How many mortgage lenders should I apply to?

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Mortgages are almost always the biggest and costliest loans borrowers take out, so getting the best deal matters. Can applying for a mortgage with more than one lender help you find it?

Should you apply for a loan with more than one mortgage lender?

Comparison-shopping among multiple mortgage lenders helps you save money, so it’s wise to explore offers.

In fact, Freddie Mac research reveals that borrowers who shopped around realized savings over the course of their loans. For example, for a $250,000 loan, those who applied for one additional quote saved an average of $1,435. Those who received five quotes saved an average of $2,914. Among the five-quote set, 80 percent of borrowers saved anywhere from $2,089 and $3,904.

Another study out of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reveals that if 20 percent of borrowers shopped for another quote, they’d collectively save $4 billion a year due to how the market would respond to more borrowers making comparisons: lowering prices.

However, while you want the best mortgage terms possible, completing multiple applications is likely not the best way to get there. That’s because you can compare mortgage rates and APRs easily without having to complete an application, or pay an application fee.

How to get multiple quotes

1. Check out current mortgage rates

Ahead of getting quotes or applying for a mortgage, do as much research as possible. There is plenty of information out there about current mortgage rates, APRs and fees, and knowing the landscape can help you get a feel for what to expect when you go to obtain an offer.

“It’s smart to shop and compare interest rates and fees. They both will be different from lender to lender,” says Adam Spigelman, vice president at Planet Home Lending in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

While your individual rate will largely be determined by your credit score, this step offers perspective on what rates are like today, and helps you compare fees between lenders and home in on the ones you’re most interested in — without having to go through the application process.

2. Choose your lenders

While there’s no magic number as to how many mortgages lenders you should get quotes from, the CFPB suggests contacting at least three. Having done your research beforehand, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision as to which three (or more) you’d be comfortable applying with.

Ultimately, when it’s time to pull the trigger, choose lenders and loan officers you’d want to work with.

“Find a mortgage originator you like and trust, and stick with them,” says Mike Carpenter, a mortgage loan originator at Kirkland, Washington-based Washington First Mortgage Loan Corp.

3. Ask about application fees

Many mortgage lenders charge an application fee when you apply for a loan, which can run up to several hundred dollars and is usually non-refundable. If your goal in applying for multiple mortgages is to save money, then it might not make sense to spend a wad with several lenders.

If a lender does have a fee and you’re set on applying for a loan, ask if it can be waived or reduced. The lender might be open to negotiating with you.

“While most lenders won’t tell you an application fee is negotiable, it does tend to be one of the few costs associated with obtaining a mortgage that can be flexible, or waived,” says Lauren Anastasio, senior financial planner at SoFi.

Keep in mind that the application fee might be called something other than “application fee.” Some lenders might claim to not have an application fee, but they’ll charge an origination or processing fee, Anastasio points out. Others might waive the application fee but impose a higher underwriting fee.

Be aware of “junk” fees, as well, which are added costs lenders might tack on. For example, you might find two line items on your loan estimate that cover the same thing, such as an “origination” and “broker” fee. If you spot this, ask for clarification.

Here are a few other possible junk fees to watch for:

  • Processing fee
  • Document preparation fee
  • Administrative fee
  • Email fees
  • Miscellaneous fee

Along with application and other lender fees, there are several costs associated with getting a mortgage, including for an appraisal, credit check and title services. It’s important to understand all of these fees so you know exactly how much the loan costs, and potentially have some leverage negotiating with lenders.

4. Put a file together

When you apply for a mortgage, you’ll need to provide the lender with information about your employment history, income and any assets and debt you have. Before you get quotes or apply for multiple loans, gather this documentation, including pay stubs and W-2s.

In addition, consider creating a separate email. When you apply for multiple mortgages, you might get bombarded with a slew of sales pitches, follow-up emails, calls and texts. With a dedicated inbox, these communications can land there.

5. Get preapproved or prequalified

If you don’t want to pay application fees (or go through with your applications just yet), you can get preapproved or prequalified for loans instead, typically at no charge.

A prequalification is a basic assessment of you as a borrower, and can give you an idea of what you might qualify for.

A preapproval, however, involves a more thorough evaluation of your credit and finances, so you might still be charged a fee to go through this process. Some lenders remove the fee as a courtesy (and a way to entice you to borrow with them), so it doesn’t hurt to ask if it can be waived.

Preapproval letters are only valid for a short window, usually 60 to 90 days. Some are only good for 30 or 45 days. Keep this timeline in mind as you go through the process.

Will multiple mortgage applications affect my credit score?

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender pulls your credit report to help in its decision to approve or deny your loan. This is considered a “hard” inquiry on your report, which can count against your credit score.

However, credit scoring models take rate-shopping into account and group multiple inquiries together as one if the inquiries take place over a 45-day period. These credit pulls typically stay on your credit report for two years before dropping off.

“There will be a record of multiple credit inquiries if you do apply with multiple lenders, but there should be little to no impact on your credit score from those inquiries and it shouldn’t discourage you from speaking with multiple lenders until you find the right fit,” Anastasio says.

One tactic you could try to avoid dinging your credit too much is to get your free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can request your reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Then, determine which agency has your middle score, and see if a lender would accept your sending that credit report instead of doing a hard pull themselves, Carpenter says. The lender can then use that report to offer you a mortgage preapproval.

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Written by
Jackie Lam
Contributing writer
Jackie Lam is a contributing writer for Bankrate. Jackie writes about auto loans.
Edited by
Mortgage editor