No. of Recommendations: 5
Hi Webhorn,

I understand that I should be shopping around for a mortgage, and this is where I am a bit confused. I know basically what I should bring when I go to the bank/broker (correct me if there are more/others!): 2 month's earnings statements, 6 mo's bank/cc statements, 2 yr's W-2's.

You should have all that stuff on hand, but don't go flopping it on the desk of several loan officers... that's not necessary in your case.

Now, since mortgages are not apples-to-apples comparisons should I expect the loan officer/broker to "talk me through" and offer rates/points/etc and use this as my basis to shop around; or should I expect to hand him/her my packet of stuff listed above so that they can plug those numbers into their numbercruncher and come back w/ terms, and use THOSE to shop around.

Neither. Shop around based on the QUALITY of the professional you're dealing with. Get references and check them out. The core questions YOU need to have answered affirmatively;
1) Are they experienced? Or surrounded by experienced resources?
2) Are they trustworthy, honest, & reliable?
3) IF the stuff hits the fan, how do they handle it? (Stuff happens!)
4) What's the 'spirit' of the answers from the referrals you check on them?

Bet on the jockey, because once the race starts it gets more and more difficult to switch in the middle of the process... and the rates & terms and fees CANN change mid-race, so you want to make sure you can count on the PERSON you choose.

Is the latter considered a Preapproval? If so, does this mean that you get Preapproved from several different places? Does a Preapproval means that you are approved for the loan at X rate w/ X points, up to X dollars w/ X estimated closing costs?

Specifically... in YOUR case... you should be able to have a good broker run your info through automated underwriting at FannieMae or FreddieMac and almost immediately have a rock-solid pre-approval for you. With your scores and credit and 5% down, I would assume you'd get an "ApproveEligible" from the secondary market (Fannie & Freddie) which would mean choosing your loan program would be a walk in the park and processing/underwriting should be a breeze.

So I guess it boils down to: I believe they are going to take all my info and run my credit and come back w/ terms- is that a preapproval. If not, what is? Should I expect to pay any fee's for the officer/broker to run my numbers &/or preapprove me?

You should be able to do your pro shopping and pre-approval via phone if you'd like. Don't HAVE to schlepp your stuff all over town, whether you're talking with someone across town or literally across the U.S.

Carefully find someone you feel you can trust before you allow anyone to start pulling credit reports. Your situation isn't that tricky, so you really don't have to shop for PROGRAMS very much. You need someone who can help you strategy WHICH programs make the most sense... but otherwise pick a trustworthy pro to help you navigate.

As for fees for pre-approval; Some loan officers require app. fees or deposits, some don't. My 2 cents is NOT to pay ANY fees until you're comfortable this is a person you trust to do your deal with you. Remember, you CAN change later, but the deeper you get in the race, the tougher and more expensive to change horses.

Dave Donhoff
Foolish Mortgage Broker
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