgage for a long time (30 years or longer!), approaching mortgage shopping like dating could save you a lot of grief and money down the road. Here are five mortgage tips for first-time home buyers.
1. Don’t settle for the first
Just as with dating, it’s likely that the first mortgage offer you come across won’t be “the one." But nearly half of all home buyers don’t shop around before taking out a mortgage, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Learning about different types of mortgages, talking to several lenders and getting a handful of rate quotes can help you land a loan that fits your budget and lifestyle.
Although exploring multiple lenders may sound like a lot of work, putting in the extra effort can help you land a better interest rate, which could save you thousands of dollars over time.
2. Look beyond your immediate network
Your friend Susan wants to set you up with a mortgage lender she used a decade ago, but not so fast: It's smart to be aware of all your options.
Although some buyers find their lenders through referrals, there are all sorts of other places to look, including neighborhood banks, large banks, credit unions and even online mortgage lenders.
While you might still end up with the lender your friend raved about, it’s helpful to see what else is out there before you make your final decision.
3. Hold out for one that meets your specific needs
Dating preferences are unique to the individual. You may be searching for someone with a color-coordinated bookshelf and a robust savings account; your best friend might be drawn to adrenaline junkies.
Mortgages aren’t one-size-fits-all, either. Whether you’re looking for predictability — perhaps a set interest rate for the entire life of the loan (e.g., the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage) — or something more flexible, like an adjustable-rate mortgage, recognize that you shouldn’t just default to someone else’s criteria.
4. Brush up on their history
Discovering that the person you’re dating has a shady past can be a dealbreaker. For the same reasons, you’ll want to ensure that your lender has a solid history of closing on time and being transparent with fees and closing costs.
A little background checking can go a long way. Check out our list of the best mortgage lenders for first-time home buyers and read reviews of individual lenders.
5. Make sure you’re treated well
A partner who ignores your texts and doesn’t make you feel valued is a huge red flag. Along those lines, solid customer service can help differentiate great mortgage lenders from ones that have you saying, “Thank you, next.”
Since the homebuying process can be stressful and confusing, it can be comforting to have a lender who responds to your questions quickly, explains things clearly and reassures you when you need it. If you prefer in-person interactions, seek out a lender that offers face-to-face service.