The Olympics are over (sigh!) and we'll have to wait another four years for nations to come together to participate in the next Winter Games to be held in Russia. While I love the individual events themselves, it's the stories behind the athletes that makes their journeys so compelling . . . Apolo Ohno's father dropping him off at a remote wooded cabin for eight days of solitude to decide whether he was dedicated enough to continue on in his sport; Bode Miller's redemptive triumph after a disappointing performance, fueled by a party attitude, four years ago in Turino; Lindsey Vonn's painful shin injury just days before arriving at the Olympic village . . . this kind of drama totally beats out the Housewives of Orange County! Watching these dedicated athletes and hearing the stories that individually molded them, I'm struck by the old adage that "good luck is when preparation meets opportunity!" Whatever their obstacles, it's clear that ALL of the athletes who competed at the games, paid their dues and earned their way to the podium. Those that were lucky enough to achieve Olympic glory were appropriately rewarded for their years of dedication and hard work. Closer to home, our own Piedmont Seniors are chasing dreams of a different sort and eagerly anticipating their college acceptance letters with mixed expectations. Some students will have many choices while others will have fewer options. (I'm convinced that my own son will gain admittance into a school that best fits his needs and proves a good educational match for the next four years.) Whether it is a state college nearby, or an Ivy League Institution back east, like those well-trained athletes, one hopes that our kids are appropriately rewarded for his dedication and hard work as well.
In a market that is quickly heating up, buyers too, need to be fully prepared in order to achieve their own clear victories in the highly charged arena of real estate. I have often spoken about the important partnership between agent and client, but in reality, a good team includes a strong mortgage component as well (think of our collaboration as a pyramid with you at the apex and your realtor and mortgage broker supporting the base.) Like the Olympic athlete or the college bound student, it is our job to prepare you, to train you, to support you and to lead you to success! Mortgage brokers fall into two categories: the independent mortgage broker found at firms such as La Salle Financial, who works with many lending institutions and the in-house mortgage lender found through your local bank such as Wells Fargo or Bank of America. (Note, that I have purposely omitted the on-line lender for good reason.) Both have distinct advantageous and it's worth understanding what each has to offer as you diligently "prepare." Whomever you ultimately choose to work with, you are best served inviting a competent mortgage representative onto your team sooner, rather than later. This early preparation often means the difference between having many choices or very few. Here are the differences between the two - in admittedly - simple terms . . . (I'm sure I'll hear from a mortgage broker or two!) The independent mortgage broker represents many banks and lending institutions and thus, can often respond more favorably to any roadblocks or challenges that arise. In short, they tend to have greater flexibility and more lending options for buyers. This is especially important to buyers with less than perfect credit. Should lender B offer a better interest rate than lender A, they can more easily switch you into the most advantageous program. www.lasallefinance.com
The in-house lender often has greater control and because they work "in-house," decisions from above tend to come down faster. However, they are limited to the products their bank currently offers. Should your application be rejected for any reason, you are likely to find yourself starting over with another bank and losing valuable time. Still, they often have access to mortgage products the independent broker may not and can be a great match for many buyers - especially those that already have a relationship with a specific bank.
In both cases, you will pay origination fees for their skills and services but make no mistake, in this more conservative lending climate - a reputable mortgage broker is a crucial component to your success and IF you have less than stellar FICO scores (above 700) an experienced mortgage broker is worth his/her weight in gold. (Put one to work immediately to help you improve your credit standing and pre-approve you for a loan. Both can be terrific at coaching you over any hurdles.)
Whomever you employ to address your mortgage needs (and I encourage you to shop independently to compare and contrast) make sure you are working with a professional you can contact directly, returns your calls promptly, has pre-qualified you for a loan, has verified your credit and employment history, and has a strong local presence. In short, avoid Internet lenders at all costs! (Regardless of what they promise, they are extremely suspect to sellers and their agents.) When presented with offers, any smart agent will encourage the sellers to choose the one connected to the known local lender. (Getting properties into escrow is easy. Getting them closed is much tougher these days.) Unless a Realtor can quickly confirm the underwriter, your offer stands very little chance of getting accepted.
Understand that the effort and hard work you put into your preparation up front will reap big dividends in the end and stand you in good stead for your own clear victories in the very competitive world of real estate. Whether it involves a medal hunt, a college hunt or a housing hunt, when opportunity meets preparation, you are sure to be rewarded with many appropriate choices.
While we don't have medals to award for your dedication and hard work, a new home might just be better than gold!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.