What should I look for in a lender?

This question came up in an agent to agent chat room last week.  I thought you might be interested in my answer.

 As a real estate agent, I want a loan officer who is knowledgeable, ethical, and who cares about the transaction going as smoothly as possible.  A person who will keep my clients’ best interest foremost in their thinking at all times.  Someone who is persistent and will ‘go the extra mile’ to work through any obstacles that may arise.

I want a professional who is available and responsive.  If I need an amended approval or a question answered over the weekend, I want to know I’ll be able to reach them or a qualified assistant to help me out. 

But first and foremost, I want to work with someone who considers me as a member of their TEAM — who returns my calls and keeps me in the loop — updating me as the process progresses, so everyone knows what is going on and so there are no surprises at closing.

I suggest that, as a buyer, you look not only at interest rates and fees but also at how responsive the loan officer is to your particular needs — first of all does he or she invite your questions, then do they actually take the time to explain and educate you (rather than a “don’t worry, you don’t need to understand, just trust me” attitude)?  Do they speak in a manner that is understandable to you?  Are they willing to be flexible and accommodate your schedule?  Do they give you the guidance needed to provide them what they need?  Will they make themselves readily available by your preferred method of communication (whether phone or email) to respond to concerns that come up following the initial meeting? 

Transaction managing a loan process involves much more than determining your creditworthiness and verifying your income.  A loan officer needs also to understand the home purchasing process and the unique requirements of various sellers  — whether the  seller is a bank that has already foreclosed, a homeowner who is moving toward foreclosure (and who requires cooperation from their lender), a seller who simply wants to minimize any costs associated with selling or the seller who just wants it done as quickly as possible — each demand different strategies, all require close tracking of the  transaction process and the attentiveness to troubleshoot  any possible difficulties before they have become problems. 

I suggest using a loan officer who friends or family have successfully used or a professional your agent recommends rather than someone chosen from the Sunday paper simply because they offer “the best rate”.  Rates and terms will change over the course of your house hunting, but the ability of a loan agent to be responsive and truly helpful will be consistently required throughout the transaction.

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