When it comes to buying real estate CASH IS KING. Unfortunately, for most of us, we don't have enough cash to purchase a home, and for those who do, the tax deductibility of mortgage interest might make borrowing at least some of the money a better way to go. Fortunately for all of us, mortgage interest rates are still at historical lows and that means more buying power or lower monthly payments. BUT WHERE DO YOU GO TO GET A MORTGAGE?
A better question is, WHEN DO I SPEAK WITH A MORTGAGE LENDER? The answer is simple: Before you do anything else. The real estate business moves fast. Great houses sell so quickly you won't have a chance to start the process before the house you want is gone. In today's high tech world, you can receive a LOAN PRE-APPROVAL at NO COST OR OBLIGATION before you start looking for a home, and you can do it in person or over the phone and the internet. There is a HUGE difference between a PRE-QUALIFICATION and a PRE-APPROVAL. Don't even bother with the first. Anyone can "run your numbers" but without a credit check, verification of funds (for your down payment) and employment verification (paycheck stubs or tax returns) you don't have a PRE-APPROVAL. Without a PRE-APPROVAL, don't even bother trying to go up against multiple offers.
Who do you call? Believe it or not, I have a car loan, savings account and a checking account with a major bank, BUT I WOULD NEVER GET A MORTGAGE LOAN FROM MY BANK. After almost 30 years in the real estate industry I've learned that the big banks push their own products which mean the highest return to them, but not necessarily to their customers. Also, someone who sits behind a desk all day isn't in touch with the real estate business and many times does not know how to handle the little surprises that pop up almost daily on your way to the closing table. In addition, the independent loan officers I work with have multiple loan products, many are direct lenders and all of them rely on my business for dozens of loans a year so if things get sticky (a blemish on your credit report, a drop in your annual income or self-employment issues) they know I may bring my business elsewhere if YOUR loan does not get handled with the utmost care and service. In other words, if you choose a lender that I don't know, and you don't know, they only have one loan to lose if yours goes south, but with a lender I know and trust, there's a long term relationship on the line. That's why the lenders I work with stay after 5:00 pm on Fridays and have been known to run a loan check for me on Christmas morning if my client needs it...
In summary: Talk to a lender right away. It's free, there's no obligation, and if you use someone I recommend (even though I receive no financial compensation) you're far more likely to beat out others in multiple offers AND far more likely to make it to the closing table with the least amount of stress and time expended.