Looking for a mortgage broker? Keith Gumbinger, vice president of the research firm HSH Associates in Butler, N.J., offers these tips:
* Be wary of deals that are way below other offerings or promises of service quality that can't possibly be met, such as, "We close in 24 hours."
* Don't be surprised if the advertised deals don't apply to your situation; they might be available only to the absolute best, top-shelf borrowers.
* The law only requires that the deal listed be available -- not that it be available to you.
* Ask questions and get answers.
Brokers will sometimes talk fast and furiously and expect that you understand.
If you don't get it, say so. Make them explain, or take your business to someone who will.
* Get quotes in writing, preferably signed on the company letterhead. This pertains to everything you negotiate in your deal but especially any agreements to lock in a mortgage rate.
* Ask how long the company has been in business and how much experience the broker has.
* Make sure your no-points loan really carries no points.
There are actually two kinds of points: discount points, which lower the interest rate, and percentage-based origination fees, which cover some of the cost of getting you the mortgage, including commissions. A true no-points loan has neither.
* Ask about prepayment penalties or early termination fees. Some of the lowest rates in the market are available only on loans that carry hefty fees if the loan is refinanced in the first three to five years. If you don't ask, you could be in for a costly surprise.