The Smooth Mortgage Playbook

4 simple tips to prep for your mortgage smartly while protecting your privacy.

Before you start Googling mortgage stuff and immediately realizing that every ad now wants you to “click for your low-low rate”, know that there are some trustworthy resources you can use that aren’t trying to follow you around on the Internet or stuff your inbox. It’s always hard to stay off the radar completely, but here are some tips to help take control of your process and your privacy.

1: Habitualize credit hygiene.

Don’t wait until you need your credit to know your credit. Get your free annual report every year, review it like this and dispute any errors. If you’ve got any security freezes, remove them before submitting a loan application. BONUS POINTS FOR PRIVACY: In order to avoid finding out that every mortgage telemarketer in town somehow knows you’re applying for a mortgage, you should opt out of “firm offers” at this website the government makes the credit bureaus provide so you can revoke the permission you never gave them in the first place. Do it electronically at least five days in advance of your credit pull, then follow up by snail mail method for permanent effect.

2. Happy paper trails.

You say your boss pays you in Bitcoin and your landlord only accepts Venmo?

*Breathes into paper bag for ten minutes*

Some informal transactions can throw up some nasty hurdles when it comes to satisfying an underwriter to get your loan approved. Documenting your asset, income and rental history transactions is a passive affair when they appear on your monthly statements (yes, you can get a Venmo statement), but those nontraditional and cash transactions can burn you if you don’t get receipts. Pro tip: You don’t need to be a chef to know about seasoning.

3: Let the CFPB be your guide.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has wealth of really useful, plain language reference materials and interactive tools to help you through the mortgage process. As a bonus, they aren’t going to stalk you around the web. Navigationally however, it’s a system in which every bit of helpful knowledge is put on easily understandable notecards that are subsequently tied together with string and thrown down a well. That said, it’s a must-use resource for being your own best advocate, and here are some shortcuts to the stuff we think you’ll find useful:

  1. Here’s the first stepping stone on their very linear, very helpful walkthrough for shopping smartly – but we kinda like this nifty chronological mortgage roadmap for an as-you-go reference point.
  2. The Home Loan Toolkit is a 28-page workbook that mad-libs you through the maths, milestones, and potholes of obtaining a mortgage. This is a great follow-along to add context to the advice you’re getting from a mortgage pro.
  3. Calculators and rate engines on most for-profit websites are trying to convert you to a lead they can sell to a lender. If you’re just looking for some background on current rates try this page, and our partner UWM provides a few simple calculators here*. (Note: UWM will probably retarget you online with ads if you use these calculators, but you won’t be harassed otherwise since they don’t work directly with consumers.)
  4. The two tools that keep you in control of the process, explained: The Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure.

4: Avoid being rate-baited.

Interest rate is the single most compared figure when folks are shopping for a mortgage, and it’s not always clear how much in fees you’ll have to pay to get it (although it should be). Once it’s time to get Loan Estimates to compare, you may find that all the lowest rates you’ve gathered have been quoted (not coincidentally) by the lenders that charge the biggest fees. Make sure you request a Loan Estimate from at least one independent mortgage broker, preferably one who partners with a market-setting wholesale lender like UWM (here’s why).