Diamond Certified Companies are Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise.

  • Why this rating is the most accurate.
  • Our editors gather deep company info.
  • Performance is Guaranteed.

Diamond certified companies are top rated and guaranteed

Why Trust Diamond Certified Mortgage Brokers Rated Highest in Quality?

Photo: George L. Duarte - Horizon Financial Associates (2017)

Only the best mortgage broker companies in Alameda County have earned the Diamond Certified award by scoring Highest in Quality in the most accurate and rigorous ratings process anywhere. You’ll never be fooled by fake reviews, since all research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed. Most companies can’t pass this test. That’s why you’ll feel confident when you choose a Diamond Certified home care company listed below. Simply click on the name of a Diamond Certified company below to read ratings results, informational articles and verbatim customer survey responses.

Thousands of customers of local companies have been interviewed in live telephone calls, and only companies that score Highest in Quality in customer satisfaction–a 90+ on a 100 scale–as well as pass all of the credential-based ratings earn Diamond Certified. By requiring such a high score to qualify, the Diamond Certified program cuts out mediocre and poorly performing companies. If you want quality, you’ll have confidence in choosing Diamond Certified companies. And you’re backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee.

Read moreRead less

DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Alameda County – Mortgage Broker CATEGORY

George Duarte is a 31-year veteran of the mortgage industry and president of Horizon Financial Associates, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (510) 402-5678 or by email.

George Duarte

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

George Duarte: A Local Focus

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

FREMONT — After several years working in international commerce, George Duarte made the switch to a more locally focused livelihood. “In 1986, I decided to leave my job in the import/export industry to pursue a career in real estate,” he explains. “Originally, I thought I’d become a realtor, but eventually I decided to get into the financial side of the field. Besides the fact that it was a rapidly growing industry, I’d always been good with numbers, so it seemed like the right fit. After working for a local mortgage brokerage for a couple of years, I struck out on my own and became a broker.”

Today, as president of Horizon Financial Associates, George says he appreciates the local focus of his second career. “In my previous occupation, I worked for large corporations on an international scale, which was interesting and rewarding in its own right, but it left me with very little connection to my local community. Real estate, on the other hand, is almost ‘hyper-local’—you’re constantly involved with people in the local area and market, which is an aspect of this business I thoroughly enjoy.”

A resident of Livermore, George says he’s grateful for the strong ties he’s developed within his community. “Because I’ve been doing business here for so long, I know lots of people and have a lot of connections. I’m very active in my Chamber of Commerce and mortgage broker association, as well as the Bay East Association of REALTORS. Of course, I also love the great weather and all the amenities we have in the Bay Area.”

Outside of work, George spends his time immersed in a variety of interests and activities, from reading to attending concerts and sports events. He also takes advantage of opportunities to venture outside the local sphere. “I like traveling, both around the west coast and outside of the country,” he affirms. “I’m actually an experienced international traveler and have been to Europe many times.” Additionally, George enjoys spending time with his two adult sons, Louis and Nick.

In regard to his professional career, George says true success is grounded in the Golden Rule. “When I first started in this industry, like most rookies, my focus was on the numbers, but over time I learned that true success comes when you put your clients first. When you act in the best interests of your clients, it not only leads to good financial outcomes, it also brings psychological benefits such as peace of mind. That’s why I always treat my clients the way I’d want to be treated and look for ways to add value to their lives.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, George says he’d hit the open road. “I would probably take a long road trip across the United States. It would be fun to go from one coast to the other and take my time seeing the sights and exploring new places.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?
A: I enjoy everything from political thrillers to historical biographies, but my favorite genre is probably spy and international intrigue, particularly the work of Len Deighton.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: “A People’s History of the United States,” by Howard Zinn. He was actually my mentor at Boston University, where I majored in political science.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: China. It’s a very dynamic place with lots of things to see. I’d love to see Hong Kong and Shanghai in particular, and maybe take a cruise on the Yangtze River.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect sports and movie memorabilia.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Casablanca.”

Read more

Innovative Use for a Reverse Mortgage

Shares

FREMONT — More so than any previous generation, today’s college graduates are leaving school saddled with large amounts of debt, to the point where many are unable to qualify for a home loan. If this is the case for one or more… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Innovative Use for a Reverse Mortgage

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

FREMONT — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you have a child with debilitating college loan debt, one way you can help them is by utilizing a reverse mortgage. Today we’re… Read more

SELECTED PHOTOS FROM THESE TOP RATED COMPANIES

View Comments
Shares

INDUSTRY INFORMATION AND RESEARCHED ARTICLES BY THE DIAMOND CERTIFIED RESOURCE

INDUSTRY INFORMATION - Alameda County – Mortgage Broker

Association of Mortgage Professionals (NAMB) (www.namb.org/namb/Default.asp)
California Association of Mortgage Professionals (CAMP) (www.ca-amp.org/)
California Mortgage Association (CMA) (www.californiamortgageassociation.com/)
California Mortgage Bankers Association (CMBA) (www.cmba.com/new/index.asp)
Department of Corporations (CORP) (www.corp.ca.gov/)
Department of Real Estate (DRE) (www.dre.ca.gov/)
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) (www.fhfa.gov/)
National Association of Independent Housing Professionals (NAIHP) (www.naihp.org/)
Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/)
upFront Mortgage Brokers (UMBA) (www.upfrontmortgagebrokers.org/)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD)

Know What You Want
How Do I Find a Mortgage Broker in Alameda County?

Diving into home ownership, in Alameda County, whether in Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, or San Leandro, or in Union City or San Lorenzo, especially if it’s your first time, can be a bit overwhelming. A big part of home ownership for many people is getting financing, which can also be stressful for many. To make sure you are approaching your search practically, it might help to draw up a list of questions to ask yourself about your search.

1.     Do I want a Diamond Certified company that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Guarantee?

2.     Do I want a local mortgage broker who understands the local area, its peculiarities, and its vernacular and can explain these to the lender, if necessary?

3.     If I have reason to work with an out-of-state mortgage broker, does that broker have a relationship with a California mortgage broker so that the California broker can perform the work in California?

4.     Does the local bank offer an attractive loan or do I need to look elsewhere for a more attractive rate and terms?

5.     What is my credit rating and history like? Will I need to find a lender who accepts less than perfect credit?

6.     Am I comfortable working with lenders without a mortgage broker? Do I want to try to find loans on my own? 

Read moreRead less
What To Ask In Person
Questions to Ask Your Alameda County Mortgage Broker in Person

Once you’ve identified some likely candidates in Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, San Leandro, or Hayward, you’ll want to meet with them person. Meeting in person can give you a better sense of the person you are going to work with. Remember, don’t be shy about shopping around and asking different mortgage brokers to work with you. You are looking for the person who can connect you to the best loan. As you speak with mortgage broker, here are some questions you might want to keep in mind.

1.     Who will my lender be? What information can you give me about the firm actually making the loan?

2.     Are you looking for both fixed and variable rate loans for me?

3.     Is my interest rate locked in? When does that lock start and end?

4.     Will you agree to lowering my interest rate during the lock if a better interest rate occurs?

5.     What is the final annual percentage rate (APR) for my loan? (Be careful – an APR that is three-quarters of a percent to one percent higher than the rate you were first quoted means that heavy fees are being added.)

6.     What compensation are you receiving and from whom – just from me as the borrower, or also from the lender?

7.     Besides your fees, what other costs will this loan incur?

8.     Will my loan be completely amortized, or will it include a balloon payment?

9.     I want to get a HUD settlement statement prior to closing – how do I do that?

10.  Will I be paying for the credit report and appraisal?

11.  What are the chances my loan will be sold?

Read moreRead less
  • What To Ask References
    Questions for References

    If you can’t find a Diamond Certified mortgage broker within reach, you’ll have to do some research on your own. If you do, it’s wise to call some references provided by your mortgage broker. Keep in mind, though, that references provided to you by the mortgage broker are not equal in value to the large random sample of customers surveyed during the Diamond Certified ratings process. That’s because references given to customers from companies are cherry-picked instead of randomly selected from all their customers. So the companies will likely give you a few customers to call that they know are satisfied.

    If you do call references on your own, specifically ask for a list of the company’s 10 most recent customers. This will help avoid them giving you the names of only customers they know were satisfied.

    1.     Did you think the mortgage broker dealt with you fairly and honestly?

    2.     Did the mortgage broker have a large network of lenders to choose from or were there only a few options?

    3.     Did you feel that the mortgage broker was familiar with the local area?

    4.     Did you find the mortgage broker’s fees competitive with others you researched?

    5.     Were you working with any out-of-state mortgage brokers, and did your California mortgage broker work smoothly with them?

    6.     During the loan processing, did your mortgage broker ask for documents in a timely manner and meet the lender’s deadlines?

    7.     Were you able to negotiate with the mortgage broker about fees? About when loan rates were locked in? Did there seem to be flexibility?

    8.     Did you end up paying for the credit report and property appraisal?

    9.     Were you pressured about advance fees by the mortgage broker?

    10.  Was the mortgage broker compensated only through fees or also by the lenders?

    Read moreRead less
  • Review Your Options
    Find and Hire a Good Mortgage Brokers in Alameda County

    The Diamond Certified symbol has been awarded to companies that scored Highest in Quality in an accurate ratings process.

    Your choice of mortgage broker … So before deciding on the best mortgage broker in Alameda County for you, it’s important to consider the following questions.

    1.     Is the mortgage broker licensed by the state of California, and if so, which license does he or she have?

    2.     Is the mortgage broker dedicated to finding a loan with the best terms for me?

    3.     Does the mortgage broker seem familiar with the local market and able to explain that market to the lender?

    4.     Does the mortgage broker have a large network of legitimate lenders so I can find the best loan?

    5.     Does the mortgage broker have a reputation for charging fair fees?

    6.     Can the mortgage broker communicate well with me, explaining the different terms and consequences of the loan?

    7.     Will the mortgage broker respond in a timely fashion both to my questions and when the lender makes requests to me through the mortgage broker?

    Read moreRead less
  • How To Work With
    Before You Hire an Alameda County Mortgage Broker

    When you are looking for an Alameda County mortgage broker, whether you are searching in San Leandro, Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, or Fremont, you can do a little background work to get a better overview of the territory. Check with your local bank about available loans, including interest rate and terms. Also ask what kind of credit rating they require for approval. This will give you some idea if you need to look for a mortgage broker. Of course, you may want to go to a mortgage broker simply because they work with a broader network of lenders. Be sure when you are talking about loans that you ask exactly what role the  other person is playing – are they mortgage brokers, for example, or mortgage bankers.

    It’s a good idea to inquire about the fees that the mortgage broker is charging so that you can compare rates across different vendors. During your search, you can check in on the different interest rates so you know how the markets are trending and are aware of how competitive the rates offered to you are. You should check the actual interest rates – loans are often tied to specific indices. You can look at APR’s and the like online and in newspapers, but beware of deceptive advertising. As you speak with different mortgage brokers during your search, look for brokers who are upfront and who speak in a way that you are comfortable with – make sure that you find someone who can explain things so that you understand them.

    Above all, you are looking for an honest broker. Be sure your mortgage broker is licensed by the state of California. Find out which license your mortgage broker operates under. Look for a broker who has no qualms about providing written agreements and who is willing to document any areas where you agree to negotiate.

    Read moreRead less
  • Be a Good Customer
    How Can You Be a Good Mortgage Broker Customer?

    It’s the mortgage broker’s responsibility to connect you with a reputable lender offering the best loan for you. But you play a big part in the success of your mortgage broker, too. Here are a few simple steps you can take to be a good customer when hiring a Alameda County mortgage broker.

    • Be clear and upfront with the mortgage broker. Let them know what you want from your mortgage broker, the long-term outcome you’re expecting and specific ways they can satisfy your expectations.
    • Remember, a friendly smile goes a long way!
    • Before you hire a mortgage broker in Alameda County, restate your expectations and goals, and reiterate to the mortgage broker’s representative your understanding of the agreement. Most problems with local mortgage brokers occur because of a breakdown in communication. By being clear about your expectations and theirs, you can avoid most conflicts.
    • Ask your mortgage broker if you should call to check on the progress or if he will call you with updates.
    • Be sure your service representative has a phone number where they can reach you at all times while they’re working with you. The work will move along more smoothly if your mortgage brokers can reach you for any necessary updates, questions or work authorizations.
    • When your contractor contacts you, return calls promptly to keep the mortgage broker on schedule.
    • Pay for the mortgage broker’s work promptly.

    Why would you want to be a good customer? Mortgage brokers in Alameda County appreciate customers who are straightforward, honest and easy to work with. Your good customer behavior sets the tone from your end and creates an environment conducive to a good relationship. Things may very well go smoother and any problems may be more easily resolved.

    Understanding Mortgage Brokers’ Fees
    Both federal and state laws require mortgage brokers to give you official documents stating the fees incurred for brokering the loan. These are essentially your contracts with the mortgage broker for that loan. The federal document stipulates which fees may change and by how much and which fees may not. Both state and federal laws require you to be notified of any changes to the fees.

    If your APR is significantly higher than the original rate quoted to you, that is, three-quarters of a percent to one percent higher, check your loan documents carefully, as this could be a sign of high fees being piled on.

    Read moreRead less
Check The Work
Top Service Requests

Mortgage brokers typically look for loans for borrowers. They find the right interest rate and loan terms for an individual’s situation. In California, the mortgage broker has a responsibility to represent the best interests of the borrower. Borrowers come to mortgage brokers for some of the following reasons.

New Loan
Borrowers need a new loan to complete a residential property purchase.

Mortgage brokers typically look for loans for borrowers. They find the right interest rate and loan terms for an individual’s situation. In California, the mortgage broker has a responsibility to represent the best interests of the borrower. Borrowers come to mortgage brokers for some of the following reasons.

New Loan
Borrowers need a new loan to complete a residential property purchase.

Less Than Perfect Credit
Local banks and local branches of commercial banks may not accept borrowers with less than perfect credit. In this case, a mortgage broker can help find lenders willing to loan to these borrowers.

More Attractive Loans
Because mortgage lenders work with a wide variety of lenders, they may have access to loans that the local bank or local bank branch do not. Borrowers may be able to find more attractive loans by using the mortgage broker to explore the many different options out there.

Intermediary with Lenders
Many borrowers would find it daunting to work with lenders directly, and many lenders only offer their best loans through their network of brokers. Having the mortgage broker negotiate on the borrower’s behalf for the best rate is attractive to many borrowers.

Refinance home
When interest rates drop or when other changes make it desirable, you may use a mortgage broker to find a new loan to refinance your house.

Read moreRead less
Written Warranties
The Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee

Diamond Certified mortgage brokers are backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. If the window company is Diamond Certified and you can’t resolve the issue by talking with the owner, contact the mediation department at [email protected] or call 800-738-1138.

Diamond Certified mortgage brokers are backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. If the window company is Diamond Certified and you can’t resolve the issue by talking with the owner, contact the mediation department at [email protected] or call 800-738-1138.

Easy Ways To End Conflict with Alameda County Mortgage Brokers
Some of your best protections against conflict with a mortgage broker in Alameda County, whether in San Leandro, Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, Alameda, or Pleasanton, lie in the Good Faith Estimate required by federal law and the Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement required by the California Department of Real Estate. The California Department of Corporations also requires borrowers to be notified of changes to the fees. The federal HUD settlement statement outlines the terms of the loans. You should read all such documents carefully and understand them before signing.

If you do have complaints about your mortgage broker, you should try to work it out first. If you cannot work it out, you have a few options. You can complain about the company to the Better Business Bureau. Depending on who grants your mortgage broker’s license, you can file a complaint at the California Department of Real Estate Web site or the Department of Corporations Web site. Both departments recommend that if you want to recover money or cancel a contract, you should consult an attorney. The Department of Real Estate will investigate claims where they have jurisdiction. Their sanctions include suspending or revoking a license. The Department of Corporations usually conducts confidential investigations where they have jurisdiction, but they may send the complaint the licensee in some cases. Both departments encourage you to file a complaint, even if you are using an attorney or other method of pursuing the claim.

Read moreRead less
Top 10 Requests
Top Service Requests

Mortgage brokers typically look for loans for borrowers. They find the right interest rate and loan terms for an individual’s situation. In California, the mortgage broker has a responsibility to represent the best interests of the borrower. Borrowers come to mortgage brokers for some of the following reasons.

New Loan
Borrowers need a new loan to complete a residential property purchase.

Less Than Perfect Credit
Local banks and local branches of commercial banks may not accept borrowers with less than perfect credit. In this case, a mortgage broker can help find lenders willing to loan to these borrowers.

More Attractive Loans
Because mortgage lenders work with a wide variety of lenders, they may have access to loans that the local bank or local bank branch do not. Borrowers may be able to find more attractive loans by using the mortgage broker to explore the many different options out there.

Intermediary with Lenders
Many borrowers would find it daunting to work with lenders directly, and many lenders only offer their best loans through their network of brokers. Having the mortgage broker negotiate on the borrower’s behalf for the best rate is attractive to many borrowers.

Refinance home
When interest rates drop or when other changes make it desirable, you may use a mortgage broker to find a new loan to refinance your house.

Read moreRead less
Glossary Of Terms
Glossary of Terms for Clients of Mortgage Brokers

Real estate and mortgages are a world that many of us enter only occasionally and usually along with a great deal of pressure. Use the definitions below to help understand this world.

A-Credit
Refers to borrowers with the best credit rating. This means they can get the best loans. If you do not have A-credit, you may have to pay more for your loan. Typically, you would need a FICO score above 720 to qualify.

acceleration
In a loan, an acceleration clause allows the lender to specify conditions in the contract, and if these conditions are not met, the lender can demand that the loan be paid in full at once.

adjustable rate mortgage
An adjustable rate mortgage is one for which the interest rate can adjusted. In the US, many ARM loans are tied to an interest rate index and scheduled to change at a specified period of time.

Also known as: ARM

Alt-A
Alt-A refers to a borrower’s credit worthiness. It is less than A-credit, but higher than subprime.

amortization
Amortization refers to paying down the principal balance of the loan. For many loans, the scheduled payment includes a portion that covers interest and a portion that also reduces the actual amount of the loan balance.

Annual Percentage Rate
The cost you are charged for the credit – it includes all finance charges as well the interest rate.

Also known as: APR

appraisal
An appraisal is an evaluation of the real estate’s current value. In California, the appraiser must be licensed by the state.

assumption
Assumption occurs when a buyer takes over the repayment of loan already held on the property, or assumes the loan payments. However, unless the lender agrees, the person selling the loan to the buyer is still responsible for the full amount of the loan.

balance
The amount of the original loan that has yet to be paid.

Also known as: loan balance, principal

balloon
A balloon situation occurs when the loan balance is not completely paid off at the end of the loan term. In many loans, the payments are designed so that at the end of the term, the loan balance is paid off. For some loans, only a specified period of regular payments occurs, and after that, the rest of the entire loan balance is due.

Also known as: balloon mortgage, balloon payment

bridge loan
A bridge loan allows a person to sell one house and buy another. The bridge loan covers the period between when the purchase closes and the sale closes. A secured bridge loan occurs when the existing house is under a confirmed contract to sell. If the borrower does not have a confirmed contract for the house he or she is selling, the bridge loan is unsecured.

buy-down
In a buy-down, the borrower pays points so that the interest rate on the loan is reduced. A permanent buy-down covers the life of the loan. A temporary buy-down only reduces the interest for the early years of the loan.

Also known as: permanent buy-down, temporary buy-down

Good Faith Estimate
A federally mandated document that outlines the fees for a loan, which fees may change, a cap on certain fee changes, and which fees may change without a cap.

Also known as: GFE

HUD settlement statement
A document that outlines the costs of the loan. If requested in writing previously, must be given to the borrower 24 hours before the loan closes. Mandatory for all federally related mortgage loans.

lender
The lender is the person or entity that provides the funds to make the loan. The lender may be a bank, credit union, savings and loan or other financial institution, or can be companies, private companies, and private parties. Mortgage brokers most often work with borrowers to find the appropriate lenders

lien
The lien is the hold or claim that the lender has on the property. The lender can take the property if the borrower fails to repay the loan.

maturity
When the last payment is due on the loan.

maximum lock
Sometimes lenders will guarantee a loan’s terms for a specific period. This period is referred to as the lock. The maximum lock is the longest time for which the lender will guarantee the loan’s terms. It ranges from 30-90 days, usually, with 60 being very common.

Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement
A document that licensees of the California Department of Real Estate are required to give borrowers that outlines the costs of the loan.

Also known as: MLDS

NMLS
A national resource that consumers can use to ensure their mortgage industry professional is licensed.

Also known as: Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System

negative points
Sometimes, lenders pay points above the quoted rate of the loan. If the negative points go to the borrowers, the money can be used for settlement costs. If the negative points go to the mortgage broker, they are called the yield spread premium.

Net jumping
When borrowers work with a broker to gain understanding of the market and improve their creditworthiness, then actually go to the Internet to get a loan.

option fee
An option fee occurs when a lease-to-own situation happens. The option fee allows the buyer to pay money that will go toward the purchase price if the buyer opts to buy. If the purchaser does not choose to buy, the option fee is lost.

overage
Lenders may provide a price for a loan to mortgage brokers. The price for a loan that is quote to buyers is higher than this quoted price. The difference is called the overage.

Also known as: mortgage overage

Piggyback mortgage
A piggyback mortgage is a mortgage that is taken out to cover any outstanding purchase price after the initial mortgage covers 80% of the purchase price. Piggyback loans may cover the remaining 20% of the price. They may be a single loan for the 20%, or they may be divided into even smaller loans to make the total 100%. Piggybacks allow borrowers to avoid mortgage insurance which is often required when borrowers cannot put 20% of the purchase price down.

PITI
PITI refers to the components that make up regular housing expenses.

Also known as: Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance

points
A point is equal to one percent of the loan balance. Borrowers pay points up front in cash to lower the interest rate on their loans.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
A federal law designed to better regulate real estate practices. Passed after the financial industry collapse, it is designed to give consumers the protection of documents that explain loan terms.

Also known as: RESPA

term
The period used to calculate the mortgage payment. For example, a 30-year fixed rate loan has a 30-year term, and payments are calculated so at the end of 30 years, the loan is paid off.

yield spread premium
Fees paid by the lender to the mortgage broker that increase the interest rate the borrower would otherwise have paid for the loan. It’s not illegal, but in California it must be disclosed.

Also known as: YSP, commission, back-end fee

Read moreRead less
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified Mortgage Broker?
A: Diamond Certified helps you choose a mortgage broker with confidence by offering a list of top-rated local companies who have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Only mortgage brokers rated Highest in Quality earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. So you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified mortgage broker.

Q: What exactly is a mortgage broker and why would I use one?
A: A mortgage broker acts works with a borrower to find loans from many lenders. A mortgage broker has access to a whole network of lenders – whoever they have built relationships with. The bigger the network, the more options a borrower may find. A borrower may work with a mortgage broker when they do like a bank’s offerings, when the bank will not loan to a borrower, or in any case where the borrower wants to look for more loan options than the bank offers. Borrowers can work directly with any lender, of course, as long as they comfortable and the lender will work with them.

Q: What protections do I have as a consumer?
A: Recent laws at both the federal and state level seek to protect consumers in the wake of the financial industry slump caused in part by subprime loan securities. At a federal level, whenever a federal loan is involved, you can request a HUD settlement statement, which outlines the costs of the loan. In California, if your agent is licensed by the Department of Real Estate, your agent must give you a Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement that discloses the costs of getting the loan. At the federal level, the Good Faith Estimate tells what the loan costs will be and which ones may change, the changes allowed for certain charges, and which fees may change without a cap.

Q: My mortgage broker is a friend. Do I really have to get everything in writing?
A: You will not be able uphold your claims if you don’t get them in writing. Some things during the mortgage search are negotiable – you might be able to negotiate fees with your broker, you might be able to negotiate title fees, you might negotiate a locked in rate and how long that lock-in will last. You might even want to be able to negotiate a change in rate during the lock period if rates fall. No matter what, get everything in writing, and be sure you capture agreed points of negotiation and any changes over time.

Q: My real estate agent says she can help me find a loan. Is this ok?
A: In California, there is no distinction between the real estate license and the mortgage broker license. If the agent is licensed as a real estate broker, she can also broker mortgages.

Q: I am moving to California and I have a broker in my current state whom I like to work with. Can I use my current broker in California?
A: California requires all mortgage brokers to be licensed in the state of California and does not have reciprocity agreements with other states. However, an out-of-state broker can work with a California broker and share the fees.

Q: How much should I expect to pay my mortgage broker?
A: Mortgage brokers are compensated by fees paid by the borrower, fees or commissions paid from the lender, or a combination of the two. You should ask you mortgage broker not only what the fees are, but who is paying them – both you and the lender or just you? As you work through the loan process, you can pay fees for the mortgage broker’s commission, for a credit report, for appraisals, for title searches, for loan applications, and the like. You should check with several mortgage brokers to make sure fees are in the same general ballpark. You should also look at the fee disclosures and question any fees you do not understand. Sometimes fees pass under different names, so it’s impossible to compile a full list of the fees you may be charged.

Q: Are there any benefits to going with a local broker?
A: A local mortgage broker may have some expertise that benefits you. For example, appraisers in your area may use certain terms or categories. A local broker familiar with these terms will be able to explain them to the lender. Also, a local mortgage broker may know that it is common for properties in your area to have private septic tanks and will be able to explain this to the lender, as well. If your area has any local idiosyncrasies, a local mortgage broker may be able to help.

Q: Why do I care who licenses my mortgage broker?
A: In California, mortgage brokers can be licensed by the Department of Real Estate or the Department of Corporations, and the latter has two licenses. You need to know which license your mortgage broker has because it changes the requirement for how they deal with you. For example, if licensed by the Department of Real Estate, the broker must give you a Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement. Similarly, the Department of Real Estate requires the broker to have an advance fee agreement on file with the department before the broker can charge you any advance fees except the credit report and appraisal. The Department of Corporations requires a written agreement between broker and borrower before advance fees can be charged.

Q: Who is my lender?
A: The mortgage broker most often brokers the loan – that is, finds a lender who will loan under terms the borrower will accept. So your mortgage broker is not the lender. Find out what company or entity is actually loaning you the money and do research on them as well to ensure they are a reputable firm.

Read moreRead less