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When looking to refi an existing mortgage there are a number of sites that let you get a list of lenders. You can filter by interest rates, points etc. If one picks a company to go with, how can one know they are dealing with a bank that isn't out to do something "shifty"? Just because they advertise a low rate, is it kinda like someone selling something on ebay that is 50% less than everyone else, but the shipping is $50 for a $2 item so to speak. What are a handful of key things to look at when choosing a lender to refi with? Not so much worried about fraud per say, just something "hidden" in the details.

How about these checks?

  • Look up online reviews
  • Better Business Bureau reviews
  • FDIC membership
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The checks you mention are all good ones, there are enough trustworthy online resources that any disreputable lenders should stand out. So mostly you're shopping for price and convenience. For price you'll want to focus on rate and fees rather than just rate alone. Origination fees seem to vary the most between lenders that I've researched, but you'll want the full breakdown of all fees to compare.

If you know any local realtors you can inquire with them on their favorite lenders to work with, they'll frequently have some opinions based on reasonable sample sizes. Just pay attention to their reasons for liking them to see if it's relevant to you.

Unless you dislike your current lender I'd suggest calling them. They might be able to do a streamlined/no-cost refinance to a lower rate. That can be much less hassle/cost than finding a new different lender. If they don't have a process for simplifying your refinance, make sure your new lender does.

Personally, I get all my mortgages through a local credit union. I used to shop around each time, but found there wasn't much variation on effective rate between lenders (when rate and fees were all factored in). They may advertise much lower rates but what I actually got offered was generally pretty consistent between lenders. Since it's something I do frequently, I focused on finding a lender with low fees and an easy closing process.

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I would first of all do the following.

  1. Check the NMLS website to conduct a due diligence check on the loan consultant to see if this person is licensed or not.

  2. Check the NMLS past work history and self-reported employment history for violations done by this loan consultant (no arrest, convictions, fraud suspensions, etc.)

  3. Check the state's real estate's department website in California it's (Dre.Ca.Gov) to see if the loan consultant may have had a real estate license or if he/she has one, and conduct the same past history search as above using a first name last name search. This is a character test. Sometimes lenders jump into real estate, or start in real estate and jump to lending for a reason. Maybe that reason is on there as a judgement or legal affidavit for DUI, license suspension, drug convictions, drug trafficking, spousal abuse, etc- you name it, and will be on there- I've seen it all- usually public convictions/dirt will be on there.

  4. Ask for a Good Faith Estimate. Asking for a GFE, you will see what the lender is quoting, and charging in terms of APR, Interest Rate, and Interest Cost.

  5. Compare program with other programs.

  6. Don't RUN your credit until you decide: If you have a 800 fico, and low LTV go straight GO DIRECTLY TO A NATIONAL BANK OR YOUR LOCAL CREDIT UNION for a GFE simply tell them you're fico score, loan amount, but make sure you tell them you don't want to give them an "application" and specifically state that you don't want to run you're credit, and that you want a good faith estimate.

Start there, and then go check the free lenders, then compare. Don't run the credit! Very important as this will drop your fico score. Lenders can provide you a GFE without running credit.

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