Buying a home is a huge accomplishment—and a huge amount of stress. But it does not have to be if you have the right loan officer that will work with you and your financial needs to get you set up with a home loan.
A loan officer is a representative from a financial institution or mortgage company that meets with you, your real estate agent, and the other banking professionals to turn your home-buying dream into a reality.
And finding the right one can be a hassle. Thankfully, there are some ways to narrow down your search. Here we discuss what a loan officer is, how they work during your home-buying process, and why you should consider a dedicated loan officer when purchasing a home. We will also discuss the differences between a mortgage broker and a loan officer and how to look for the right one for you.
What is a loan officer?
A loan officer reviews, authorizes, and recommends your home loan for approval. They determine your creditworthiness and your ability to pay back a loan. Loan officers work with you throughout the home-buying process. They also work with your real estate agent, loan processor, and loan underwriter at the financial institution.
Your loan officer will discuss mortgage options with you and will keep you in the loop about your loan throughout the approval process. They play a large part in the home-buying process, so it is important to find the right one for you and your financial needs.
How does a loan officer work?
A loan officer is the face of your home buying loan. They meet with you (via phone, in-person, or sometimes online) and determine the right mortgage option for you and your ability to pay the loan back, along with seeing if you have a good line of credit. Once all of that is figured out, they recommend your loan for approval and send it to the loan underwriter.
Think of them as your inside agent to the lending institution. They are your intermediary between you, the underwriter, and the loan processor. The loan officer is the one that gives you the green light for your home shopping budget and is there when you are ready to make a purchase.
Why do you need a loan officer?
Loan officers are important people you want to have on your side as you journey through the home buying process. To use another analogy, they are the head coach to your home-buying baseball team. The lending institution is the owner, you are the general manager, and your realtor is your third-base line coach. Hence, you should (and need) to choose a loan officer before finding a real estate agent. Loan officers possess a lot of knowledge in the home-buying arena and have a lot of power to recommend your loan to be approved. It is vital to start working with a loan officer as soon as you start looking to buy a house.
Here are some key reasons why you need a loan officer:
- Guide you on your budget and mortgage options before starting to look for a home.
- Connect you to real estate agents in the area.
- You can get unbiased information about the differences between various parts of the area.
- Goldmines of information on home buying, the process, and the market
- Highly accessible and available
- Can grant you a preapproval to make you a more competitive buyer
Loan officer vs. mortgage broker: what’s the difference?
A loan officer, as discussed previously, is an employee of a lending institution. They are the head coach of the whole operation. That means mortgage brokers are the scouts. They bring together the lenders and the borrowers.
Mortgage brokers and loan officers are good to have from the get-go of buying a home. But you may not always need a mortgage broker—however, there are some situations they are handy to have on your side. They can connect you to lenders and banks and can make a deal from almost anything.
When is it handy to have a mortgage broker?
- Bad or problematic credit
- Unique personal or commercial properties
- Finding a loan officer in a different part of the country
- If an online bank doesn’t have an in-person office in your area
Mortgage brokers can help you find the right loan officer and lending institution for your needs, but they are not always required. If you bank at a local institution, you may not need the middleman to connect you with a loan officer. Keep in mind as well that mortgage brokers do take a percentage in their own fees.
Whether you choose a mortgage broker to help you find a loan officer or not, it is important to start finding those people as soon as the idea to buy a home enters your head. You may not need a mortgage broker, but you will need a loan officer, and it is important to start looking for the right one for you.
How to choose a loan officer
Choosing the right loan officer for you is important. There are a lot of factors that play into what loan officer is right for you. You should pay attention to those more genuine and ethical officers versus those that push you to make a decision quickly.
Loan officers sometimes receive a commission from the loans they help get approved, so it is important to consider their fees. And it is also vital to ask about the types of fees the lending institution itself has regarding your loan (late penalties, appraisal costs, etc.)
Familiarity with different types of loans
Taking into consideration the types of loans your loan officer is familiar with is a crucial factor. For example, a car loan officer knows many car dealerships and may not be as helpful as a loan officer with expertise in the housing industry.
Number of lenders dealt with
Some loan officers work with different lending companies. You want a loan officer that works with a variety of lenders so you can spread a wide net to find the right home mortgage loan for you.
How long in the mortgage business
Finding out how long your loan officer has been in the business is helpful information. You can ask for their license number and look it up on the national registry to see if they have any complaints filed against them. Also, looking up the company itself is useful, and you can see if there have been any reports to the Better Business Bureau.
Does the company hold or flip loans?
A lending company may hold the loan and collect the payments from you and answer any questions. Sometimes a lending company will flip a loan to a third party after it has originated. If that is the case, you must understand and be comfortable with payments and contacts to an unidentified third party.
Asking how long the loan’s processing time is crucial. You want to know when everything will be finalized and approved, and the house is done and bought. Your loan officer can answer these questions and keep you in the loop as the process moves along.
The most important question, however, is one you have to ask yourself. Determining your comfort level with the loan officer is, and should be, the final deciding factor. If your gut is telling you that it is not a right fit, trust it and keep looking for the loan officer that makes you feel comfortable.
Start your home buying journey off on the right foot
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right loan officer for you and your needs. From finding the right officer to asking the right questions, you can be sure that the loan officer you choose to work with on your home loan is the right one for you. And once you find that perfect fit, you are one step closer to finding your perfect home. If you are ready to start the home buying journey, reach out to the home specialists at Hero Home Programs™. They offer reduced lending fees, access to grants and tax rebates, discounted vendors, and more.