Not enough homebuyers bother to shop around for a mortgage, potentially costing them thousands of dollars in extra payments and closing costs.
That's the word from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this week, which at the same time launched an interactive online "toolkit" to help people get the best deal.
"Consumers put great thought into the choice of a home, but the mortgage process continues to be intimidating," the bureau's director, Richard Cordray, said in a statement. "Shopping for a mortgage can translate into big dollars saved in the long run. We want to enable consumers to be more savvy shoppers."
As an example, the bureau said taking out a 30-year, fixed-rate loan for $200,000 at 4 percent instead of 4.5 percent translates into almost $60 saved per month, some $3,600 over the first five years.
Nearly half of consumers do not shop around before applying for a mortgage, according to the initial results of a new survey of borrowers released by the bureau.
While roughly half of borrowers do compare rates, 3 out of 4 only apply with one lender or broker, the survey found.
"These consumers are not filling out applications with multiple lenders to see which one can offer the best deal," the bureau said. To save the most, borrowers should not only compare interest rates, but also loan types, terms, fees known as points and closing costs.
The bureau's online toolkit includes a rate calculator to help borrowers determine what interest rate they'll likely qualify for based on the same underwriting variables that lenders use on their internal rate sheets. Those criteria include loan type, loan amount, down payment, property value, location and the borrower's credit score.
The package includes sections on understanding loan options — fixed vs. adjustable and conventional vs. FHA — an explanation of closing documents and a closing checklist.
In addition, consumers get tips for shopping around, such as getting a quote from at least three lenders and comparing good faith estimates.
The initiative is intended to help demystify the mortgage process, the bureau said, "so consumers can have conversations with lenders more confidently."