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Your mortgage broker to-do list

Get a description in writing of the exact program being offered. Because many people who go to brokers are getting specialized mortgages that may not be as straightforward as 30-year fixed-rate loans, it's especially important to know what you want and know if that's what you're being offered. That way, you can compare rates, fees and points on an apples-to-apples basis.

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• Make sure you get a detailed good-faith estimate and check that against your final bill before closing. Brokers are sometimes paid by both the lenders who underwrite the mortgages and the consumers who get them, and it's important to look at the documents to make sure the broker isn't getting paid too much or double-charging you.

• Rate locks from a broker can be a big trip-up if you're not careful. Get proof in the form of a signed document that the lock has been executed if that's what you want to do. Keep in mind this usually has to take place during business hours for the lock to be effective that day. Missed faxes or other snafus can delay the transaction and leave you with a higher rate if you're not on top of things.

• Think referral, referral, referral when it's time to find a broker. It's good to have a broker who's nice; it's better to get rates and costs that are reasonable.

• Consider checking to see if your broker or mortgage brokerage has faced state regulatory sanctions in the past. Most states maintain some kind of list of people and companies who have been fined or had their licenses revoked.

-- Updated: Nov. 13, 2002




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