Let’s be honest: Applying for a home loan can be one of life’s most stressful experiences, and many people, especially first-time borrowers, are anxious about taking that first step.
Being nervous isn’t unreasonable. After all, a home loan is a major financial commitment; the application and approval processes are unfamiliar and complicated, and the ranks of loan officers, like those of any profession or trade, may include some folks who don’t have your best interest in mind.
Fortunately, there are some good strategies you can use to confront whatever fears stand in the way of your goals. Here are some suggestions to help you stop being overwhelmed by the entire process and instead focus on the first steps:
Before you begin to study specific loan products, think through your long-term financial and homeownership goals, and get ready to present your situation and explain your needs to the loan officer. Go over your household finances and figure out how much you can afford to spend on housing. Try to make a budget that includes estimates of property taxes, homeowner insurance, utilities, homeowner association dues, and maintenance and repairs as well as a monthly mortgage payment. For help figuring out how much you can afford, try our home affordability calculator.
Your initial conversation with a lending professional should be more of a fact-finding mission than a commitment on your part to obtain a loan through that individual. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask and pay attention to whether the loan officer listens to your needs and replies to your questions with information that you understand and that’s helpful to you. Take notes, so you’ll be able to reassure yourself later that you understood what you learned.
As part of your information-gathering process, ask the loan officer what services he or she provides. Explain that you want to be educated and kept informed about the progress of your loan. If you decide to submit an application, ask the lender to explain the application and disclosure documents to you.
Mortgages aren’t free
No one wants to be overcharged for professional services, yet loan officers need to make a living and lenders need to make a profit to stay in business. You should expect to pay reasonable and customary costs, and you should receive a government-mandated Good Faith Estimate (GFE) of those costs before your loan closes. Tell the lending professional you don’t want to encounter any surprises when you sign your loan documents. For help understanding the GFE, read The Good Faith Estimate.
Remind yourself that you can always say no and walk away if you feel uncomfortable during your initial conversation. In fact, walking away is still an option even after you’ve completed an application, though you may have to forfeit an application or appraisal fee. Making sure you feel comfortable early in the process is the best way to protect yourself from a total meltdown later on.
Consider your options
Comparing products or services is a natural part of any big buying decision. Be sure to use a trusted source, like LendingTree.com, to help you find lenders that will meet your needs. When comparing, look beyond monthly payment and consider all the terms of the loan and how it will support your future financial goals. It’s also important to factor in how comfortable you are with the level of service you feel the lender will provide.
Rely on trusted resources
While these strategies can help you overcome your fears, at some point, you’ll need to trust the professional and company you’ve selected to do a good job for you. It’s okay to proceed slowly. Be patient, gather information, make thoughtful decisions and stay focused on your long-term financial and homeownership goals.