Buying a Home: Communicating with Your Lender

For most people, buying a home means shopping for a mortgage lender. When you shop for a mortgage lender, you're not just buying a financial product – you're choosing the person who will guide and accompany you through a process that can take several weeks. To do a fine job, this person must become familiar with your employment, finances, credit, goals and risk tolerance. It's important, then, that you choose someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing pretty private stuff.

You'll also want to choose someone whose communication style meshes with your own. "I had a Realtor once who was totally old-school," griped new home buyer Caity Hobson. "I prefer quick texts, but he was always calling me from his office, usually hours after I'd left messages. He had a cell phone but didn't even turn it on most of the time! We finished the deal, but it drove me crazy! On the other hand, my lender was perfect – she was happy to answer my texts right away. I got weekly email updates about my loan without having to ask. The other guy? Calling me at work to talk about my private stuff (everyone can overhear) was not okay."

Make sure you tell your lender how you'd prefer to be contacted (and how often), and ask if he or she will be able to accommodate you. Some borrowers want frequent and regular progress reports. Others only want to hear from their lender when something is needed from them or if things change.

Things You Should Tell Your Mortgage Lender

Here's a list of things you should tell your mortgage lender upfront. Otherwise, they will almost certainly come to light down the road, probably at the exact time that they can do the most damage.

  • Disclose any debts that don't appear on your credit report. They will have to be included on your application. Otherwise, the underwriter is likely to catch the payment on your checking account statements or other documents and ask about it. In addition, not doing so is considered fraud for property and it's illegal.
  • Let your lender know if you're planning to make a large purchase or apply for credit while you're in escrow, or that you may be changing jobs while your loan is in process. Of course, you should avoid doing any of these things if possible.
  • Tell your loan officer if the source of your down payment changes. "I had a couple who planned to borrow the down payment from their 401(k). Everything was verified and approved," said one loan officer in Sacramento, CA. "Then, they got a gift from a relative and sold a baseball card collection instead and didn't tell anyone – they just showed up at the closing with 'mystery money.' We closed a week late because the file had to go back into underwriting. No one had gotten a gift letter from the parents or verified the value of the baseball cards."
  • Finally, let everyone know if there are times you won't be available – home buying season coincides with vacation season, and it's not uncommon for people to be away while their new home is in escrow. Make sure everyone involved knows your plans.

Regular and open communication between you and your lender drives the success of your mortgage experience and makes buying a home a breeze. The key is finding a good communicator and being a good communicator.

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