The 5 Best Pieces of Mortgage Advice One Real Estate Agent Has Ever Heard

published Feb 20, 2020
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They say your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. At the heart of that investment, though, is your mortgage. What seems like a simple concept at face value—a loan granted for buying property—is actually much more complicated.

That’s why you’ll hear experts in finance and real estate alike offering their mortgage advice (solicited or not) to first-time home buyers—and anyone who will listen. That can lead to many conflicting takes and a lot of confusion.

To cut through all that, we spoke to someone who knows mortgages inside and out from a buyer’s perspective to find out the best pieces of mortgage advice they’ve ever heard. Here’s what experienced real estate agent Zachary Belil of Douglas Elliman in Miami had to say.

Don’t make any major purchases or change jobs while in the mortgage process

This is crucial to remember, Belil says, as major life changes can put your mortgage in jeopardy. He recalls this affecting a sale where he was the listing agent. The buyers had passed the inspection period, had gotten a loan commitment letter, and were packed and ready to move when the phone rang.

“I got a call from the buyer’s agent, and she said that the buyer changed jobs in the same industry, but was earning $300 less a year—a year. When the bank did their final review of the file, they cancelled the loan,” he explains.

Because of that one small change, the buyers had to start the entire process over again. 

“It was brutal having to tell this to my sellers,” Belil says. “Don’t let it happen.”

If you have less-than-perfect credit, find a good mortgage broker, not a bank

Banks usually only offer conventional mortgages, while mortgage brokers have access to a variety of loan products for people with all kinds of financial histories, Belil explained. 

“Your average everyday loan officer at your bank gets a paycheck every two weeks whether you get the loan or not,” he adds.

On the other hand, a good mortgage broker will get creative and work hard to secure that loan for you as a potential buyer because “If they don’t get you the mortgage, they don’t get paid,” he says.

Make sure your agent is present when the lender’s appraiser comes to do the appraisal

The appraisal is a very important part of the loan process, because if you want a loan for a $500,000 house, the lender needs to see that the property is worth that much, Belil says.

“[Your agent should] be at the property the day the appraisal takes place to meet the appraiser and show him or her the special details of the house,” he says. They should bring along their own set of recent comparable sales, or comps, to prove the home’s value.

If the home doesn’t appraise for the selling price, either you, the buyer, will have to pay the difference in cash, or the seller will have to lower the selling price to match the appraisal. 

“Neither is good,” he says.

Don’t start house-hunting without a mortgage pre-approval letter

If a potential buyer doesn’t have a pre-approval letter—which is a letter from a lender stating the type and amount of loan they can qualify for—they simply aren’t prepared to purchase a home and thus shouldn’t be using an agent at all, he says.

“Why would you spend any amount of time showing properties to a potential client that can’t pay?”

That’s why the first thing any agent will ask a potential buyer is if they have their letter in hand. If they do, it’s a greenlight to start house hunting.

Resist the urge to take a break

The loan application process is complicated, and people often become overwhelmed while gathering all the documents they’re asked for, Belil says.

“Sometimes, they’ll get very frustrated and decide to give it a rest for a few days,” he says. “As an agent, I can’t let that happen.”

There are critical dates on purchase contracts that must be met, so the agent has to work with the buyer to keep things moving and make sure their mortgage broker or banker is getting all the information they need to process the application.