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 Real Estate Brokers Rated Highest in Quality?

You are the customer. If your goal is to choose a real estate broker that will deliver high customer satisfaction and quality, you’ll feel confident in choosing a Diamond Certified real estate brokerage. Each has been rated Highest in Quality in the most accurate ratings process anywhere. And you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. Here’s why the Diamond Certified ratings and certification process will help you find a top-rated real estate company and is unparalleled in its accuracy, rigor and usefulness:

1) Accuracy: All research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed, so you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews.

2) Statistical Reliability: A large random sample of past customers is surveyed on an ongoing basis so the research results you see truly reflect a Diamond Certified company’s top-rated status.

3) Full Disclosure: By clicking the name of a company above you’ll see the exact rating results in charts and read verbatim survey responses as well as researched articles on each qualified company.

4) Guaranteed: Your purchase is backed up with mediation and the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you can choose with confidence.

Click on the name of a Diamond Certified company above to read ratings results, researched articles and verbatim customer survey responses to help you make an informed decision.

More than 200,000 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 eliminates mediocre and poorly performing companies. Read detailed information about the ratings and certification process.

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Dave Keefe is a 15-year veteran of the real estate industry and a broker associate with The Dave Keefe Real Estate Team, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (408) 915-8030 or by email.

Dave Keefe

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Dave Keefe: An Inspired Contribution

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CUPERTINO — Dave Keefe got an early introduction to the real estate business when, as a mere teenager, he bought his first home. “I bought my first house when I was 19 years old,” he affirms. “By renting out the other rooms, I was able to pay my mortgage and basically live rent-free through college. Through this experience, I came to believe in the value of real estate as an investment and wanted to share that with others. This inspired me to sign up for some real estate courses and eventually start working in the industry. I hit the ground running and I’ve been at it ever since.”

Today, as a broker associate with The Dave Keefe Real Estate Team, Dave says his favorite part of his job is the opportunity to connect with others. “Working in real estate, you get to make a lot of really good connections, many of which become friendships. From past and present clients to the other professionals I work alongside, there’s a great sense of community, which I really enjoy.”

A resident of Mountain View (where he lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children) Dave expresses his appreciation for the versatility of the Bay Area. “I enjoy everything about the Bay Area: the natural beauty, the recreational opportunities, the innovative tech scene, the diversity of the people…it’s just a fun place to live.”

Outside of work, Dave spends as much time as possible on two wheels. “I’m an avid cyclist and have raced in several masters world championships,” he affirms. “I also sponsor three different bicycle racing teams, so I’m active in the scene on multiple levels. My son actually raced in the state championship this year, so it’s neat to see him getting involved as well.”

In regard to a professional philosophy, Dave espouses the virtues of a helpful attitude. “When we serve clients, we always try to come from a standpoint of contribution—that is, of helping enrich their lives,” he says. “We believe that by helping our clients get what they want, we’ll be able to live the lives we want, so it’s an approach that benefits everyone.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Dave replies that he wouldn’t. “I don’t really think of this as a job,” he explains. “It’s not like I wake up every morning dreading my day. On the contrary, I truly enjoy what I do, so I plan on continuing to do it for as long as I can.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: The Galápagos Islands.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Bikes.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
A: A ghost.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Go on a long bike ride.

Q: Is there a book that has been really influential for you?
A: “Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: The Stairway to Enlightenment” by David R. Hawkins.

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First Impressions in Real Estate


CUPERTINO — One of the most crucial aspects of marketing a home is creating a good first impression. While part of this involves things like staging and curb appeal, in today’s Internet-driven market, a more important aspect to address is your… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: First Impressions in Real Estate

Complete Video Transcription:

CUPERTINO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re planning to sell your home, one thing you’ll need to keep in mind is the importance of first impressions. Today… Read more




A-frame homes
green homes
Craftsman homes
Victorian homes
modular homes
split-level homes
chalet-style homes
beach homes
commercial properties
high-end homes
vacation homes
luxury homes
rental properties

mobile homes / manufactured homes for sale
foreclosed homes for sale
bank-owned homes sales
investment properties
apartment sales
commercial property sales
undeveloped property sales / land for sale
luxury homes for sale
rent-to-own homes
home listings
new homes for sale
vacation home sales
townhouse sales
condominium sales

Blossom Valley
East Palo Alto
Holy City
Los Altos
Los Altos Hills
Los Gatos
Monte Sereno
Monte Vista
Morgan Hill
Mountain View
Mt Hamilton
New Almaden
Palo Alto
Redwood Estates
San Jose
San Martin
Santa Clara


Know What You Want
Questions to Think About Prior to Hiring a Real Estate Sales Broker in Santa Clara County

Many factors should be considered before selecting a real estate sales broker in Santa Clara County that will meet your needs the best. Write down everything that you’re searching for before you begin your research. Think about the following questions before making your final choice regarding a real estate sales broker.

  1. Do I want a Diamond Certified company that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee?
  2. What personal and professional characteristics would I like my Alameda commercial contractor to have? (These may include good communication skills, honesty, reliability, cleanliness, etc.)
  3. What is my budget?
  4. What is the time frame that is most optimal for me to purchase or sell my real estate property?
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What To Ask In Person
Things to Inquire About in Person with a Santa Clara County Real Estate Sales Broker

The next step in the process of hiring a real estate sales broker in Santa Clara County is to interview them. Consider asking the following questions.

  1. How many other sellers are you representing now? (Keep in mind that the busiest real estate sales brokers are often the most efficient.)
  2. Do you perform credit screening on either buyers or sellers?
  3. What sets you apart from other real estate sales brokers?
  4. Considering the current market, at what price do you think my home can sell?
  5. Can you work with lenders to help me locate a decent loan when purchasing a new home in Santa Clara County?
  6. Can you act as the buyer and seller (dual agent)?
  7. Can you give me a comparative market analysis of recent home that are on the market as well as recent sales in the area?
  8. Do you insist on a buyer agency agreement?
  9. Can I get references for your last five deals?
  10. Has a client ever filed a complaint against you?
  11. Are you a member of NAR or other reputable real estate organizations?
  12. Can you perform property auctions or exchanges?
  13. Can you perform appraisals in Santa Clara County?
  14. What if I am unhappy with your service? Do you offer a guarantee?
  15. Can you assist me in placing an offer on a new home in Santa Clara County?
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  • What To Ask References
    Ask These Questions When Speaking to References of a Santa Clara County Real Estate Sales Broker

    It’s best to choose a Diamond Certified real estate sales broker in Santa Clara County, including the larger cities of Palo Alto, Cupertino, Gilroy, Campbell, and Morgan Hill,  because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality real estate work in Santa Clara County and the greater Bay Area, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company. Diamond Certified reports are available online for all certified companies. And you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews. That’s because all research is performed in live telephone interviews of actual customers.

    If you can’t find a Diamond Certified real estate sales 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 real estate sales broker.  Keep in mind, though, that references provided to you by the real estate sales 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 real estate brokers 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. Do you feel that the real estate broker was pushy when it came to selling or buying?

    1. If you sold real estate with this real estate broker, did they do a good job of showcasing and showing your property both in person and on the listing sheet?
    2. If you need a real estate sales broker in the future, will you consider hiring this real estate broker?
    3. Was the real estate broker knowledgeable about the community, town, and market you were interested in?
    4. Was this real estate broker respectful of your time and property? Were there any issues of theft or damage during showings?
    5. Did you feel that the real estate sales broker was working with your best interest in mind? Or did you feel like the real estate broker was influenced by other motivations or brokers?
    6. Would you recommend this real estate sales broker to your family and friends?
    7. Did the real estate broker help you devise a selling/buying plan and help you stick with it?
    8. Was the real estate broker helpful in guiding you during the offer process?
    9. Was the real estate broker helpful in guiding you during negotiations?
    10. Was the deal was complete, were you satisfied with the real estate broker?
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  • Review Your Options
    Hiring a Professional Real Estate Sales Broker in Santa Clara County

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

    Your choice of real estate sales broker is important to you and your family. So before making the final decision on the best real estate sales broker in Santa Clara County, you may want to consider the following questions:

    1. Is my real estate broker from Santa Clara County, including the smaller cities of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Monte Vista, Mt. Hamilton, Permanente, San Martin, and Saratoga,  flexible regarding the commission rate?
    2. Is my real estate sales broker well-established in the community?
    3. Is my real estate sales broker of choice applying pressure or sales tactics in order to get me to sign a contract before I am ready?
    4. Does my real estate broker have good references that I have checked?
    5. Does my real estate broker have a good record for selling real estate property in a timely fashion by using successful marketing strategies?
    6. Do I trust my real estate broker of choice?
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  • How To Work With
    Signing a Buyer’s Broker Agreement in Santa Clara County

    If you are purchasing real estate, your real estate sales broker my ask you to sign a “buyer’s agent agreement.” This agreement protects the real estate broker if you, the client, choose to switch to a different real estate broker at the moment of signing a contract for real estate property for the purpose of saving money, etc. This contract ensures that the real estate broker will be compensated for their work. It specifies rights and duties of the buyer as well as how and when the broker will be compensated. If your real estate broker wants you to sign a buyer’s agent agreement, here are a list of issues you should carefully consider:

    • Compensation. Be sure that total compensation is covered in the buyer’s agreement. Any commission that is paid by the seller to the buyer’s broker will reduce any commission owed by the buyer. Avoid paying a retainer fee. Also check to see how to cancel the contract if you are unhappy with the real estate broker’s performance.
    • Geographic area. Make sure the real estate broker is experienced in your area. If it is possible that you will venture outside of the comfort zone of the real estate broker, make a provision in the contract that the real estate broker will refer you to another broker and collect a referral fee. Or that, in this type of case, the contract will be void.
    • Term. You can always renew later, so lay down a reasonable time period for working with the real estate broker. Keep in mind that if you purchase a property that the real estate broker showed you a few months after the contract has expired, the broker is still entitled to a commission.
    • FSBOs. If you don’t want to pay a commission on For Sale By Owner properties in Santa Clara County, including the larger cities of San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and Milpitas, make sure to put that in the contract. Keep in mind, however, that the real estate broker may be able to save you money by determining a fair purchase price and negotiating the deal.

    The contract should clearly define both the duties of the broker and the buyer. These duties should include:

                Responsibilities of the Carefully Chosen Broker:

    • Assists with obtaining financing
    • Arrange for properties to be inspected
    • Negotiate contracts
    • Unless requested to do so in writing, the real estate broker is not obligated to show properties that are not available in the Multiple Listing Service.
    • Best effort to identify properties that meet the needs of the buyer
    • Discloses any information that would affect the buyer’s decision to purchase

    Your Responsibilities as the Purchaser:

    • Pays compensation
    • Work exclusively with the broker to find real estate property while the agreement is valid
    • Cooperates with the broker in order to fulfill the terms of the agreement
    • Be available to view potential properties
    • Provide the broker with adequate financial information to research appropriate properties

    A Listing Contract
    A listing contract is the contract between a real estate broker and a seller of real estate property that gives the broker the right to offer the property for sale. The listing contract must include the following:

    • A beginning date and a termination date
    • The list price which the property will be offered for sale
    • The amount of compensation offered to the real estate broker. This can be in the form of a percentage of the sales price or a flat fee.
    • The terms and conditions under which the brokerage fee will be paid by the seller
    • Authorizes the broker to cooperate with other brokers as sub-brokers and also details the compensation that will be offered to those brokers in the event they secure a buyer.
    • Authorizes the real estate broker to disclose or not to disclose the existence of offers formerly received.
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  • Be a Good Customer
    Being a Good Santa Clara County Real Estate Sales Broker Customer

    It’s the real estate sales broker’s responsibility to work for you according to your needs. But you play a big part in the success of your real estate sales broker, too. Here are a few simple steps you can take to be a good customer when hiring a Santa Clara County real estate sales broker.

    • Be clear and upfront with the real estate sales broker from Santa Clara County, including the larger cities of Palo Alto, Cupertino, Gilroy, Campbell, and Morgan Hill. Let them know what you want from your real estate sales broker, the long-term outcome you’re expecting and specific ways they can satisfy your expectations.
    • Ask your real estate sales broker if you should call to check on the progress or if he will call you with updates.
    • Be sure your real estate sales broker has a phone number where they can reach you at all times while they’re helping you look for real estate. The real estate project will move along more smoothly if your real estate sales broker can reach you for any necessary updates or questions.
    • Before you hire a real estate sales broker in Santa Clara County, restate your expectations and goals, and reiterate to the real estate sales broker your understanding of the agreement. Most problems with local real estate sales brokers occur because of a breakdown in communication. By being clear about your expectations and theirs, you can avoid most conflicts.
    • When your real estate sales broker contacts you, return calls promptly to keep the real estate project on schedule.
    • Remember, a friendly smile goes a long way!

    Why would you want to be a good client? Real estate sales brokers in Santa Clara County appreciate clients 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.

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Check The Work
Sign the Santa Clara County Real Estate Written Contract

In order for your real estate purchase or sell to be official, you must sign a written contract. It must include the following:

  • Identification of parties involved: both the seller(s) and the buyer(s) of the real estate
  • Identification of the real estate property
  • Identification of the purchase price
  • Signatures by all parties involved
  • A legal purpose
  • Consideration: This is something of value that is bargained for in exchange of the real estate. Usually the form of consideration used is money, but, for example, other property could be used in the exchange.
  • Contingencies (conditions) that must be met if the contract is to be performed. Certain types of contingencies include inspection, appraisal, another sale contingency, etc.
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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.

No Conflict with Santa Clara County Mortgage Brokers
Both state and federal laws try to prevent borrowers from falling into conflict with mortgage brokers in Santa Clara County, whether in Milpitas, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose, Palo Alto, or Gilroy. The Good Faith Estimate is required by federal law. The Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement is 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.

When you cannot resolve a conflict on your own, you can find other sources to help you. You can complain about the company to the Better Business Bureau. You can file a complaint at the California Department of Real Estate Web site or the Department of Corporations Web site, depending on which license your broker holds. 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.

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Top 10 Requests
Top Service Requests from Real Estate Sales Brokers

Real estate sales brokers in Santa Clara County provide assistance for all types of real estate properties. Following is a list of the most popular types of properties.

A-frame homes
A-frame houses feature steeply-angled sides that usually begin at or near the foundation line and meet at the top, creating a home that looks like the letter A.

Modular homes
These are constructed of pre-made parts called modules that are transported from the factory to the building site.

Split-level homes
This is a style of house in which the floor levels are staggered. The main level of the house is halfway between the lower and upper floors. Usually the main level contains the normal living areas such as the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Two short sets of stairs connect the main level to the upper and lower levels. The upper level usually contains bedrooms and bathrooms while the lower level is the basement area and often has additional living areas that can include office space, a hobby area, a family room, laundry facilities, etc.

Beach homes
A beach home is a home designed for the beach. Typically beach homes are a form of a vacation home rather than a permanent residence.

Green homes
Green homes are built using a process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the building’s life-cycle. This “green” process includes design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. The purpose of a “green” home is to reduce the overall impact of the home on the human health and natural environment.

Victorian homes
Victorian homes are usually two story homes with steep roof pitches, turrets, and dormers. Typically a Victorian home has a large porch as well.

This is a large property complex that is divided into individual units. Each unit is owned by an individual who has a form of property ownership that includes a fractional interest in the common areas of complex.

Chalet-style homes
Reminiscent of homes on alpine ski slopes, chalet style homes are rustic homes based on Swiss alpine cottages. They have a rectangular shape, big lofts, large windows, and steep gabled roofs.

Rental properties
These are properties that include lands, buildings, units, or rooms that are available for or being rented.

Commercial properties
This is land or buildings that are used for the purpose of generating a profit. Commercial property includes medical centers, office buildings, industrial property, retail stores, shopping centers, warehouses, farm land, multifamily housing buildings, etc.

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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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

Also known as: loan balance, principal

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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 refers to the components that make up regular housing expenses.

Also known as: Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance

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

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

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Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions for Mortgage Brokers

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.

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