Consumer Reports Money Adviser quoted me in Don’t Make This Costly Mortgage Mistake; How to Weigh Your Options Before Your Settle on a Deal (only available in Spanish without a subscription!) (UPDATE: NOW IN ENGLISH TOO). It reads, in part (and in English),
As with anything you buy, scoring the best deal on a mortgage or refinancing involves shopping around. Yet 77 percent of borrowers applied for a loan with a single lender instead of checking out several to compare costs, according to a recent study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “People may well put more time and effort into shopping for smaller products such as appliances and televisions than they do in shopping for the right mortgage,” the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, said in a statement. But the potential savings from doing your homework are significant. If you get a $250,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4 percent interest from a lender instead of paying 4.5 to another, you’ll save $26,345 over the life of the loan.
We know it can be difficult to find the right mortgage; the process can be intimidating. Following these steps will help you navigate better:
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Before you shop, determine how much you want to borrow, which type of mortgage you want, and how long a term you need so that you can compare lenders’ products.
Most borrowers go with a fixed-rate mortgage, usually for a 30-year term, to spread out the cost of a home purchase over time while making predictable payments each month, says David Reiss, a professor who teaches real-estate finance law at Brooklyn Law School. Those loans make sense especially when rates are low and for buyers who intend to own their house for a long time.
But also consider an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), also called a variable-rate or floating-rate mortgage), Reiss says. It has an interest rate that’s fixed for an introductory period of time, then changes periodically, usually in relation to an index. The introductory rate is often lower than the rate on fixed-rate mortgages. For example, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage recently had an annual percentage rate (APR) of 3.5 percent, according to Bankrate.com; the average 5/1 ARM (which adjusts annually after five years) was 2.67 percent.
When the rate adjusts, it can sometimes result in a sizable increase in monthly mortgage payments. “ARMs are appropriate for people who anticipate relocating or paying off the loan before it adjusts,” Reiss says, “or for empty nesters who don’t plan to stay in a home for many years.”
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After you have found the best offer, try to negotiate even better terms. Ask the lender whether he will waive or reduce any of the fees he is charging or offer you an even lower interest rate (or fewer points). You are unlikely to get fees waived from third parties, like those for a title search, government processing fees, and appraiser fees, Reiss says. “But you may be able to cut the lender’s fees, like its underwriting, document processing, and document preparation costs,” he says.